Charles Pierce: …. Emboldened by enablers, the bishops have expanded their demands for exemptions from simply Catholic institutions to every business in America. There’s a reason for this …. they’ve been sitting back on their ermined duffs, believing that they were done so very wrong in the investigation of their crimes, and nursing the mother of all grudges, for over a decade. Now they’ve decided to strike back for the power they’ve lost. Women’s health is the issue they’ve chosen, because, in their little unindicted world, women don’t count, and never have….
There were a couple of ways all of this could have been avoided. One … would have been to toss a whole lot of bishops in jail for conspiracy to obstruct justice, enough of them so their power to influence the secular law was destroyed forever. They needed to be humbled, unmercifully, until the hubris was wrung out of every damn one of them. Now, a woman working a low-income service industry job under the supervision of a Catholic boss will have her access to essential health-care truncated by a discredited encyclical to which no Catholic has paid any heed since the administration of Lyndon Johnson. These bastards needed to be broken, publicly, and into a thousand pieces that were scattered to the winds. Instead, they are “voices of conscience” again. It is to weep.
Greg Sargent (Washington Post): Is media getting politics of contraception all wrong?
Since the controversy over the White House’s new contraception policy broke, it’s been widely assumed that the battle is terrible politics for Obama, because it will cost him among Catholic swing voters.
But some polling from August suggests a majority of Americans supports the White House position – and that the opposition to the provision from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops makes no difference to them. Even a majority of Catholic respondents said the same.
….. The White House very well may buckle in this fight. But these numbers do suggest at least the possibility that leading commentators have been far too quick to declare this a certain political loser.
Greg Sargent: Since details of the big foreclosure settlement began leaking out, liberals have been watching to see how New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman would react, as a sign of whether the deal is a giveaway to big banks – or whether it contains the promise of real accountability.
In an interview with me just now, Schneiderman – who has gained a national liberal profile for his insistence on true accountability for financial institutions – conceded the settlement announced today was “small” in financial terms, given the struggles of underwater homeowners and people who lost their homes.
But he insisted that time will show that today’s settlement was a win – that it secured a framework that will ultimately result in a true accounting of the role big banks played in sparking the economic meltdown…..
Attorney General Eric holder listens as President Obama speaks about a mortgage settlement in the Eisenhower Executive Office building
President Obama arrives to deliver remarks on the No Child Left Behind law in the East Room of the White House
Jonathan Bernstein (Washington Post): Today’s economic news is that new claims for unemployment benefits have fallen again, with the four-week average now at the lowest point since spring 2008. That’s not all; the stock market is also at its highest point since spring 2008, and Gallup’s economic confidence numbers are also approaching post-recession highs.
It’s no coincidence that the run of good economic news – and employment is only a part of that – has been accompanied by a climb by Barack Obama in the polls. Indeed, the Pollster average now has Obama with an average 5.5 point lead over Romney.
….. It’s certainly possible that the new economic momentum will, again, dissipate. But the signs are mounting that people are being a bit too pessimistic. And if so, there’s a chance that Democrats and the president could be about to receive a whole lot of unexpected good news indeed.
Washington Post: As secretary to mega-investor Warren Buffett, Debbie Bosanek is used to being in proximity to power. But the prospect of sitting with first lady Michelle Obama at tonight’s State of the Union address apparently is something different altogether. Bosanek, who’s mostly kept an under-the-radar profile despite being the poster lady for President Obama’s tax proposals, tells us she’s a tad jittery.
“I was so excited I couldn’t sleep last night,” she says.
Greg Sargent: There seems to be widespread agreement that the half-hour documentary attacking Mitt Romney’s Bain years that was released yesterday by the pro-Gingrich Super PAC was a very effective piece of political communication. Ed Kilgore, for instance, described it as a “heat seaking missle aimed directly at the white working class id”.
But what will South Carolina voters themselves see? Will this attack translate well in the 30-second and 60-second ads based on this documentary that the Newt Super PAC ad will run in the state?
…. Rick Tyler, the GOP operative who works for Winning The Future, says the ads are part of a $3.4 million buy that includes other media. We should obviously treat that figure with serious skepticism until the money is actually spent, but if that’s true, that’s a significant buy for South Carolina.
Robert Shrum: … what he spoke on election night in New Hampshire puts the presumptive Republican nominee at odds with the essential character of America. In a well-coiffed gentrification of the racist-tinged attack on Barack Obama as “the other” – a somehow alien and illegitimate president – Flip Romney, in full pander mode to the paranoia of the far right, arraigned the president for “tak[ing] his inspiration from the capitals of Europe” — and seeking “to turn America into a European-style entitlement society.”
…. In reality, Obama has been defending and extending the nation’s long march toward fulfilling its founding ideals. It’s Romney who, on critical economic issues, takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe….
…. I doubt Romney will give up the xenophobia anytime soon. It plays well among primary voters who are suspicious that he’s not reliably reactionary; it’s a code-coated formula to depict Barack Obama as someone from another country, another continent, another tradition. In that sense, it’s a modulated form of “birtherism.”
Romney’s right when he says this election is about “the soul of America”. With his hostility to economic justice and the social safety net, his record in business, his desertion of the American quest for equal rights, and his embrace of floundering European economics, he would, if he ever got there, be the president of a very different and lesser United States…..
TPM: If a speech Thursday morning by one of his top economists is any indication, President Barack Obama is going all in with the 2012 re-election message of stemming the rise in income inequality and reforming a system that’s increasingly perceived to be rigged in favor of the rich.
White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger rattled off a flurry of statistics illustrating the rise of inequality and its connection to the shrinking middle class. He blamed it on economic policies tilted to favor top earners – including income tax reforms (presumably during the Bush era) and the “drastic cut in the estate tax.”
