News and Political Blog
Calling Fox News “a wing of the Republican Party,” the Obama administration on Sunday escalated its war of words against the channel, even as observers questioned the wisdom of a White House war on a news organization.
“What I think is fair to say about Fox — and certainly it’s the way we view it — is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party,” said Anita Dunn, White House communications director, on CNN. “They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.”
Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente, who likens the channel to a newspaper with separate sections on straight news and commentary, suggested White House officials were intentionally conflating opinion show hosts like Glenn Beck with news reporters like Major Garrett.
“It’s astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming,” Clemente said. “It seems self-serving on their part.”
In recent weeks, the White House has begun using its government blog to directly attack what it called “Fox lies.” David Gergen, who has worked for President Bill Clinton and three Republican presidents, questioned the propriety of the White House declaring war on a news organization.
“It’s a very risky strategy. It’s not one that I would advocate,” Gergen said on CNN. “If you’re going to get very personal against the media, you’re going to find that the animosities are just going to deepen. And you’re going to find that you sort of almost draw viewers and readers to the people you’re attacking. You build them up in some ways, you give them stature.”
He added: “The press always has the last barrel of ink.”
Gergen’s sentiments were echoed by Tony Blankley, who once served as press secretary to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“Going after a news organization, in my experience, is always a loser,” Blankley said on CNN. “They have a big audience. And Fox has an audience of not just conservatives — they’ve got liberals and moderates who watch too. They’ve got Obama supporters who are watching. So it’s a temptation for a politician, but it needs to be resisted.”
Nia Malika Henderson, White House correspondent for the Politico newspaper, also questioned the White House offensive against Fox.
“Obama’s only been a boon to their ratings and I don’t understand how this kind of escalation of rhetoric and kind of taking them on, one on one, would do anything other than escalate their ratings even more,” she said.
Dunn used an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” over the weekend to complain about Fox News’ coverage of the Obama presidential campaign a year ago.
“It was a time this country was in two wars,” she recalled. “We’d had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN.”
Ayers was co-founder of the Weather Underground, a communist terrorist group that bombed the Pentagon and other buildings in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1995, Ayers hosted Obama at his home for a political function and the two men later served together on the board of an anti-poverty group known as the Woods Fund.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which once had close ties to Obama, has been accused by a variety of law enforcement agencies of voter fraud. In recent weeks, the Democrat-controlled Congress moved to sever funding to ACORN after Fox News aired undercover videotapes of ACORN employees giving advice on how to break the law to a pair of journalists disguised as a pimp and prostitute.
As for Dunn’s complaint about Fox News’ coverage of the Obama campaign, a study by the Pew Research Center showed that 40 percent of Fox News stories on Obama in the last six weeks of the campaign were negative. Similarly, 40 percent of Fox News’ stories on Obama’s Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, were negative.
On CNN, by contrast, there was a 22-point disparity in the percentage of negative stories on Obama (39 percent) and McCain (61 percent). The disparity was even greater at MSNBC, according to Pew, where just 14 percent of Obama stories were negative, compared to a whopping 73 percent of McCain stories — a spread of 59 points.
Although Dunn accused Fox News of being a “wing of the Republican Party,” she said the network does not champion conservatism.
“It’s not ideological,” she acknowledged. “I mean, obviously, there are many commentators who are conservative, liberal, centrist — and everybody understands that.”
Still, Obama refused to appear on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace on Sept. 20, the day he appeared on five other Sunday shows. At the time, the White House characterized the snub as payback for the Fox Broadcast Network’s decision not to air an Obama prime time appearance. But last weekend, Dunn blamed Fox News Channel’s coverage of the administration for Obama’s snub of Fox News Sunday.
“Is this why he did not appear?” Dunn said. “The answer is yes.”
Wallace has called White House officials “the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.”
Dunn was asked by CNN’s Howard Kurtz whether Obama would grant an interview to Fox News by the end of the year.
“Obviously, he’ll go on Fox, because he engages with ideological opponents and he has done that before, he will do it again,” Dunn replied. “I can’t give you a date, because frankly I can’t give you dates for anybody else right now.”
But last week, Fox News was informed by the White House that Obama would grant no interviews to the channel until at least 2010. The edict was relayed to Fox News by a White House official after Dunn discussed the channel at a meeting with presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs and other Obama advisers.
“What I will say is that when he (Obama) goes on Fox, he understands he’s not going on it really as a news network, at this point,” Dunn said on CNN. “He’s going on to debate the opposition. And that’s fine. He never minds doing that.”
Dunn also strongly implied that Fox had failed to follow up on a New York Times story about a scandal swirling around GOP Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, although Fox News broadcast the stories on numerous shows, including Special Report with Bret Baier.
Clemente questioned the motives of the White House attack, which comes in the wake of an informal coffee last month between Fox chairman Roger Ailes and Obama adviser David Axelrod.
“Instead of governing, the White House continues to be in campaign mode, and Fox News is the target of their attack mentality,” he said. “Perhaps the energy would be better spent on the critical issues that voters are worried about.”
Blankley suggested the war on Fox News is unpresidential.
“It lowers the prestige,” he said. “If you’re president or speaker, at a certain level, you don’t want to be seen to be engaging that kind of petty bickering. If you’re just a congressman, maybe you can do it.”
In an interview over the summer, Obama made clear that Fox News has gotten under his skin.
“I’ve got one television station that is entirely devoted to attacking my administration,” he told CNBC’s John Harwood. “You’d be hard pressed if you watched the entire day to find a positive story about me on that front.”
At the White House Correspondents Dinner in May, Obama even mocked the media for supporting him.
“Most of you covered me; all of you voted for me,” Obama said, spurring laughter and applause from the assembled journalists. “Apologies to the Fox table.”
Gergen said the White House should delegate its attacks to outside support groups.
“Why don’t they take this over to the DNC, over to the Democratic National Committee, and have their struggles like that fought out over there and not out of the White House?” Gergen said. “I have real questions about that strategy.”
I have to ask WHY is the President in such a rush to get healthcare passed so fast, so quickly, 1/6th of our economy, completely changed. Majority of Americans polled do not agree with the healthcare plans that they’ve been allowed to see. So far, all that we have had access to is the House plan, and we disagree with it. Why the rush? Why not allow for debate and allow congress to read the bill? Why not allow the American people (who are not so stupid) to read the bill online?
Afghanistan. We have troops in the field, DYING every day in Afghanistan now, but President Obama, you’ve put this on a back burner and are not in a rush to take care of our troops on the ground. Is there a reason for delaying on this? Why allow more troops to die without proper troop levels to defeat our enemy?
Is this how you plan to run the healthcare system once you fundamentally change it? Rush it in, and then delay care, delay help to people who need the help, delay paying doctors and hospitals for their services? Why is the bill in proposal in the Senate still going to deny healthcare for “everyone” which was one of the fundamental plans you wanted during the campaign? Why is this? I can’t put it together in my mind why we have this huge rush for healthcare, when we have a major delay in helping our troops? Where is your sense of dignity? Where is your sense of right and wrong? Why can’t you help our men and women in Afghanistan FIRST, before anything else? Why can’t you focus on our economy and jobs, and get off the healthcare bill just temporarily? Healthcare is not causing the economy to collapse. Healthcare is one of the few industries still hiring people. I wonder how this will change once you get your irresponsible healthcare plans pushed through?
He also expects us to believe he dosn’t know anything about whats been going on with ACORN? This guy really takes the American people for totally stupid!
Transcript of George Stephy and Obama about these issues
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would call out anyone who misrepresents what’s in his health care plan.
The president told a joint session of Congress that he would listen to a “serious set of proposals” from Democrats or Republicans, but would not “waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.”
“I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are,” he said. “If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.”
Obama said his proposal contained elements from both sides of the aisle and that he would “continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead.”
“If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen,” he said. “My door is always open.”
This is shocking, that the President of the United States, upon saying, I don’ t have all of the facts, continues to go forward with comments, stating that the cops acted stupidly! Amazingly “stupid” statement by PBO!
Why the rush?
Monday, July 20, 2009; 1:23 PM
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hello, everybody. Thank you very much. Please have a seat.
Well, I just, first of all, want to thank the Children’s Hospital for hosting us today.
And I want to thank the participants, Joseph Wright, Ryan Jacobs (ph), Uwande Johnson (ph), Michael Nap (ph), Regina Hartridge (ph), and Kathleen Quigley (ph).
I just had the opportunity to talk to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, and administrators at this extraordinary institution. We spoke about some of the strains on our health care system and some of the strains our health care system places on parents with sick children.
We spoke about the amount of time and money wasted on insurance- driven bureaucracy. We spoke about the growing number of Americans who are uninsured and underinsured. We spoke about what’s wrong with a system where women can’t always afford maternity care and parents can’t afford checkups for their kids and end up seeking treatment in emergency rooms like the ones here at Children’s.
