Steve Benen: The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, despite occasional setbacks, and most analysts expected this morning’s report to show a modest uptick in filings.
The good news is, that didn’t happen. In fact, initial jobless claims reached a four-year low last week, and the new totals were unchanged this week.
Greg Sargent: At yesterday’s debate, Mitt Romney and the other candidates went all in on birth control – sorry, “religious liberty” – in blasting President Obama over the contraception controversy…. But some new polling out this morning from Quinnipiac illustrates the risk Republicans are taking with this latest reprise of the culture wars:
President Obama recently announced an adjustment to the administration’s health-care rule regarding religiously affiliated employers providing birth control coverage to female employees. Women will still be guaranteed coverage for birth control without any out-of-pocket cost, but will have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds. Do you approve or disapprove of President Obama’s decision?
Steve Benen: …… Romney added that Obama is “requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable.”
It is, in fact, literally “unbelievable,” since that’s not at all what the administration is doing.
It was painful enough to have so much of the debate focus on opposition to birth control, but Romney’s dishonesty managed to make a mind-numbing discussion even worse.
Ronald Brownstein (National Journal): ….. Some of Romney’s answers could come back to haunt him, not in the primary but in a general election, if he gets that far.
At a time when some Republicans are already concerned that he has narrowed his potential support among Latinos with an unflinching embrace of conservative positions on immigration (like “self-deportation”), Romney doubled down by insisting that on “day one” as president he would drop the federal legal challenge to Arizona’s tough state statute against illegal immigration.
And on the same day that an NBC/Marist poll already showed Romney trailing President Obama by 18 percentage points in Michigan, a state Republicans once hoped to contest this fall, Romney likewise doubled down on his criticism of the auto rescue engineered by Bush and Obama – and sprinkled in some especially sharp rhetoric against the United Auto Workers union for good measure.
E.J. Dionne: They say that President Obama is a Muslim, but if he isn’t, he’s a secularist who is waging war on religion. On some days he’s a Nazi, but on most others he’s merely a socialist….
Whatever our president is, he is never allowed to be a garden-variety American who plays basketball and golf, has a remarkably old-fashioned family life and, in the manner we regularly recommend to our kids, got ahead by getting a good education.
Please forgive this outburst. It’s simply astonishing that a man in his fourth year as our president continues to be the object of the most extraordinary paranoid fantasies … And now that the economy is improving, short-circuiting easy criticisms, Obama’s adversaries are reheating all the old tropes and cliches and slanders.
….. As for Obama as a socialist, ponder two numbers: 13,005, which the Dow Jones average hit this week, up from a low point of 6,547 in March 2009. Some socialist.
We are blessed with the freedom to say whatever we want about our president. But those who cast Obama as something other than one of us don’t understand him and don’t understand what it means to be American.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk in the Green Room of the White House before hosting a Smithsonian Museum of African American History reception in the East Room, Feb. 22, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama listens during the groundbreaking ceremony of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, February 22
LA Times: Sales of previously owned homes rose 4.3% in January and inventories fell to nearly seven-year lows as lower prices, unusually warm weather and an improving economy lifted demand.
….. January sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million …. Sales rose in all four major regions, including an 8.8% pop in the West.
Job creation, mild weather, rising rents and increased household formation contributed to the sales gains, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the Realtors group. “Things are genuinely improving,” Yun said.
.. Rep. John Lewis and former First Lady Laura Bush
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Scheduled to open in 2015, the museum will be the only national museum to be entirely devoted to African American life, art, history and culture.
James Fallows (The Atlantic): … but then he gets a chance to sing at the White House tonight, doing Sweet Home Chicago with Mick Jagger and also B.B. King?? Jeesh, talk about being the most powerful man in the world.
…. The guy does have a charm that is hard to imagine the Santorums or Romneys ever matching …. for extra enjoyment check out the shots of White House chief of staff Jacob Lew bopping in the background. A real hep cat, for sure!
AP: A surging Rick Santorum is running even with Mitt Romney atop the Republican presidential field, but neither candidate is faring well against President Barack Obama eight months before Americans vote, a new survey shows.
