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.
Boston Herald: Mitt Romney’s on red-faced run …. He’s admired for his perfect hair and polished style. It’s when Mitt Romney tries to be a regular guy that he runs into trouble.
…. he has made a string of quirky campaign missteps that have pundits questioning his ability to relate to the common voter. Some have even dubbed him an “awkward” candidate struggling with an identity crisis….
From pretending a waitress pinched his behind in New Hampshire, to cracking jokes about being “unemployed,” to pulling out a $100 bill in a Colorado restaurant, Romney has raised eyebrows with a series of stumbles as he stumps in the harsh glare of the national spotlight.
… The media hasn’t been kind. The Wall Street Journal recently referred to his “aw shucks, cornball humor,” and the Washington Post wrote of his “weirdness,” describing his demeanor as “equal parts ‘Leave It to Beaver’ corniness and social awkwardness.”….
Oh dear. According to Steve Benen, Huntsman’s people forgot to register JonHuntsman.com – so when you visit the site the image above greets you, ie that glowing letter Hunstman wrote the President when he accepted the position of Ambassador to China.
ABC: Every detail of Jon Huntsman’s long-awaited campaign launch was meticulously planned, except of course for one minor detail: the misspelling of the candidate’s name. Members of the media were handed a press pass that read “John Huntsman for President” – adding an unnecessary H in the candidate’s first name. Huntsman’s staffers promptly scrambled to remove the passes from reporters before they caught the snafu.
Steve Benen: …. worse, visitors to Huntsman’s online donation page this morning saw this message alongside the contribution form:
If you prefer you can contact us by mail or by telephone.
Jon Huntsman for President
123 Main Street
Charlotte, NC 12345
All of this is wrong, and was obviously just put in as placeholder text the campaign forgot to replace. As Jamison Foser noted, “So far today, Huntsman campaign has gotten his name, phone number & address wrong. That’s a rough day in first grade.”
That’s not all. The Huntsman campaign picked a location for the kick-off speech where the Statue of Liberty would be in the background, but put the television cameras in such a place where the Statue of Liberty wasn’t seen by viewers at home. Some pundits knocked the new candidate for a “bland, uninspiring speech,” and the cable networks didn’t stick with his remarks very long.
Well, at least Huntsman had a good crowd for the campaign launch, right? Wrong. Only “about a hundred” people showed up, and roughly 60 of them were political reporters…..
Steve Benen: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie created a bit of a stir this week, using a state helicopter to travel to his son’s high school baseball game, then using a state car to drive him 100 yards from the landing site to the game itself. Making matters slightly worse, the governor left half-way through the game, had the state car drive him back the 100 yards, and then took the helicopter to a meeting with wealthy Iowans who want him to run for president.
Yesterday, Christie’ office responded to calls that he reimburse the state for the costs of this excursion, announcing the governor doesn’t intend to pay a dime.
…his flap certainly isn’t doing Christie any favors. His whole message is about austerity: cutting back, making sacrifices, living with less, eliminating waste in government, etc. The use of the chopper, to put it mildly, belies the governor’s larger agenda.
….A Star Ledger editorial today concluded, “Now we know why [Christie] can’t imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in the shoes of regular New Jerseyans: He doesn’t even walk 100 yards in his own.”
Professor David Kennedy: “We remain a young nation,” Barack Obama said in 2009, but he added an unsettling admonition that “in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.” No passage in his Inaugural Address more vividly reflected the President’s vision of his country and his times or more accurately foreshadowed the vexations that were to beset his leadership.
Like FDR before him, Obama, 49, has looked beyond the near horizon. He has paid the political price of setting far-visioned initiatives on health care and financial reform ahead of short-term relief. And he has tried to persuade his countrymen to shed some of their youthful illusions: to forsake the frontiersman’s faith in unbridled individualism for a recognition of the complex interdependencies of modern life, to replace the rebel’s fear of government with the citizen’s trust that government of the people and by the people is for the people too, to stop assuming that Santa Claus will give us cheap energy forever and the Easter Bunny will pay our bills. Whatever the near term holds, history is likely to record that Obama set the country on the path to a future with fewer illusions.
Kennedy is a professor of history at Stanford University
Rahm Emanuel: The partnership between any President and Vice President is like a shotgun wedding: Sometimes it works well. Most of the time, it does not. But the relationship between Barack Obama and Joe Biden is as successful a public partnership as I have ever seen.
They began as rival politicians who merged to form a ticket, which is not a prescription for harmony and close cooperation. But in my two years in the White House, I saw these onetime rivals become solid allies and then close friends. I saw a deep bond of trust grow between them, forged in a crucible of crisis.
Biden, 68, has been a wise counselor – unfailingly frank with the President behind closed doors and unwaveringly loyal on the public stage.
With 36 years of experience in the U.S. Senate and a wealth of relationships and insight, Biden has been an invaluable lieutenant on a wide variety of issues. And the President has trusted him with some of the most critical assignments, from the $787 billion Recovery Act to the transition in Iraq.
This is one shotgun wedding that works.
Jamie Oliver: Declaring herself “first mom,” Michelle Obama got right to work on the defining issues of her children’s generation: obesity and improving the health of America’s kids.
Her Let’s Move campaign put obesity in the headlines in part because Americans under 25 are the first generation expected to live shorter lives than their parents because of diet-related illnesses. But Obama, 47, urged people to get up and do something. She convinced her husband to establish America’s first Childhood Obesity Task Force…..
She’s encouraging mayors around the country to embrace obesity-prevention programs. And perhaps most incredibly, she’s had frank and challenging dialogues with some of America’s largest corporations and persuaded them to change their business practices for the sake of the children.
While she knows none of these changes are easy, she’s stood firm in her conviction that if we all just eat better and move more, then we can fight obesity. For her inspirational work, I salute First Lady Michelle Obama – a true revolutionary.
President Obama: The violence in Tucson earlier this year was made all the more shocking by the quintessentially American scene that it shattered: folks of different backgrounds yet part of the same community gathering to share their hopes and ask questions of their elected representative. To put it simply, they came to do the daily work of democracy.
Before that morning, Gabrielle Giffords may not have been a household name. But the reason she has long been admired by people of all political stripes is that she embodies the best of what public service should be: hard work and fair play, hope and resilience, a willingness to listen and a determination to do your best in a busy world. As hard a battle as Giffords, 40, now fights every day, she’s got a strong partner in her husband Mark Kelly, who visits her daily while training to command the space shuttle Endeavour. And she’s got the prayers of a nation rooting for her, a model of civility and courage and unity — a needed voice that cannot return soon enough.