We spoke about the fact that it’s very hard even for families who have health insurance to access primary care physicians and pediatricians. In a city like Washington, D.C., you’ve got all of the doctors in one half of the city, very few doctors in the other half of the city. And part of that has to do with just the manner in which reimbursement is taking place and the disincentives for doctors, nurses, and physician’s assistants in caring for those who are most in need.
And we spoke about where we’re headed if we once again delay and defer health insurance reform.
Now, these health care professionals are doing heroic work each and every day to save the lives of America’s children, but they’re being forced to fight through a system that works better for drug companies and insurance companies than for the American people that all these wonderful health professionals entered their profession to serve.
And over the past decade, premiums have doubled in America. Out- of-pocket costs have shot up by a third. Deductibles have continued to climb. And yet even as America’s families have been battered by spiraling health care costs, health insurance companies and their executives have reaped windfall profits from a broken system.
Now, we’ve talked this problem to death year after year, but unless we act and act now, none of this will change.
Just a quick statistic I heard about this hospital. Just a few years ago, there were approximately 50,000 people coming into the emergency room. Now they’ve got 85,000. There’s been almost a doubling of emergency room care in a relatively short span of time, which is putting enormous strains on the system as a whole.
That’s the status quo, and it’s only going to get worse. If we do nothing, then families will spend more and more of their income for less and less care. The number of people who lose their insurance because they’ve lost or changed jobs will continue to grow. More children will be denied coverage on account of asthma or a heart condition. Jobs will be lost. Take-home pay will be lower. Businesses will shutter, and we will continue to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on insurance company boondoggles and inefficiencies that add to our financial burdens without making us any healthier.
So the need for reform is urgent and it is indisputable. No one denies that we’re on an unsustainable path. We all know there are more efficient ways of doing it.
OBAMA: We just — I spoke to the chief information officer here at the hospital, and he talked about some wonderful ways in which we could potentially gather up electronic medical records and information for every child not just that comes to this hospital, but in the entire region, and how much money could be saved and how the health of these kids could be improved, but it requires an investment.
Now, there’s some in this town who are content to perpetuate the status quo, are, in fact, fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests. There are others who recognize the problem, but believe or perhaps hope that we can put off the hard work of insurance reform for another day, another year, and another decade.
Just the other day, one Republican senator said — and I’m quoting him now — “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
Think about that. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America’s families, breaking America’s businesses, and breaking America’s economy. And we can’t afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care, not this time, not now.
There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake. There are too many families who will be crushed if insurance premiums continue to rise three times as fast as wages. There are too many businesses that will be forced to shed workers, scale back benefits, or drop coverage unless we get spiraling health care costs under control.
The reforms we seek would bring greater competition, choice, savings, and inefficiencies to our health care system and greater stability and security to America’s families and businesses.
For the average American, it will mean lower costs, more options, and coverage you can count on. It will save you and your family money if we have a more efficient health care system.
You won’t have to worry about being priced out of the market. You won’t have to worry about one illness leading your family into financial ruin. You won’t have to worry that you won’t be able to afford treatment for a child who gets sick.
We can and we must make all these reforms, and we can do it in a way that does not add to our deficits over the next decade. I’ve said this before. Let me repeat: The bill I sign must reflect my commitment and the commitment of Congress to slow the growth of health care costs over the long run. That’s how we can ensure that health care reform strengthens our national — our nation’s fiscal health at the same time.
Now, we always knew that passing health care reform wouldn’t be easy. We always knew that doing what is right would be hard. You know, there’s just a tendency towards inertia in this town. I understand that as well as anybody.
But we’re a country that chooses the harder right over the easier wrong. That’s what we have to do this time. We have to do that once more. And let’s fight our way through the politics of the moment. Let’s pass reform by the end of this year.
Let’s commit ourselves to delivering our country a better future, and that future will be seen in a place like Children’s Hospital, when young people are getting the care that they deserve and they need when they need it and we don’t have an overcrowded emergency room that’s putting enormous burdens on this excellent institution.
I think we can accomplish that, but we’re going to have to do some work over the next few weeks and the next few months.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In his first daytime news conference yesterday, President Obama preempted “All My Children,” “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young and the Restless.” But the soap viewers shouldn’t have been disappointed: The president had arranged some prepackaged entertainment for them.
After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. “I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post,” he announced.
Obama knew this because White House aides had called Pitney the day before to invite him, and they had escorted him into the room. They told him the president was likely to call on him, with the understanding that he would ask a question about Iran that had been submitted online by an Iranian. “I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet,” Obama went on. “Do you have a question?”
Pitney recognized his prompt. “That’s right,” he said, standing in the aisle and wearing a temporary White House press pass. “I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.”
Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.
The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world — Iran included — that the American press isn’t as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn’t so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, “The Obama Show.” Missed yesterday’s show? Don’t worry: On Wednesday, ABC News will be broadcasting “Good Morning America” from the South Lawn (guest stars: the president and first lady), “World News Tonight” from the Blue Room, and a prime-time feature with Obama from the East Room.
“The Obama Show” was the hottest ticket in town yesterday. Forty-five minutes before the start, there were no fewer than 107 people crammed into the narrow aisles, in addition to those in the room’s 42 seats. Japanese and Italian could be heard coming from the tangle of elbows, cameras and compressed bodies: “You’ve got to move! . . . Oh, God, don’t step on my foot!” Some had come just for a glimpse of celebrity. And they wanted to know all about him. “As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting,” McClatchy News’s Margaret Talev empathized with the president before asking him how much he smokes.
Obama indulged the question from the studio audience. “I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where I mess up,” he confessed. “Like folks who go to AA, you know, once you’ve gone down this path, then, you know, it’s something you continually struggle with.”
This is Barack Obama, and these are the Days of Our Lives.
As if to compensate for the prepackaged Huffington Post question, Obama went quickly to Fox News for a predictably hostile question from Major Garrett. “In your opening remarks, sir, you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged,” Garrett said. “What took you so long?
“I don’t think that’s accurate,” Obama volleyed testily, calling his toughening statements on Iran “entirely consistent.”
The host of “The Obama Show” dispatched with similar ease a challenge from CBS’s Chip Reid, asking whether his hardening line on Iran was inspired by John McCain. “What do you think?” Obama replied with a big grin. That brought the house down. And the studio audience laughed again when ABC’s Jake Tapper tried to get Obama to answer another reporter’s question that he had dodged. “Are you the ombudsman for the White House press corps?” the president cracked.
The laughter had barely subsided when the host made another joke about Tapper’s reference to Obama’s “Spock-like language about the logic of the health-care plan.”
“The reference to Spock, is that a crack on my ears?” the president asked.
But yesterday’s daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner — from the Huffington Post.
Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question’s wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian. And, as it turned out, he was not the only prearranged questioner at yesterday’s show. Later, Obama passed over the usual suspects to call on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language EFE news agency. The White House called Vidal in advance to see whether she was coming and arranged for her to sit in a seat usually assigned to a financial trade publication. She asked about Chile and Colombia.
A couple of more questions and Obama called it a day. “Mr. President!” yelled Mike Allen of Politico. “May I ask about Afghanistan? No questions about Iraq or Afghanistan?”
Sorry: Those weren’t prearranged.
He sure seems angry lately. He seems weak on Iran and definately angry when he gets his picture taken walking along the white house grounds. I never saw President Bush in all 8 years, ever give the media such a nasty, hateful look, NEVER. I guess this is what happens when someone is so sensitive to criticizism and narcissitic. Can’t take the heat apparently. Oh, and his poll numbers? They are dropping. People are starting to see that change they asked for isn’t really happening the way they thought it would. Infact, the change has gotten worse. Worse job numbers and the economy still sliding down the hill. This is a shame. I thought I would share this picture with you. 🙂
by Tom Baldwin in Washington
President Obama was accused yesterday of being “timid and passive” in his response towards the turmoil in Iran where, Republicans claim, protesters are crying out for America to show moral leadership.
Although he used his strongest words yet over the weekend, when a written statement called on the Iranian Government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people, Mr Obama has so far declined to pronounce on the fairness of the election and is facing growing criticism at home.
Senator John McCain, who was defeated in America’s own presidential election last November, said yesterday that Mr Obama had still not gone far enough in offering support to the protests.
“It’s not just what takes place on the streets of Iran but what takes place in America’s conscience. We have to be on the right side of history,” he said. “We just need to say that we’re on their side as they seek freedom.”
Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator, contrasted Mr Obama’s cautious position with the tougher language coming from other world leaders such as Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, saying: “The President of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it. He’s been timid and passive more than I would like.”
The White House said that that Mr Obama wanted to avoid playing into the regime’s hands by allowing it to portray demonstrators as American stooges. It also wanted to avoid a confrontation that might wreck any prospects of negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme.
