Obama really is skilled at this kind of thing, the kibbitzing and the expressions of sympathy, the hugging and the eulogizing and the celebrating, the sheer animal activity of human politics—but he suffers an anxiety of comparison. Bill Clinton was, and is, the master, a hyper-extrovert whose freakish memory for names and faces, and whose indomitable will to enfold and charm everyone in his path, remains unmatched. Obama can be a dynamic speaker before large audiences and charming in very small groups, but, like a normal human being and unlike the near-pathological personalities who have so often held the office, he is depleted by the act of schmoozing a group of a hundred as if it were an intimate gathering. At fund-raisers, he would rather eat privately with a couple of aides before going out to perform.
According to the Wall Street Journal, when Jeffrey Katzenberg threw a multi-million-dollar fund-raiser in Los Angeles two years ago, he told the President’s staff that he expected Obama to stop at each of the fourteen tables and talk for a while. No one would have had to ask Clinton. Obama’s staffers were alarmed. When you talk about this with people in Obamaland, they let on that Clinton borders on the obsessive—as if the appetite for connection were related to what got him in such deep trouble. “Obama is a genuinely respectful person, but he doesn’t try to seduce everyone,” Axelrod said. “It’s never going to be who he’ll be.”
Obama’s thoughts have been down in the city. The drama of racial inequality, in his mind, has come to presage a larger, transracial form of economic disparity, a deepening of the class divide. Indeed, if there is a theme for the remaining days of his term, it is inequality. In 2011, he went to Osawatomie, Kansas, the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech—a signal moment in the history of Progressivism—and declared inequality the “defining issue of our time.” He repeated the message at length, late last year, in Anacostia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., this time noting that the gap between the rich and the poor in America now resembled that in Argentina and Jamaica, rather than that in France, Germany, or Canada. American C.E.O.s once made, on average, thirty times as much as workers; now they make about two hundred and seventy times as much. The wealthy hire lobbyists; they try to secure their interests with campaign donations. Even as Obama travels for campaign alms and is as entangled in the funding system at least as much as any other politician, he insists that his commitment is to the middle class and the disadvantaged. Last summer, he received a letter from a single mother struggling to support herself and her daughter on a minimal income. She was drowning: “I need help. I can’t imagine being out in the streets with my daughter and if I don’t get some type of relief soon, I’m afraid that’s what may happen.” “Copy to Senior Advisers,” Obama wrote at the bottom of the letter. “This is the person we are working for.”
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama volunteer at Burrville Elementary School during the 2013 National Day of Service in Washington, January 19
The Week Ahead:
Today: The President has no public events scheduled.
Monday: The President and the First Lady will participate in a community service project in the Washington, DC area in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy. (1:30 EST).
Tuesday: The President and the Vice President will meet with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.
Wednesday: The President and the Vice President will host an event for the Council on Women and Girls at the White House.
Thursday: The President will host a reception for mayors at the White House.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
All Voces: California Hospital Aggressive Approach To Obamacare, Enlists ‘Uninsured’ In ER
California Covered is one of the most successful health insurance exchanges in country and it is no accident the state exchange has enrolled the largest number of “uninsured” in the country. 2.2 million have enrolled for private health plans across the country as of Dec. 31, 2013. Covered California is a commitment by the leadership in California, Governor Jerry Brown, who has been committed to the success of the Affordable Care Act since its inception. Of those 2.2 million, nearly 500 thousand residents of California are covered. Which means that the state has enrolled 22 percent of all the new enrollees, according to the California Healthline.
It is no accident that California is highly successful in a state that has its own health care exchange and has opted into the “Medicaid expansion.” Hundreds of thousands have qualified for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The options for Californians are plentiful. There is this example at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. nothing like a captive audience. Araceli Martinez works in the building at the Hospital and runs the Health Benefits Resource Center just down the hall from the ER at the hospital. The Center has beefed up staffing and hours in response to the Affordable Care Act, says a report from NPR on enrolling “insured” patients in emergency rooms.
