President Barack Obama pauses during a meeting to observe a moment of silence in the Oval Office at 9:30 a.m. in remembrance of the 20 children and six adults killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown. Joining the President, from left, are: Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer; Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Chief of Staff Jack Lew; and Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Charles Pierce: The National Rifle Association held a press conference today at which it was determined that there would be no questions asked or answered, but the organization made it quite clear that they would be open to media questions next week, between Christmas and New Year’s. Then they trotted out Wayne LaPierre, who had bats flying out of both ears.
….. For all the hopeful rhetoric expended over the past week about how this might actually be a “tipping point” for the NRA, the organization is as dead set against rational gun laws as it was a week ago Friday.
… They have their plan, and its about more guns, period … Now we know where everybody stands. Clarity is a wonderful thing … [they] made it implicitly clear that they will fight any legislation that comes before the Congress as regards gun control, and that it will work (as always) to undermine the enforcement of that legislation should it become law. The country should realize all of that and move on ahead without them.
Alec MacGillis (TNR): For two decades now, the legend of the National Rifle Association has grown in Washington. They were the most feared lobby of all, as influential and professionally run as the AARP or AIPAC but with the literal firepower behind them to enhance the aura of intimidation. They could get just about everything they wanted…..
But this cloak of power was stripped away today at NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre’s press conference on the Newtown shootings, revealing the NRA as a lobby with no clothes, or at least nothing but a holster strapped to the ankle …. this was the first time many in Washington and across the country had actually focused squarely on him and his organization in a long time, and this newfound focus, combined with the post-Newtown context in which LaPierre was speaking, was enough to make the NRA seem utterly, surreally amateurish and out of touch. You could all but hear the question rising around Washington: We’ve been letting ourselves be led around by these guys?
Adam Serwer (Mother Jones): ….. LaPierre did not note that Columbine High School had an armed guard when two students went on a murderous shooting rampage there in 1999, and that Virginia Tech had an armed police force with its own SWAT team equivalent when one of its students killed 33 people in 2007.
In an open letter to parents, First Lady Michelle Obama offers some ideas for discussing the tragedy in Newtown with children and young people:
Like every American, Barack and I are absolutely heartbroken about the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, Connecticut. And like so many of you, our first reactions were not as a President and First Lady, but as a Mom and Dad. We were asking ourselves, what if this had been our town, or our school, or our girls?
And we know that all across the country, it’s not just adults who are asking questions right now – our children are looking for answers as well. Like us, they want to know, why did this happen?
Could it happen again? And as parents, all of us can take the time to hold our kids close and talk with them about the things that truly matter: our love for them, the importance of extending that love to those affected by this tragedy, and how that love truly defines our great American community.
Charles Pierce: … Kerry is a good, safe choice for the job. He has made an entire Senate career out of taking on foreign-policy issues that nobody else – except Gary Hart – ever wanted to touch …. Here’s a bit on that from a profile I did back in 2004 (see post)…..
….. This is a man who knows where the bodies have been buried for the past 30 years …. if you’re casting about for a Democratic Secretary Of State from his generation of Democratic politicians, Kerry is the natural choice, even if you find the way he came to be nominated, through the slandering of Susan Rice, distasteful, as I do.
…. the key is the Swift Boats. If some senator brings it up and if the courtier press doesn’t emphasize at every moment that everything that was said about John Kerry and Vietnam in the 2004 presidential campaign was a lie and an embarrassment to American politics and the American media, then we have on our hands yet another case of journalistic malpractice, and we have had enough of those, thank you.
Steve Benen: There’s been quite a bit of economic news this week, and nearly all of it is quite good. Today, for example, we saw very encouraging news on consumer spending, personal income, orders of durable goods, and national jobless rates. The news comes on the heels of revised GDP data, which was also heartening.
In each case, the numbers aren’t just good, they’re better than nearly anyone expected…..
Statement by the President on the Passing of Senator Daniel Inouye
Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. The second-longest serving Senator in the history of the chamber, Danny represented the people of Hawaii in Congress from the moment they joined the Union. In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve. But it was his incredible bravery during World War II – including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor – that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Inouye family.