“He’s got a very delicate path to walk here,” Chris Dodd, a Democratic Senator, said. “You don’t want to take ownership of this. The worst thing we could do at this moment for these reformers, these protesters, these courageous people in Tehran, is allow the Government there to claim that this is a US-led opposition, a US-led demonstration.”
David Whelan, 06.18.09, 05:08 PM EDT
David Scheiner, an internist based in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, has a diverse practice of lower-income adults from the nearby housing projects mixed with famous patients like U.S. Sen. Carol Mosely Braun, the late writer Studs Terkel and, most notably, President Barack Obama.
Scheiner, 71, was Obama’s doctor from 1987 until he entered the White House; he vouched for the then-candidate’s “excellent health” in a letter last year. He’s still an enthusiastic Obama supporter, but he worries about whether the health care legislation currently making its way through Congress will actually do any good, particularly for doctors like himself who practice general medicine. “I’m not sure he really understands what we face in primary care,” Scheiner says.
Scheiner takes a few other shots too. Looking at Obama’s team of health advisors, Scheiner doesn’t see anyone who’s actually in the trenches. “I have a suspicion they pick people from the top echelon of medicine, people who write about it but haven’t been struggling in it,” he says.
Scheiner is critical of Obama’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary–Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who used to work as the chief lobbyist for her state’s trial lawyers association.
“He doesn’t see all the pain, it’s so tragic out here,” he says. “Obama’s wonderful, but on this one I’m not sure if he’s getting the right input.”
What should the president be focused on? Scheiner thinks that a good health reform would be “Medicare for all,” a single-payer system where the government would cover everyone and pay for it by cutting out waste in the system. “A neurosurgeon gets paid $20,000 for cutting into the neck of my patient. Have him get paid $1 million a year instead of $2 million or $3 million. He won’t starve,” Scheiner says.
Scheiner thinks that Obama’s “public plan” reform doesn’t go far enough. He supports the idea of that option for people who don’t like or can’t afford their HMO. But he worries that it will be watered down or not happen at all. “It’s nonsense that the private insurance companies need to be protected,” he says. “Why? Because they’ve done such a good job?”
He thinks that Americans have been scared into believing that they will lose the coverage they already have if a public plan is created. And he worries that nobody cares about the 50 million uninsured. “I have people who have lost their jobs and come to me and I give them drug samples,” he says.
Scheiner says he thinks that Obama probably sees the virtues of a single-payer system but has decided it would be politically impossible to create one.
Reid Cherlin, an assistant White House press secretary who covers health issues, wrote in an e-mailed statement, “The President has been clear that while a single-payer system may work in some countries, it makes the most sense for us to build on what works in the system we have and to fix what’s broken.
“He would certainly agree that there’s too much waste in the system–where families, businesses and governments pay too much for too little,” he added, “and that’s why he’s committed not just to expanding coverage but to reforming the health system to provide high-quality care at a lower cost to more Americans.”
Scheiner says he never thought it was appropriate to talk about health policy with Obama, especially once he became a U.S. Senator. The one exception was medical malpractice reform. “I once briefly talked to him about malpractice, and he took the lawyers’ position,” he says.
Obama reiterated his opposition to caps on medical malpractice-related damages when he addressed an audience of doctors earlier this week at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting. (See “Will Doctors Buy Obamacare?”)
Scheiner, like most others in his profession, thinks that it should be harder to sue doctors and that awards should be capped. He says that he and other doctors must order too many tests and imaging studies just to avoid being sued.
Scheiner graduated from Princeton and then started at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons 50 years ago. After training in internal medicine in Chicago he joined a practice in Hyde Park. His partner was Quentin Young, a doctor known for supporting universal coverage and for briefly being the personal physician of Martin Luther King Jr.
Before selling his practice, he watched his income decline over the years to what he calculated to be $22 an hour ($2,100 every two weeks after withholding for taxes, health insurance and malpractice insurance.)
Scheiner thinks that any health reform should involve paying primary-care doctors better so they don’t have to rush through appointments to make ends meet. He says that the medical students he encounters are no longer even taught how to do a patient history and physical exam. Patients get imaging studies and lab work instead of actual work-ups. “It’s like in Star Trek where Bones had the thing he would wave up and down. They don’t even talk to patients,” he says.
(video removed from youtube)
WASHINGTON: Norfolk-based group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter-in-chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he’s bedeviled by a fly in the White House.
“We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals,” PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. “We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals.”
During an interview for CNBC at the White House on Tuesday, a fly intruded on Obama’s conversation with correspondent John Harwood.
“Get out of here,” the president told the pesky insect. When it didn’t, he waited for the fly to settle, put his hand up and then smacked it dead.
“Now, where were we?” Obama asked Harwood. Then he added: “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it? I got the sucker.”
Friedrich said that PETA was pleased with Obama’s voting record in the Senate on behalf of animal rights and noted that he has been outspoken against animal abuses.
Still, “swatting a fly on TV indicates he’s not perfect,” Friedrich said, “and we’re happy to say that we wish he hadn’t.”
Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the White House has no comment on the matter.
Obama Kills Fly Like a Ninja!
He says this is hard for him to swallow, that not 100% of media is doing his propaganda bidding. It blows my mind that this President is so worried about Fox News, when he receives 99.9% favorable coverage from all Main Stream Media channels, but Fox, who is the lonely voice of balance, in this total bias in favor of the President. Listen to the President’s own words. He is frightened of Fox News! Typical! But gives favors to terrorists at Gitmo? There is something rotten in DC!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 5:50 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that worrying about the U.S. government’s finances “keeps me awake at night” and the country needed to start planning now to tackle soaring deficits.
In a pair of interviews on CNBC and Bloomberg television, Obama defended increasing government spending to prevent the recession from worsening, and warned the unemployment rate may hit 10 percent this year, a level not seen since 1983.
“There’s no doubt that we’ve got a serious problem in terms of our long-term deficits and debt,” he told CNBC. “I make no apologies for having acted short term to deal with our recession.”
But he said once the recession ends, “we’re going to have to close that gap between the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Tuesday that the federal deficit would hit $1.43 trillion in fiscal 2010 under Obama’s budget plan, slightly higher than it had previously forecast.
Obama said unless the United States can contain its long-term debt and deficits, foreign investors may shun U.S. assets, driving up borrowing costs for the government as well as households and businesses.
“I am concerned about the long-term issue of our structural deficit and our long-term debt because if we don’t get a handle on that then there’s no doubt that at some point whether it’s the Chinese, the Koreans, the Japanese, whoever else has been snatching up Treasuries are going to decide that this is too much of a risk,” he told Bloomberg.
Rising health care costs put the biggest strain on the budget, so curbing those costs would help shore up U.S. finances, he said. Obama has proposed overhauling the health care system to cover those without insurance, but critics have questioned how he will pay for that without worsening the fiscal position.
He said the pace of job losses was slowing and the economy was “going to turn around,” but the unemployment rate would probably rise from its current level of 9.4 percent.
Economists advising the American Bankers Association forecast earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. unemployment rate would peak at 10 percent, although they did not expect it to reach that mark until early in 2010.
“You’re starting to see the engines of the economy turn,” Obama said on Bloomberg. “It’s going to take a long time. We had a huge deleveraging that took place, but I’m confident that if we take the steps that are necessary on healthcare, on energy, on education. If we get a strong financial regulatory system in place so people have confidence in the markets again, that we will end up seeing a recovery shortly.”
(Reporting by Emily Kaiser and Karey Wutkowski; Editing by Diane Craft)
by Jake Trapper June 16, 2009
After being briefed today on President Obama’s firing last week of Gerald Walpin, Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the president did not abide by the same law that he co-sponsored – and she wrote – about firing Inspectors General.
“The White House has failed to follow the proper procedure in notifying Congress as to the removal of the Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service,” McCaskill said. “The legislation which was passed last year requires that the president give a reason for the removal.”
McCaskill, a key Obama ally, said that the president’s stated reason for the termination, “Loss of confidence’ is not a sufficient reason.”
She added that she was “hopeful the White House will provide a more substantive rationale, in writing, as quickly as possible.”
June 13, 2009
Donald Remy caught heat from the Senate Armed Services Committee for not disclosing his ties to Fannie Mae during the nomination process.
President Obama’s pick to be the Army’s top lawyer withdrew after failing to disclose Fannie Mae as his former employer in a document submitted as part of his nomination process.
Donald Remy caught heat from the Senate Armed Services Committee for not disclosing his ties to the troubled mortgage giant, instead describing his tenure at Fannie Mae as a ‘major U.S. company.’
He had mentioned, by name, other companies for which he has worked on his work history provided to the committee.
Remy called the omission a ‘mistake’ in a written response to Senate follow-up questions after his confirmation hearing in February.
