Steve Benen: We talked earlier about Oklahoma’s junior senator, Republican Tom Coburn (R), announcing last night that he will only support federal disaster relief — for his own constituents — if it’s financed by comparable spending cuts elsewhere. But what about Oklahoma’s senior senator?
Republican Sen. James Inhofe, like Coburn, has opposed emergency aid in the recent past, including voting against a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. This morning, however, the conservative senator said that was “totally different”.
WH: As the Senate debates bipartisan immigration reform legislation, the President and the Vice President hosted a meeting today in the Oval Office with young immigrants, also known as DREAMers, as well as with the siblings and spouses of undocumented immigrants. The meeting was an important opportunity for the President and the Vice President to hear directly from people whose families are affected daily by our nation’s broken immigration system.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with DREAMers who have received Deferred Action and U.S. citizen family members of undocumented immigrants, in the Oval Office, May 21 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Socialist stock market soaring to new historic records. S&P 500 hits 1672, Dow at remarkable 15,400. #obamasfault
It being Gallup, you know yourself, it’s probably a 96-year high:
In case you missed it, SmartyPants on the, well, interesting background of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim:
….. The next place a little curiosity might take you is to wonder just who this Stephen Jin-Woo Kim is. As even I was able to find out from a simple look at Wikipedia, he was an employee of a federally funded research and development center that consulted with Rumsfeld via the Defense Policy Board – which was chaired by Richard Perle. In 2008 – just before the Obama administration began – Kim went to work for the State Department. One might be curious about that…..
A year ago today: The President holds Arianna Holmes, 3, before taking a departure photo with members of her family in the Oval Office, Feb. 1, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
11:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
12:05: VP Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Munich International Airport
2:15: President Obama awards the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation
Steve Benen: Expectations for job creation were pretty close to perfect according to the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the economy adding 157,000 jobs in January. The big news, however, is in the revisions.
….. that’s where we see the genuinely good news. Not only were the job totals for November and December revised up considerably – 127,000 jobs combined – but for the entire 2012 calendar year, we learned this morning of an additional 335,000 jobs that had not been previously reported.
That means 2.17 million jobs were created just last year, which is the best annual total since 2005, and tops seven of the eight years Bush/Cheney was in office….
Steve Benen: With the revised job totals published this morning, we now know that 2012 was a better year for job creation than previously believed – 2.17 million jobs were created just last year overall, 2.24 million in the private sector. When I noted that 2012 was the best year for jobs since 2005, and better than seven of the eight years Bush/Cheney was in office, some of you were skeptical. I received a few “that can’t be right” emails.
Bloomberg: U.S. stocks rose, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 14,000, as data showed hiring increased in January after accelerating more than previously estimated at the end of 2012 and manufacturing expanded.
…. “The jobs report shows that the corner was turned,” said Richard Sichel, who oversees about $1.8 billion as chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co. “The revision from the prior month is positive. There’s indication that hiring will pick up over the course of the year”….
Bloomberg: Manufacturing in the U.S. expanded more than forecast in January, reaching a nine-month high and showing the industry is starting to improve.
…. Stocks extended gains after the report showed gains in orders, production and factory employment after a fourth-quarter acceleration in consumer purchases and a rebound in business spending. The housing recovery and stabilization in overseas markets indicate factories may keep adding to growth in the world’s largest economy this year.
“Manufacturing is on the mend,” said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York. “Things are getting better as we begin the year.”
Charles Pierce: There really shouldn’t be as much low farce in confirming a Cabinet appointment than was on display as the Senate Armed Services Committee got its chance to blow off steam and posture in front of Chuck Hagel in Washington. If it wasn’t John McCain, bellowing his outrage that the world no longer recognizes his obvious geopolitical genius and that the world has not rewarded him with laurel leaves and flagons of the finest mead. So he spends six minutes trying to get Hagel to admit how brilliant he was to have recommended the “surge” in Iraq. Hagel declines and McCain’s fumes, probably because he’ll have to wait until Sunday morning to get the kind of fluffing that’s the only reason he’s still in public life any more. Well, that, and a war with Iran.