Ezra Klein: …. a “fiscal cliff” deal seems to be coming together … Boehner offered to let tax rates rise for income over $1 million. The White House wanted to let tax rates rise for income over $250,000. The compromise will likely be somewhere in between….
On the spending side, the Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI (see here), which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits…..
…. On stimulus, unemployment insurance will be extended, as will the refundable tax credits. Some amount of infrastructure spending is likely. Perversely, the payroll tax cut, one of the most stimulative policies in the fiscal cliff, will likely be allowed to lapse, which will deal a big blow to the economy…..
….. As is always the case, the negotiations could fall apart, or the deal could change. But right now, the participants sound upbeat….
Paul Krugman: It sounds as if Ezra Klein is hearing more or less the same things I’m hearing: Republicans willing to give up a lot more on tax rates, although not fully undoing the Bush tax cuts in the 250-400 range; additional tax hikes via deduction limits in a form that hits the wealthy, not the upper middle class; unemployment extension and infrastructure spending; but “chained CPI” for Social Security, which is a benefit cut.
… this contains stuff that Obama can’t get just by letting us go over the cliff: more revenue than he could get just from tax-cut expiration, unemployment and infrastructure too. But it has a cost, those benefit cuts.
Those cuts are a very bad thing, although there will supposedly be some protection for low-income seniors. But the cuts are not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age….
…. we shouldn’t be doing benefit cuts at all; but if benefit cuts are the price of a deal that is better than no deal, much better that they involve the CPI adjustment than the retirement age….
President Barack Obama works with senior advisors in the Oval Office, Dec. 17. Standing, from left, are: Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Chief of Staff Jack Lew. (Photo by Pete Souza)
National Journal: Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.
Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.
….. if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.
All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.
Charles Pierce: There is no longer any reason to believe that the Republican party has any intention of changing itself to adapt to a changing America. Every story you read to that effect is a lie. Every apparent attempt by the party to convince you that it is planning to do it is a fake. They are not planning on adapting to a changing country. What they’re planning is to change the system of presidential elections so that they never have to do so. I’m not sure it will work, but that hasn’t stopped them recently….
Jonathan Bernstein: There was a lot of chatter today about National Journal’s report that national Republicans are pushing a plan to…well, there’s no other way to say it: they’re pushing a plan to rig presidential elections.
…. Fortunately, it’s unlikely that it will happen. As I’ve argued, unlike the cases in which state Republican parties have tried to strip unions of resources or engaged in gerrymanders, the incentives on this one are at cross-purposes. What’s good for the national GOP would be quite bad for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and probably even worse for Republican legislators and governors in those states.
E.J. Dionne: …. There was a different quality to President Obama’s response to this mass shooting, both initially and during his Sunday pilgrimage to offer comfort to the families of victims. I think I know why. It is not just that 20 young children were killed, although that would be enough.
For some months now, there have been rumblings from the administration that Obama has been unhappy with his own policy passivity in responding to the earlier mass shootings and was prepared in his second term to propose tough steps to deal with our national madness on firearms.
He spoke in Newtown in solidarity with the suffering, but pointed toward action. No, he said, we are not “doing enough to keep our children, all our children, safe.” He added: “We will have to change.”
Charles Pierce: ….. Too many people make too much money on guns and ammo …. Profit is what gives the NRA its real power; it lobbies less for the rights of its membership than for the right of weapons manufacturers to make a pile….
…. You want to eliminate the guns? Take the profit out of them. Take the fight to the people who make the weapons, not to the people who sell them or the people who buy the politicians so that selling them will be easier….
…. Too much of our entire national economy is based on violence — physical violence, emotional violence, environmental violence, economic violence — and there is too much profit to be made out of the production of violence. You want the violence to stop, break the people who are getting rich off it. Break their fortunes and you can break their power. The money comes first. It always does.
NY Mag: At 7:58 p.m. on Saturday evening, gun control’s newest advocate took to Twitter to call for stricter firearm legislation. “Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy,” wrote News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch, “but how about some bold leadership action?” Around the same time at Fox News, one of Roger Ailes’s deputies was sending a very different message.
According to sources, David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air. “This network is not going there,” Clark wrote one producer on Saturday night….
