President Obama presents the 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb, a high school English teacher from Maryland who helps push students toward college, with his award, during a ceremony to honor the 2014 National Teacher of the Year and finalists in the East Room of the White House in Washington
Steve Benen: ….. I’d like the folks holding Obama responsible [for gun reform] to consider a look at the recent past. In 2009 and 2010, the White House and Congress successfully approved the Recovery Act, a health care reform law 100 years in the making, Wall Street reform, DADT repeal, student loan reform, New START ratification, credit card reforms, and food-safety reforms. Are those inclined to blame Obama for gun reform’s failure prepared to argue that the president simply forgot how to twist arms in 2011? That he knew how to persuade lawmakers before, but the skill suddenly vanished?
Or is it more likely that congressional Republicans changed the game after the 2010 midterms?
I also believe there’s an ongoing reluctance among many to appreciate the scope of Republican radicalization. For many, especially in media, there’s an assumption that there are two major, mainstream political parties — one center-left, the other center-right — and an effective president can govern through competent bipartisan outreach.
Brooks Kraft has won “Political Photo of the Year” from the The White House News Photographers Association for this image of President Barack Obama speaking in the pouring rain during a campaign rally in Glen Allen, Va. (See here)
9:35: President Obama departs the White House en route Joint Base Andrews
11:30: Arrives in Decatur, Ga.
12:10: Visits a pre-kindergarten classroom at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center
1:20: Delivers remarks at Decatur Community Recreation Center
2:40: Departs Decatur
4:25: Arrives at the White House
4:50: Participates in a “Fireside Hangout” with Google+ to discuss his State of the Union Address
WH: On Thursday, President Obama will join the latest in a series of “Fireside Hangouts” – a 21st century take on FDR’s famous radio addresses – to talk about his State of the Union Address.
During a completely virtual conversation hosted by Google, the President will answer questions from Americans across the country about the issues and policies laid out in the speech. Anyone can submit a question for the President and vote on your favorites on the White House YouTube channel
10:15: The President and Vice President receive the Presidential Daily Briefing
9:0: The President delivers the State of the Union Address
CNN: President Obama will announce in the State of the Union speech that a year from now, 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will have returned home, reducing the number of U.S. troops in the country by half, sources say.
Washington Post: When she set out to her local library in North Miami to cast her vote in the presidential election last year, Desiline Victor had no way of knowing the journey would lead all the way to the White House.
On Tuesday night, Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian immigrant, will sit in the ornate House chamber as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama to listen to President Obama’s State of the Union address.
Victor voted for the president, but it was not easy. On her first visit to the polls on the morning of Oct. 28, the first day of early voting, she waited in line for three hours. Poll workers eventually advised her to come back later, and she did.
….. The whirlwind trip has taken Victor out of her element. She had to buy a coat, since a heavy winter jacket isn’t usually needed in balmy Miami. And here, she’s “Ms. Victor” instead of “Granny”….
But when she meets the president, perhaps the address may be less formal. Victor already feels a kinship with the commander in chief.
“I call him ‘my son,’ ” she says. “I feel like he is my son.”
Steve Benen: …. I don’t much care about Nugent’s ridiculous antics. He’s obviously a fringe extremist who uses vile language; he hasn’t had a hit since the ’70s; and he’s generally better left ignored.
But Nugent has also gone after President Obama with rhetoric that was violent enough to get the attention of the Secret Service. Try to imagine the political world’s reaction if a washed-up entertainer targeted a Republican president with violent rhetoric, and then a Democratic member of Congress invited him as a special guest to attend the State of the Union.
…. Republicans find themselves in the awkward position of having two GOP senators delivering post-SOTU speeches, and while they’re speaking, a musician/right-wing clown will be hosting a press conference on Capitol Hill, which seems likely to become a distracting spectacle …. If the GOP intends to stop being, in Bobby Jindal’s words, the “stupid party,” they have a long way to go.
Chicago Sun Times: When President Barack Obama turns to gun violence during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, he will likely look up at Michelle Obama’s box in the House chamber and acknowledge the grieving Chicago parents of slain teen Hadiya Pendleton.
Pendleton’s folks, Cleopatra and Nathaniel, through tragedy, are the latest symbols of why Obama is pushing Congress to take measures to stop gun-related bloodshed.
