President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden swears in Treasury Secretary Jack Lew during a ceremony in the Oval Office, Feb. 28, 2013. Lew’s family, pictured from left, are: wife Ruth Schwartz; granddaughter Eliora Lew; son Danny Lew; daughter Shoshana Lew; daughter-in-law Zahava Lew; and grandson Moshe Lew. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Okay, time to catch up with the news – back in a while with a round-up.
PS I still refuse to believe Jack Lew is a grandfather
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.”
Washington Post: President Obama recently said he would love to hire a top executive into his administration. But for the job of Treasury secretary, he didn’t pick a corporate executive, a famous economist or a former politician – he has decided to tap a trusted adviser, White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, an expert on the nation’s ongoing budget wars.
Obama on Thursday plans to nominate Lew to take over from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the president’s longest-serving economic adviser, a White House official said. The selection, to be announced at 1:30 p.m., signals that Obama’s second term will not initially focus on big new ideas to create jobs or expand government investment in the economy. Rather, it will involve a sustained conflict with congressional Republicans over the nation’s finances….
NY Mag: Jack Lew, President Obama’s reported pick to replace outgoing Treasury secretary Tim Geithner, is known as a no-nonsense backroom negotiator with wonkish tendencies, who is admired on the left and grumbled about on the right.
A lesser-known but extremely pertinent fact about Lew is that he has the world’s worst signature. And pretty soon, that signature could be on every single one of your dollar bills.
Charles Blow: This time, nearly a month after the horrible mass shooting in Newtown, the public attention hasn’t ricocheted to the next story. On the contrary, sorrow has hardened into resolve.
This time, something can and must be done. And it looks as if something will….. as we move into this season of change on gun policy, let’s take a moment to better frame the debate.
First, let’s fix some of the terminology: stop calling groups like the National Rifle Association a “gun rights” group. These are anti-regulation, pro-proliferation groups. They prey on public fears … while helping gun makers line their pockets.
(Sturm, Ruger & Company’s stock has gone up more than 500 percent since President Obama was first elected, and Smith & Wesson’s stock is up more than 200 percent.)
…..Groups like the N.R.A. aren’t as much about rights as wrongs. The money being churned is soaked in blood and marked by madness…..
NYT: One of America’s largest pension funds began on Wednesday to divest itself of firearms holdings, a response to the schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Conn., that other pension funds could follow.
The California State Teachers Retirement System, known as Calstrs, voted unanimously to begin its formal divestment process. The vote occurred at a public meeting where teachers said they did not want their retirement nest eggs placed with companies like the Freedom Group, the maker of the Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle that authorities say Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school on Dec. 14.
TPM: Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) on Thursday offered a vote of confidence in Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts to institute new national gun laws. Malloy said he had a “great conversation” with Biden on Wednesday, adding that the vice president “understands what we need to do” to curb gun violence.
“I had a great conversation yesterday with Vice President Biden and I know he is preparing his recommendations to the president,” Malloy said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I don’t want to get into the details of the discussion but he’s got this down pretty well. He understands what we need to do to make it less likely that these things are going to happen in our cities and towns, and these mass murders could be limited at least going into the future if some common sense things are taken.”
TPM: Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate are prepared to make a lot of noise about the future of gun regulations in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting. That’s the message from the first of House Democratic gun violence pointman Mike Thompson’s violence-focused town halls this week.
On Tuesday night, Thompson hosted the first of three gun violence town halls in his northern California district. As they vowed to do, gun control opponents showed up in force to make their case against new regulations. But, according to local reports of the meeting, they were met with equally impassioned gun control proponents. It’s a preview of what might happen after the White House and Thompson reveal their post-Newtown legislative proposals: opposition to gun control is likely to be met by vocal support for new gun regulations that is just as loud.
John Kerry, left, in 1969 and Chuck Hagel in 1968 during their service in the Vietnam War
NYT: With the selection of a new national security team deeply suspicious of the wisdom of American military interventions around the world, President Obama appears to have ended, at least for the moment, many of the internal administration debates that played out in the Situation Room over the past four years.
He has sided, without quite saying so, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s view – argued, for the most part, in the confines of the White House — that caution, covert action and a modest American military footprint around the world fit the geopolitical moment….
Gone for the second term are the powerful personalities, and more hawkish voices, that pressed Mr. Obama to pursue the surge in Afghanistan in 2009… The new team will include two Vietnam veterans, Senator John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, who bear the scars of a war that ended when the president was a teenager…..
MSNBC: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis will not return in President Barack Obama’s second term, the White House confirmed Wednesday.
Solis, formerly a California congresswoman, said she made the decision to step down from her role over the holiday season.
…. In a statement, Obama called Solis “a tireless champion for working families”. “Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class,” he said. “Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work.”