In a letter Friday obtained by Congressional Quarterly, Remy thanked the president for the opportunity to serve the public.
“I am honored by your confidence in my ability to deal with the critical issues that face our soldiers and their families and I was looking forward to serving in this time of great national crisis,” Remy said. “Regretfully, I have decided to remove my name from consideration for this position.”
“The president believes that Donald Remy would have been an excellent general counsel of the Army, but understands his personal decision and the choice he has made,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
During his time at Fannie Mae, Remy served as vice president and deputy general counsel for litigation; senior vice president and deputy general counsel; senior vice president and chief compliance officer; and senior vice president, housing and community development.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Kennedy Corpus, 10, has a rock-solid excuse for missing the last day of school: a personal note to her teacher from President Obama.
Her father, John Corpus of Green Bay, stood to ask a question at the president’s town hall meeting at Southwest High School yesterday, and told Obama that his daughter was missing school to attend the event and that he hoped she didn’t get in trouble.
“Do you need me to write a note?” Obama asked. The crowd laughed, but the president was serious.
On a piece of paper, he wrote: “To Kennedy’s teacher: Please excuse Kennedy’s absence. She’s with me. Barack Obama.” He stepped off the stage to hand-deliver the note.
The fourth-grader at Aldo Leopold elementary in Green Bay already knew what she was going to do with the note: frame it, along with her ticket to the event. She said she’d make a copy for her teacher.
“I thought he was joking until he started walking down,” Kennedy said after the event, showing off the note in front of a bank of television cameras. “It was like the best thing ever.”
June 12, 2009
Washington lawyer Howard Gutman, who raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign and personally contributed the maximum $4,600 to it, was nominated to be the next U.S. envoy to Belgium, the White House said in a statement.
Gutman also contributed $2,300 to now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.
Obama named former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer to be ambassador to Switzerland and Luxembourg. Beyer, who made his money as a car dealer, raised more than $500,000 for Obama and also contributed $4,600 to his campaign, according to the center.
Vinai Thummalapally, a Colorado business executive and Obama friend who raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the campaign and donated $4,500 to it, was named the next U.S. ambassador to Belize. Thummalapally’s wife, Barbara, contributed $2,800 to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Obama also named Washington lawyer Mark Gitenstein, who donated more than $4,000 to now Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and contributed $1,500 to Clinton’s campaign to be ambassador to Romania.
Career diplomats were nominated on Thursday to be envoys to Burundi, Tunisia, the Marshall Islands, Oman and Suriname. Obama also chose retired Army Gen. Alfonso Lenhardt to be ambassador to Tanzania.
by Jim Brown
A Christian writer says President Obama’s recent speech in Cairo praising Islam is further evidence the American president has a “low view” of biblical Christianity.
Robert Knight, a senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries, has written a column titled “Obama Nation’s Low View of Christianity.” Knight says he wrote the column as a service to everyone who wants thorough documentation — not just bits and pieces — of President Obama’s statements distorting Christianity.
Knight argues that the most disturbing thing President Obama said in his Cairo speech was that the Middle East was the first place where Islam was “revealed.”
“That word ‘revealed’ is very important,” Knight explains. “It means an unveiling, and it means a divinely-inspired unveiling — which would indicate that the president is saying the Koran is a holy book. In fact, he referred to the Koran several times as the ‘Holy Koran.'”
Such a perspective from their elected chief executive, says Knight, should concern Bible-believing Christians.
“If you’re a Christian, you don’t regard the Koran as a holy book of any sort,” he states. “You regard it as springing out of the Old Testament, because it incorporates a lot of the Torah, as does the Christian Bible — but then it goes off into a false religion.”
Knight says to call the Koran a holy book goes beyond diplomacy, yet Obama understood the significance of what he was saying because “of all people, he knows the power of words.” However, Knight points out that most of the press in the United States missed or ignored the remark.
Posted by Howard Arenstein
Israeli TV newscasters Tuesday night interpreted a photo taken Monday in the Oval Office of President Obama talking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “insult” to Israel.
They saw the incident as somewhat akin to an incident last year, when the Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad.
It is considered an insult in the Arab world to show the sole of your shoe to someone. It is not a Jewish custom necessarily, but Israel feels enough a part of the Middle East after 60 years to be insulted too.
Was there a subliminal message intended from the White House to Netanyahu in Jerusalem, who is publicly resisting attempts by Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to force Israel to stop any kind of settlement activity in occupied territories once and forever?
Whether or not it is true, it shows the mood in Israel. They feel cornered. The reactions out of Israel reflect that feeling.
Netanyahu is making a speech Sunday, in part as a response to Mr. Obama’s address to the Arab world last week in Cairo.
Israel’s Channel One TV reported that Netanyahu was told Tuesday by an “American official” in Jerusalem that, “We are going to change the world. Please, don’t interfere.” The report said Netanyahu’s aides interpreted this as a “threat.”
Netanyahu met with George Mitchell today for four hours in Jerusalem. The State Department announced this afternoon that Mitchell will be stopping in Beirut and Damascus when he finishes his visits to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
FOXNews.com Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In a racially charged interview, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright said that President Obama hasn’t spoken to him since they parted ways last year, because “them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me.”
He suggested White House advisers were keeping the two separate.
“Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office,” Wright said, according to Virginia’s Daily Press. “They will not let him … talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is.”
Obama left Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago last year following the very public controversy over his inflammatory sermons.
Wright sporadically has granted media interviews and made public appearances since. In the Daily Press article, he also claimed that the president did not send a delegation to the recent world racism conference in Geneva for fear of offending Jews.
“Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing of the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don’t want Barack talking like that because that’s anti-Israel,” Wright said.
Wright said he voted for Obama in November and has no regrets over their severed relationship.
“Regret for what … that the media went back five, seven, 10 years and spent $4,000 buying 20 years worth of sermons to hear what I’ve been preaching for 20 years?” he said.
Commentary by Kevin Hassett
June 8 (Bloomberg) — I’ve finally figured out the Obama economic strategy. President Barack Obama and his team have been having so much fun wielding dictatorial power while rescuing “failed” firms, that they have developed a scheme to gain the same power over every business. The plan is to enact policies that are so anticompetitive that every firm needs a bailout.
Once that happens, their new pay czar Kenneth Feinberg can set the wage for everybody and Rahm Emanuel can stack the boards of all of our companies with his political cronies.
I know, it sounds like an exaggeration. But look at it this way. If there were a power ranking of U.S. companies, like the ones compiled by football writers for National Football League teams, Microsoft would surely be first or second to Google. But last week, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer came to Washington to announce what Microsoft would do if Obama’s multinational tax policy is enacted.
“It makes U.S. jobs more expensive,” Ballmer said, “We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S.” If Microsoft, perhaps our most competitive company, has to abandon the U.S. in order to continue to thrive, who exactly is going to stay?
At issue is Obama’s policy to end the deferral of multinational taxation.
The U.S. now has about the highest combined corporate tax rate, second only to Japan among industrialized countries. That rate is so high that U.S. firms have an enormous disadvantage versus competitors. The average corporate tax rate for the major developed countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2008 was about 27 percent, more than 10 percentage points lower than the U.S. rate.
U.S. firms have nonetheless prospered because our tax code allows a business to set up a subsidiary in a low-tax country. When that subsidiary earns profits, they are taxed at the rate of that country, and don’t face U.S. tax until the money is mailed home.
The economically illiterate partisan Democratic view is that this practice is unpatriotic and bleeds jobs from the U.S. The economic reality is that American companies use this approach to acquire market share overseas. The alternative is losing the business to foreign competitors.
Don’t just take my word for it. A recent paper by Harvard economists Mihir Desai and C. Fritz Foley and Berkeley economist James Hines and published in the distinguished American Economic Review, gathered data on American multinationals to explore the impact of foreign investments on domestic U.S. activity.
Encourage Overseas Sales
Their conclusion was striking. The authors found that “10 percent greater foreign capital investment is associated with 2.2 percent greater domestic investment, and that 10 percent greater foreign employee compensation is associated with 4 percent greater domestic employee compensation. Changes in foreign and domestic sales, assets, and numbers of employees are likewise positively associated; the evidence also indicates that greater foreign investment is associated with additional domestic exports and R&D spending.”
So when firms expand their operations abroad, taking advantage of the lower foreign tax rates, it helps their workers in the U.S. Higher sales abroad (surprise, surprise) are good for domestic workers.
It is worth noting that this study, which is confirmed by a boatload of evidence elsewhere, was coauthored by the same James Hines who recently wrote a sweeping review of international tax policy with Obama’s top economist, Larry Summers. Summers has to know what the literature says.
So the question is, why does Obama advocate a policy that so flies in the face of everything that economists have learned? How could Obama possibly say, as he did last month, that he wants “to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world. But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens?” Further, how could Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner call a practice that top scholarship has shown increases wages and employment in the U.S. “indefensible?”