Steve Benen: Much of the political world was transfixed yesterday by the grilling Chuck Hagel received by the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the consensus seems to be that the Defense Secretary nominee generally failed to impress…..
What struck me as more interesting than Hagel’s halting answers were the quality of the questions, or in this case, the lack thereof.
….. going through the transcript, one might be tempted to believe there are only three countries on the planet – the United States, Israel, and Iran – and that Iran poses some kind of existential threat to America’s future.
Al Qaeda wasn’t deemed important, nor was North Korea. China was brought up only a handful of times, and the use of drones wasn’t mentioned at all.
…. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, John McCain is–by far–the recipient of the most generous donations from “gun rights” organizations. He receives about $400,000 more than John Thune (R-SD), who received the second highest total amount of monetary gifts from pro-gun groups.
Michael Tomasky: How Liberals Can Win on Guns ….. Where are all these reasonable gun owners and NRA members? As far as the public discourse goes, they exist only in these polls. No one’s ever actually seen one.
So how about some liberal group put some money into finding these people and putting them on the air? Seeing Gabby Giffords yesterday was powerful. But it would be powerful in a different way — and probably more persuasive to people on the fence — to see a stereotypically burly white guy with a light drawl standing in front of his gun case with his arms crossed, looking as if he’s just about to say, “Fuck you, liberals,” when instead what comes out of his mouth is something like, “My buddies and I don’t need extended clips to hunt deer. And I look around and see these slaughters, and I think nobody else needs extended clips either.”
BuzzFeed: Gov. Chris Christie paid tribute Thursday night to President Barack Obama, thanking him for his help in successfully passing the Hurricane Sandy aid bill in January…. Delivering his keynote speech at a New Jersey Chamber of Commerce dinner …. Christie told the crowd he was invited to the White House to discuss the Sandy aid package about three days before the president was set to send his proposal for the bill to Congress.
“I won’t talk about how our conversation went — that’s between me and the president,” said Christie. “But I’ll let you all know it was a lot of fun.” ….. “I want to thank the president — he’s been extraordinary”….
Washingtonian: Spotted Thursday morning at the White House: a team from Vogue moving cameras into the residence. What could that be about? Well, it turns out it’s a photo shoot of First Lady Michelle Obama for the magazine’s cover, most likely the March issue.
President Obama at an interfaith vigil, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dec 16 (Photo: Olivier Douliery)
NYT: President Obama this week will embrace a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence that will call for major legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases and lay out 19 separate actions the president could take by invoking the power of his office, lawmakers who were briefed on the plan said Monday.
Lawmakers and other officials said that the president could use a public event as soon as Wednesday to signal his intention to engage in the biggest Congressional fight over guns in nearly two decades, focusing on the heightened background checks and including efforts to ban assault weapons and their high-capacity clips. But given the difficulty of pushing new rules through a bitterly divided Congress, Mr. Obama will also promise to act on his own to reduce gun violence wherever possible.
NYT: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers agreed on Monday to a broad package of changes to gun laws that would expand the state’s ban on assault weapons and would include new measures to keep guns away from the mentally ill.
The state Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats, approved the legislative package just after 11 p.m. by a lopsided vote of 43 to 18. The Assembly, where Democrats who have been strongly supportive of gun control have an overwhelming majority, planned to vote on the measure Tuesday.
Steve Benen: The White House is set to release a series of recommendations from Vice President Biden’s task force on gun violence, which will no doubt face intense criticism from groups like the NRA and their allies. But two new polls suggest that a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, there’s a growing public appetite for meaningful gun reform.
Mediaite: On Monday night, CNN host Piers Morgan paid a visit to Stephen Colbert …. As the pair started chatting about how people in the UK just don’t have guns, Colbert asked whether Morgan hates America’s constitution (“Do you hate the United States constitution?… Do you speak English?”) — helpfully providing the CNN host with his own pocket-size copy of the document.
…. Morgan said he was simply pointing out that in his country, “where we have no guns,” there are few gun murders. “I think when 20 young children get blown to pieces, Americans should say something has to be done,” he added, prompting Colbert to call out his “cheap shot to bring up the subject that we’re talking about.”
