Robert Shrum: As he finally claims the nomination that was his all along, but which was so reluctantly yielded to him, Mitt Romney enters his Etch A Sketch period. He may twist the knobs to try and shift his professed beliefs as easily as the aluminum granules on the screen of one of the last century’s most famous toys. But it’s hard for the epic flip-flopper to reframe himself again – or it should be.
Romney is only doing what comes naturally to a man who once said he was “better” on gay rights than Ted Kennedy, but then later donated $25,000 to the homophobic National Organization For Marriage – through a conduit that was designed to hide his contribution. Romney’s public life across two decades has been a ceaselessly revised Etch A Sketch.
Quarterback Phillip Sims takes a picture of President Barack Obama as he poses for a photo with members of the BCS National Champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team following a ceremony to honor their 14th national championship and their 2011-2012 season, on the South Lawn of the White House, April 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Washington Post: LORAIN, Ohio — Just a day after President Obama visited this crucial swing state, Mitt Romney spoke at a shuttered drywall company visited four years ago by then-candidate Obama to make the argument that Obama’s record has yet to live up to his lofty rhetoric.
On an empty warehouse floor, Romney laid the blame for the company’s fate squarely on Obama.
…. The company actually shut down in June 2008, months before Obama took office and his economic policies took effect.
…. Romney campaign aides said that Obama hasn’t delivered on the promise to jump-start the economy.
… But in Ohio, the economy is improving.
With an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in February, Ohio’s jobless stats are lower than the national average of 8.2 percent. The unemployment rate, which peaked at 10.6 percent in December 2009, has steadily fallen since then — it was at 8.6 percent when Obama took office in January 2009.
ThinkProgress: If It’s Sunday, It’s Meet The Republican White Men
ThinkProgress: Yum! Brands, the owner of fast food brands KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut told Color of Change that they will no longer support the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing front group that, until recently, was a driving force behind state voter suppression and “stand your ground” gun laws. Yum!’s decision means a dozen corporations (plus the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) have now dropped the conservative group.
9:50 AM: PBO departs the White House en route Joint Base Andrews
12:15: Arrives in Tampa, Florida
12:40: Tours the port of Tampa
1:20: Delivers remarks at the port of Tampa
2:35 Departs Tampa en route Cartagena, Colombia
5:45: Arrives in Cartagena, Colombia
10:10: Arrives at the base of Castillo, San Felipe de Barajas
10:20: Attends a leader’s dinner
Friday: On the way to the Summit of the Americas, the President will speak at the Port of Tampa about the importance of U.S. exports to the Americas and the need to deepen trade and investment. He arrives in Cartagena Friday night, and he’ll begin the summit with a dinner that the Colombians are hosting for summit leaders.
Saturday: PBO begins his day with a CEO Summit of the Americas. He will then join the other leaders for an arrival ceremony in the early afternoon. From that, they will go into the plenary session, which will run throughout the afternoon. The leaders will again have a dinner during which they will continue their discussions.
Sunday: In the morning there will be an official photo for the Summit. That will be followed by the leaders’ retreat, which will run throughout the morning and conclude the summit program. The President will then have a multilateral meeting with Caribbean leaders.
In the afternoon, the President will have a bilateral program with President Santos of Colombia that will include a meeting and a working lunch. The two leaders will then hold a joint press conference and will participate in an event at San Pedro Claver Church. In the late afternoon, the President will return to the United States, getting back to Washington late Sunday night.
NYT: Punctuating a week of political assaults on Mitt Romney over taxes, President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. plan to release their own income tax returns on Friday, along with a statement calling on Mr. Romney to do the same, according to an Obama campaign official.
The release of the returns, four days ahead of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax deadline for the public, will set the stage for another week of wrangling over taxes, with the Senate scheduled on Monday evening to take up the White House’s proposed “Buffett Rule” minimum tax for the wealthiest Americans.
…. While Mr. Obama has long acknowledged being in the nation’s high-income echelon, thanks largely to sales of his best-selling books, he and his wife, Michelle, have paid an effective federal tax rate nearly twice that of Mr. Romney and his wife, Ann, according to tax returns released by both couples.
…. Asked Thursday if Mr. Romney had plans to release his returns, an aide said, “I can’t give you any guidance on when they will be released, but I can let you know that in previous years, Mitt Romney has sought an extension.”
ThinkProgress: Mitt Romney has not publicly stated his opinion on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the reauthorization of which Republicans are delaying this year because of added provisions for marginalized communities.
….. In 2008, Romney didn’t even know what VAWA was: During an “Ask Mitt Anything” forum …. he demurred when an audience member asked him whether he would hold up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on the grounds that it kept men from visiting their children.
“I’m not familiar with the Act,” Romney replied.
The answer surprised some women’s rights advocates, since the Violence Against Women Act – which established new federal crimes for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking – has been federal law for more than a dozen years. Former President Bill Clinton signed it in 1994, it was the subject of a high-profile Supreme Court case in 2000 and has been reauthorized twice by Congress. Bush signed the most recent version in 2006.
ThinkProgress: For the first time in history, the United States government has issued an indictment in a case that involves a hate crime based on the victim’s sexual orientation. Defendants David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins of Kentucky allegedly kidnapped Kevin Pennington, took him into a secluded part of a state park, and beaten until he was nearly dead. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law on October 28, 2009 by President Obama, but this is its first application.