He also argued that implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are eager to repeal, will help reduce the disparities.
It’s a message that bore an uncanny resemblance to the “Teddy Roosevelt” speech President Obama delivered in early December, which was interpreted by many as laying out the grounds for his re-election campaign …. Romney has taken to decrying this message as the “politics of envy” and “class warfare” …. Krueger’s speech Thursday makes clear that that’s a fight the White House is happy to have.
Our old GOPolitico friend Byron Tau got very excited today about the date on that DoJ memo on recess appointments. Read and learn Byron:
Mother Jones: ….. The opinion itself is dated January 6, two days after the appointments were announced – but that doesn’t mean the opinion was sought retroactively. “It is common, especially where time is of the essence, to give legal advice prior to a formal written opinion,” says Marty Lederman, a former attorney with the Office of Legal Counsel. “It takes time to produce an opinion with this level of detail.”
Young Byron then updated his post with this: White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in the briefing that the DoJ memo was based on advice given by the president’s Office of Legal Counsel. “The opinion was rendered verbally prior to the date of the opinion itself,” Carney said, explaining the discrepancy. “The opinion was based on the advice provided by OLC”
Discrepancy? 😆 Byron? Quit while you’re that far behind behind.
Ian Swanson (The Hill): Obama stands tall after the demise of Libyan strongman Gadhafi
The death of Moammar Gadhafi represents another major foreign policy victory for President Obama, who backed a months-long air campaign in Libya while facing criticism from the left and the right.
Obama stared down congressional skeptics across the political spectrum … Through it all, Obama kept his resolve.
…. On Thursday he basked in the second greatest foreign policy triumph of his administration, after the successful operation this spring that killed Osama bin Laden. Gadhafi’s death comes less than a month after the U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.
…. For the unwavering Obama, Thursday came the big payoff as Gadhafi’s hopes for returning to power ended in a field outside his hometown of Sirte.
…. Obama entered the Oval Office as a novice on the international stage, criticized for a naïve outlook on the world.
…. three years into his term, both the bin Laden and Libya events suggest Obama can be steely in making decisions about U.S. force, and in sticking with them.
David Ignatius (Washington Post): …. Obama saw that a no-fly zone wouldn’t be enough and lobbied for tougher U.N. language authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people. But he opted for limited U.S. involvement, front-loaded in the first week, and under the protective cover of NATO and the Arab League.
Obama deliberately kept the U.S. in the background even when critics began howling for a show of American “leadership.” And most important, he was patient through last summer, rejecting the counsel of those who argued that he must escalate U.S. military intervention to break the stalemate or, alternatively, bail out.
…. Obama took a lot of shots along the way to Thursday’s symbolic end of the Libya campaign. But it seems fair to say that his vision of opposing Gaddafi through a broad, international coalition – in which other nations share the burden, for a change – worked out pretty well.
Steve Benen: President Obama took an enormous risk by agreeing to intervene militarily in Libya. Military resources were stretched in Afghanistan and Iraq; U.S. military commanders were deeply skeptical; Pentagon chief Robert Gates urged the president not to act in Libya; and there was no great appetite among Americans for a third conflict in the Middle East. What’s more, there were all kinds of credible questions about whether this mission had a meaningful chance of success.
But it did succeed and the gamble paid off. Gadhafi and his regime are no more. There’s ample room for a fair debate about whether the mission was wise, but predictions of failure proved to be incorrect.
When it comes to American politics, the next question is what in the world Republicans are going to say about it … ABC’s report identified five different positions Romney has taken on the U.S. million in Libya this year, and as my friend Elon Green notes today, there’s actually a sixth: in his book, Romney accused Obama of appeasing Gadhafi. I’d imagine Romney would drop this attack now, but I suppose one never knows with that guy.
….As for “leading from behind,” it’s looking pretty good right about now.
FT: The demise of Muammer Gaddafi will bolster Barack Obama’s reputation as a strong commander-in-chief, credentials that will make it difficult for Republican rivals to attack his national security credentials as the 2012 election campaign begins.
… Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, two of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, have largely avoided talking about national security because it is an issue where they can score few points against Mr Obama.
They cannot even use the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as lightning rods, as the president is making good on his pledge to withdraw American troops from the former and wind down the latter.
Mark Landler (!) and David Leonhardt (New York Times): The final end to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule is the latest victory for a new American approach to war: few if any troops on the ground, the heavy use of air power, including drones, and, at least in the case of Libya, a reliance on allies.
Only a few months ago, the approach had few fans: not the hawks in Congress who called for boots on the ground, not the doves who demanded a pullout and not the many experts who warned of a quagmire. Most pointedly, critics mocked President Obama for “leading from behind”….
But the last six months have brought a string of successes. In May, American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In August, Tripoli fell, and Colonel Qaddafi fled. In September, an American drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a top Qaeda operative and propagandist, in Yemen. And on Thursday, people were digesting images of the bloodied body of Colonel Qaddafi….
Steve Benen: Sen. Marco Rubio appeared on Fox News this morning …. His first instinct wasn’t to thank American troops, but rather, to thank French troops.
…. In the mind of this rising Republican star, the American military that helped drive Gadhafi’s regime from power deserves no credit at all. Marco Rubio is comfortable crediting the French, but not American men and women in uniform.
Remember hearing about the “blame America first” crowd? Well, say hello to the “thank America last” crowd.
…. Republicans hate the president so much, they just can’t bring themselves to credit him for the success of the mission, or even thank American servicemen and women for their service in completing the mission.
….. When the fear of Obama getting some credit for success is stronger than the satisfaction that comes with Gadhafi’s demise, there’s a problem.
…. Update: McCain appeared on CNN this morning and said, “I think the [Obama] administration deserves credit, but I especially appreciate the leadership of the British and French in this in carrying out this success.” Shameless.