Colbert offered a better approach: take some time, “reflect, and eventually forget.”
LA Times: Obama appears to gain ground in spending battle – The president delivers a forceful defense of his position in a White House news conference, as Republicans increasingly appear divided over the debt ceiling.
With the government just weeks from running out of money to pay its bills, President Obama and prominent Republicans have started to act as if the White House has the upper hand in the current round of the battle over federal spending.
In recent days, Obama rebuffed suggestions that he consider ways to sidestep the need to raise the limit on the government’s debt, reinforcing his demand for a congressional vote. On Monday, he repeated that stand in a hastily announced news conference, criticizing Republicans for threatening to “blow up the economy” and insisting that “no simpler way” exists to deal with the debt ceiling.
Republicans for months have pointed to the moment the nation runs up against the debt ceiling as their point of maximum leverage to force spending cuts, but now seem increasingly divided. Some leaders appear to be looking for a way out of the confrontation, suggesting the party would be wiser to fight Obama over cuts when less is at stake for the economy. Influential GOP strategists are warning that a repeat of the fight they waged in summer 2011 could backfire.
Deaniac: Twilight of the Liberal Elite: Smearing Jack Lew and Barack Obama for Deregulation that Began with Jimmy Carter
….. I can understand the liberal elite’s problem with Jack Lew. You see, I don’t think it has much to do with policy. I think it has much more to do with him embarrassing them. When every liberal elite political rookie – including Paul Krugman – in the country was howling about the president’s “weak” negotiating performance during the 2011 debt limit deal, it turns out that the president and his team completely floored John Boehner, without Boehner even realizing it. A key member of that team that did it to them? Jack Lew. Not to mention how that deal shaped the complete Republican surrender in the recent fiscal cliff deal. If I didn’t know that the howling Left is incapable of feeling embarrassed, I would contend they are opposing Jack Lew because of that embarrassment.
USA Today: Q&A: Myrlie Evers-Williams on the inauguration
Q: Did you ever imagine as you worked with your husband Medgar Evers on civil rights that one day there would be a black president?
A: Of course, we all knew, we hoped, we worked, we prayed that one day there would be a man or a woman of African-American descent who would become the president of the United States of America. That has been a dream come true but if we look at the politics leading up to particularly his second term, there were blocks that came during this time of getting people to register and to vote that are reminiscent of some of those actions that took place 50 years ago to keep people of my race and others away from the polls.
Steve Benen: … Florida Gov Rick Scott has offered the political world a valuable lesson: if you need a campaign prop, don’t use a dog:
Shortly after winning the GOP nomination in 2010, Scott announced to the world through Facebook that his family had rescued a Labrador Retriever. And, with help from his Facebook friends, Scott gave it a name: Reagan.
It was just a few months before the gubernatorial election, and Scott seemed to think this was a smart idea. Adopting a dog – a rescue dog, at that – made the Republican look compassionate, and naming the dog “Reagan” helped him pander shamelessly to his base….
Mediaite: Jon Stewart took on the controversy surrounding President Obama‘s recent cabinet nominations in a segment he dubbed “Zero Dark Appointees,” and noted that the outrage might be somewhat misplaced because Obama is “somewhat diverse himself.”
Stewart examined why Obama may not have nominated Susan Rice for Secretary of State, which would have easily diversified his cabinet: “Lady and minority, triple word score!”
“Oh right,” he said. “McCain!”
…. He then aired the New York Times photo in which it was claimed Obama was standing with only white men and proceeded to point out a black man ….. “And there is another black guy who appears to be running the meeting.”
First Lady Michelle Obama reads a Christmas story as her dog Bo sits on her lap and 5-year-old AJ Murray (L), and 5-year-old Jordyn Akyoko sit nearby at Children’s National Medical Center on December 14
AP: The U.S. economy grew at a faster 2.7 percent annual rate from July through September, although the strength may fade in the final months of the year.
The Commerce Department says growth in the third quarter was much better than the 2 percent rate estimated a month ago and more than twice the 1.3 percent rate logged in the April-June quarter.
The two biggest factors in the upward revision were larger gains in business stockpiles and a boost in export sales. That offset weaker consumer spending.