Steve Benen: With gun legislation practically non-existent in recent years, it’s easy to forget that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), before he became his caucus’ leader, voted against the assault weapons ban. But in light of Friday’s violence, Reid is joining his Democratic colleagues in looking anew at possible changes.
President Barack Obama signs legislation that will provide tax credits to help put veterans back to work during a ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. From left are, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Sen. Patty Murray. D-Wash., first lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Veterans Affairs Secretary Erik Shinseki and Vice President Joe Biden
Jason Hansman (WH): Today is a historic day for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. When President Obama signs the VOW to Hire Heroes Act into law, an entire generation of new vets will be provided much-needed practical support to transition from combat to careers. As an Iraq vet I am privileged to lead the membership team at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the country’s first and largest nonpartisan organization committed to our newest veterans. And I speak for all of us when I thank the lawmakers who worked so hard together, putting aside party, to get this bill passed. We also thank the President for his leadership on the issue – for acting so quickly on this legislation and for bringing national attention to the veterans’ unemployment crisis.
Michael Walsh (National Review): ….. the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza makes the same point I made …. You may think Obama is eminently beatable, but unlike Mitt Romney, he has a solid base that is a dead-certain lock to be there for him next year ….
…. Meanwhile, “electable” Romney stays moored at around a quarter of the GOP primary electorate, and as a “frontrunner” has been happily chucked overboard for every not-Romney flavor of the month, including Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and now Mr. Newt. Head-to-head with Romney next year, Obama will sink him handily.
….. Say-Anything Mitt has no home port and is unlikely to find one beyond the generic anti-Obama vote. Which, alas, will not be big enough or motivated enough to evict Cap’n Barry from the White House bridge …. Indeed, the campaign will begin and end with this photograph:
Sorry, but that’s the truth. Say what you will about Sarah Palin, but she would have brought a super-energized base of productive taxpaying citizens with her that might have competed favorably with the Obamabots. But she broke their hearts – and damaged herself – by teasing and then not running, leaving the GOP bereft of a candidate who could match BHO II’s charisma.
What can be done at this late date, I have no idea. And neither do the Republicans.
Jonathan Chait (NY Mag): …. Here is my explanation: Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president …. they compare Obama with an imaginary president – either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.
…. His single largest policy accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, combines two sweeping goals that Democrats have tried and failed to achieve for decades. Likewise, the Recovery Act contained both short-term stimulative measures and increased public investment in infrastructure, green energy, and the like. The Dodd-Frank financial reform, while failing to end the financial industry as we know it, is certainly far from toothless, as measured by the almost fanatical determination of Wall Street and Republicans in Congress to roll it back.
Beneath these headline measures is a second tier of accomplishments carrying considerable historic weight (see article for list)
…. Of the postwar presidents, only Johnson exceeds Obama’s domestic record, and Johnson’s successes must be measured against a crushing defeat in Vietnam. Obama, by contrast, has enjoyed a string of foreign-policy successes ….
So, if Obama is the most successful liberal president since Roosevelt, that would make him a pretty great president, right?
National Journal: Daniel Bongino, a former U.S. Secret Service agent whose recent assignments included a posting to President Obama’s protective detail, has decided to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland as a Republican.
At an agency that stresses the silence and political neutrality of its agents, Bongino’s announcement is raising eyebrows … the Secret Service frowns upon former agents who make sudden turns to politics….
Bongino is seeking the Republican nomination to take on freshman Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. Bongino’s Twitter account calls him a “Conservative Republican Candidate for the U.S. Senate” and directs visitors to a campaign website that is offline.
In a press release announcing his candidacy, Bongino said that he left law enforcement “because of political leaders making decisions which are making America a follower and not a leader in the global economy.” ….The Secret Service declined to comment on Bongino’s planned candidacy.
See who’s invited to State of the Union tonight – here
Daniel Hernandez, the intern credited with saving the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in Arizona, is thanked by 9/11 first responder Charles Giles outside Gifford’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 25. Hernandez will be a special guest of first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama.
Daniel Hernandez, the intern credited with saving the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords when she was shot in Tucson, will be at the State of the Union as President Obama’s guest, a senior administration official says. Hernandez will be joined in the First Lady’s seating area by the family of nine-year old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in the shootings, and by Giffords’ surgeon Peter Ghee.