Seems the department pays for itself because 5,000 “uninsured” people come into O’Connor Hospital’s emergency department each year. It is the job Martinez and others that work at the Center to help the “uninsured” find health care coverage. The state of California has the highest number of “uninsured” in the country, with 7,106,100 residents according to the Kaiser Foundation, without coverage before Obamacare went into full swing and one of the highest percentages of “uninsured” at 19 percent of the population.
The resumption of commercial horse slaughter in the U.S. was blocked Friday as President Barack Obama signed a budget measure that withholds money for required federal inspections of the slaughtering process. Although the measure provides temporary funding for the federal government, it stops the Agriculture Department from spending money for inspections necessary for slaughterhouses to ship horse meat interstate and eventually export it to overseas consumers.
“This clear message from Washington echoes the opinions of an overwhelming number of Americans from coast to coast: horse slaughter is abhorrent and unacceptable,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The president’s action came as a New Mexico judge granted a preliminary injunction against a Roswell company from moving forward with its plans to start slaughtering horses.
TPM: Hoboken Mayor: Christie Team Shook Us Down For Sandy Relief
You may have already seen Mayor Zimmer in the news this week. Hoboken received only 1% of the aid they had requested for Hurricane Sandy relief and planning funds even though it was one of the hardest-hit communities in the state during the storm. At one point, 80% of the 50,000 person city was flooded. If you remember the footage of water gushing through an underground subway station, that was in Hoboken; it has, in fact, the highest per-capita use of public transit of any city in America. Yet so far the state of New Jersey has given the city about $350,000 from the billions of dollars in federal disaster relief and planning aid that it is charged with administering. That’s about $6 per resident. It has been enough to pay for one major planning study and to buy one backup generator for an $18 million emergency storm water pump. 50,000 people. 80% flooded. $6 a head.
This Hoboken story and the Fort Lee/GWB story might seem like separate tales. But they’re not. Moreover, these latest revelations put to rest the notion that Hoboken’s Sandy aid or the Fort Lee/GWB story have anything to do with local Democratic officials’ endorsement of the governor during his reelection campaign. Forget about the endorsements. It never really added up anyway. The subpoenaed documents in Bridgegate show that the Christie administration used the Port Authority as an extension of their political operation, although we do not yet know to what end. And the Hoboken story clearly demonstrates the Christie administration took steps to aid the material interest of a client of the chairman of that agency.
Aetna chief executive Mark Bertolini spoke Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference — and he had a lot to say about the health-care law’s rollout. 1. The early exchange demographics are actually better than expected. Bertolini’s take on the age-breakdown of marketplace enrollees was really interesting — and different from the reaction in Washington. While most of us journalists pointed out that the Obama administration is falling short of its young adult enrollment target, that doesn’t really matter to Aetna. What matters to a health plan is who they expected to sign-up, and what type of age mixed they used to set their premium prices.
“Given the general demographics that CMS released yesterday, I’m not alarmed,” Bertolini says. “They’re better than I thought they would have been.” This is, incidentally, an idea that other insurance executives brought up this week: They don’t really care what goal the White House set for young adults. What matters to them — and what will determine if rates need to increase next year — is who they expected to sign up. “Things aren’t necessarily way out of whack with our expectations,” Wellpoint’s chief financial officer Wayne DeVeydt said at a separate presentation. “It’s not about whether or not you’re getting a sicker book. It’s whether you priced for it.”
Cosmopolitan: A Male Escort’s Perspective: What It’s Really Like Outside An Abortion Clinic
At least three Saturdays of every month, Chris Hill, 45, shows up at the Philadelphia Women’s Center, a privately funded abortion provider, to escort women past the protesters who assemble there. His job is to make women feel safe. Although there is a barricade in front of the clinic, and police lines that demarcate an area that the protesters are not supposed to cross over, there is no statewide buffer zone law in Pennsylvania. Hill, who has escorted hundreds if not thousands of women into the clinic over the last decade, wishes there were, as he has witnessed incidents of verbal assaults, threats and even physical contact. As a result of his personal experience, shared here, he cannot understand how the Supreme Court — now considering McCullen vs Coakley — could possibly overturn the 35-foot buffer zone law in Massachusetts.