I have to admit I am at a loss. Maybe it is good politics to bash American corporations, and Obama isn’t really serious about making this change happen. But if the change is enacted, and domestic corporate taxes aren’t reduced to offset the big tax hike, the result will be a flight from the U.S. that rivals in scale the greatest avian arctic migrations.
If that occurs, the firms that stay in the U.S. will be at such a huge tax disadvantage that they will absolutely need a “rescue.”
(Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is a Bloomberg News columnist. He was an adviser to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential election. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Kevin Hassett at firstname.lastname@example.org
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE and MATT APUZZO
Americans apparently agree. Obama’s disapproval rating on the economy has risen from 30 percent in February to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll completed May 31. Sensing weakness on a signature issue of Obama’s presidency, congressional Republicans are renewing their criticisms that the stimulus plan has not shown results, only mounting debt.
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama assured the nation his recovery plan was on track Monday, scrambling to calm Americans unnerved by unemployment rates still persistently rising nearly four months after he signed the biggest economic stimulus in history.
Obama admitted his own dissatisfaction with the progress but said his administration would ramp up stimulus spending in the coming months. The White House acknowledged it has spent only $44 billion, or 5 percent, of the $787 billion stimulus, but that total has always been expected to rise sharply this summer.
“Now we’re in a position to really accelerate,” Obama said.
He also repeated an earlier promise to create or save 600,000 jobs by the end of the summer.
Neither the acceleration nor the jobs goal are new. Both represent a White House repackaging of promises and projects to blunt criticism that the effects haven’t been worth the historic price tag. And the job estimate is so murky, it can never be verified.
The economy has shed 1.6 million jobs since the stimulus measure was signed in February, far overshadowing White House announcements estimating the effort has saved 150,000 jobs. Public opinion of Obama’s handling of the economy has declined along with the jobs data.
For the first time, the administration admitted the economic forecasts it used to sell the stimulus were overly optimistic.
“At the time, our forecast seemed reasonable,” Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, said Monday, explaining that the White House underestimated the scope of the recession. “Now, looking back, it was clearly too optimistic.”
By now, according to earlier White House economic models, the nation’s unemployment rate should be on the decline. The forecasts used to drum up support for the plan projected today’s unemployment would be about 8 percent. Instead, it sits at 9.4 percent, the highest in more than 25 years.
Some analysts believe the White House is still not being realistic, that Obama will be lucky if any real job creation from his recovery effort is seen by the end of the year, let alone the employment explosion he predicts.
“I think these estimates are overly optimistic,” said Arpitha Bykere, a senior analyst with RGE Monitor.
Obama spoke Monday about “modest progress” in the economy, citing fewer jobs lost last month than expected. He said he hopes to build on that in the months ahead with stimulus programs.
“We’ve done more than ever, faster than ever, more responsibly than ever, to get the gears of the economy moving again,” he said.
But he acknowledged, “I’m not satisfied. We’ve got more work to do.”
“This is President Obama’s economy, and his administration must provide results and specifics rather than vague descriptions of success that seem to change by the week,” House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said. “The administration looks dramatically out of touch as they highlight the creation of temporary summer employment in the face of job losses unseen in decades, record unemployment and massive deficits.”
By any measure, spending $44 billion in less than four months – and with unprecedented openness – is an uncharacteristic feat in Washington: The $44 billion amounts to about 9 percent of the stimulus money that is not going to tax cuts. But the expectations have been even higher.
Several economists said Monday the economy is unlikely to see much boost from the stimulus before next year.
“It takes time to organize projects, to get the bids in, the funds out and the work started,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.
Obama answered his critics Monday by announcing a list of stimulus projects, including many already previously outlined, saying the work will have a huge affect on the economy this summer.
There is money for expanded health services in local clinics; improvements in national parks and medical centers for veterans; money for police and school jobs; and more than 1,800 public works projects.
Without naming names, Obama shot back at skeptics during the Cabinet meeting.
“Now, I know that there’s some who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still don’t believe in the necessity and promise of this recovery act.”
“And I would suggest to them that they talk to the companies who, because of this plan, scrapped the idea of laying off employees and, in fact, decided to hire employees. Tell that to the Americans who received that unexpected call saying, ‘Come back to work.'”
—Associated Press writers Philip Elliott, Ben Feller and Jeannine Aversa contributed to this story.
By JENNY BARCHFIELD – June 7, 2009
(Michelle doesn’t look happy one bit!! Why so unhappy in the City of Love Paris??) My addition
PARIS (AP) — Ah, Paris. The city of love. And the city of this week’s presidential date night.
A week after flying to New York for dinner and a Broadway show, President Barack Obama and first lady, Michelle, dined at a cozy neighborhood bistro just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower.
The president and first lady were in France to join their counterparts from France, Canada and Britain to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy in World War II that led to victory in Europe.
La Fontaine de Mars dates back to 1908 and specializes in rustic dishes from France’s southwest region of Bordeaux Perigord and the Basque. Foie gras, duck and cassoulet are on the menu, although the White House has not said what the president and first lady chose.
The Obamas shared the restaurant with other diners, and other restaurants on the winding Rue St. Dominique were filled. Police, some in riot gear, lined the street. Crowds pressed behind barriers at the end of the street to glimpse the first couple, and about 100 people gathered there burst into applause as the Obamas left the restaurant. Clusters of people at street corners held up cell phones and cameras to snap pictures.
After dinner and a ride along the quai on the Left Bank of the Seine River, the Obamas returned to the U.S. ambassador’s residence, where daughters Sasha and Malia awaited them.
Earlier in the day, Sasha and Malia joined their parents on a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral, where a children’s choir sang and the president lit a candle. They climbed the stairs for a view of the city from the roof of the 12th century Gothic church. The cathedral was closed to the public during the first family’s visit.
The first family’s motorcade traveled to the cathedral along the Boulevard St. Germain, where hundreds lined the street hoping to see them.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
A US “taster” tested the food being dished up to President Barack Obama at a dinner in a French restaurant, a waiter said on Sunday.
“They have someone who tastes the dishes,” said waiter Gabriel de Carvalho from the “La Fontaine de Mars” restaurant where Obama and his family turned up for dinner on Saturday night.
“It wasn’t very pleasant for the cooks at first, but the person was very nice and was relaxed, so it all went well,” he said on the Itele news channel.
Asked by AFP to comment, the restaurant confirmed the report.
Frankish King and Queen
Laura Meckler reports from Dresden, Germany, on the Obama visit.
Some members of the German news media have been wound up over the notion of a rift between President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but Obama said Friday that a reporter’s description of the tension as “wild speculation” was more accurate.
A German reporter referenced a back-and-forth between the countries over where Obama would visit on his trip here, and asked Obama about “mild, something even wild speculation” that the tension was related to “your relationship with the chancellor.”
“I think your characterization of wild speculation is accurate — they are very wild and based on no facts,” Obama said.
“So stop it, all of you,” he said with a smile. “I know you have to find something to report on, but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems.”
He added: “The truth of the matter is, is that the relationship not only between our two countries but our two governments is outstanding.”
For her part, Merkel, who was very close to former President George W. Bush, said she appreciates working with Obama, too.
“It’s fun to work together with the American president because very serious, very thorough analytical discussions very often lead us to draw the same conclusions,” she said.
Ahead of the trip, the Germans had hoped that Obama would visit more places of cultural significance, besides the Dresden venue for talks with Merkel, to send a positive message about Germany to balance the grim view projected by the president’s visit to the former Buchenwald concentration camp. Obama opted against their suggestions and decided to visit Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, which cares for U.S. troops. That move was prompted in part by Republican criticism over his decision to cancel a visit to Landstuhl last year when he came to Germany as a presidential candidate.
Obama said Friday that he could not go everywhere due to the realities of scheduling constraints.
“There are only 24 hours in the day,” he said. “And so there’s nothing to any of that speculation beyond us just trying to fit in what we could do on such a short trip. That’s all that there was.”
In the end, Obama added an unscheduled non-Holocaust related German visit. After their news conference, he and Merkel stopped by the Church of Our Lady in Dresden, originally constructed in the 11th century and collapsed during the aggressive Allied bombing of the city in 1945, as World War II came to an end.
For decades the ruins stood in the city center as a reminder of the war and its horrors. In 1982, young East Germans began gathering at the site with candles, part of a nascent peace movement. After reunification, a movement to rebuild the church began, and in 1990, the project began, using the rubble. The church was consecrated in 2005.
Jochen Bohl, the Bishop of Saxony of the Protestant Church, took the two leaders and several top Obama advisers on a tour and then led them in an impromptu prayer, their heads bowed at the altar.
