President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Justice Sonia Sotomayor prior to a reception for the new Supreme Court Justice at the White House, on Aug. 12, 2009.
AP: President Barack Obama is moving at an historic pace to try to diversify the nation’s federal judiciary: Nearly three of every four people he has gotten confirmed to the federal bench are women or minorities. He is the first president who hasn’t selected a majority of white males for lifetime judgeships.
More than 70 percent of Obama’s confirmed judicial nominees during his first two years were “non-traditional,” or nominees who were not white males. That far exceeds the percentages in the two-term administrations of Bill Clinton (48.1 percent) and George W. Bush (32.9 percent), according to Sheldon Goldman, author of the authoritative book “Picking Federal Judges”.
“It is an absolutely remarkable diversity achievement,” said Goldman, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst…
…. The president won Senate confirmation of the first Latina to the Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. With the confirmation of Justice Elena Kagan, he has put three women on the high court for the first time. The Obama administration also nominated and won confirmation of the first openly gay man to a federal judgeship: former Clinton administration official J. Paul Oetken, to an opening in New York City.
… Of the 98 Obama nominees confirmed to date, the administration says 21 percent are African-American, 11 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are Asian-American and almost half – 47 percent – are women…
… “The more diverse the courts, the more confidence people have in our judicial system,” said Nan Aron of the liberal Alliance for Justice. “Having a diverse judiciary also enriches the decision-making process.”
USA Today: The three-year-old free trade agreement with South Korea finally may be ready for congressional passage.
The Obama administration said today that their negotiators reached a deal with their South Korean counterparts on auto imports, exports and tariffs, the major stumbling block that had prevented the president from signing a revised treaty during a visit to Seoul last month.
Under the agreement, South Korea would cut its 8% tariff on U.S. automobiles in half and eliminate it in five years. The United States would keep its 2.5% tariff on South Korean autos during that five-year period. Automakers would get flexibility on meeting South Korean environmental standards.
Without the deal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had estimated that 345,000 American workers could lose their jobs.
U.S. automakers exported less than 6,000 cars to South Korea in 2009 while South Korea has used its historically closed market to finance an aggressive push into the U.S. market, exporting 476,000 cars to the U.S. in 2009. The imbalance is so severe that automotive trade accounts for a full three-quarters of the $10.6 billion U.S. trade deficit with South Korea.
Business groups immediately hailed the breakthrough in negotiations, which came after four days of nearly round-the-clock negotiations in Washington.
(Hey, the Leftbaggers and Teabaggers have united yet again! They both oppose the deal, largely because they’re terrified it’ll be a success)
Three weeks ago….. AP: The President struck out in his attempt to close a new free-trade pact with Seoul …. It was an embarrassing setback for a president who stressed that the top objective of this trip was to cement agreements that would help create jobs at home…
…Obama said he needs “extra time” to reach agreement with longtime ally South Korea on a new free-trade agreement. He said he “wasn’t interested in making an announcement” just to send a signal of success and said he thinks any such pact can — and must — can be a “win-win” deal for the United States.
So, the President asked for patience. Deal. Done. ;-) Who’s embarrassed now?
President Obama hailed the agreement as he was returning on Air Force One from a surprise trip to Afghanistan:
I am very pleased that the United States and South Korea have reached agreement on a landmark trade deal that is expected to increase annual exports of American goods by up to $11 billion and support at least 70,000 American jobs. Last month in Seoul, I directed our negotiators to achieve the best deal for American workers and companies, and this agreement meets that test.
American manufacturers of cars and trucks will gain more access to the Korean market and a level playing field to take advantage of that access. We are strengthening our ability to create and defend manufacturing jobs in the United States; increasing exports of agricultural products for American farmers and ranchers; and opening Korea’s services market to American companies. High standards for the protection of worker’s rights and the environment make this a model for future trade agreements, which must be both free and fair.
Today’s agreement is an integral part of my administration’s efforts to open foreign markets to U.S. goods and services, create jobs for American workers, farmers and businesses, and achieve our goal of doubling of U.S. exports over five years. It deepens the strong alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea and reinforces American leadership in the Asia Pacific. I look forward to working with Congress and leaders in both parties to get this done and to ensure that America competes aggressively for the jobs and markets of the 21st century.
President Barack Obama greets South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)