Steve Benen: …. as it turns out, Bush’s approval rating the summer before his re-election bid isn’t much different than President Obama’s current approval rating. Bush had a few months to see his support grow; Obama has a year.
And why did Bush’s support grow from the mid-40s to the low-50s? Chait argued, persuasively, that voters starting seeing the president “within the context of a partisan choice,” and decided they liked him more after taking a look at the wealthy Massachusetts challenger with an awkward personality and who was often accused of flip-flopping.
…. If Republicans were a popular party with a popular agenda, this would be a very different story. Likewise, if Obama were a poor campaigner facing a charismatic GOP frontrunner, I’d a different set of expectations. But I’ve seen a lot of Obama political obituaries, and at this point, none of them have proven persuasive to me.
AP: Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, a hopeful sign that the job market might be picking up.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 397,000, the lowest level in five weeks. It’s only the third time since April that applications have fallen below 400,000.
Economists were encouraged by the drop, though they cautioned that the trend would have to persist to signal real improvement.
3:30 PM: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes Caroline Kennedy and representatives of other first families and members of the White House Historical Association for a reception in honor of the organization’s 50th Anniversary.
NYT: Obama Tries to Speed Response to Shortages in Vital Medicines
President Obama will issue an executive order on Monday that the administration hopes will help resolve a growing number of critical shortages of vital medicines used to treat life-threatening illnesses, among them several forms of cancer and bacterial infections.
The order offers drug manufacturers and wholesalers both a helping hand and a gloved fist in efforts to prevent or resolve shortages that have worsened greatly in recent years, endangering thousands of lives.
It instructs the F.D.A. to do three things: broaden reporting of potential shortages of certain prescription drugs; speed reviews of applications to begin or alter production of these drugs; and provide more information to the Justice Department about possible instances of collusion or price gouging.
Greg Sargent: ‘GOP tightening election laws across the country’
My pick for read of the morning is this very well reported Los Angeles Times piece detailing what is now an undeniable national trend: Republican legislatures and governors are making it harder for people to vote in multiple states across the country.
When you see these examples piled up in one place, as the L.A. Times has done, you get a clear sense of the national scope and potential impact of all these state-by-state initiatives.
As one expert puts it, the presidential race could hang in the balance: “These laws will have an effect on the margin on who votes. And in a state like Florida, a small difference matters. It could easily decide the outcome.”
USA Today: A Republican lawmaker who has criticized the Department of Energy’s $529 million loan guarantee to an electric car company that is manufacturing vehicles overseas has championed U.S.-backed loans to a company headquartered in his home district that does business around the globe.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., has called for the House Energy and Commerce’s oversight subcommittee to investigate the DOE decision to award the loan to Fisker Automotive, which is manufacturing its first line of vehicles in Finland.
…. Murphy, however, has backed financing for the Westinghouse Electric, which owns facilities in countries including Sweden, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Spain, Germany and the Ukraine and is headquartered in Murphy’s district. In May, Murphy introduced legislation that would provide loan guarantees up to $450 million to Westinghouse for the construction of two new nuclear power plants in the United States.
…. Murphy has received more than $40,000 in contributions from Westinghouse employees and the company’s political action committee, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Murphy did not respond to a request for comment…..
Steve Benen: …. So, what happens now? The Cain campaign is either lying about the candidate’s alleged misconduct or it’s not. And with the two accusers restricted by their settlement agreements from speaking, it’s possible Cain and his team feel like they can weather the storm without new details emerging. We’ll see.
But the larger political storm is just starting to brew. Cain’s reaction to direct questions yesterday – after being asked four times about the allegations, he sighed, glared at a reporter, stayed silent, and refused to respond – signaled to reporters everywhere that the Republican candidate has a real problem on his hands.
As for efforts to blame the “liberal” media, this may have some salience in GOP circles, but it’s not much of a strategy. For one thing, Politico hardly leans to the left. For another, the article was co-authored by a reporter who used to work for National Review. (Part of me wonders if it was members of the Republican establishment who leaked this, just to make Cain go away.)
What’s less clear is whether rank-and-file Republican voters will care. There’s reason to believe they won’t – the GOP has a track record of looking the other way when sexual misconduct allegations affect their own (Vitter, Clarence Thomas, et al).
I went over to the dark side last night to see the reaction to the Cain story – I (literally) laughed out loud when the Teabaggers claimed it was the Obama administration that leaked the story to GOPolitico.
These people just aren’t very bright. I’d imagine there’s nothing the Obama administration would love more than for Cain to win the GOP nomination – because the President wouldn’t have to break in to a sweat to win four more years.
Karl Rove, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney ….. methinks we have our suspects.
PS The single funniest comment on the dark side last night: that the allegations against Cain were “racist” and were probably invented by the “Kenyan’s” thugs. Seriously.
ThinkProgress: At the main square in Benghazi, people have been gathering to celebrate the end of the rule of Muammar Qaddafi. As euphoric Libyan rebels advanced into Tripoli on Sunday, there were scenes of jubilation in the rebels’ de facto capital, Benghazi, where thousands celebrated in the streets.
