On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit La General Hospital in Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:50: The President meets with company executives and their small business suppliers, Eisenhower Executive Office Building
12:45: Josh Earnest briefs the press
Paul Waldman: Why The Border Crisis Is The Exact Opposite Of Katrina
If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s taking a genuine policy crisis and turning into an inane discussion about “optics,” which is what’s happening now with regard to the situation at the southern border. Both Republicans and the media have become obsessed with the question of whether President Obama should go to the border for a photo opportunity, with the accompanying and bizarre assertion that this is “Obama’s Katrina.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. In that case, it was Bush’s failure of competence and his inability to go beyond photo ops that resulted in so much destruction. In this case, the president’s critics are actually demanding a photo op, while refusing to take any immediate practical steps to address the problem.
… One wonders exactly what all these people believe would happen if Obama went to the border. What sort of change would occur? Would he move closer to the Republican perspective on immigration policy? Are they under the impression that if the President had the opportunity to look into the face of a 9-year-old refugee from Honduras, he’d say, “By god, the Republicans are right. This here’s a terror baby! Get out of America, punk! USA! USA!” … If they had a plan for action, but Obama was the one refusing to do anything, maybe then Republicans could reasonably argue that this is his Katrina. But at the moment, it looks more like theirs. the Obama administration has made a request for funds from Congress and is actually trying to address the problem at the border, while Republicans are refusing to do anything at all. Instead, they’re complaining about Obama’s failure to stage a photo op.
Business Insider: Major New Study Says Obamacare Is Working – Even For Republicans
The Affordable Care Act has been successful at achieving some major goals in the first year of its full implementation, according to a new study from The Commonwealth Fund. There are three important findings from the study: The uninsured rate is dropping, most people like their new insurance plans (even Republicans!), and most people are finding it easy to visit a doctor. The study found the uninsured rate in the U.S. declined by one-quarter over the last nine months, which included the law’s first, six-month open-enrollment period in which individuals could sign up for private insurance plans through exchanges established by the law.
From the July-to-September 2013 period to the April-to-June 2014 period, the uninsured rate of people between the ages of 19-64 dropped from 20% to 15%, according to the study. The research found 9.5 million people gained insurance, either through the exchanges or through the law’s expansion of the federal Medicaid program. The decline in uninsured was seen across different age groups and races, though the drop was disproportionately high among the young (-10%) and Latinos (-13%).
LA Times: Rate Of Uninsured Californians Is Halved Under Obamacare, Survey Finds
The percentage of Californians without health insurance was cut in half in the last nine months during the federal health law’s expansion of coverage, a new survey shows. Nationwide, an estimated 9.5 million adults under the age of 65 gained health insurance between late summer 2013 and last month, according to a survey the Commonwealth Fund released Thursday.
Those gains during the rollout of Obamacare dropped the nation’s rate of uninsured from 20% last year to 15% now. The change was even larger in California with the proportion of uninsured declining from 22% in late summer 2013 to 11% by early June, the survey found. .”… The findings suggest that the Affordable Care Act is beginning to achieve its central goal – reducing the number of Americans who are uninsured and improving access to healthcare,” said Sara Collins, the lead researcher and a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund.
ThinkProgress: The Most Creative Ways That People Are Protesting The Hobby Lobby Ruling
1. Making their own IUDs out of pipe cleaners. Since Hobby Lobby will no longer cover intrauterine devices (IUDs) for their female employees, one satirical video has some tips for workers who may need a new option. “Miss Sandy from Hobby Lobby” — an entirely fictional character — explains how to use pipe cleaners, glue guns, googly eyes, and glitter to create a homemade IUD. The video’s creators specify that all of those craft supplies were actually purchased from Michael’s, one of Hobby Lobby’s direct competitors. Some of the protesters who showed up to rally outside of their local Hobby Lobby stores this past week brought along their own IUDs fashioned out of craft supplies, too.
3. Handing out birth control. Protesters across the country are bringing condoms to Hobby Lobby stores and either handing them out to customers or leaving them on the shelves. Even religious leaders are getting in on the action. In Illinois, a group of clergy handed out condoms in front of a Hobby Lobby to make the point that not all people of faith are opposed to contraception, even though Hobby Lobby supporters claim that the right to drop coverage for birth control is a matter of religious liberty.
