National Journal: President Obama’s ad-makers may have to pay royalties to Clint Eastwood after a remarkable two-minute Chrysler commercial that aired on the biggest of all stages – the Super Bowl – and gave a pretty good preview of what the president’s reelection commercials might look like. At the very least, the ad and Eastwood’s powerful narration make it much, much more difficult for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney to keep pushing his line that Washington should have let the automakers go into bankruptcy.
And don’t think that Team Obama wasn’t watching the Super Bowl along with millions of other Americans and immediately grasped the boost they could get from the commercial. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer quickly tweeted “Saving the America auto industry: something Eminem and Clint Eastwood can agree on.” Senior strategist David Axelrod tweeted “Powerful spot. Did Clint shoot that, or just narrate it?” Former White House aide Bill Burton tweeted, “Clinton Eastwood #winning.”
ABC: ….. Fifty percent of Americans in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since spring. Fifty percent say he deserves re-election, better than Bill Clinton at the start of his re-election year and as good as George W. Bush a month before he won a second term. And Obama now leads Romney among registered voters by a slight 51-45 percent, the first time either has cracked 50 percent in a series of matchups since spring.
Two chief factors are at play. One is the economy’s gradual but unmistakable improvement, marked by the newly reported January unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, the lowest since a month after Obama took office. The president’s approval rating on handling the economy, while just 44 percent, is its best in 13 months.
Monday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Tuesday: PBO will host the second White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration and its partners are taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects. At the fair, the President will view exhibits of student work, ranging from breakthrough research to new inventions, followed by remarks to an audience of students, science educators and business leaders on the importance of STEM education to the country’s economic future.
Wednesday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Thursday: PBO will host Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy at the White House.
Friday: PBO will attend meetings at the White House.
Michael Tomasky (Daily Beast): It was somewhere between hilarious and pathetic to watch Republicans respond to the positive jobs report last Friday. Some friends and I were counting the minutes until some Republican started casting aspersions on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles and releases the data. Sure enough, by early Friday afternoon, Tea Party Congressman Allen West was saying (on the basis of no evidence of course) that “Americans need truth, not these number games.” West’s comment suggests a desperation that will spread if future reports are as good as last week’s, which raises the question of what the Republicans will do next to try to wreck the economy.
…. There are decent and honorable individual Republicans. Probably many of them. I even know some. But as a collective entity – as a party and a movement that includes the media wing and the base that boos a gay soldier at a debate and cheers executions – they are toxic destroyers, their minds infected by the idea that any cooperation with the president for the sake of the country is the moral equivalent of Munich (yes, with all that analogy implies). They will do anything. Nothing could be more just than to see a surprisingly low unemployment rate come November, with Republicans still insisting that black is white and that governance equals capitulation, and the public rewarding them accordingly.
USA Today: With U.S. forces still fighting in Afghanistan, the Obama administration has chosen to mark the end of the Iraq War with something more modest than a ticker-tape parade – a state-dinner-like event at the White House later this month feting a select group of combat veterans and their spouses or guests.
The core theme is the common fighting man or woman, said Douglas Wilson, Pentagon public affairs chief. The intent is for those invited – with guests, numbering more than 200 – to represent the 1.5 million who fought in a nine-year-war that left nearly 4,500 dead and 32,000 wounded, he said.
“The dining room that night will look like the America that served in Iraq,” Wilson said. “State dinners honor heads of state and I think the feeling was that this type of dinner is an appropriate way to honor men and women who … merit the same degree of respect as a head of state,” he said. The black-tie White House event to be called “A Nation’s Gratitude” may be unprecedented, Wilson said.
President Barack Obama holds Arianna Holmes, 3, before taking a departure photo with members of her family in the Oval Office, Feb. 1, 2012. Arianna’s mother, Angela Holmes, is a departing Special Assistant in the International Economic Affairs office of the National Security Staff. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama holds up a book that he was given by author and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas at the National Prayer Breakfast
Steve Benen: The general trend on initial unemployment claims over the last few months has been largely encouraging, though there have been setbacks. Last week, for example, was a step in the wrong direction. This week’s report, however, was a little more heartening:
U.S. jobless claims dropped by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 in the week ended Jan. 28, the Labor Department said Thursday….
…. when these jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape. When the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are actually being created rather quickly.
