11:30 VP Biden and other dignitaries deliver eulogies at the funeral service for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (C-Span 2)
12:10: The President welcomes the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens to the White House
1:0: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
2:15: The President will announce that Tom Donilon is departing as National Security Advisor in early July and is being succeeded by Susan Rice
TPM: President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser Tom Donilon is resigning and will be replaced by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, marking a significant shakeup to the White House foreign policy team.
A White House official confirmed the personnel changes Wednesday morning ahead of a planned announcement by the president later in the day.
Donilon has been a key foreign policy adviser to Obama since he first took office. But the 58-year-old had been expected to depart sometime this year, with Rice seen as the likely candidate to replace him.
….. Chris Christie calls a special election for the Lautenberg Senate seat for October, even though there is already an election scheduled for November. He’s running for reelection in that one.
….. What could the reason be? Gee, do you think it could have anything to do with the fact that the Democratic Senate candidate is going to be Cory Booker, who is black, and who will draw African American voters to the polls in large numbers? So let all those black voters get their electoral ya-ya’s out in October, see, and they’ll stay home in November and not vote against him….
There were 2 hecklers…a guy and this woman. I attended the fundraiser. The young man yelled out, and the woman joined. The female heckler was within the view of the First Lady. Supporters around the female heckler (including me!) were being vocal about the heckling. There was some movement in the group, and I think the First Lady was actually trying to take the sting out of the situation. Our First Lady Did Not over-react. I believe she was making sure no one became aggressive.
Thankfully, we have such a positive and effective First Lady. The dumb republicans do not understand grace!
POTUS has done more for #LGBT issues than any other president. But the disrespectful heckler goes after his wife, instead of Congress. Oh.
1:05: Tours Ellicott Dredges (which manufactures innovative dredges and dredge equipment being sold for infrastructure projects across the country and around the world)
1:20: Delivers remarks
2:15: Visits a community center
3:0: Departs Baltimore
3:25: Arrives the White House
Kevin Drum (Mother Jones): It’s Official: Those Bogus Email Leaks Came From Republicans
It’s not as if we didn’t know this already, but Major Garrett made it official: last week’s leaks that misquoted the Benghazi emails came directly from Republicans….
So here’s what happened. Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad…..
But it was typical GOP overreach. To their surprise, the White House took Republicans up on their demand to make the entire email chain public, thus making it clear to the press that they had been burned. And now reporters are letting us all know who was behind it.
Steve Benen: Whether or not an issue is a “scandal” tends to be a subjective question — one voter’s world-changing controversy may be another voter’s meaningless distraction. Indeed, the Beltway has spent a week telling the nation that the White House is engulfed in three ongoing scandals, though many of us suspect this analysis is deeply flawed.
But if we’re going to talk about real political scandals, can we at least have a conversation about Republicans lying to reporters about Benghazi?
Jeffrey Goldberg (Bloomberg): So it turns out that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and, before a group of leading Senate Republicans decided that she was evil incarnate, a top contender to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, had nothing to do with formulating the White House’s response to the fatal attacks last year at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
…. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, among others, argued for weeks that Rice was a crucial cog in a huge conspiracy to hide the facts of Benghazi from the American people….
…. I don’t expect that Graham will apologize to Rice for accusing her of engaging in an enormous conspiracy, when all she seems to have done is take the consensus of several government agencies and present it publicly. But you would hope Graham would think twice before threatening again to stop her advancement in government.
Roxanne Jones: “Thank you, Mr. President, you’re not such a bad-looking guy yourself.”
That would have been my response if I were California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who finds herself in the middle of a media dustup after President Obama introduced her as: “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country,” at a fundraiser earlier this week. Harris is a beautiful woman. She’s also super intelligent and accomplished, which the president also noted. In fact, he lauded her professional merits first. So, I say take the compliment and move on. Or, if you’re slightly embarrassed by the comment, give it back and move on. President Obama’s observation is not a major offense to women around the globe. Ridiculous flaps such as this one have always made me uncomfortable with calling myself a feminist, especially if that means I have to fly into a fit each time a man makes an awkward comment about a woman.
Clearly, the president realized in hindsight that his comment didn’t go over very well, and he has apologized. But I don’t believe an apology was necessary. It’s impossible to believe that anyone could seriously call President Obama a chauvinist over this banter between friends. No matter your politics, you will have a hard time finding a president who has included women more in his agenda. What has he done for us lately? Let me recall just a few things: Appointed two female Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Appointed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored worker protections against pay discrimination. The bill had failed in the Senate in 2007.
Reid Epstein: President Barack Obama’s got a volunteer army — and all their marching orders come from carefully organized paid generals back at headquarters.