The New York Times
DRESDEN, Germany — After mending fences with the Muslim world in Cairo on Thursday, President Obama might want to keep his diplomatic tools handy for his stopover here, to repair his increasingly strained relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A rift has quietly opened up between Germany and the United States, marked by official statements of harmony and private grumbling. It is not an outright crisis in relations, but there are underlying tensions and disagreements on matters ranging from the global economic crisis to the future of inmates held at Guantánamo Bay.
On a more basic level, there is a sense that the Obama administration is ignoring the needs and counsel of longtime allies. Divided Germany was once at the center not only of the cold war, but of American foreign policy as well, which is no longer the case. Yet the United States can ill afford to alienate Europe’s largest economy and its most important intermediary in the strained relationship with Russia. “They’re not angry, they’re not anti-Obama or anti-American,” said John C. Kornblum, a former United States ambassador to Germany and now a business adviser in Berlin. “But they’re confused by the wave of criticism which has been sent at them by the administration and people close to the administration.
“It’s not that they don’t like him,” he said. “They just feel like things aren’t working, like the levers of government are not being engaged to make issues run smoothly.”
Mr. Obama arrived in Dresden, in the former East Germany, on Thursday night for a visit that will also take him to Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp, and the American military hospital in Landstuhl. The German news media have questioned why Mr. Obama was not going to Berlin, suggesting the omission might have been intended as a snub to Mrs. Merkel. Her advisers say it is no such thing and instead praise Mr. Obama’s interest in the former East Germany, where Mrs. Merkel grew up.
While Mr. Obama enjoys tremendous personal popularity among the German people, relations with Mrs. Merkel have been bumpy from the beginning. In Germany much symbolic weight is attached to Mrs. Merkel’s decision not to travel to Washington to meet with Mr. Obama in March, but to talk by video conference instead.
But signs of discord were evident even last summer, when Mrs. Merkel rejected Mr. Obama’s request during the presidential campaign to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate, saying it was not an appropriate location for a candidate’s address. Mr. Obama drew more than 200,000 people to hear his speech at a nearby monument.
The president’s high standing with the German public adds to the strain in his relationship with Mrs. Merkel, local analysts say. “Obama is so popular with the German people that you have a lot of comments like, ‘Why don’t we have a German Obama?’ ” said Dietmar Herz, director of the Erfurt School of Public Policy. “Angela Merkel is seen as the exact opposite of a charismatic leader like Obama, and that is difficult to accept.”
There is a sense in Germany, that the smooth Mr. Obama and the flashy President Nicolas Sarkozy of France have a better connection with each other than either does with the serious-minded Mrs. Merkel. And Mr. Sarkozy’s decision to reintegrate France into the command structure of NATO, though it had little direct impact on the war in Afghanistan, stood in stark contrast to Germany’s steadfast refusal to send troops to fight in the more violent south of the country.
At the same time, Mr. Obama’s popularity with the left-wing Social Democrats, rivals to Mrs. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union in parliamentary elections in September, also helps amplify his and Mrs. Merkel’s differences. The Social Democrats, who are the junior party in an unhappy coalition under Mrs. Merkel, have embraced Mr. Obama as a natural ally.
“The Christian Democrats were closer to the Bush administration than they admitted,” Mr. Herz said. “It was very difficult for conservatives like the chancellor to admit that she was close to a lot of his policies.”
Relations were already frosty as the economic crisis deepened and the German government and Obama administration took sharply differing views on how far to push stimulus spending. Mrs. Merkel believed that the Americans were underestimating the threat of inflation. But American policy makers said she did not understand the depth and the significance of the crisis.
In the early stages of the Obama presidency, officials in the Merkel government were dismayed by the scarcity of staff in midlevel positions at the Treasury Department. And Germans remain surprised that an ambassador to their country has not been named more than four months after Mr. Obama’s inauguration. There is a sense that, with his focus split between domestic concerns and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new president is taking his staunchest European allies for granted.
“There is definitely this disappointment in Europe, complaining that there’s nobody home,” said Stephen Flanagan, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
German government officials were outraged that a low-ranking American official was sent for the negotiations to find a way to keep the traditional automaker Opel going despite the bankruptcy of its parent company, General Motors, in the United States. The potential failure of an important industrial employer before parliamentary elections is no laughing matter for German politicians, including Mrs. Merkel. Still, Karsten D. Voigt, who coordinates German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry, disputed the contention that relations between the allies were under any strain, as did Merkel advisers, who rightly point out that this is Mr. Obama’s third visit to Germany in less than a year.
“This takes time in the U.S.,” Mr. Voigt said. “Transition is a long process. It’s always a frustrating experience.”
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Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. ….Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.….
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.
The American Heritage Dictionary notes that the idiom “on the one/other hand” refers to “two sides of an issue”, that is two sides of the same issue.
How is what happened to the Jews the same issue as what is happening to the Palestinians?
The Palestinians have been willful terrorists gladly willing to hinder and harm their own interests and those of their future generations to see Israel wiped off the map. Israel has attempted to give Palestinians some sovereignty, but the moderate elements within Palestinian territory were overrun by terrorists.
There can be no moral equivalence here. Treatment of the Palestinians is largely in the hands of the Palestinians. Treatment of Israel by arabs and others is not in Israel’s hands, unless you assume Israel is happy to commit national suicide.
But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
We do not have to look at this conflict from either side to see there is something profoundly wrong with a culture that encourages its elementary school children to be suicide bombers.
It is profoundly naive to think Palestinians want to peacefully co-exist with Israel. And it is morally wrong to treat the treatment of Jews and the treatment of Palestinians as morally equivalent.
(H/t to Paul Seale for pointing out this part of the transcript, which I had initially missed while listening to the speech)
JERUSALEM (CNN) — Israelis and Palestinians had one thing in common Thursday: They hung on every word in President Obama’s wide-ranging speech on U.S. and Muslim relations.
The main themes of the address resonated well with Palestinian and Israeli officials, while a Jewish settlers’ group — upset that Obama spoke against settlement activity — found problems with the speech, and others, like a Hamas official, expressed mixed or negative views.
The government of Israel expressed “hope that this important speech in Cairo will indeed lead to a new period of reconciliation between the Arab and Muslim world and Israel.”
“We share President Obama’s hope that the American effort heralds the beginning of a new era that will bring about an end to the conflict and lead to Arab recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, living in peace and security in the Middle East,” it said.
“Israel is committed to peace and will make every effort to expand the circle of peace while protecting its interests, especially its national security.”
Israeli President Shimon Peres welcomed the address, calling Obama’s words wise and courageous and saying the president “called for hard work on the part of all the sides involved with the advance of the peace process in the Middle East.”
“The concept of peace was born in the Middle East and constitutes the cornerstone of all three monotheistic faiths — Christian, Jewish and Muslim — and it is incumbent on the people of Abraham to unite to meet the challenge and together realize the vision of a sustainable peace in the Middle East,” he said.
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat applauded Obama’s commitment to the creation of a two-state solution.
“This was a very important speech, in which President Obama reinforced the message that ending the occupation and establishing a viable and independent Palestinian state was in the mutual interest of Palestinians, Israelis and indeed the entire world. Progress towards peace hinges on both parties implementing their obligations under existing agreements,” he said.
He said this means Palestinians must pursue progress “in the areas of governance, security and financial sector reforms” and Israel must adapt “an immediate and comprehensive settlement freeze” and lift restrictions on Palestinian movement.
Erakat also lauded Obama’s description of the plight of Palestinians and the “need to address the daily injustices that Palestinians face. This includes the dislocation, dispossession and insecurity that millions of Palestinian refugees face, the intolerable realities of Israel’s occupation, especially in Gaza, as well as the importance of Jerusalem to all faiths and peoples, including Palestinians, Christians and Muslims.”
For Nabil Abu Rudeineh, adviser of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the address was “very encouraging, and this is a new start and different American policy.”
“This kind of change is very important for the whole region,” he said, making note of Obama’s call to stop the Jewish settlement activity.
Rudeineh made reference to Obama’s remark that Jerusalem, which Israel has established as its capital, should be “a secure and lasting home” for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
“This is very important . This message should be understood by the Israelis,” he said.
Responding to Obama’s call for reinvigorating road map diplomacy, he said, “We think that this is the basis for a just and lasting peace in the region. If the Israelis are ready, we are committed to the road map and the Arab peace plan.”
Obama lauded Islam’s achievements and civilization. Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas official who is an adviser to the Foreign Ministry in Gaza, praised his words on the religion. “But where was the call for Palestinian right of return to lands lost when Israel was created or the continuing blockade on Gaza?” he asked.
Israeli settler leaders were predictably angered by Obama’s call for an immediate end to settlement expansion. Making reference to Obama’s Muslim middle name, the Yesha Council — the settlers’ group — told Israeli media that “Hussein Obama gave priority to Arab lies.”
