President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk following a meeting in the Oval Office, March 2 (Pete Souza)
A gazillion thank yous to HZ for her wonderful comment (turned-in-to-a-post today at Tien Le’s excellent suggestion) – it was a joyful, constructive, positive breath of fresh air in the middle of all today’s madness. You’re a gem, HZ.
Robert Shrum: After Mini-Mitt’s diminutive three-point Michigan “triumph,” which was a little like a Roman general being hailed for a near defeat, how important is Ohio? To put it in Santorian terms, it could be apocalypse two; once more, as in Michigan, Mitt will have to avert the sun darkening and the sky falling on his presidential campaign.
President Barack Obama is introduced by Sec. of Interior Ken Salazar before delivering remarks at a conservation event at the U.S. Dept. of Interior in Washington, March, 2
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn upon his return to the White House after visiting wounded service members at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland
Mitt Romney holds up a baby from the audience at a campaign rally at Cleveland State University, March 2
Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop at Chillicothe High School on March 2, 2012 in Chillicothe, Ohio
First Lady Michelle Obama embraces members of the Johnson C. Smith ladies’ basketball team during a “Let’s Move!” physical fitness promotion between games at the CIAA basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
TOD is up and running on YouTube again after today’s little, eh, setback. Just click the YouTube logo third from the top in the right sidebar and it’ll take you to the channel. I’ll add more of the old videos over the next few days. Hey, this YouTube channel might disappear too …. if it does, well, we’ll just start up another one ;-)
The Atlantic: The president of the United States reflects on what Abraham Lincoln means to him, and to America.
By Barack Obama
Lincoln is a president I turn to often. From time to time, I’ll walk over to the Lincoln Bedroom and reread the handwritten Gettysburg Address encased in glass, or reflect on the Emancipation Proclamation, which hangs in the Oval Office, or pull a volume of his writings from the library in search of lessons to draw.
Always thoughtful, always eloquent, Lincoln’s writings speak to me as they speak to so many Americans, reminding us what is best about ourselves and the Union he saved: that though we may have our differences, we are one people, and we are one nation, united by a common creed.
Charles Pierce: By now, everybody’s seen the America’s At Halftime commercial, featuring Clint Eastwood…. The general feeling is that the ad itself was a kind of endorsement of the president’s re-election bid, what with its emphasis on the recovery of the auto industry, which Willard Romney opposed in favor of letting the major automakers go bankrupt.
… The president can’t run on “It’s Morning In America.” He’d look foolish. He can, however, credibly run on the notion that the sky is getting a little brighter in the east. By contrast, more than a few people have noted that the Republicans in general, and Willard in particular, seem interested in running on “It’s Apocalypse In America,” gloomily drooping around the country as the people to whom they’re talking try desperately to feel optimistic again…..
Steve Benen: One of the more clear-cut triumphs of President Obama’s first three years has been the success of his auto-industry rescue. Republicans predicted it would fail miserably. They were wrong and the White House was right.
Bloomberg reported this week that auto plants are operating at a capacity unseen in a long while, adding shifts and creating jobs. The Detroit Free Press reported today that GM has reclaimed the crown of world’s largest automaker. And perhaps best of all, Michigan’s unemployment rate has also dropped to its lowest levels since September 2008, buoyed by the auto industry.
By a reader at The Atlantic: It’s pretty clear to me that Obama is the chessmaster. Stop looking at this politically – let’s look at policy. Obama has been a master of accomplishing things, even with the Tea Party Terrorists hell bent on shutting down the government and ruining the full faith and credit of the United States.
Look at this from liberal,conservative, and moderate perspectives.
Liberals: Obama will end two wars, ended DADT, created the CFPA, got $20b from BP in the face of strong opposition, saved Detroit, signed New START, and enacted universal healthcare – the defining goal of the liberal movement.
For conservatives: he finished the job successfully in two wars, sustainably entered Libya while ensuring our allies took the heavy burden, okayed two risky operations – one that killed pirates and the other killing Osama – and just did more to stabilize long term deficits than anyone since Ike.
Michael Tomasky: Maybe Mitt will win Saturday night, and the contest will be finished. But Newt is giving Romney a run for his money in South Carolina—and we all know the reason why.