…. Mrs. Obama took a very unusual action for a first lady last Saturday, returning home to the South Side for Hadiya’s funeral …. Asking Hadiya’s folks to be her State of the Union guests in her box is extraordinary follow-through – but makes perfect sense, because at her core, Mrs. Obama is very, very proud of being a South Sider ….. Hadiya was killed on Mrs. Obama’s turf and she is doing something about it.
….. Rep. Bobby Rush – whose son, Huey, was shot and killed during a 1999 holdup – was also at Hadiya’s funeral …. “I saw the face of the first lady and I saw the pain in her face.”….
….. Hadiya, as her parents know – and the nation will see on Tuesday night – is not a statistic. She is a teen we should not have lost.
NYT: A sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs is helping to narrow the federal deficit, leaving budget experts trying to figure out whether the trend will last and how much the slower growth could help alleviate the country’s long-term fiscal problems.
In figures released last week, the Congressional Budget Office said it had erased hundreds of billions of dollars in projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid. The budget office now projects that spending on those two programs in 2020 will be about $200 billion, or 15 percent, less than it projected three years ago. New data also show overall health care spending growth continuing at the lowest rate in decades for a fourth consecutive year.
Michael Tomasky: …. At John Brennan’s CIA confirmation hearing last week, which came right after the leak of the controversial Justice Department memo about the targeting of U.S. citizens, Sen. Dianne Feinstein said that the Senate was reviewing proposals for special courts to oversee the program. At least that way, this awesome power to determine that a U.S. citizen had forfeited his right to due process by joining an enemy army wouldn’t repose in one person. Then on Saturday, The New York Times noted that President Obama has been considering exactly this move…..
….. Given all this, the best that citizens can do is decide which candidate and party they’d rather trust with this power. I’m not turning somersaults at the idea of any president having it. But you better believe I’d rather have Obama possess it than George Bush or John McCain or Mitt Romney. Talk of this sort is the highest form of apostasy to your purer civil libertarians, who urge us to think only in terms of the office. But men (and hopefully soon women) hold that office, and it’s not just OK for citizens to assess their character and their levels of paranoia, it’s a duty…..
TPM: Stephen Colbert on Monday took at look at information apparently obtained by a hacker who revealed email correspondence and photos from the Bush family.
“You see, President Clinton has his global initiative against poverty, and Jimmy Carter may have his Habitat for Humanity. But now we’ve learned that George W. Bush has been hard at work painting self-portraits in the shower ….. That is a bold, artistic vision that says ‘faces are hard,’” Colbert said of the shower painting. “But, folks, it’s not like the President sits around all day painting shower portraits. He also did one taking a bath. Because after a hard day’s painting in the shower, there’s nothing like a relaxing paint in the tub.”
Washington Post: The Senate approved a bipartisan agreement early Tuesday morning to let income taxes rise sharply for the first time in two decades, fulfilling President Obama’s promise to raise taxes on the rich and avoiding the worst effects of the “fiscal cliff.” The agreement, brokered by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), passed 89 to 8 in a highly unusual New Year’s morning vote. It now heads to the House, where leaders have not guaranteed passage but top officials believe it could win passage in the next few days.
The agreement primarily targets taxpayers who earn more than $450,000 per year, raising their rates for wages and investment profits. At the same time, the deal would protect more than 100 million households earning less than $250,000 a year from income tax increases scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
President Obama: Leaders from both parties in the Senate came together to reach an agreement that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support today that protects 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business owners from a middle class tax hike. While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay.
This agreement will also grow the economy and shrink our deficits in a balanced way – by investing in our middle class, and by asking the wealthy to pay a little more.
What’s more, today’s agreement builds on previous efforts to reduce our deficits. Last year, I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut spending by more than $1 trillion. Tonight’s agreement does even more by asking millionaires and billionaires to begin to pay their fair share for the first time in twenty years. As promised, that increase will be immediate, and it will be permanent.
There’s more work to do to reduce our deficits, and I’m willing to do it. But tonight’s agreement ensures that, going forward, we will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans. And as we address our ongoing fiscal challenges, I will continue to fight every day on behalf of the middle class and all those fighting to get into the middle class to forge an economy that grows from the middle out, not from the top down.