NT News: President Barack Obama has been insured against crocodile attack for his visit to the Northern Territory. TIO issued him the standard policy – a cover note carrying a photograph of a saltie with the promise to pay $50,000 in the event of a fatal attack.
Chief executive Richard Harding said the insurance policy had been framed and would be presented to the president during his visit to Darwin on Thursday. … “We’re excited to be issuing one of these policies for President Obama as a memento of his time in the Territory.”
TIO has been selling the $10 cover for 23 years – but President Obama will get his for free.
CNN: A new poll shows Mitt Romney leading the GOP presidential field by a wide margin in New York, but a majority of voters statewide said they would choose to re-elect President Barack Obama if the election were held today.
Romney was the choice of 32% of Republican voters in the state, double the support of businessman Herman Cain, who was second at 15%, according to a Siena College Research Institute poll released Tuesday.
….. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters said they hold a favorable view of the president … He also carries a wide lead over Romney in a hypothetical matchup, 59%-34%.
MSNBC: In light of Herman Cain’s moment yesterday …. it’s worth noting that he wrote a book in 1999 titled “Speak as a Leader: Develop the Better Speaker in You.” In that book, he offers advice about public speaking, particularly on how to handle media interviews.
….. “First, if you know the topic ahead of time,” he writes, “plan the key points you want to make during the interview and be able to state those points in a variety of ways. If you will be doing frequent interviews with the press, then a media training course would be advisable in order to learn effective communication techniques. Second, there is no such thing as off the record. If you say it, then assume it might be used at some point. Third, expect the unexpected and be prepared to remain calm and professional.”
Bloomberg: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said during a Nov. 9 debate that he earned a $300,000 fee to advise Freddie Mac as a “historian” who warned that the mortgage company’s business model was “insane.”
Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with the consulting work Gingrich was hired to perform for the company in 2006 tell a different story. They say the former House speaker was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.
Today: The President departs Honolulu, Hawaii, en route to Canberra, Australia (1:30 ET)
Wednesday (Australian time): Arrives in Australia. Has a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Gillard, the two leaders then holding a joint press conference. Attends a parliamentary dinner at the Australian Parliament House that night where he will make remarks about the U.S.-Australian relationship.
Thursday: Begins his day by laying a wreath at an Australian war memorial; meets with opposition leader Tony Abbott; addresses the Australian Parliament; visits a local primary school with PM Gillard; visits the US embassy. Leaves Canberra for Darwin. Visits a memorial to the USS Peary and lays a wreath. The President and PM Gillard together address Australian troops. That concludes the Australia portion of the visit. The President flies that night to Bali, Indonesia.
Friday: Attends a number of bilateral meetings. Meets with the Prime Minister of India and the leaders of Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. Meets with the ASEAN nations, the 10 Southeast Asian nations. Meets with President Yudhoyono of Indonesia; attends an East Asia dinner that night.
Saturday: The East Asian Summit takes place through the day. At its conclusion the President returns to the United States.
Bloomberg: Less than 12 months from the presidential election, the U.S. economy has moved from recovery to expansion, prompting similar shifts in President Barack Obama’s political prospects.
The unemployment rate moved downward last month ….. the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in seven months two weeks ago, a sign the recovery may be encouraging companies to limit cuts in headcount. And a private outplacement company is predicting that jobs losses in the government sector, a drag on U.S. employment, may be leveling off.
Gains in household spending, the biggest part of the economy, last quarter led economists to raise their growth forecasts for the remainder of this year and for 2012 … The services industry and manufacturing both continue to expand….
CNN: The public is divided over the idea of requiring all Americans to have health insurance, according to a new national survey. But a CNN/ORC International Poll also indicates that support for the proposal, a cornerstone of the 2010 health care reform law, has risen since June.
…. According to the poll, 52% of Americans favor mandatory health insurance, up from 44% in June. The survey indicates that 47% oppose the health insurance mandate, down from 54% in early summer.
“The health insurance mandate has gained most support since June among older Americans and among lower-income Americans,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “A majority of independents opposed the measure in June, but 52 percent of them now favor it.”
LA Times: The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.
….. The lawyer who will stand before the court and argue that the law should be thrown out is likely to be Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration.
Clement’s law firm, Bancroft PLLC, was one of almost two dozen firms that helped sponsor the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, a longstanding group dedicated to advocating conservative legal principles …
…. The featured guests at the dinner? Scalia and Thomas.
First lady Michelle Obama meets military families at a hiring fair sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for service men and women, veterans and military families at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
Standing out from the crowd, the only member of the 21 APEC leaders to opt for colour ahead of default grey, Julia Gillard busily kept her red hair off her face during the forum’s ‘family photo’ that signalled the end of their two-day Hawaiian summit.
But her battle with the sea breeze that played across the group in the grounds of a luxury resort near Honolulu drew friendly support from Barack Obama, who mimicked her by patting his short-cropped pate.
“I have to worry about mine, too,” he joked, prompting mirth from those around him, with the leaders of Malaysia, South Korea and Japan instinctively patting their heads.
….. As they walked dutifully – if a little self-consciously – towards the podium for their photo shoot, Ms Gillard was heard to refer to the grass skirts, with Mr Obama replying that “the coconut bras” were “embarrassing enough”.
SMH: BARACK Obama walked in for the first session of the G20 in Cannes last week, stopped to talk to a few people, and then spied Julia Gillard. The President crossed the room, and the camera captured the warmth. It looked so much better than Kevin Rudd saluting George Bush at NATO in 2008.