…. Gingrich has re-re-returned, and this time it’s about simple racism. If he actually wins South Carolina, the nomination fight and the party are suddenly in turmoil. It may only be for a week, but even just for that week, it would reveal a primary electorate that is so consumed with its paranoias that it has turned politics completely away from the question of who might govern the country well to who can best embody our hatreds and revenge fantasies. Conservatism has been half that for 30 years anyway, but it is now on the cusp of dispensing with the artifice and becoming that entirely.
January 17, 2012. President Barack Obama unexpectedly runs into Michelle on her birthday in the basement of the White House
Though official duties filled much of the day, Tuesday was also Michelle Obama’s 48th birthday. As the president returned to the West Wing in the evening, he unexpectedly met the First Lady. “Obama gave her several kisses and wished her a happy birthday then walked off,” Morris says. “It was the highlight of the day for me—something you can’t plan for as a photographer. It was the most interesting photograph for me of the day by far.”
Fawn Johnson (The Atlantic): The president has asked federal agencies to find solutions on their own. His message to lawmakers: We can do this without you.
President Obama is either fed up with Congress or he’s testing his own administration’s mettle. Or both.
On Wednesday, Obama took a now-familiar path in adopting a program – this time a jobs and infrastructure effort – that can happen entirely within his domain. Obama directed several federal agencies to identify “high-impact, job-creating infrastructure projects” that can be expedited now, without congressional approval.
One week before he will make a major address to Congress on jobs, Obama is making sure they know he plans to move forward without them. The president has also directed the Education Department to come up with a “Plan B” updating the 2001 No Child Left Behind law in the absence of congressional action. The message to Congress is clear: Do your work or we’ll do it for you.
Under Wednesday’s order, the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Transportation will each select up to three high-priority infrastructure projects that can be completed within the control and jurisdiction of the federal government. The effort is labeled as a “common-sense approach” to spurring job growth “in the near term.”….
It’s pretty clear to me that Obama is the chessmaster. Stop looking at this politically – let’s look at policy. Obama has been a master of accomplishing things, even with the Tea Party Terrorists hell bent on shutting down the government and ruining the full faith and credit of the United States.
…. Obama will end two wars, ended DADT, created the CFPA, got $20b from BP in the face of strong opposition, saved Detroit, signed New START, and enacted universal healthcare – the defining goal of the liberal movement.
…. he spearheaded the most successful education initiative since WWII with Race-to-the-Top, ended too big to fail with Dodd-Frank, boosted exports with free-trade agreements, advocated and done more for infrastructure than anybody since Ike, increased technological funding…
… He sacrificed the public option to pass universal health care as a whole. Think of him as Bobby Fischer – he sacrificed the queen to win the greatest game.
… He tried like the Dickens on Guantanomo, but by that time the Tea Party made it seem crazy to build a mosque in NY (cause God forbid the 1st Amendment be observed), and the liberal movement didn’t exactly come out to support him on that. And then finally, the Bush tax cuts – another major piece sacrificed. And in return, he got New START, strengthened the FDA, gave health insurance to 9/11 responders, signed an important Civil Rights legislation for black farmers, and ended DADT.
… And for those who say “then why should Obama have caved?” Did he really cave? He cut the long term deficit (which he’s wanted to do since sitting in the Senate), and has now put Republicans in a position where they need to come to the table or see their core values demolished. It’s either tax cuts or the end of the world’s greatest military. Does anybody really think Republicans won’t deal?….
Which is why there is a ton that moderates can be proud of him for. By putting this nation’s economy on a stronger footing for the long term than it has been since LBJ, he’s taken full control of the center – and is there anything more important in a chess game? He’s made tough decisions on popular programs, faced backlash, but all in all, invested in our long term future.
…. His policies will last, and that’s because they’ve been moderate. But that moderation also means they’ve engendered backlash on both sides. That moderation also means they’re going to be tough to get rid of. And the only thing left for him on the moderate side of the house are immigration reform, and finishing the job on education and infrastructure. Big tasks, no doubt (but tasks I also doubt anybody but Obama can accomplish)….
But overall, he’s already the most accomplished president since FDR – and in only 3 years. And like FDR, his policies will be tough to get rid of. Barack Obama may lose the presidency, but as the Tea Party moves to the right, he has taken the center for the Democrats, and makes his policies that much harder to erase.
Stop thinking about 2012. In 2020, it’ll be obvious – Barack Obama gave Bobby Fischer a run for his money as the greatest of chessmasters.