Economists believe growth is slowing to a rate below 2 percent in the current October-December quarter because of disruptions from Superstorm Sandy and worries about sharp tax increases and spending cuts that would occur in January without a budget deal in Washington.
Steve Benen: Initial unemployment claims spiked a few weeks ago after Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast, but the new figures from the Department of Labor points to a steady improvement:
Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 393,000 in the week ended Nov. 24, the Labor Department said Thursday. Initial claims from two weeks ago were revised up to 416,000 from an original reading of 410,000, based on more complete data collected at the state level. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to drop to 390,000 as the effects of Hurricane Sandy fade.
CNBC: Buyers are coming back to the housing market in ever greater numbers, as an industry index measuring contracts to purchase existing homes surged 5.2 percent in October from September.
The monthly gauge of pending home sales from the National Association of Realtors was also revised higher in September and is now up 13.2 percent from October of 2011. This is a forward looking indicator for closed sales one to two months from now.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with business leaders to discuss the actions needed to keep the economy growing and find a balanced approach to reduce the deficit, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
An angry President Obama admonishes Bo for eating Romney’s White House lunch:
E.J. Dionne: Here’s the first lesson from the early skirmishing over ways to avoid the fiscal cliff: Democrats and liberals have to stop elevating Grover Norquist, the anti-government crusader who wields his no-tax pledge as a nuclear weapon, into the role of a political Superman.
Pretending that Norquist is more powerful than he is allows Republicans to win acclaim they haven’t earned yet. Without making a single substantive concession, they get loads of praise just for saying they are willing to ignore those old pledges to Grover … kudos for an openness to compromise should be reserved for Republicans who put forward concrete proposals to raise taxes.
The corollary is that progressives should be unafraid to draw their own red lines. If you doubt that this is a good idea, just look at how effective Norquist has been.
CNN: In the final race deemed too close to call, Republican David Rouzer conceded Wednesday after a recount in the race for North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District showed incumbent Rep. Mike McIntyre won by a razor-thin margin.
…. Despite facing a newly-drawn district that appeared to have been created to end his career, McIntyre showed strong signs of life in the race and ran a competitive race in the district that skews heavily Republican. He led in fundraising over Rouzer, a state senator, and kept even with ad spending by pro-Republican outside groups and the national Republican Party. Rouzer, however, stayed off the airwaves.
The contest was considered the final unresolved House race from Election Day that could make a difference in the makeup of the 113th Congress…. McIntyre’s victory gives Democrats a net gain of eight House seats from the November election, and the next Congress will consist of 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats.
Monday: President Obama attends meetings at the White House
Tuesday: Hosts President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the White House
Wednesday: Holds a Cabinet Meeting at the White House
Thursday: Meets with the 2012 Nobel Prize winners in the Oval Office
In case you missed these articles/posts:
Washington Post: When Barack Obama published his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” about racial identity in 1995, he talked with his neighborhood newspaper in Illinois, the Hyde Park Citizen, about the economic disparities he had seen while exploring the world as a child and young adult.
…. That sensitivity to inequality has stuck with Obama throughout his rise in politics, from Chicago’s South Side all the way to the White House. He remains largely a pragmatist in his approach to governing. But beneath his tactical maneuvering lies a consistent and unifying principle: to use the powers of his office to shrink the growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else…..
Washington Post: Late on election night, a small melee erupted at the University of Mississippi when a group of white students frustrated by the reelection of President Obama marched outside and began shouting racial slurs at African American students. Several hundred people gathered to watch as two white students were arrested.
…. Yet even as that incident evoked ugly memories of an earlier era, Election Day in the South told a newer and more surprising story: The nation’s first black president finished more strongly in the region than any other Democratic nominee in three decades, underscoring a fresh challenge for Republicans who rely on Southern whites as their base of national support.
Obama won Virginia and Florida and narrowly missed victory in North Carolina. But he also polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbed 44 percent of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi — despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states.
Michael Tomasky: A new report appears to exonerate Susan Rice for public statements following the Benghazi attack. Will John McCain apologize for his reckless crusade against her? Don’t bet on it.