Washington Post (editorial): Higher education is both crucial to America’s economic competitiveness and hard for many students and their families to afford … As President Obama quite rightly insisted in his State of the Union address, institutions of higher learning must do more to hold down their costs if college education is to remain affordable for the next generation of young people. What’s more, he’s talking about using the federal government’s financial clout to encourage cost containment.
…. he is proposing long-overdue reforms to existing formulas for distributing hundreds of millions of dollars in campus-based aid, such as Perkins loans and work-study funds. Current policy skews in favor of better-off students at relatively pricier colleges. The president wants to shift dollars in favor of schools that restrain tuition and graduate more low-income students. Meanwhile, he would establish a $1 billion fund to encourage cost-saving innovations, complemented by $55 million for research, evaluation and dissemination of the best practices….
Needless to say, a lot depends on how the president and Congress would end up defining what constitutes a good value in higher education … what’s important is that the president has put the prestige and power of his office behind this effort.
Jonathan Cohn: Romney’s political strategy here seems clear to me: He’s trying to drive a wedge between the poor and the middle class, convincing the latter that they lose out to the former when Democrats are in charge. And the strategy may work. It’s certainly helped Republicans before. But the big beneficiary of Romney’s plan to reorder fiscal priorities is not the middle class. It’s the very wealthy, who would get substantial tax benefits and who will usually be fine with weakened public services.
MSNBC: ….. presidential hopeful Rick Santorum took a hard line on Wednesday against government getting involved in offsetting the cost of drug prices. Before exiting the stage, Santorum was prodded by members of the 300-person crowd to take one last question from a young boy standing in the front row. The child asked what the candidate would do to lower the cost of medicine. But the former Pennsylvania senator said it was the cost of drugs that allowed for the innovation that keeps Americans with life-threatening illnesses alive.
“People have no problem going out and buying an iPad for $900. But paying $200 for a drug they have a problem with – that keeps you alive. Why? Because you’ve been conditioned in thinking health care is something you should get and not have to pay for. Drug companies, health care companies need to have a profitability, because if they don’t, then how are we going to regulate costs?…..”
While some of in the audience applauded Santorum’s tough stance against government involvement in drug prices, others protested. The mother of the child yelled out that she was going bankrupt just to pay for her child to keep breathing.
Charles P. Pierce (Esquire) read a a swooning piece about Fox ‘News’ in Politico…. he didn’t like it very much:
“Stuff in Politico That Makes Me Want to Guzzle Antifreeze…. I say only that, in my own, personal, constitutionally protected opinion, this may very well be the worst bag of pulverized, unexpurgated, beat-sweetening chickenshit in the history of American political journalism. It makes Peggy Noonan read like Thuycidides….
Charles P. Pierce (Esquire): No matter what Willard Romney said on Tuesday night, a tough primary can really damage you. If these latest PPP numbers are in any way accurate, the rockfight between Romney and N. Leroy Gingrich, Definer of Civilization’s Rules and Leader (Perhaps) of the Civilizing Forces, has pushed Romney’s unfavorability ratings in Ohio northward toward 60 percent……
….. Eighty-four percent of the respondents are white and, even with that, Romney is six points down with a 57 percent disapproval rating. He better tack like hell, is all I’m saying.
Detroit Free Press: All Detroit Public Schools students will receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks in an effort to remove the stigma of being from a low-income family.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture program chose Michigan as one of three states to participate in the pilot program. Charter schools and districts in Michigan can participate if at least 40% of students are eligible for public assistance.
“One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp. “Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income. Now, all students will walk through a lunch line and not have to pay. Low-income students will not be easily identifiable and will be less likely to skip meals.”
Although not required to participate, parents are still being asked to fill out a survey that includes income analysis to ensure that children, schools and the district will continue to receive millions of dollars in benefits and resources from the state and federal governments, as well as private grants. Program funding dependent on the surveys includes tutoring, after-school programs, field trips, technology and equipment, DDOT bus cards, free college testing, enrichment activities and others.
The Community Eligibility Option is among the early reforms enacted under President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized the USDA to select up to three states to test the option in School Year 2011-12. A main factor in choosing the finalists was the prevalence of high-poverty areas. The option will be offered to more states in successive years, and will be available to all states beginning School Year 2014-15.