James Fallows (The Atlantic): … (The chart) demonstrates the utter incoherence of being very concerned about a structural federal deficit but ruling out of consideration the policy that was largest single contributor to that deficit, namely the Bush-era tax cuts.
…. it identifies policy changes, the things over which Congress and Administration have some control, as opposed to largely external shocks – like the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks or the deep worldwide recession following the 2008 financial crisis. Those external events make a big difference in the deficit, and they are the major reason why deficits have increased faster in absolute terms during Obama’s first two years that during the last two under Bush. (In a recession, tax revenues plunge, and government spending goes up – partly because of automatic programs like unemployment insurance, and partly in a deliberate attempt to keep the recession from getting worse.)….
…. the policy that did the most to magnify future deficits is the Bush-era tax cuts. You could argue that the stimulative effect of those cuts is worth it (“deficits don’t matter” etc). But you cannot logically argue that we absolutely must reduce deficits, but that we absolutely must also preserve every penny of those tax cuts. Which I believe precisely describes the House Republican position…..
President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office, May 18, 2009
Jeffrey Goldberg (The Atlantic): …I was taken aback when I read a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress.”
So Netanyahu “expects” to hear this from the President of the United States? And if President Obama doesn’t walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.? Will he cease to fight for the U.S. in the United Nations, and in the many international forums that treat Israel as a pariah?
I don’t like this word, “expect”. Even if there weren’t an imbalance between these two countries – Israel depends on the U.S. for its survival, while America, I imagine, would continue to exist even if Israel ceased to exist – I would find myself feeling resentful about the way Netanyahu speaks about our President.
….he threw something of a hissy fit. It was not appropriate, and more to the point, it was not tactically wise … Prime Minister Netanyahu needs the support of President Obama in order to confront the greatest danger Israel has ever faced: the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran. And yet he seems to go out of his way to alienate the President. Why does he do this? It’s a mystery to me.
Also from Jeffrey Goldberg:….Republicans are misreading Obama’s speech for short-term political gain. But they’re doing the cause they ostensibly support – Israel – a disservice in the process. Because President Obama’s speech was enthusiastically pro-Israel …
Here’s Tim Pawlenty on the speech, misreading a crucial passage: “President Obama’s insistence on a return to the 1967 borders is a mistaken and very dangerous demand….”
President Obama didn’t “insist” that Israel return to its 1967 borders. He said the 1967 borders should form the basis of negotiations, and that Israel and Palestine should swap land, land swaps that would bring settlement blocs and East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods into Israel proper.
But Pawlenty is a master of subtlety when compared to Mitt Romney, who said: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus……”
Obama has thrown Israel under a bus? Top officials of the Israeli defense ministry have been telling me, and other reporters, for a couple of years now that military cooperation between their country and America has never been better. Some bus. There are a lot of countries out there that would like to be thrown under similar buses.
Rachael makes the same great point as Jonathan Freedland in the UK Guardian earlier this week: “…One former foreign minister who has seen the president up close believes that Bin Laden’s scalp will lead other world leaders to conclude that, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, “Obama may speak softly – but he carries a big stick”…”
Thank you Dorothy ;-)
Michael Tomasky (The Daily Beast): Ground Zero’s Politics Are Over – Obama’s low-key appearance at the Twin Towers site today has finally neutralized the area blatantly politicized by the GOP.
Without saying a single word, but in the simple act of showing up … silently laying a wreath, and respectfully speaking with dress-uniformed officers flanking him, Barack Obama managed to neutralize what has arguably been the most potent piece of Republican iconography of the last decade: its total political ownership of 9/11, and of Ground Zero itself.
….Starting today, they can’t use it anymore. How it must grate their cheese that it was Barack Obama – crypto-Kenyan, effete urbanite, paller-around-with-terrorists – who turned these tables! What’s been playing out in the four days since the killing of Osama bin Laden – the Republican insistence that Bush deserves credit too, the claim that torture must be given its due, and all the rest – is equivalent to, and about as charming as, a bully’s incredulity that a smaller but nimbler foe has bested him.
….Today’s appearance by Obama simply provides the symbolic capstone. It’s no wonder that Bush snappishly sees today’s event, according to a New York Daily News story, as an Obama “victory lap.” Ground Zero was his. Now it’s not. (Imagine the ceremonial orgiastics we’d probably be enduring right now if Bush or John McCain had brought OBL to justice.)