One large sign in the middle of the square in Benghazi features a picture of the “Fantastic 4” (from right to left): Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.S. Ambassador the U.N. Susan Rice. The text on the sign reads: “God Bless You All. Thanks For All.”
Men take part in Friday prayers behind a banner honoring U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, British Prime Minister David Cameron, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.S. President Barack Obama, at the main square of the rebel-held town of Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Aug. 12
Lexington (The Economist): I am on holiday for three weeks in a faraway corner of Cornwall, but the momentous news from Libya has reached even here. Barack Obama received a lot of stick for his cautious approach to the uprising in Libya. Liberals traumatised by Iraq could not believe he had started another war. Republicans mocked him for “leading from behind”. But with the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime now in prospect, his critics ought to eat at least some of their words.
Like many others, I had strong misgivings, but the president remained supremely calm throughout and the speech he made in March looks pretty good in light of what has now happened. The intervention could not have taken place without America’s technological help; it was conducted mainly by allies; it had the blessing of the UN Security Council and the Arab League; and for those reasons it has generated almost no blowback from the Arab world. In short, a job well done – though I don’t expect his Republican critics to be willing to admit this.
Update: The AFP article below would appear to be wrong, it looks like Michelle Obama isn’t going to France after all!
Thursday: The President will travel from London to Deauville, France for the G-8 meetings … will hold a bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia …. participates in the G-8 working lunch and working sessions … will also hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kan of Japan.
AFP: France’s First Lady Carla Bruni will host a packed agenda for the wives of the developed world’s most powerful leaders Thursday, in her first G8 summit since her pregnancy was revealed.
…She will appear along with other first ladies, including the US president’s wife Michelle Obama and Britain’s Samantha Cameron, using the summit to promote her latest cause: the battle against adult illiteracy.
After lunch on the first day of the summit on Thursday, 43-year-old Bruni will take her guests to visit food producers from the Normandy region before hosting a working session dubbed “together against illiteracy.”
In the evening, Bruni and her husband President Nicolas Sarkozy will play host to the other leaders and their spouses for a dinner on the seafront terrace of Le Ciro’s restaurant in the elegant Channel seaside resort.
The First Lady will return to Washington after the French leg of the Obamas’ visit to Europe
Friday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Sarkozy of France …. will then participate in the G-8 working sessions …. Later, the President will travel from France to Warsaw, Poland. In the evening, the President and President Komorowski of Poland will host a dinner for the heads of state of Central and Eastern Europe.
Saturday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with President Komorowski of Poland … the President and Prime Minister Tusk of Poland will hold a working lunch …. the President and Prime Minister Tusk will hold a joint press conference …. the President will depart for Washington, DC.
President Obama waves goodbye from the steps of Air Force One as he departs Saudi Arabia on his way to Egypt, June, 2009
AP: ..Foreign leaders showered President Obama and his family with hundreds of thousands of dollars in art, jewelry, rare books and other presents during their first year in the White House.
Saudi Arabia’s king was the most generous gift-giver, according to documents released by the State Department on Tuesday. Saudi King Abdullah gave Obama, his wife and daughters nearly $190,000 in luxury baubles in 2009, including the single most valuable gift reported to have been given to U.S. officials that year: a ruby and diamond jewelry set, including earrings, a ring, a bracelet and necklace, for the first lady worth $132,000.
…By law, most gifts to U.S. officials must be turned over to the government and the jewelry has already been sent to the National Archives.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was a distant runner up to King Abdullah, with gifts for the first family worth a little under $33,000. The Italian haul included silk ties, a gold watch, a crystal table and candlesticks…….the Saudi monarch also presented Michelle Obama with a $14,200 pearl necklace. He gave the president a marble clock adorned with miniature gold palm trees and camels valued at $34,500. He sent first daughters Sasha and Malia Obama diamond earrings and necklaces worth more than $7,000.
Chinese President Hu Jintao gave Obama a $20,000 silk embroidery of the first family….French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife sent perfume and a $4,500 black Christian Dior handbag …Some leaders chose more modest gifts. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth presented Obama with framed portraits of herself and her husband, Prince Philip, worth $775….Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered the U.S. leader $521 in gifts, including the least expensive item listed by the State Department: a $75 bottle of olive oil.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Obviously all of us are still grieving and in shock from the tragedy that took place. Gabby Giffords and others are still fighting to recover. Families are still absorbing the enormity of their losses. We have a criminal investigation that is ongoing and charges that no doubt will be brought against the perpetrator of this heinous crime.
I think it’s important for us to also focus, though, on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events: a 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss; a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage; the citizens who wrestled down the gunman. Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.
And so, in the coming days we’re going to have a lot of time to reflect. Right now, the main thing we’re doing is to offer our thoughts and prayers to those who’ve been impacted, making sure that we’re joining together and pulling together as a country. And as President of the United States, but also as a father, obviously I’m spending a lot of time just thinking about the families and reaching out to them.
White House YouTube Channel: With everything that President Obama does in a given week, it can be easy to miss important news and interesting events. West Wing Week sums up the past seven days at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or wherever the President may travel. It features highlights from last weeks events plus behind-the-scenes footage of life in the White House.