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.”
4:45: President Obama hosts cast and crew members of the television show 1600 Penn for a screening at the White House
Must-read from Michael Grunwald:
I pledged awhile back, after a certain media mogul trashed President Obama for failing to solve global warming, that I would not spend all my time ridiculing the Obama-bashing disillusionment addicts of the left. (Pretty good week for that mogul, huh?) I mostly kept my word for 18 months, until their whiny response to the fiscal cliff deal inspired me to launch a Twitter tirade about Ivory Soap liberals, Choose Your Own Adventure liberals, Heighten The Contradictions liberals, and progressive utopianism in general. Now that I’m back from vacation, I thought I’d try to explain in more than 140 characters what I meant….
Norman Ornstein (The New Republic): One of the most stunning outcomes of the 2012 elections was the Democrats’ two-seat gain in the Senate. With 23 seats at risk to only ten for Republicans, Democrats were hoping simply to hold their own or keep their losses to a minimum. A gain of a single seat was almost wildly optimistic; picking up two seemingly unrealistic.
But just as important as the overall gain was the nature of the new class of Democrats sworn in to the Senate last week. With the addition of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy, and the possibility of Barney Frank joining them for a few key months and being followed by Ed Markey, the Senate has seen an infusion of liberal talent. Thanks to an impressive class of 2006…. and the class of 2008, the Senate has a core of assertive, brainy liberals greater than we have seen in decades…..
Politico: The Presidential Inauguration Committee on Wednesday named the Inaugural poet, who will appear at President Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony on Inauguration Day. Richard Blanco will be the country’s youngest Inaugural poet and also the first Hispanic and first member of the LGBT community to serve in the position, according to a statement from the committee:
“I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural,” Obama said in the statement. “His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers. Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an Inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity.”
Charles Pierce: …… If you remember all the way back to 2008, you will recall that the president took some altogether justified heat for picking noted multimillionaire faith-based grifter Rick Warren to give the invocation. Now, I don’t think there even should be an invocation to any Deity as part of the ceremony by which we install the leader of one-third of our secular government … but if we are going to Pause For Prayer, we should do a lot better than Warren …. And, thanks be to Whoever, the president has managed to do so.
…. In too many other places, people choose to remember the [Civil Rights] Movement as a triumph for the American nation and not a victory for basic human rights that had to be wrenched out of the nation itself. And the struggle is ongoing. There is a substantial portion of the American people who will not accept the legitimacy of a black president 50 years after the March On Washington. It took Myrlie Evers-Williams 31 years to get simple justice for her husband’s murder. It will be nice to hear a prayer from someone with so very few illusions.
CNN: The Obama administration is considering the possibility of removing all U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the NATO combat mission officially finishes at the end of 2014, White House officials said Tuesday.
The comments by Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, come as the Pentagon and White House mull over the number of troops that could be left in Afghanistan after 2014 to fight insurgents and train Afghan security forces.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama are scheduled to meet on Friday in Washington.
Washington Post: Groups within the Obama administration are pushing to keep no more than a few thousand troops in Afghanistan after 2014, U.S. officials said …. As the debate over the size and scope of the post-2014 coalition mission nears its end, some in the administration are pressing for a force that could be as small as 2,500, arguing that a light touch would be the most constructive way to cap the costly, unpopular war.
Washington Post: President Obama has picked Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights icon Medgar Evers, to deliver the invocation at his public swearing-in later this month. It is believed to be the first time a woman, and a layperson rather than a clergy member, has been chosen to deliver what may be America’s most prominent public prayer.
The inaugural committee Tuesday plans to announce that the benediction will be given by conservative evangelical pastor Louie Giglio, founder of the student-focused Passion Conferences, which draw tens of thousands of people to events around the world.
…. In a statement released by the inaugural committee, the president said the careers of Evers-Williams and Giglio “reflect the ideals that the Vice President and I continue to pursue for all Americans – justice, equality and opportunity.”
Myrlie Evers-Williams and her children, Reena, Van and Darrell, photographed shortly after her husband (and their father), Medgar Evers, was assassinated in 1963. Fifty years later she will deliver the invocation for the inauguration of the President of the United States.
“I am humbled to have been asked to deliver the invocation for the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States – especially in light of this historical time in America when we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement.” (NBC)
Marries Medgar Evers, a leader for the young civil rights movement in Mississippi.
Works as both his secretary and a stay-at-home mother.
Hears a shot just after midnight, June 12, 1963, and she dashes out to see that her husband has been assassinated, shot in the driveway of their home. Her children follow, see their mother cradling him in a pool of blood and cry out for daddy to get up.