I know we’ve all had enough of yesterday’s man, Donald Chump, but LoriahR sent me a link to a really powerful piece by Etan Thomas on the CNN site:
Donald Trump’s most recent challenge to President Barack Obama took me back to my collegiate years at Syracuse University. I had studied for two weeks straight for a calculus class, harder than I had ever studied in my life. After I completed my exam, I was confident that all my hard work had paid off.
But the next day, my professor greeted me with accusations of cheating, saying three-fourths of the class had flunked. How could I possibly have managed to get a B minus without cheating?….
….The president should not have to prove anything to anyone. Yet, he has handled every unmerited insult with nothing but grace and class. He has risen above every act of insolence, and proved them all wrong….
….It is a sad situation that a man who has earned a degree from Columbia University, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, has been elected as president of the United States and received a Nobel Peace Prize has to continuously prove himself as a man worthy of respect. He simply shouldn’t have to.
Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic): ….What many white people fail to realize is that though Barack Obama and his family are unique to them, they are deeply familiar to black people. …we do live next door to them … We went to church and played in summer leagues with people like them. I went to college with people like them. This is not to slight Barack Obama’s truly remarkable story, nor the indispensable labor of the people who raised him…..
To see that country manifested in the White House is the sort of boon that you can’t really attach to statistics. But for those of us who are waging the fight against a crippling cynicism, who are urging our children on, who visit schools and begin our addresses with, “I remember when I was just like you,” the First Family is perhaps the greatest weapon in our arsenal.
….when broad sections of this country foolishly follow a carnival barker in the ugly tradition of attacking black citizenship rights, when pundits shriek that Obama’s successes are simply the result of the misguided largess of white people, they undermine our most intimate war. They undermine the notion that someone familiar to that kid on the corner could legitimately reach the highest levels of the country, that someone like that kid’s Aunt could be the First Lady. They undermine this country’s social contract, and the “hard work pays” message of my parents. And to that we object.
For if they will not take as legitimate a magna cum laude from their highest institutions, if they will not accept a man who tells black kids to cut off the video games and study, who accedes to their absurd requests one week, and slays their demons the next, who will they accept? Who among us would they ever believe?
Andrew Romano and Daniel Klaidman (Newsweek): ….the most obvious effect of Abbottabad is that it vindicates the president’s approach to the war on terrorism, and removes from the Republican arsenal the argument that he is a weak, naive, bumbling humanitarian. It is difficult to imagine the 2012 contenders questioning Obama’s commander-in-chief chops, as Republicans have done to Democrats for decades, and were hoping to do again. Why? Because that particular line of inquiry now gives the president a priceless opportunity to remind voters that he accomplished in two years what George W. Bush was unable to accomplish in eight. As rebuttals go, it’s a good one.
Less obvious is the fact that Abbottabad might also vindicate Obama’s broader approach to presidential leadership, which has always emphasized calculating, technocratic, goal-oriented tenacity over “Mission Accomplished” theatrics.
The problem with the Obama-Carter comparisons, which have been regurgitated by 2012 hopefuls such as Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty in recent months, is that they overlook the real-world results of Obama’s supposedly knock-kneed management: universal health care, Wall Street reform, a depression-averting stimulus package, the end of the Iraq War, and now, bin Laden’s head.
As much as Pawlenty & Co. might disagree with Obama’s policies, it’s hard to deny that the president has a knack for getting (most of) what he wants …. “The way Obama made this decision was very similar to way he makes domestic decisions,” says historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “Gathering the info, talking it out, then making the most rational call.”
New York Post: A few months ago, 14-year-old Payton Wall, who lost her father on 9/11, bared her grief in a 1,500-word letter to President Obama. “I never thought he’d respond,” Payton said yesterday, after she was embraced by the president at Ground Zero following the wreath-laying ceremony. “I was so shocked when the White House called! It was all a dream come true.”
In the letter, which the Rumson, NJ, teen said is “too personal” to share with the public, she told Obama about her father, Glen Wall, who was an executive at Cantor Fitzgerald when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers.
On Monday, the day after Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs, the president was given his daily handful of letters from Americans to read, and Payton’s stood out, White House officials said.
…The next day, the White House called her mother, Diane – who didn’t even know Payton had written the letter, officials said. Obama invited Payton, her mother and her sister, Avery, to yesterday’s ceremony. Payton spent days practicing a strong handshake, but in the end Obama gave her a presidential bear hug.