Washington Post: …. The grand jury charged the men with violating a hate crime law that was expanded in 2009 to cover assaults motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people…
“The indictment marks the first federal case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Federal Hate Crimes Law,” said a U.S. Department of Justice statement.
“It’s vindicating to see that the years of hard work that went into making sure this law was on the books is now being put into place,” said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which pushed for the law’s passage.
Romney speaks at the NRA annual convention in St. Louis today – which Willard will turn up?
Mitt Romney: “I purchased a gun when I was a young man, I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.”
Carl Cameron (Fox): “…. when it was later revealed that in fact he’s only been hunting twice he said he meant varmints and rodents – but any sportsman will tell you, that ain’t hunting, that’s pest control.”
Hey, our Colombian Obot is fired up and severely ready to go:
Colombian Silvio Carrasquilla gestures in front of a huge picture of the US presidential family, during an interview at his house in Turbaco, some 60 km from Cartagena. Obama will attend the VI Summit of the Americas, being held in Colombia’s Caribbean resort city of Cartagena.
Steve Benen: …. The U.S. economy added 120,000 jobs last month, while the overall unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.2%. For the first time in a very long while, public-sector layoffs were less of a drag on the overall totals: the private sector added 121,000 jobs in March, while government lost only 1,000.
By any measure, today’s disappointing totals are a real setback. While it’s never wise to overreact to one report, March’s job totals were the weakest since October, and reverse a three-month trend in which over 200,000 jobs were being created each month….
While 120,000 new jobs would have been considered great in, say, late 2009, it’s not even close to good enough now …. Ideally, policymakers would see data like this and take steps to boost job creation, but given Republican efforts in Congress, that’s no longer an option.
WSJ: …. Job growth came from a variety of sectors. Manufacturing employment rose by 37,000, led by gains in the auto industry. Health care, financial services and professional and business services saw big gains.
….. In a promising sign, workers’ wage growth picked up. Average hourly earnings rose by five cents to $23.39. Wages were up 2.1% year over year – a faster pace than previous months. Also, a broader measure of unemployment, which includes job seekers as well as those in part-time jobs, clicked down to 14.5% from 14.9%.
The Fix (Washington Post): The tea party may have won Republicans the House of Representatives in 2010. In 2012, it’s looking like it could help Democrats retain the White House …. it has fallen out of favor with Americans. And Democrats are prepared to use it against Republicans in the 2012 election…..
“I’m Bill Pascrell, and this is why I’m running: To stop the tea party,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) says in a new ad. Pascrell faces a primary with fellow Democratic Rep. Steve Rothman after their districts were merged by redistricting. The tea party is also being used against in a major way against Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.)….
….. “It’s no longer viewed as a populist, grassroots organization, but a dangerous group with extremist views that don’t reflect the mainstream values of America’s middle class,” said Democratic media strategist John Lapp. “The Republican establishment allowed the inmates to run the asylum in 2010. And now they’re paying the price electorally.”
Washington Post: Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, whose wealth has become a central issue in the 2012 campaign, has taken advantage of an obscure exception in federal ethics laws to avoid disclosing the nature and extent of his holdings.
By offering a limited description of his assets, Romney has made it difficult to know precisely where his money is invested, whether it is offshore or in controversial companies, or whether those holdings could affect his policies or present any conflicts of interest.
In 48 accounts from Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded in Boston, Romney declined on his financial disclosure forms to identify the underlying assets, including his holdings in a company that moved U.S. jobs to China and a California firm once owned by Bain that filed for bankruptcy years ago and laid off more than 1,000 workers.
Jonathan Alter (Bloomberg): …. Romney has so lashed himself to Ryan, an Ayn Rand libertarian, that there’s talk of Ryan going on the ticket. The Ryan-Romney plan – from slashing federally funded scientific research to forcing seniors from nursing homes because of draconian Medicaid cuts – will be wildly unpopular if Obama and his team find the resonant language to exploit it.
…. on two other critical issues – women’s health and immigration – Romney clearly went further than was necessary to claim the nomination. These issues happen to be of great concern to the two constituencies that account for his lagging behind Obama in the polls. If Romney can’t break 40 percent with women and Latinos, it’s hard to see how he wins.
….. does his attendance at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in 1994 and previous support of abortion rights really compel him to race to the other extreme and proclaim that he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood? Over the last 40 years, this organization provided the first birth control to millions of middle-class swing-vote suburban women. They haven’t forgotten.
…. What Romney thought was de rigueur in the primaries may bring rigor mortis in the general. He seems to have forgotten that everything he said to win the nomination is now etch-a- sketched in stone.
TPM: If the week of April 2, 2012, goes down in political history, it’ll be for the fact that Republicans suddenly rediscovered their reverence for the third branch of government. What brought about the change of heart? President Obama’s comments on Monday and Tuesday in which he opined that an adverse Supreme Court ruling on his health care law would represent an extraordinary act of judicial overreach.
On Tuesday, in an extraordinarily unusual step, three Republican appointees to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals went toe-to-toe with the president in the political sphere. On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell advised Obama to “back off.” The courts’ authority is to be respected, regardless of outcome, he said.
This is a rich new twist for the GOP, which has made decades of sport out of attacking an out-of-control judiciary for legislating from the bench. You literally only have to look back to this GOP presidential primary to find examples of Republicans questioning the courts’ legitimacy and even threatening to neuter them using powers reserved for the other two branches of government. Here’s a brief digest:
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.