I was 23 when I encountered my first protester. My then-girlfriend was 20 when she got pregnant. I was in college in New Orleans, and we knew it was not the right time for either of us to be parents. We went to a clinic, and after she checked in, I walked outside and ran into another guy who had also accompanied his girlfriend that day. Suddenly, these protesters came at us — they were shouting, and it felt like they were going to get physical. I was ready to start brawling when someone from the clinic intervened. “That’s what they want,” she said, ushering us back inside. I was fuming.
Ten years later, I had moved to Philadelphia and was walking with my then-wife who was six months pregnant. Suddenly, this guys starts shouting, “baby killers!” at us. I had no idea what he was talking about. He got up in my face and continued to shout that we were going to hell. I wanted to punch him, but my wife pulled me away. She realized that we were in front of a Planned Parenthood and that he was a protester. I was so pissed that I called the clinic to say, “What can I do to combat this?” They suggested calling the state attorney to register a complaint — and to consider being a male escort. I signed up that day. I joined the army at 17 because I believe in protecting people’s rights. I believe in reproductive rights, but the reason I do this work is to stop these mostly older white men from bullying women who are choosing what is best for them.
CNN: Barbara Bush Hopes Jeb Won’t Run For President
If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush makes a bid for the White House, he may not have his mother’s blessing. Former First Lady Barbara Bush said in an interview with C-SPAN on Thursday that the United States needs to expand the number of families holding the nation’s highest political office beyond her own, as well as the Clintons and Kennedys.
“I think this is a great American country, great country, and if we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run,” she said. Though her son is certainly qualified to run for president, the former first lady said, “I hope he won’t.”
Joe Conason: Straightforward? Not The Best Description Of Chris Christie – Or His Pal Karl Rove
When Karl Rove praises a politician’s “straightforward” approach to an erupting scandal, it seems wise to expect that something very twisted will instead emerge in due course – and to consider his real objectives. In this instance, the former Bush White House political boss – and current Republican SuperPAC godfather – was discussing Chris Christie’s response to “Bridgegate,” as the events surrounding the vengeful closure of part of the George Washington Bridge by the New Jersey governor’s aides is now known.
“I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some Tea Party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility,” said Rove. Pandering to the Fox audience, he went on to contrast the righteous Christie with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Barack Obama, and to note that the IRS and Benghazi “scandals” hadn’t gotten nearly enough attention compared with Bridgegate.
While Rove sticks a halo on the man his old boss Dubya used to call “Big Boy,” everyone else might want to wait for the documents and testimony forthcoming from investigations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, in both houses of the New Jersey legislature, in the Department of Justice and in the United States Senate.
President Obama visits sixth grade students at the Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, January 19, 2010
President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China greet guests on the South Lawn of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First daughter Sasha Obama went on a field trip – to her own home. The nine-year-old attended the arrival ceremony at the White House that began Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome President Hu Jintao at the North Portico of the White House for the State Dinner, Jan. 19, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama, President Hu Jintao, and First Lady Michelle Obama descend the Grand Staircase of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as President Hu Jintao greets daughters Sasha and Malia before the start of the State Dinner reception (Photo by Pete Souza)
Dee Dee Bridgewater performs during the State Dinner reception in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama speaks about tourism and travel, Jan. 19, 2012, along Main Street USA at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama volunteer at Burrville Elementary School during the 2013 National Day of Service in Washington, January 19
Vice President Biden helps package care kits for troops for the National Day of Service, Washington, January 19, 2013
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden participate in an interview prior to the Kids Inaugural Concert at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Sasha and Malia at the Kids’ Inaugural concert in Washington on January 19, 2013