In a West Jerusalem cafe, Israelis who watched the speech were heartened by Obama’s reference to Holocaust denial as “baseless,” “ignorant” and “hateful,” saying Obama managed to hit a deep chord in the Jewish experience.
One Israeli, Melvin Lopotor, said the speech was “even-handed, and I think that he addressed the issues that I think are reflected in both people.”
“What he said, he has already said before, and people know where he stands, but he kind of summarized it all in a very articulate way,” he said.
Obama mentioned that he plans to visit the site of Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp, and Lopotor said Obama’s understanding of historical anti-Semitic persecution and the Holocaust won points.
“He brought out a very important point that we Jews understand and feel strongly about, but the world — particularly the Arab countries — don’t necessarily understand,” Lopotor said.
Ismail Muhamad, a Palestinian at the cafe, said the speech was balanced, promoting conciliation and a new way forward.
An Israeli, Roland Klein, said it’s important to realize that the speech was a speech, and “not any kind of serious action.”
“Everyone who heard it has to think about it, and this is important,” he said. “But it needs to be said, and said aloud.”
At a coffee shop in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a man named Tayeed couldn’t accept Obama’s interpretation and acceptance of the Jewish narrative of history in the region.
He “gave the Jews the right to establish their states on the back and suffering of the Palestinians and Muslims in general. And he also gave the right to the Palestinians on the account of the Jews.”
While Obama spoke about the plight of Palestinians at the “crossings and the settlements” in the West Bank, Tayeed said, he did not speak about the residents of Jerusalem.
The city has been annexed by Israel and made into its capital, but Palestinians and the world community do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and believe at least part of it to be occupied territory.
“The residents of Jerusalem,” Tayeed said, “are living in the worst situation.”
Ahmad Salem was pleased Obama used the term “occupation” when he described Palestinian suffering.
“In general, he admitted that the Palestinians suffered from the Israeli occupation, focused on the settlements and that he is going to abolish the illegal settlements,” he said.
Salem said that while Obama talked about Palestinian rockets hitting sleeping children, a reference to the cross-border attacks from Gaza into Israel, he didn’t mention Israeli military incursions into the West Bank and its Gaza offensive.
“He could have just mentioned that ‘I sympathize with them,’ but … he did not mention that thing at all,” he said.
Abed Alsalam abu Askar said he was pleased that Obama mentioned his support for stopping settlement activity, which Askar said he believes is the main obstacle to peace.
“I know that Mr. Obama talked about the Israeli people suffering — I do not know why they are suffering. I am very happy that he mentioned the suffering of the Palestinians, also.”
(CNN) — Some of us thought the election of Barack Obama as president might signal a fading away of the old identity politics.
The assumption that fundamental lines of division in politics are set by race and ethnicity would seem to be a bit passé when 43 percent of white voters cast their ballots for a proudly “post-racial” African-American.
But the president himself has made identity politics front-page news with his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee. She played an important role in the New Haven firefighters’ case (Ricci v. DeStefano) now awaiting decision by the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor and two colleagues simply brushed aside the important constitutional and statutory questions raised by the city’s decision to discard the results of a race-neutral test given to applicants for promotions within the department. Too many men of the “wrong” color had passed it — that is, all of those who scored highest were white except for one Hispanic.
Those firefighters had worked hard to get the test results they did; the lead plaintiff, Frank Ricci, is dyslexic, but he had been on the force for 11 years and was determined to become a lieutenant, so he paid an acquaintance more than $1,000 to read textbooks onto audiotapes and make flash cards. Ricci gave up his second job in order to study long hours — and aced the test.
President Obama, in his famous Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, race speech during the campaign, said that when whites hear “that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed … resentment builds over time.” Yes. And when firefighters are denied promotions they earned simply because they are white, resentment builds. Discarding that test has struck many as an instance of racial preferences run amok.
Will the real Barack Obama please stand up? Did he mean to imply in that Philadelphia speech that the “empathy” he claims to celebrate extends not only to minority victims of injustice, but also to whites? And is he a man who remains eager to move beyond identity politics, as he suggested numerous times in the course of his campaign — or not?
Questions abound. He has tried to downplay Sotomayor’s now infamous declaration that “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” suggesting that it was nothing more than a poor choice of words.
But in the same speech, Sotomayor wondered “whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.” And, most remarkably, she stated: “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences … our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”
“Inherent physiological or cultural differences”? Can the president possibly believe that Latina women — and indeed minority women in general — are born to see questions of law in a different and better light than white men or even men of color? It’s in their physiological and cultural makeup. A fact of nature. If indeed the president believes in such disturbing racial determinism, weep for our nation.
Either the president is a man of many parts, untroubled by his own conflicting views, or he is an immensely skilled and coldly calculating politician who is eager to court the Latino vote and knows that few senators are likely to vote against a “first.”
Identity politics is on the line in Ricci and also in another forthcoming Supreme Court decision, a key case involving minority voting rights. Later this month, the Supreme Court will decide whether in 2009, black candidates for public office can win running in majority-white settings.
At issue in “Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder” is the constitutionality of a key, temporary provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that was renewed for the fourth time in 2006 on the theory that voting discrimination had just become “more subtle” than it was four decades earlier.
The renewal meant that the Justice Department could continue to insist on districting maps that were carefully racially gerrymandered to elect black and Hispanic candidates. Legislative quotas have been the remedy for persistent racial exclusion — seats reserved for candidates who are the choice of minority voters.
But is America still a nation steeped in the muck of old-fashioned racism — the results of the 2008 election notwithstanding? Are we condemned to identity politics in choosing firefighters for promotion, in drawing districting maps for legislative bodies (from school boards all the way up to congressional delegations), and in a multitude of other spheres into the indefinite future?
Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination suggests that the answer will be yes. A sad thought.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Abigail Thernstrom.
June 3, 2009
President Hugo Chavez claimed this week that he and his Cuban ally Fidel Castro are more conservative than left-wing U.S. President Barack Obama, referring to the American government bailout and takeover of General Motors, Reuters reported.
The Venezuelan leader was giving a speech on the “curse” of capitalism on Tuesday as GM was filing for bankruptcy and preparing for Washington to take control of 60 percent of the 100-year-old symbol of American capitalism.”I’m not accusing Obama,” he said. “I think Obama has good intentions, but beyond Obama there’s an empire — the CIA and all its tentacles: Terrorists and paramilitaries.”
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“Hey, Obama has just nationalized nothing more and nothing less than General Motors. Comrade Obama! Fidel, careful or we are going to end up to his right,” Reuters quotes Chavez joking on a national TV broadcast.
Socialist Chavez has nationalized most of Venezuela’s economic sectors, including many oil projects that include joint ventures with private companies that give his government a 60 percent stake.
Obama says he will quickly sell off GM, but for now the government controls the automaker and has injected $30 billion of taxpayer money into the company.
Chavez also on Tuesday accused the CIA of plotting to kill him.
Chavez has previously accused the U.S. of plotting to overthrow him or invade Venezuela, but Tuesday was the first time he has made such accusations since warmly greeting President Barack Obama at an April summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
By Ross Colvin and Ulf Laessing
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 9:26 AM
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – President Barack Obama met Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on Wednesday ahead of a much-heralded speech in Cairo the U.S. leader hopes will help refurbish America’s tarnished image in the Islamic world.
After an airport welcome in Riyadh, Obama traveled to King Abdullah’s farm where the two men were to hold talks expected to cover the Arab-Israeli conflict, U.S. overtures to Iran and oil.
Obama, whose father was Muslim and who lived in Indonesia as a boy, hopes to mend a U.S. image damaged by Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the treatment of U.S. military detainees.
He was due to spend the night at the Saudi king’s farm before flying to Cairo for his speech to the Muslim world, which will fulfill a campaign promise last year to deliver an address from a Muslim capital early in his administration.
“I am confident that we’re in a moment where in Islamic countries, I think there’s a recognition that the path of extremism is not actually going to deliver a better life for people,” Obama told NBC News before he left Washington.
“There’s a recognition that simply being anti-American is not going to solve their problems. The steps we’re taking now to leave Iraq takes that issue and defuses it a little bit,” he said, adding that the speech was just a first step in a broader dialogue with the Muslim world on difficult issues.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier the speech was “about resetting our relations with the Muslim world.”
Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Egyptians not to be seduced by Obama’s ‘polished words’ when he makes his planned speech in Cairo. He said in a recording on an Islamist website: “Obama … is not welcome in Egypt.”
Washington hopes Saudi Arabia will play a moderating role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporters (OPEC) after oil prices hit a seventh-month high, threatening Obama’s efforts to lift the United States out of recession and hasten global recovery.
Obama has said he would discuss oil with King Abdullah and would argue that price spikes are not in Saudi interests.
On Monday, the Saudi cabinet reiterated it saw “the fair price” at $75-$80 a barrel — 17 percent above current levels.