Obama won two terms by harnessing a grassroots movement through a tightly controlled, top-down campaign organization. Now the group formed out of Organizing for America is now bringing that approach to Organizing for Action.
It’s what differentiates OFA from other grassroots groups, and even the Democratic National Committee: they’re combining large-dollar donations and unpaid local leaders for a carefully built, lasting structure that they believe will be just as effective in supporting the president as it was in electing him.
So far, OFA has alternated its agenda – a week on gun control, then a week on immigration, with some connection to Obama’s White House schedule. Starting next week, OFA will for the first time run concurrent national campaigns on gun control and immigration, blasting emails to supporters and holding local events
Surrounded by members of Congress, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Bill, Jan, 2009
In Defense Of Barack Obama’s Kamala Harris ‘Best Looking’ Comment
Angela Rye: I have never labeled myself as a feminist, but I wholeheartedly support the parity of the sexes particularly as it relates to justice, and fairness. The values listed are those shared very clearly by President Barack Obama—as evidenced by his words and more importantly, his actions. Let’s start with the very first piece of legislation ever signed into law by the 44th president—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. He went on to establish the White House Council on Women and Girls. Most recently, the president signed a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. And remember, the president’s two appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States were also women.
The president was inspired to ensure parity in the health care system because of the challenges his motherfaced with ovarian cancer. The president lovingly called his wife the “closer” during the 2008 campaign because of the critical role she played and now, as first lady, she continues to address some of the most important policy issues of our time. The president has openly stated that his daughters have everything to do with his evolution on gay marriage. The president has a cabinet full (not just binders, but actual appointments) of women and one of his closest advisors is Valerie Jarrett, among many other key White House personnel. Needless to say, the president is influenced by women personally, professionally and politically.
Ambassador Susan Rice conducted an interview with Andrea Mitchell and she was great. She discussed North Korea, the Middle East, and Women’s Rights. She was wonderful in pushing back against Mitchell’s erroneous claims about President Obama and his white house being hostile towards women. This is a must watch interview.
For The Ideologue Left, Social Security Concern Trolling Is A Racket
The People’s View: Dejavu. Once again, both the Republican right and the inconsolable whiny Left have found common ground over just how much they hate President Obama. Neither like the president’s upcoming budget – or at least the reporting on the upcoming budget. Why not? Well, because it looks like the President is going to propose a compromise that neither side’s ideologues are going to like (surprise!).
The president’s budget, it’s being reported, will include both revenue increases by closing tax loopholes for the rich and the use of Chained CPI to calculate the cost of living adjustments under Social Security. John Boehner seems to be grasping for a drink and complaining loudly that the president is being a meanie by asking the super rich and the corporate behemoths to pay their fair share. And the Left? They can barely contain the traitor-drum:
I have explained this before. The President’s proposal would create a minimum baseline for Social Security benefits so that no one who works their whole life has to live in poverty in retirement. The minimum benefit would be above the poverty line, for the first time fulfilling the promise of Social Security to end elderly poverty and actually boosting benefits for the lowest wage workers, which the protectors of the Entitlement Status Quo are effectively against. The president’s proposal would also boost benefits at age 85, making sure the people most at risk of running out of their savings are taken care of. Let me say that again: for those in the greatest need, the president’s proposal would increase benefits.
The Left’s Math Problem: The Truth About “Cumulative” Social Security Benefits
The People’s View: Yes, yes, this will be another post on Chained CPI. But a little more dry. This is about the math. Previously, we have discussed why Chained CPI isn’t actually a cut in benefits, what different it makes in the calculations of the cost of living adjustments, and why in the context of broader reforms and progressive social investments, it’s worth doing. But what we haven’t talked about in very explicit terms is what the minor reductions in COLA will end up adding up to. The scaremongerers are very interested in exploiting this. They arevery interested in scaring people with numbers about how much they will lose.
Take the AARP’s “How much you will lose calculator,” for example. Did you know that if you are a retiree with an average $15,190 in benefit today, over the next 30 years you will lose $20,000 in benefits? Wow. Talk about catfood, right? Somebody stop that conniving bastard Obama! I mean, right?
Giving context to scary numbers: Actually, there’s a lot of funny math going on here. First, the 30-year math completely ignores that President Obama is proposing to boost benefits for the oldest beneficiaries, at age 85. But let’s play along. $20,000 out of how much? The context is to define this “cut” they are talking about with respect to currently scheduled benefits. We can use total benefits in nominal dollars under current methods of COLA. So let’s work out those numbers. Let’s use AARP’s own calculations
2:15: Michelle Obama visits the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
3:30: President Obama meets with Ambassador Susan Rice
Susan Rice (Washington Post): On Thursday I asked that President Obama no longer consider me for the job of secretary of state. I made this decision because it is the right step for this country I love. I have never shied away from a fight for a cause I believe in. But, as it became clear that my potential nomination would spark an enduring partisan battle, I concluded that it would be wrong to allow this debate to continue distracting from urgent national priorities — creating jobs, growing our economy, addressing our deficit, reforming our immigration system and protecting our national security.