Veronica Toney: “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis”: President Barack Obama’s Segment Nominated For An Emmy
The 6 minute 30 second episode of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” featuring President Barack Obama was nominated for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program. Shout out to HeathCare.gov! The episode of the Funny or Die internet parody talk show, which published on March 11, has received 22 million views to date.
Only the executive producers of the segment (Scott Aukerman, Zach Galifianakis, BJ Porter and Mike Farah) were nominated for the award. But if The President had been nominated and won the trophy on August 25, it would have been his third entertainment award. President Obama won Grammy Awards for best spoken word album for 2008′s “The Audacity of Hope” and 2006′s “Dreams from My Father.”
David Zucchino: Florida Redistricting Illegally Favors Republicans, Judge Rules
Florida judge ruled the state’s congressional district map invalid Thursday night, saying it violates constitutional provisions that require fair districts and instead favors Republicans. In a scathing opinion, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis ruled in Tallahassee that the Legislature’s Republican political consultants had “made a mockery” of the redistricting process, tainting it with “partisan intent.” Lewis said that the districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 census, flouted voter-passed constitutional amendments intended to eliminate gerrymandering – that is, often-bizarre and irregular lines that make a district safe for one party or the other.
Gerrymandering “has been criticized as allowing, in effect, the representatives to choose their voters instead of vice versa,” he wrote. Specifically, Lewis found that congressional districts 5 and 10 had been drawn to favor the GOP, and that neighboring districts had been affected as well. Those two districts, and any others affected, will need to be redrawn, he said. “I find the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Legislature to be constitutionally invalid,” he wrote. The case goes “to the very foundation of our representative democracy.”
SmartyPants: President Obama Plays Tortoise To The Media’s Hare. And We Know Who Wins That One!
I’ve often thought that the best metaphor for the Obama presidency is the fable about the tortoise and the hare. Of course – in the role of the hare is our linkbait-obsessed media that runs from one form of hysteria to another in a constant quest for “Obama’s Katrina,” only to tire almost immediately before the story’s conclusion. The role of the tortoise is played by our President, who is always focused on the long game (“slow and steady wins the race”). As FLOTUS once said: Here’s the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal.
He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we’re all sweating it, when we’re worried that the bill won’t pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we’re playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn’t happen overnight. As we approach the finish line, we can begin to see who is going to reach the tape first. Here are some recent “long game” headlines:
Tom Kludt: Pundits Collectively Lose It Over A Quote Obama Didn’t Even Say
Many pundits on Thursday were shocked by the gall of President Obama to say that he doesn’t “do photo-ops,” a mere day after glossy, White House-sanctioned shots surfaced of him sipping beer and shooting pool with the Colorado governor. Except he didn’t actually say that, manifold distortions notwithstanding. Here’s what Obama actually said Wednesday night when defending his decision to not visit the U.S.-Mexico border. This isn’t theater. This is a problem.
I’m not interested in photo-ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they’re making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk. “Gotcha,” the critics cried in unison.
House Republicans took the initial step on Thursday to sue President Barack Obama over the administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate of the health care law. The office of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a draft of the resolution that would authorize the House to file suit amid GOP criticism that the president has declined to faithfully execute the laws of the country. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that position and linked it to economic initiatives, saying in a statement that “Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the president on behalf of hardworking Americans.” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said the effort was a waste of taxpayer dollars. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction,” Hamill said. Boehner’s actions on the lawsuit come as some Republicans are demanding a far more formidable step — impeachment.
ThinkProgress: Boehner Will Sue Obama For Stuff He Thought Was Totally Fine Under George W. Bush
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed Wednesday that he will file a federal lawsuit challenging the executive actions of President Barack Obama, despite supporting President George W. Bush’s extensive use of executive authority. … President Obama has issued about 180 executive orders — a power that has been utilized by every president since George Washington except for the brief-tenured William Henry Harrison …. But Boehner embraced the power of a Republican president to take action, even at times when he would circumvent Congress by doing so… … As of February, Obama had issued fewer executive orders than all but one of the other presidents since World War II.