“The king said $75 would be okay for the simple reason that everyone in OPEC wants $100 or more,” said a Saudi government adviser, who asked not to be named.
“It’s just to make the point that Saudi Arabia will be able to neutralize Iranian and Venezuelan influence in OPEC,” he said, referring to leading price hawks in the cartel.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, has a nearly 60-year-old bond with the United States based on assured oil supplies in return for U.S. protection for the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia, which has more than a fifth of global crude reserves, wants to hear how serious Obama is about plans to lower U.S. dependence on Middle East oil and diversify energy resources away from fossil fuels, analysts say.
“The growing realization among Saudi officials that the Obama administration means what it says about diversifying … may soon begin to create tensions in the bilateral relationship,” political risk agency Eurasia Group said.
Obama said he would tell King Abdullah his country did not plan to eliminate its need for oil imports any time soon.
The king was expected to express his worries that Obama’s diplomatic overtures to Iran may rejig regional relationships at Riyadh’s expense, diplomats and analysts say.
Saudi Arabia wants Obama to get tough with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has balked at Palestinian statehood and rebuffed U.S. calls to halt settlement building.
(Additional reporting by Alistair Lyon in Beirut; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)
Report gives details about hundreds of the nation’s nuclear sites, programs
By EILEEN SULLIVAN
WASHINGTON (AP) – The government accidentally posted on the Internet a list of all civilian nuclear sites and their activities in the United States.
While there is security at the facilities, the list could presumably be useful for terrorists or anyone else who would like to harm the United States.
The publication of the list was first reported in an online secrecy newsletter Monday.
The document details the location of the nuclear sites and what is being done there.
For instance, there are nuclear reactors at the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, Pa. This facility is currently working on research into what happens when there are accidents with the nuclear reactors. The project started in 2006 and is expected to end in 2012, according to the document.
The document was posted on the Government Printing Office Web site, and has since been removed.
Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe writes in “Renegade: The Making of a President” that Barack Obama’s campaign struggled with figuring out how to respond to former President Clinton’s attacks.
President Obama accused Bill Clinton of peddling “bald-faced lies” during the presidential campaign, according to a new book on the 2008 race.
Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe writes in “Renegade: The Making of a President” that Obama’s campaign struggled to figure out how to respond to former President Clinton, who during the early primaries was a fierce defender of his wife Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination.
“We had to figure out how to deal with a former president who was just lying, engaging in bald-faced lies,” Obama told Wolffe. He also boasted about his campaign’s ultimate ability to take on the former president.
Asked about the claim that Bill Clinton got into Obama’s head, Obama replied: “Yes, but I got into his.”
Tensions between Obama and the former president began to rise in late January 2008, with the Nevada caucuses and then the racially charged South Carolina primary. Clinton appeared to take a hard shot at Obama when he compared his South Carolina victory to the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s — a failed presidential candidate with limited appeal outside black constituencies.
But Obama’s tough comments to Wolffe apparently referred to the back-and-forth between the two Democratic campaigns over Obama’s remarks to a Nevada newspaper about the influence of former President Ronald Reagan. In the interview, Obama said Reagan changed the “trajectory” of America, while appearing to dismiss Clinton’s presidency as one of less historical import.
In response, Bill Clinton and the rest of Hillary Clinton’s campaign accused Obama of praising the Republican Party.
Wolffe quoted Obama adviser David Axelrod as saying the former president was becoming “increasingly intemperate” and spreading “flat-out distortions.”
Wolffe also wrote that Obama later told his senior aides that he was willing to consider Hillary Clinton, who is now secretary of state, as his running mate “if she helps us politically.” Obama was reportedly unhappy that his short list was so short — it included only Sen. Joe Biden and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who are now vice president and health and human services secretary, as well as Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.
But Obama told his aides he was worried Clinton’s husband would be too much of a “loose cannon.”
By POLITICO STAFF | 5/10/09 7:05 PM EDT
President Barack Obama’s top quips from his after-dinner speech at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner:
“Good evening. You know, I had an entire speech prepared for this occasion. But now that I’m here, I think I want to try something a little different. Tonight, I want to speak from the heart. So, I’m not going to use this script. I’m going to speak off the cuff. [Two teleprompter shields rise slowly from beneath the podium, to musical accompaniment. Laughter.] Good evening … [huge laughter]
“I’d like to welcome you all to the ten-day anniversary of my first one hundred days. I’m Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table. [He peers into the distance stage left, doing his Chris Rock thing of grinning at his own funny.] I have to confess I really didn’t want to be here tonight, but I knew I had to come. Just one more problem I inherited from George Bush. …
“Sasha and Malia aren’t here tonight because they are grounded. You can’t just take Air Force One on a joyride around Manhattan. I don’t care whose kids you are. And that reminds me: Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. This is a tough holiday for Rahm. He’s not used to saying the word ‘day’ after ‘mother.’ [Brings the house down.]
“David Axelrod is here. We’ve been together a long time. I can still remember when I called Ax a few years ago and said, ‘You and I can do wonderful things together.” And he said to me the same thing that partners across America are saying to one another right now: ‘Let’s go to Iowa and make it official.’
“Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or as he would say, ‘in the heezy.’ … Dick Cheney was supposed to be here, but he’s very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled, ‘How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.’
“You know, it’s been a whirlwind of activity, these first one hundred days. We’ve enacted an economic recovery package. We’ve passed a budget. We’ve forged a new path in Iraq. And no President in history has named three Commerce secretaries this quickly. By the way, if Judd Gregg is here, your business cards are ready. On top of that, I’ve also reversed the ban on stem cell research, signed an expansion of children’s health insurance, and just last week, Car and Driver magazine named me Auto Executive of the Year!
“We’ve also begun to change the culture in Washington. We’ve even made the White House a place where people can learn and grow. Just yesterday, Larry Summers asked if he could chair the White House Council on Women and Girls. And I do appreciate Larry coming tonight, because it is seven hours past his bedtime …
“That brings me to another thing that’s changed – my relationship with Hillary. We may have been rivals during the campaign, but these days we couldn’t be closer. In fact, the second she got back from Mexico she greeted me with a big hug and a kiss – told me I really oughta get down there myself.
“As I said during the campaign, we can’t just talk to our friends. As hard as it is, we have to talk with our enemies. And I’ve begun to do exactly that. [Image of the President in the Oval Office, shaking hands with an elaborately costumed pirate.] But let me be clear: Just because he handed me a copy of Peter Pan, doesn’t mean I’m gonna read it. …
“During the second hundred days, we will design, build, and open a library dedicated to my first hundred days. In the next hundred days, I will learn to go off prompter – and Joe Biden will learn to stay on it.
“In the next hundred days, our bipartisan outreach will be so successful that even John Boehner will consider becoming a Democrat. After all, we have a lot in common. He is a person of color. Although not a color that appears in the natural world. … In the next hundred days, we will house train our dog Bo – because the last thing Tim Geithner needs is someone else treating him like a fire hydrant. In the next hundred days, I will also strongly consider losing my cool. [mugs serenely] Finally, I believe that my next hundred days will be so successful, I will be able to complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest.”
‘WE’RE OUT OF MONEY’ Sat May 23 2009 10:32:18 ET
In a sobering holiday interview with C-SPAN, President Obama boldly told Americans: “We are out of money.”
C-SPAN host Steve Scully broke from a meek Washington press corps with probing questions for the new president.
SCULLY: You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?
OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we’ve made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we’ve seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades. So we’ve got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it’s putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off. So we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don’t reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can’t get control of the deficit. So, one option is just to do nothing. We say, well, it’s too expensive for us to make some short-term investments in health care. We can’t afford it. We’ve got this big deficit. Let’s just keep the health care system that we’ve got now. Along that trajectory, we will see health care cost as an overall share of our federal spending grow and grow and grow and grow until essentially it consumes everything…
SCULLY: When you see GM though as “Government Motors,” you’re reaction?
OBAMA: Well, you know – look we are trying to help an auto industry that is going through a combination of bad decision making over many years and an unprecedented crisis or at least a crisis we haven’t seen since the 1930’s. And you know the economy is going to bounce back and we want to get out of the business of helping auto companies as quickly as we can. I have got more enough to do without that. In the same way that I want to get out of the business of helping banks, but we have to make some strategic decisions about strategic industries…
SCULLY: States like California in desperate financial situation, will you be forced to bail out the states?
OBAMA: No. I think that what you’re seeing in states is that anytime you got a severe recession like this, as I said before, their demands on services are higher. So, they are sending more money out. At the same time, they’re bringing less tax revenue in. And that’s a painful adjustment, what we’re going end up seeing is lot of states making very difficult choices there…
SCULLY: William Howard Taft served on the court after his presidency, would you have any interest in being on the Supreme Court?
OBAMA: You know, I am not sure that I could get through Senate confirmation…