These are the issues that deserve our focus, not a controversy about me….
Jonathan Bernstein: Don’t jump to conclusions about Susan Rice …. I’d caution everyone to wait a bit before drawing any firm conclusions about what happened here. We don’t know she was Barack Obama’s first choice. We don’t know, if she was the top choice, why she didn’t wind up the pick…..
…. We’ll hear those claims the loudest from whoever has the loudest megaphone (and the Republican partisan press is an awfully loud megaphone). Doesn’t make it more likely that those who take credit the loudest were those responsible. If anyone was responsible.
….. All that said: if Obama backed off of Rice purely because he was afraid of a fight with Republicans, it’s probably a poor choice… although it depends, a bit, on whether he had counted the votes and knew she couldn’t get confirmed, as opposed to simply wanting to avoid a messy but successful confirmation.
ABC: President Obama says recreational users of marijuana in states that have legalized the substance should not be a “top priority” of federal law enforcement officials prosecuting the war on drugs.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said of pot users in Colorado and Washington during an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters.
“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said, invoking the same approach taken toward users of medicinal marijuana in 18 states where it’s legal.
More of Barbara Walters’ exclusive first joint, post-election interview with President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama airs tonight on “20/20″ at 10 p.m. ET on ABC stations.
President Barack Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office, Dec. 13, 2012. Pictured, clockwise from the President, are: Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Chief of Staff Jack Lew; and Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.
No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.
President Obama and First Lady Michele Obama speak with Rabbi Larry Bazer, the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, at the end of the Hanukkah reception at the White House, December 13
Steve Benen: It’s always a shame when a smear campaign works. Today, Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State, and President Obama issued a statement acknowledging that he’s accepted her decision.
“For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people.
“I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”
…. Her GOP detractors treated Rice as a partisan pawn to be eliminated, in the hopes of embarrassing the White House. The real embarrassment is the baseless smear campaign that’s unfolded over the last month — and the fact that it ultimately worked as planned.
President Obama has no public events scheduled on Saturday. On Sunday, he and first lady Michelle Obama will attend the Kennedy Center Honors. They will host the honorees beforehand at a White House reception.
Kennedy Center: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced the selection of the seven individuals who will receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. Recipients to be honored at the 35th annual national celebration of the arts are: bluesman Buddy Guy, actor and director Dustin Hoffman, comedian and television host David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and rock band Led Zeppelin. While Led Zeppelin is being honored as a band, keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones, guitarist Jimmy Page, and singer Robert Plant will each receive the Kennedy Center Honors.
Joe Klein (Time): The Republicans are, reportedly, outraged by President Obama’s opening bid in the fiscal cliff talks. Republicans always seem to be outraged. It’s getting boring. They need to step up and make a counter-offer.
…. It might have seemed “righteous” indignation when the GOP was deluding itself about representing a majority of Americans; now, it just seem puerile and petulant.
… What is difficult for the Fox talking heads to understand is this: We had an election. The President won. This gives him greater leverage than the last election we had, in 2010, when the President’s party lost…
…. the assorted Republican drama queens seem so two months ago, don’t they?
ThinkProgress: With Republicans balking at the prospect of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the top 2 percent of Americans, Democrats are losing patience. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Friday that the House GOP will not hold a vote on a middle-class tax bill that excludes the top income brackets, even though the Senate has already approved one.
In response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that Democrats plan to bring the legislation to a floor vote next week no matter what. The Democrats plan to use a discharge petition, which can force a bill to the floor if it has been stuck in committee for 30 legislative days. In a new statement, Pelosi dared her Republican colleagues to reject the plan to extend tax cuts for 98 percent of the country…
Gail Collins: You undoubtedly have heard that Barack Obama invited Romney for lunch this week…. …. You’d think they could have served meat loaf. Mitt’s favorite food is meat loaf. Also, Mitt loves practical jokes, and if Obama had really wanted to get in the spirit of things, he could have had Romney arrested by the Capitol Police in the lobby.
…. The makeup meal doesn’t even have to make the loser feel better. (In 2008, Obama had John McCain over for a postelection meeting in Chicago, and you can see what a healing effect that had on McCain’s ego.) …
…. [the president] elaborated at his first postelection news conference, saying that Romney “presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with.”
The “actually” didn’t sound all that enthusiastic. Also, when it came time to praise his former rival, Obama said Romney “did a terrific job running the Olympics.”