Charles Pierce: …. Ever since that thoroughgoing, bean-counting, soulless bastard Robert McNamara was in charge of it, the Defense Department steadily has moved away from the notion that its primary constituency is the men and women in uniform. Certainly, to name one recent example, Donald Rumsfeld proved to be far more in love with his own brilliant theories on defense policies than he cared about the fact that we weren’t sending enough poor sods in inadequate body-armor to carry them out. This is a problem that Chuck Hagel never will have.
…. There are good, solid, deeper political reasons to approve of his nomination. But this is the best one. Chuck Hagel knows what the basic job of soldiering really is and, therefore, I think, he knows what the basic job of being Secretary Of Defense is. It’s to fight for people, and not for weapons systems. It’s to care for the human beings in your charge more than the fanciful bloodless academic exercises held at a distance…..
….In a season when Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is the big finish of a box-office bonanza, Hagel has lived the peroration as well as anyone has.
Two years ago, a mentally ill young man shot me in the head, killed six of my constituents, and wounded 12 others. Since that terrible day, America has seen 11 more mass shootings – but no response from Congress to prevent gun violence. After the massacre of 20 children and six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary though, it’s clear: This time must be different.
Americans for Responsible Solutions will encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them.
Join us today, and tell your elected leaders that Americans are demanding responsible solutions to reduce gun violence.
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Venus Williams while her sister Serena Williams looks on after Serena beat Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon during the Olympic Games
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs LeBron James following the USA vs. France men’s basketball game at Olympic Park
First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with NBC Sports at the Olympic Park Aquatics Center
First Lady Michelle Obama looks at a drawing given to her by one of the children while visiting with military base members in a hanger at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England
All White House Photos by Sonya N. Hebert – more here
AP: Bill Clinton will have an up-front role in this summer’s Democratic national convention, where he will make a forceful case for Barack Obama’s re-election and his economic vision for the country, several Obama campaign and party officials have said.
…. Obama personally asked Clinton to speak at the convention and place Obama’s name in nomination, and Clinton enthusiastically accepted, officials said on Sunday. George Bush, the last Republican to hold the White House, remains politically toxic in some circles. While Bush has endorsed Romney, he is not involved in his campaign and has said he does not plan to attend the Republican convention.
Clinton will speak in prime-time at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 5 September, the night before Obama formally accepts the party nomination. While the number two on the ticket often speaks that night, the Obama campaign has instead decided that Obama and the vice-president, Joe Biden, will speak on the same night.
Biden will introduce Obama on 6 September before the more than 70,000 people expected to fill an outdoor stadium in Charlotte and millions more on television.
The Age: Serena Williams sure has friends in high places. Usually, the 14-time grand slam winner’s supporters’ box is populated by family members but for her first-round Olympics match on Saturday there was an addition to the cast: the American first lady, Michelle Obama.
The US president’s wife was a guest of Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon singles title three weeks ago, preferring to sit in the players’ box rather than the Royal Box, where dignitaries are usually planted at the All England Club.
And after the US president’s wife sat alongside Williams’ mother, Oracene Price, inside the Centre Court it was quickly obvious the two were not exactly strangers.
The 30-year-old twice referred to the first lady as simply “Michelle” during her post-match news conference, having disposed of Serbia’s former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-1 with little drama on Saturday.
“Oops, am I being rude?” Williams said when asked whether she was on first-name basis with Mrs Obama. “She’s so cool. I’ve met her several times. I feel comfortable saying ‘Michelle,’ and I think she wants the people to feel that way.
“They asked me did I mind if she sat in the family box. I was like, ‘of course not’. Please, it would be my honour. I mean, I love Michelle.”
First lady Michelle Obama watches the women’s singles tennis match between Serena Williams of the U.S. and Jelena Jankovic of Serbia at the All England Lawn Tennis Club during the London 2012 Olympics Games, July 28
.. with Venus Williams and former gymnast Dominique Dawes
Serena Williams gives a thumbs up gesture toward her sister Venus and first lady Michelle Obama after she defeated Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic
Monday: The President will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony at the White House. In the afternoon, he will travel to New York City for campaign events and return to Washington, DC at night.
Tuesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Wednesday: The President will travel to Mansfield, Ohio and Akron, Ohio for campaign events. He will return to Washington, DC at night.
Thursday: The President will travel to Orlando, Florida and Leesburg, Virginia for campaign events. He will return to Washington, DC in the evening.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.