…. They have struck up a rapport. In the Oval Office she gave him a Sherrin. Their visit to a Washington school went so well that the White House proposed they repeat the publicity moment in Canberra. Obama has described her as a “quick study”. He would admire, even envy, that she has got her carbon price through Parliament, because he would like to legislate a cap-and-trade scheme, but is stymied by the American political system.
US ambassador Jeff Bleich says there is “a great deal of agreement between the two of them – they tend to see the world the same way”. He points to their substantive policy agreement, the way they interact, their similar sense of humour.
SMH: ALMOST three quarters of Australian voters are happy with the US alliance, a far cry from the peak of the Iraq war.
With the US President, Barack Obama, to arrive in Australia tomorrow for a 26-hour visit, the latest Herald/Nielsen poll shows 71 per cent of voters feel the relationship is “about right”. Only 24 per cent feel it is too close, while just 3 per cent say it is “not close enough”.
…. The Herald last asked the question in a poll in June 2004, when the Iraq war was at its peak and the relationship between the then leaders, John Howard and George Bush, was a close one…. The poll then found 46 per cent felt the relationship was too close and 47 per cent felt it was about right. Like the current poll, 3 per cent felt it was not close enough.
The Supreme Court has announced that it will review President Obama’s health care law, setting the stage for a showdown over his signature legislative accomplishment months ahead of the 2012 election. Oral arguments are expected to take place this spring.
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer: “Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law and we are pleased the Court has agreed to hear this case. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”
Mel Levine (former member of the US House of Representatives D-CA): Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined a famous phrase that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.” Apparently, the Republican candidates for president, led by former Governor Romney, have been so busy talking with each other that they have somehow developed an alternative universe of facts, one which both distorts President Obama’s record and disregards their own.
In a world in which the stakes of our foreign policy are so high, it is dangerous to ignore these distortions.
Gov. Romney recklessly and inaccurately misrepresents President Obama’s record of leadership in foreign policy in general. His disdain for the President Obama’s foreign policy conveniently ignores the president’s leadership in building international coalitions which have imposed exceptionally stiff sanctions on Iran and which have led to the destruction of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. It seems to forget that it is President Obama who led the effort to kill Osama bin Laden, who is keeping his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq by the end of this year, and who has broadened and deepened U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation so that it is stronger than ever before…..
Slate: If you want to see more American jobs, do you want to hire a guy whose area of expertise seems to be making them disappear?
A new story in The New York Times scrutinizes one of Mitt Romney’s biggest arguments for being the next president: his business management experience. And the picture is not entirely pretty.
The former head of Bain Capital helped to acquire and sell some 150 companies before he became the governor of Massachusetts in 2003. One of those sales and acquisitions, that of medical company Dade International, left 1,700 American workers without jobs and a company worse off because of high fees paid to Romney and his associates and long-term debt, according to some former company officials.
Steve Benen: If it’s Sunday, it’s ‘Meet the GOP Talking Points’
“Meet the Press” host David Gregory spoke with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz … and the interview was pretty tough to watch …. When attention turned to debt-reduction efforts, Gregory said, simply as a matter of fact, that Republicans on the super-committee “did agree for tax increases that Democrats have not accepted this week,” and then tried to change the subject. The host wanted to leave viewers with the impression that GOP officials were making a good-faith offer….
…. What Gregory failed miserably to offer viewers was context and any of the relevant details…. I expect this on Fox News. “Meet the Press” is supposed to have higher standards.
And to top it off, the host inexplicably showed a clip of Obama from July 2008 talking about his desire to lower the deficit if elected. July 2008 – before the crash, before TARP, before the need for the Recovery Act, before Republicans demanded an extension of Bush-era tax breaks that they refused to pay for.
…. It was one of the worst interviews I’ve ever seen on “Meet the Press.”
Paul Begala (Daily Beast): …. today’s Republican Party is more the party of Sarah Palin’s defiant know-nothingness than the brainy conservatism of Bill Bennett. The GOP is a party of ideologues, not ideas.
…. even the smart Republicans have to at least play dumb. Mitt Romney, for example, has to pretend he doesn’t know what’s causing global warming. A few weeks ago he told an audience in Pittsburgh, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.” Hard to believe, because as recently as June of this year he said, “I believe, based on what I read, that the world is getting warmer. And No. 2, I believe that humans contribute to that.” Romney’s new-and-not-improved position is a shameless pander to the know-nothings.
Same with evolution, where Republicans know they can earn applause by denouncing science. Apparently to run in today’s GOP you must believe, in the words of comedian Lewis Black, that “The Flintstones is a documentary.”
Steve Benen: There was a BBC reality show I used to find interesting called “Faking It” …. I think of that show every time I watch Mitt Romney tackle foreign and national security policy. It’s clear the former one-term governor is dealing with a subject outside of his comfort zone – it’s equally clear he’s out of his depth – but Romney appears to have been given a crash course in the hopes he can fool people into thinking he’s competent.
For those who care about international affairs, Romney isn’t doing a very good job. Trusted reader F.B. flagged this segment from today’s “Morning Joe,” where a panel literally laughed at some of Romney’s saber-rattling towards Iran.
Note, in particular, that the BBC’s Katty Kay said she was “disappointed” by Romney’s remarks on Iran, because she thought he’d have “a more sophisticated understanding” of the issue.
That, in a nutshell, is one of Romney’s key rhetorical problems – he can fake it when it comes to giving the appearance of competence, which raises expectations, but the facade falls apart when anyone stops to consider the details…..