Steve Benen: Boehner Readies Frivolous Anti-Obama Lawsuit
I can think of some dangerous moves Boehner has made since becoming Speaker, including threatening to trash the full faith and credit of the United States on purpose. I can also think of some reckless moves he’s made, including shutting down the government. I can even think of some irresponsible moves from the Speaker, including refusing to compromise on pretty much any area of public policy. But I can’t think of anything quite as dumb from the last several years as this lawsuit.
Indeed, the Speaker himself couldn’t actually identify by name anything the president has done that warrants a legal challenge. Boehner is outraged by Obama’s use of executive power. And what, pray tell, has offended the Speaker? He didn’t say. I’m sure he’ll think of something to justify his lawsuit eventually, right? … It’s an embarrassment to the institution and the nation, but at this point, that simply means more of the same.
BBC: Iraqi PM Welcomes Syria Air Strike On Border Crossing
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of Iraq has told the BBC he supports an air strike on Islamist militants at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. Military and rebel sources say the strike took place inside Iraq, at the Qaim crossing, although Mr Maliki said it was carried out on the Syrian side. Isis and its Sunni Muslim allies seized large parts of Iraq this month. The government has struggled to hold back the militants’ advance from the north and west. It has also been receiving support from Iran, with whom its Shia Muslim leaders have close links. The Syrian air strikes show how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are merging together, with Isis as a common factor. Once-rival fighters on the Syrian side of the border at Qaim have now pledged allegiance to Isis, giving it control of both sides.
If US drones are not yet involved, they soon could be, illustrating how the threat posed by Isis is creating a convergence of interests between players who so far have been adversaries. That goes for Iran, too, which is deeply concerned about the sudden upheavals in Iraq. It has reinforced its positions along its own western border, where guards have been killed in an attack. There are reports that Iran has been heavily shelling border areas in the Kurdish mountains, where an Iranian Kurdish opposition group called Pejak has bases. The US, which also backs the government, has stressed that the militants can only be defeated by Iraq’s own forces. Mr Maliki is seeking to form a new government but has rejected calls to create an emergency coalition which would include all religious and ethnic groups.
Let us compare what Boehner says the president has done — which, by the way, he has done less than almost all of his immediate predecessors — and then let’s compare everything his House hasn’t done because it doesn’t like the president, his party, his politics, or (sadly) his race. Let us determine who is “faithfully executing” the jobs for which they all get paid.
Hell, let us determine who’s actually interested in governing the country, or is counsel for the plaintiff going to argue that, if the country elects a obstructionist Congress, and that Congress holds together, then the country need not necessarily be governed by anyone at all? That would be an interesting point to be litigated – if, again, this were a serious legal action, and not the latest and most elaborate clown show staged by a threadbare political circus.
Ikea plans to adopt a wage structure that it says will raise the average hourly minimum wage at its 38 stores in the United States to $10.76 an hour — a 17 percent increase. Ikea, which will be announcing its new wage policy on Thursday, said it would not impose an across-the-board minimum wage for its stores, but would instead set a minimum for each store based on the cost of living in that particular area. For example, the minimum wage will run from a low of $8.69 an hour at its stores in Pittsburgh and West Chester, Ohio, to $13.22 an hour at its store in Woodbridge, Va.
Ikea said that its new average minimum wage, $10.76 an hour, was $3.51 above the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The retailer’s decision was made as many low-wage workers and labor unions are pushing for an increase in the federal minimum wage and after Gap Inc. informed its employees in February that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year.
The People’s View: Please Proceed, Mr. Speaker: Why John Boehner’s Hissy Fit Over Obama’s Executive Actions Will Backfire
John Boehner has decided to formalize his hissy fit in the form of a lawsuit against the President for acting on behalf of the American people by the means of administrative and executive authority, given the GOP’s absolute resolve to allow Congress to do nothing. I could walk you through the mind-numbingly boring and utterly clueless memo Boehner wrote to the House, but the gist of it is this: We, the GOP House will not do any work, and we will not let anyone else do any either.
The lawsuit, needless to say, is wholly without merit. So much so that Boehner’s own memo did not name a single executive action he believes violates or ovesteps the president’s Constitutional authority. Of course, sources say he will tell them later. I suppose the irony of asking his chamber to approve unchecked authority for him to pick and choose whatever he wants to sue the president Obama while complaining that Obama has acted in a “king-like” fashion is completely lost on the Speaker.