Obama tops 50 percent support when matched against each of the four GOP candidates and holds a significant lead over each of them, according to the Associated Press-GfK poll….
….. Obama holds an 8-point lead over Romney, 9 points over Santorum and 10 points over Gingrich or Paul…. Notably, the survey showed the president dominating among independents, a group central to Obama’s 2008 victory, whose support for him had faltered in recent months. According to the poll, 6 in 10 independents would choose Obama over any of the Republicans.
Marquette: President Barack Obama leads each of his Republican rivals in Wisconsin, according to the new Marquette Law School Poll. Obama leads former Senator Rick Santorum 51 percent to 40 percent and leads former governor Mitt Romney by 53 percent to 38 percent. In January, Obama’s lead over Romney was 48 percent to 40 percent. The president holds a 52 percent to 36 percent lead over Rep. Ron Paul and a 56 percent to 33 percent margin over former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Charles Pierce: It should be A Very Special Episode, this Wednesday night’s season finale of the 1,329,465,771.5 Republican debates. They should invite the whole cast back, all the people who left the show for their own spinoffs, the way they brought Rhoda and Phyllis back when Mary Richards got fired at WJM. Look, here’s Herman Cain, and there’s Michele Bachmann, and there’s Rick Perry, stumbling and falling into the potato salad. And there’s the formerly invisible Jon Huntsman. Who knew he was so tall?
Steve Benen: Last week, the House Oversight Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa, held a one-sided hearing on contraception access, featuring an opening panel of five conservative men – and no one else. Democrats on the committee had invited a witness, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, but Issa refused to allow her to participate.
House Dems aren’t taking “no” for an answer …. Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that a Democratic panel will meet this week to hear testimony from just one witness: Sandra Fluke….
…. There was, however, an unexpected twist yesterday afternoon … the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration has refused to allow the hearing to be televised ….. what is it, exactly, about Fluke’s perspective that has Republicans so concerned? The law student wants to share the story of a classmate who lost an ovary due to an ailment that could have been treated with birth control.
Steve Benen: …. As for why Michigan trees “are the right height” — unlike those other rascally states, where the trees are either too tall or too short — I’m yet to see someone explain what on earth Romney was talking about.
Mediaite: Here’s a moment in recent history that you’ll be hearing a lot about this week: In a 2008 speech given at Ave Maria University (a Catholic institution), current presidential hopeful Rick Santorum warned those gathered that “Satan has his sights on the United States of America.”
Michael Tomasky: …. Romney is just a coward. If he were half the man his father was, he would do something like what his father did in 1964, when he warned the party nominating Barry Goldwater that it was headed off the rails. (Today Goldwater, considered a fanatic in his day, would be maybe about the 15th-most-conservative Republican senator.) But all Romney cares about, all any of them care about, is getting and keeping political power. They can’t see the obvious paradox — that their lust for the White House is making them submit to all the wishes of a fanatical base, which is exactly what will keep them from winning the White House.
Remember that satirical Brecht line about it being perhaps easier for the government to dissolve the people and elect a new one? It’s not a new candidate the right needs. It’s a new electorate.
First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a student workshop called “At The Crossroads: A History Of The Blues In America” at the White House. On stage with Obama are (L-R) musicians Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Shemekia Copeland and Keb Mo. The event is being held in recognition of Black History Month as part of the “In Performance at the White House” series.
Steve Benen: We talked yesterday about why the 2002 Olympic games, run by Mitt Romney, has become an awkward political story for the Republican presidential hopeful. To help drive the point home, consider this clip, uncovered by the estimable James Carter, of Romney discussing the role of taxpayer money to support the games.
….. Not surprisingly, he concluded that the “massive investment” is absolutely worth it. Indeed, in the same clip, Romney went on to thank Utah’s congressional delegation – which was made up entirely of Republican lawmakers at the time – for being “enormously helpful” in securing so many tax dollars for the 2002 Olympics.
Greg Sargent: Another day, another Romney truth-stretch: Glenn Kessler knocks down the ubiquitous Romney-GOP talking point that Obama pledged that his stimulus plan would hold unemployment below eight percent.
Special bonus dissembling: As Kessler notes, the info to disprove this one is actually available on the Romney Web site…