We don’t yet really know as a society what a person has to do to completely and utterly cancel out a record of war heroism, but we may be about to find out. If this CBS News report is even close to accurate, John McCain’s arguments of the last few weeks about Susan Rice are thrashingly demolished. He has, or should have, zero credibility now on this issue.
…. Will he stand down now from this embarrassing crusade? …. Once you’ve hopped on the Crooked Talk Express, detraining isn’t easy.
2:10: President Obama participates in a town hall hosted by Univision (Live on Facebook – and here)
President Barack Obama and Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi pet Bo, the Obama family dog, at the conclusion of their meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 19, 2012. Attendees included Danny Russel, Senior Director for Asian Affairs, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Michael Tomasky: Well, leave it to Mitt Romney of all people to put Paul Ryan on his ticket and then move immediately thereafter to distance himself from the Ryan budget. It’s so typical of everything we’ve seen of this semi-vertebrate. Try to bathe in Ryan’s refracted glory to right wingers while trying to tell seniors hey, psst, this is not really my thing, get it? Unbelievable.
It’s important to keep track of the Medicare lies, as they’re bound to pile up. The basic deal is that the Romney-Ryan line about Obama cutting $716 billion while they’ll “strengthen” the program is, shockingly I know, a lie. Ryan’s Medicare program cuts the same $716 billion! And then it cuts even more. And then, Romney’s proposal, insofar as it can be divined because as usual the details are scant, would likely cut even more than that.
…. I trust you saw the USA Today/Gallup poll yesterday showing that Ryan is the second least-approved of vice-presidential choice in the last quarter century …. “If the Democrats handle this right” is always a big if, but if they do, this ticket has the makings of a disaster.
Jonathan Cohn (TNR): Have you seen Mitt Romney’s new ad on Medicare? …. It’s not very subtle. And it’s not very true.
By now, you should know all about the hypocrisy of Romney attacking Obama for cutting Medicare. Paul Ryan put the same cuts in his budget plan. And while Romney has insisted he’d restore them, his budget doesn’t have room for that. If he’s serious about his overall spending plan, then he’d surely have to cut Medicare by as much as Obama did. In fact, he’d probably have to cut it by even more. And that’s just in the first ten years.
Still, the power of this ad is the appeal to senior citizens: Obama is taking your money and giving it somebody else. That’s why Romney and his allies keep saying that Obama “raided” Medicare. But, under the Affordable Care Act, a chunk of the money that comes out of Medicare goes right back into it. It helps seniors pay for prescription drugs, filling in the donut hole from Medicare Part D. It also allows seniors to get preventative care without co-pays, which means they can get an annual wellness visit, cancer screenings, and the like with no out-of-pocket costs. In the first half of this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than a million seniors have saved an average of $629 on their drug bills because of this assistance.
…this business about “raiding” Medicare? It’s a naked appeal to selfishness and brazen misrepresentation of reality.
Michael Cohen (NY Daily News): …. if you really want to talk about who is playing the race card this year, it’s worth briefly revisiting the latest attack ad from the Romney campaign on welfare….
It might seem odd to the untrained observer that welfare is even being prominently featured in this campaign. It’s hardly an issue of pressing concern among voters. But of course, welfare never is and never has been just about policy; it’s really about politics and in particular, racial politics.
Romney accuses Obama of gutting welfare reform by granting waivers to state governments in how they choose to implement the law. It’s a charge that is completely without merit; spun from whole cloth; an invented attack line. But again, lying on the campaign trail about President Obama’s record is the rule, not the exception, for Mitt Romney.
… What’s most striking about the ad are the visuals – workers wiping their brow; working class Americans toiling away at manufacturing jobs. And coincidentally all the people in the ad … are white. This might not mean much, except for the fact that, as anyone who has followed American politics for the past 45 years knows, criticisms of the welfare system from the campaign trail have habitually always been used as racial code in attacks on Democrats for coddling blacks. It is the symbol of wasteful government spending, rewarding poor Americans for not working and creating a culture of dependency.
…. Indeed, this ad and in fact this whole line of attack is one of the most blatant uses of racial coding in a presidential campaign since the Willie Horton ad of 1988….