The Nation: The Media’s Disappearing Of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program And Why It Matters
In Syria, the Obama administration just achieved an unprecedented foreign policy success in WMD nonproliferation, but you likely didn’t hear about it. Nine months after entering into joint negotiation with the Russians and Syria’s tyrannical President Bashar al-Assad, the last of that country’s 1,300 tons of declared chemical weapons began a journey to a chemical weapons-eating ship in the Mediterranean for destruction by the US.
The mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been a major undertaking marked by an extraordinary international cooperation. Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict. And this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight timeframes. This successful dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons program by the US has been matched by an almost as successful disappearing of the news of it by the Beltway media, however.
Adam Chandler: Army Clears Bergdahl Of Any Misconduct During Captivity
As the Army continues to investigate whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is guilty of deserting his unit, this afternoon they said there is no reason to believe that Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct during his five years in captivity. In fact, that’s all that the Army said: We have no reason to believe that he engaged in any misconduct.”
Bergdahl electrified the national discourse last month after he was freed in a prisoner swap involving five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay. As charges against his character emerged, the narrative quickly shifted from Bergdahl as POW to Bergdahl as despicable deserter, unworthy bargaining chip, unwitting endangerer of America, and worse.
The People’s View: The Message from Mississippi: Democrats are Not Sitting it Out This Year
Last night marked the second high-stakes GOP primary where Democrats have screwed up the pollsters’ math. In Virginia’s 7th district, where knocking off an entrenched Republican incumbent in the primary would actually give the Democrat in the race a shot against a nutjob Teabagger, they knocked off Eric Cantor. Now in Mississippi, where a Democrat has a smaller chance of winning the Senate seat than a hailstorm in hell, Democrats – black Democrats – mowed down the Tea Party scourge like it’s nobody’s business.
TPM: First U.S. Appeals Court Finds A Right To Same-Sex Marriage
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, becoming the first appellate court in the country to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.
“We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws,” Judge Carlos F. Lucero wrote in the decision for a three-judge panel. “A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”
Pew: After Decades Of Gop Support, Cubans Shifting Toward The Democratic Party
Cubans in the U.S. have long identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party, even as Hispanics overall have tilted Democrat. But the party affiliation of Cubans has undergone a shift over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of survey data.
Less than half (47%) of Cuban registered voters nationwide now say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party—down from the 64% who said the same about the GOP a decade ago, according to 2013 survey data. Meanwhile, the share of Cubans who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled from 22% to 44% over the same time period, according to the survey of Hispanics.
Washington Post: Brown, Hogan Win Gubernatorial Nominations; Democrat Frosh wins attorney general contest
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown cruised past his two rivals in Maryland’s bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, setting up a November contest with GOP nominee Larry Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under the state’s last Republican chief executive. Brown would be Maryland’s first African American governor and only the third elected in the nation….
After going out on a not-so-wobbly limb to suggest that Republicans would push to impeach President Obama if they succeeded in retaking the Senate, George Will’s Sunday column read like a real threat. Fed up with what he views as Obama’s “offenses against the separation of powers,” the conservative columnist advocated that Congress sue the executive branch to stop a lawless president. Yesterday, Speaker John Boehner told the House Republican caucus that he was contemplating such a step.
The plan all along has been to crash the Obama agenda and then climb on top of the wreckage and seize power. Not only are Republicans complicit in the “failures” they rail against, but they are also the reason the president has had to resort to executive action to get some things done. Even Will agrees Obama is within his authority to do this. He just doesn’t like the degree to which he has done it. Poor dear.
President Obama jokingly reacts to news that staffer Nora Becker will be leaving to pursue a joint MD and PhD in healthcare economics, during the White House staff picnic on the South Lawn, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a football while taking a phone call in the Oval Office, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tosses a football with Trip Director Marvin Nicholson in the outer Oval Office on June 26, 2009. Personal Secretary Katie Johnson watches from her desk (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama stands in the Oval Office with a Hawaiian paddle that was given to him as a gift by chef Allen Wong, who catered the 2009 Presidential Luau, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the front door of the Oval Office, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron prepare to board Marine One at the Deerhurst Resort landing zone in Muskoka, Canada, following the conclusion of the G8 Summit, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama exits Bright Star upon her arrival at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 26, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
VP Biden in Independence, June 26, 2012
VP Biden in Waterloo, June 26, 2012
President Obama at the Varsity, a restaurant in Atlanta, Ga., June 26, 2012
White House: Statement By The President On The Passing Of Maya Angelou
When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.”
Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.
Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.
President Obama greets Buffalo Soldiers Louis Coffield, 96, left, and Sanders Matthews, 93, at Stewart Air Base in Newbrugh, N.Y. today
Brent Logiurato: In 3 Big Slides Here’s Why Mary Meeker Is Optimistic About The Future Of American Healthcare
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker has released her latest annual presentation. In it, she gives a bullish take on the future of the U.S. healthcare system, saying it looks like it may be at an “inflection point.” Some recent reforms perpetrated by the Affordable Care Act, though, give her reason for optimism. More than 8 million people have gained coverage through insurance exchanges established by the law,
and she writes that the law is aiding the “digitization of healthcare — 84% of hospitals and academic or institutional practices are now using a fully functioning electronic health record (EHR) system. Digital health venture investments are up almost 40% year over year. Meeker is also bullish because of the emphasis of moving toward quality care over quantity. By 2015, 60% of employers will offer price-transparency tools in their healthcare plans, she writes.
NYT: Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness Of The Jim Crow South, Dies At 86
Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Long before that day, as she recounted in “Caged Bird” and its five sequels, she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Afterward (her six-volume memoir takes her only to the age of 40), Ms. Angelou (pronounced AHN-zhe-lo) was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor (she was for many years the
(Dr. Maya Angelou reading a poem at the Million Man March in 1995)
Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem); ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows, from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies. In February 2011, President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual. “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat,” Ms. Angelou wrote in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Hallmarks of Ms. Angelou’s prose style included a directness of voice that recalls African-American oral tradition and gives her work the quality of testimony. She was also intimately concerned with sensation, describing the world around her — be it Arkansas, San Francisco or the foreign cities in which she lived — with palpable feeling for its sights, sounds and smells.
President Obama attempted to set a new course for American foreign policy Wednesday, laying out a plan for action on the world stage he said continues the country’s role as global superpower, but does so in a way that looks within before looking out. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” the president said in a prepared version of the commencement address he delivered at West Point. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” The president called on Congress to adopt the Law of The Sea convention, take action on climate change and close GITMO, efforts he said would go a long way to showing the world the United States practices what it preaches. The country’s number one threat “remains terrorism,” Obama said. But the changing nature of that threat means that the tools of the recent past should be scrapped, he added.
“A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable,” he said. “I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy – drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.” “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership,” the president said. “But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
Greg Sargent: Grimes Hits Back: On Obamcare, Mitch McConnell Is In “Fantasyland”
Ever since Mitch McConnell’s comically absurd evasions on Obamacare began gaining attention from the press, people have wondered whether Alison Lundergan Grimes would make them an issue. McConnell’s refusal to say what should happen to Kentucky Kynect — even as he continues to call for repeal of the ACA – allows Grimes to point out that McConnell’s position would take health coverage away from hundreds of thousands of constituents who are benefitting from it, and he won’t admit it. Now the Grimes campaign is finally hitting McConnell over his gyrations on the issue, accusing him of “voting to destroy Kynect.” From Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst: Mitch McConnell has been in the fantasyland that is Washington for so long that he cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction. McConnell has voted to destroy Kynect — and he has said he will do it again. In the U.S. Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes will fix the law to ensure it is working for all Kentuckians.
This seems somewhat defensive. It again leans heavily on a vow to “fix” the law, and doesn’t state flatly that Kynect is a policy success. Some Dems, such as Rep. John Yarmuth and pollster Celinda Lake, have suggested Grimes go further. Lake told me the other day that her polling has showed that Kynect polls positively in Kentucky, even as the law known as “Obamacare” or the “Affordable Care Act” remains under water. Lake suggests this to Grimes: “She could say, `In Kentucky, we got it right. I’ll take Kentucky values to Washington.”As Joe Sonka points out in a good piece, McConnell is betting that press coverage won’t clearly explain to voters just how absurd his position really is. But perhaps now that Grimes is engaging on the issue — to some degree, at least — that could serve as a hook for top shelf reporter and commentator types to take a peek at what’s really going on here.
Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do. What in the world did he mean last week when he told reporters that repeal of the Affordable Care Act — “root and branch,” as he has demanded many times — is “unconnected” to the future of Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange? Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.” Huh? Nothing could be more connected — or should be more important to Kentucky’s senior senator — than the fates of the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who are getting health insurance, many for the first time, and the federal Affordable Care Act, which is making that possible. Repeal the federal law, which McConnell calls “Obamacare,” and the state exchange would collapse. Kynect could not survive without the ACA’s insurance reforms, including no longer allowing insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick or deny them coverage because of pre-existing conditions,
as well as the provision ending lifetime limits on benefit payments. (Kentucky tried to enact such reforms in the 1990s and found out we were too small a market to do it alone.) Kentucky’s exchange also could not survive without the federal funding and tax credits that are helping 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians gain access to regular preventive medicine, including colonoscopies, mammograms and birth control without co-pays. As a result of a law that McConnell wants to repeal, one in 10 of his constituents no longer have to worry that an illness or injury will drive them into personal bankruptcy or a premature grave. Kynect is the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare — even if Kentuckians are confused about which is which. Kentuckians are waiting to learn if their five-term senator understands — or cares — how much is at stake.
Kimberly Kindy: Father Of Victim In Santa Barbara Shootings To Politicians: ‘I Don’t Care About Your Sympathy.’
Richard Martinez grew up around guns, shooting birds out of the fruit trees on his family’s farm. He later served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army before going on to become a criminal-defense lawyer, at times representing the young and the violent. Now, Martinez is a grieving father. He’s asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed in the rampage Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”
Saying that “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public to join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-
control laws. “Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more,’ ” he said Tuesday. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.” Martinez is the latest tragic figure to raise the mantle of gun control. Previous massacres and spasms of violence have produced urgent calls for new restrictions.
Democratic candidates have begun to take a more assertive stance on the Affordable Care Act, highlighting the most popular benefits of the law and attacking Republicans for trying to repeal them. Not long ago, many Democrats were in a defensive crouch when it came to health care, amid public anger about the botched rollout of the federal website to sign up for insurance and stories of people who lost existing coverage because it didn’t meet federal standards. Many focused on fixes they said should be made to the law rather than trying to convince voters of its benefits. Now, in at least half a dozen competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, Democrats and their allies are airing TV commercials that directly support the legislation, focusing on its guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, preventive-care benefits and a ban on charging women more for insurance. In some cases, the ads talk up how the Democrat candidate has worked to guarantee these benefits; in others, they attack a Republican for wanting to take them away.
At a Senate hearing to consider the nomination of a new health secretary this month, Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), who is in a tough re-election race, hailed the Medicaid expansion available under the act and criticized her state’s leadership for declining the federal money that would allow North Carolina to add a half million people to the program. “These are some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society who will continue to seek care in emergency rooms and then will leave chronic conditions unmanaged,” she said. In Florida, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, running for governor, has fully embraced the law. “I don’t shy away from it. I don’t back away from it. I don’t apologize for it. It’s the right thing to do,” he said in April, according to the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.
Three years ago, the operators of one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants warned of “immediate and devastating” consequences from the Obama administration’s push to clean up pollution from coal. Faced with cutting sulfur dioxide pollution blowing into downwind states by 80 percent in less than a year, lawyers for EME Homer City Generation L.P. sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the rule, saying it would cause it grave harm and bring a painful spike in electricity bills. None of those dire predictions came to pass. Instead, the massive western Pennsylvania power plant is expected in a few years to turn from one of the worst polluters in the country to a model for how coal-fired power plants can slash pollution.
The latest regulation, the first proposal to curb earth-warming carbon dioxide from power plants, is due next week. But Homer City also shows how political and economic rhetoric sometimes doesn’t match reality. Despite claims by Republicans and industry critics that the Obama administration’s regulations will shut down coal-fired power plants, Homer City survived. The owners of the massive western Pennsylvania power plant — which releases more sulfur dioxide than any other power plant in the U.S. — have committed to install $750 million worth of pollution control equipment by 2016 that will make deeper cuts in sulfur than the rule it once opposed. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s rule in the case initiated by Homer City Generating Station. GE Energy Financial Services, the plant’s majority owner, now says it can do it — and without electricity bills increasing for the two million households it provides with power.