NY Daily News: Christopher Cannizzaro was still in diapers when his firefighter father was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. And Thursday the 10-year-old wanted President Obama to know his daddy died a hero.
“I was talking to him about my dad and my necklace,” said the Staten Island fifth-grader, showing a small medallion with a photo of his father, Firefighter Brian Cannizzaro, in uniform in front of an American flag. “Then he said, ‘I feel bad for your dad.’ He was being really open to me about everything,” said Christopher, who greeted Obama with a fist bump.
The boy gave Obama a prayer card with his dad’s picture and the President put it in his pocket. “He said, ‘Thank you, it was truly an honor to receive this from you,'” Christopher said. “It made me feel great; it meant the world to me that he was talking to me.”
The 6-foot-1 leader of the free world stared the pint-size kid in the eyes and solicited his opinion about a subject that has captured the attention of the world. “He asked how I felt about Osama Bin Laden being dead,” the boy said. “I said he could have done something a little less harsh to him, but it was nice to just know that after what happened to my dad, this guy was killed, too.”….
(This made me smile: “I said he could have done something a little less harsh to him, but it was nice to just know that after what happened to my dad, this guy was killed, too.” Sweet.)
DB Grady (The Atlantic): …There are many ways to describe U.S. policy toward the Arab Spring. “Cowboy diplomacy” is not one of them. President Obama gambled that Tripoli would collapse under the weight of a tyrant 40 years overdue for retirement, as Tunis and Cairo did before it. The president avoided every appearance of hostility, imperialism, or American interest in the region…..
….however tarnished, the U.S. is the last superpower, and in times of crisis, the world still looks to it. The choice was to bear witness to an atrocity, or to end it. President Obama chose the latter.
….The argument follows that the United States is somehow hypocritical for bombing Libya but not the other oppressed Islamic nations using violence against its citizens. The implication of this position is that the choice is either war everywhere at once, or no war at all; the president appears to have answered it with a policy based on patience and opportunity, one country at a time…
….protesters elsewhere in the Arab world might be emboldened by the coalition’s willingness to prevent atrocity. There is some cleverness in striking Libya instead of Bahrain or Yemen….
…Why Libya? Because the struggling revolutions elsewhere need time, and Libya buys that time. The winds of change that swept through Tunisia and Egypt have slowed, and need invigoration. The departure of Moammar Qaddafi and the dawn of a new Libya will provide it. President Obama has taken a long view of the Arab Spring. Change will require patience, and patience is now policy.
Andrew Sullivan: …. the same can be said of marriage equality in Maryland, where extreme rhetoric in the debate turned some previously anti-gay marriage legislators around. The NYT reports on the muted response of the GOP’s potential presidential candidates to the Obama administration’s decision not to defend Section 3 of DOMA in the courts. I don’t for a minute believe that the Christianist base will be satisfied if the House decides to let sleeping gays lie, but the feeling is different now, don’t you think?
The genius of the Holder decision is that it forces the GOP to decide very quickly whether to double-down on this issue.
It’s the last thing Boehner wants to be thinking or talking about. And Obama has wisely restricted his shift to the federal government’s recognition of what states have already done. In other words, Obama’s decision can be viewed as a federalist one…
Meanwhile, the gays are ecstatic – a little too ecstatic in my view. Not to say I am not extremely gratified by the DOJ’s decision. Just that I recognize its limits. As Obama used to say: no sudden moves. But his legacy on gay rights is beginning to build into a historic one. Yes, I have complained loudly in the past. My loyalty is to the issue, not the president. But he is coming through – more cunningly than most of us grasped.
Which is not the first time one can say that on many issues, where Obama’s caution and incrementalism have begun to create a legacy that is deeply unsatisfying in the present but looks rather substantive from the rear-view mirror.
I’d never lump Sullivan in with the increasingly hysterical Greenwald – you know, the obsessive promoter of the Julian Assange Cult of Personality (an Assangenaut, if you like). He almost praised the President, incidentally, for his DOMA decision in his latest interminable rant, but he largely opted – surprise! – to spew bile again. Truly, this guy makes your average ‘Obama = Hitler’ banner-wielding Teabagger seem reasoned, ‘fair and balanced’.
…..but, Sullivan has really got to make his mind up: is President Obama a sell-out not worthy of his support any more (as he wrote recently), or is he is a President who is “coming through – more cunningly than most of us grasped”? And one whose “legacy on gay rights is beginning to build into a historic one”?