Calling gun violence Chicago’s “most urgent problem,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined a proposal on Tuesday that would make it harder to buy firearms in the city. The proposal would restrict gun purchases for individuals to one a month and would mandate that all gun sales be videotaped, an effort to deter buyers from using false identification. Under the proposed ordinance, employees in gun stores would be required to undergo background checks and complete training to help them spot the common signs of gun traffickers. Retailers would be subject to a quarterly audit of inventory in an effort to reduce theft.
In addition, the plan would impose a 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns and a 24-hour waiting period to buy rifles and shotguns. Mr. Emanuel has tried to tamp down violence in Chicago since taking office in 2011, pushing for tougher rules on gun retailers and stronger federal laws on firearms. Chicago’s rate of gun-related violence is three times that of New York. The report blamed states with weaker gun laws for most of the illegal guns in Chicago, saying that from 2009 to 2013, 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in the city were originally bought out of state, mainly in Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.
Washington Post: Michigan Hikes Minimum Wage, Led By GOP Governor Seeking Reelection
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation Tuesday hiking his state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour over four years, dodging what could have been a political hurdle as he seeks re-election this year. Snyder had come under pressure from Democrats, led by his likely general election opponent, former representative Mark Schauer. He signed the wage increase one day before labor groups planned to turn in more than 300,000 signatures to get a minimum wage hike on November’s ballot. At a news conference Tuesday, Snyder sought to take some measure of credit for the increase.
Many Republicans in the legislature opposed the increase. A majority of House Republicans voted against the measure, though House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) helped shepherd it through to protect Snyder. All but two Democrats in each chamber voted for the increase, which also indexes the minimum wage to inflation. Several Republicans said they voted for the legislature’s version of the wage hike to avoid the possibility of a ballot initiative passing; the ballot initiative would have increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, for both regular and tipped-wage employees.
AP: Top US Commander: Obama Ended Afghan Uncertainty
The top U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that President Barack Obama’s decision to keep about 10,000 American troops in the country past 2014 has eliminated any uncertainty Afghans may have had about America’s commitment. Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters the decision will allow an advisory force of 9,800 troops to remain in the country to finish training and equipping Afghan security forces. “I believe that this decision was good news for the Afghan people,” Dunford said. “It eliminates the uncertainty about the future here in Afghanistan, in the region and within the coalition.” He added that it “also sends a message to those who said that Afghanistan would be abandoned at the end of the year and that simply isn’t true. “
Obama announced plans Tuesday for keeping nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after this year, then quickly withdrawing nearly all of those forces by the end of 2016. NATO and other U.S. allies also are expected to commit troops, bringing the total to be around 12,000. Some American troops are also expected to play a counterterrorism role, chasing any elements of al-Qaida and other such groups still operating in Afghanistan. The commitment is conditional on Afghanistan’s government signing a stalled bilateral security agreement. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it, both the candidates running to replace him — former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — have said they will.
Tracy Connor: Edward Snowden Tells Brian Williams The U.S. Stranded Him In Russia
Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia, saying he “never intended” to wind up there. “I personally am surprised that I ended up here,” Snowden said in the interview, an excerpt of which aired on TODAY on Wednesday morning. “The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” he said. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport. “So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.” Secretary of State John Kerry hit back in a live interview on TODAY. “For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly,” Kerry said. “If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today.
“We’d be delighted for him to come back. He should come back. That’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people,” Kerry added. “He can come home but he’s a fugitive from justice which is why he is not being permitted to fly around the world,” he said. Asked whether he had changed his mind about the nature of Snowden’s actions, Kerry said Snowden “stole” information and did “great damage” to the United States. “The fact is if he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust in the American system of justice,” Kerry said. “But to be hiding in Russia, an authoritarian country, and to have just admitted he was really just trying to get to Cuba — what does that tell you?” he added. “I think he’s confused. I think it’s very sad.”