10:55: President Obama meets with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand
1:0 Josh Earnest briefs the press
Parade: The President and Michelle Obama on Work, Family, and Juggling It All
… On Monday, June 23, the President and Mrs. Obama will host a Working Families summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for affordable childcare and paid family leave, raising minimum wage, and achieving equal pay for all. In an interview conducted by Parade, the Obamas opened up about their personal connection to these issues and what they hope to accomplish during their remaining time in the White House.
President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have never been your typical working stiffs. With four Ivy League degrees between them, they’ve enjoyed high incomes and strong job security. But before and during college, they each worked minimum-wage jobs. And there was a time when they felt the same kind of financial aches and marriage strains that today’s dual-income families know all too well. As a young married couple in Chicago, they were mired in student debt, juggling multiple jobs and two kids, and bickering over who did what housework. “I wouldn’t fold,” remembers the president. “I didn’t separate, and Michelle’s point was, that’s not laundry.”
TPM: Obama Administration To Extend Family Leave To Same-Sex Couples
The Obama administration announced that it would direct the Department of Labor to begin issuing regulations to extend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to same-sex couples, according to a White House official.
After the Supreme Court’s struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the administration began to reviewing relevant statutes and laws to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples. The administration said that its extension of FMLA is simply part of that process. The new regulations will clarify that an employee is eligible to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse in the instance of an illness, regardless of whether that employee lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Paul Krugman: Veterans and Zombies – The Hype Behind the Health Care Scandal
…. it’s important to understand that the Veterans Affairs scandal, while real, is being hyped out of proportion by people whose real goal is to block reform of the larger system.
…. A scandal is a scandal, and wrongdoing must be punished. But beware of people trying to use the veterans’ care scandal to derail health reform.
And here’s the thing: Health reform is working. Too many Americans still lack good insurance, and hence lack access to health care and protection from high medical costs — but not as many as last year, and next year should be better still. Health costs are still far too high, but their growth has slowed dramatically. We’re moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t let the zombies get in our way.
Ukraine announced Friday that it has regained full control of its border with Russia, which the government has set as an important precondition for a unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The sealing off of the border, which could not be independently verified, would be significant because it would rob the rebels of an important supply route for new fighters and weapons.
The announcement that troops had recaptured the border area near the village of Izvaryne in the Luhansk region comes as President Petro Poroshenko is set to unveil the details of his 14-point peace plan.
For years black academics criticized the Obama administration for not targeting programs to the African American community. Obamacare didn’t count – even though it has disproportionately affected people of color. All of his talk about income inequality didn’t matter, neither did his proposal for universal pre-K. What they wanted to see were initiatives that directly (and only) affected African Americans.
Then along came the announcement about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program targeting boys of color. It didn’t take long for many of the same critics to go after that one because it didn’t include girls. As I see it, this is what most efforts to target a specific community will eventually face…the “what about me?” syndrome.
That’s not to say that its wrong to initiate and promote targeted programs. Sometimes they’re needed. Its more about the fact that when they are proposed, we need to remember WHY they’re targeted and – by definition – will exclude.
ThinkProgress: Governor Scott Walker Accused Of ‘Criminal Scheme’
New federal court documents released Thursday reveal that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is the subject of a “Joe Doe” investigation. Prosecutors allege Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to circumvent state election laws. While the courts are still mulling a motion by the dark money outside groups at the center of the allegations to stop the investigation, the facts of the case are yet another demonstration of the folly of the Supreme Court’s assumptions in the infamous Citizens United ruling.
The documents show that prosecutors believe illegal coordination occurred in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections and that groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth worked with Scott Walker’s campaign arm (“Friends of Scott Walker”) to arrange undisclosed spending by an array of pro-Walker tax-exempt organizations. They note that several individuals were working both for Friends of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth at the time, and that Walker himself boasted of the coordination in an email to Karl Rove.
Esquire: Prosecutor Is Closing In on Gov. Christie
Indictments against four cronies are near certain, sources say. Only question is if David Samson, Christie’s longtime mentor, will flip.
“It’s over, it’s done, and I’m moving on.” – Chris Christie, reassuring potential donors in Utah on June 14th
Back on planet Reality, meanwhile, Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening – he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.
“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
In an exclusive interview, the MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell reveals how he survived a head-on car crash, and why afterwards he cut himself off from the negative litany of the news cycle.
“What a stupid way to die,” Lawrence O’Donnell thought to himself.
A split-second earlier, the host of MSNBC’s 10 p.m. program, The Last Word, had been gazing down at a map on his iPhone, following the progress of his taxi, a Chevy van, as he and his older brother Michael rode to dinner on the resort island of Tortola. It was around 7:45 p.m., Saturday, April 12, the start of what promised to be a lovely vacation in the British Virgin Islands with his big brother, a Boston lawyer.
The vacation didn’t happen. Instead, O’Donnell, 62, underwent a life-altering crucible that he’s still trying to make sense of, while figuring out how to explain it to viewers when he returns to his show on Monday night after two-and-a-half months off the air.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with National Security Staff in the Situation Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Vice President Biden on the Colonnade of the White House outside the Oval Office, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with a bipartisan group of mayors to discuss the economy and local efforts to create jobs and spur economic growth, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
In my 44 years (almost 45), I’ve never seen a President console and uplift as much as Barack Obama. A tribute to our Hugger-in-Chief.
After a speech on gun violence in Colorado, President Barack Obama hugs Sue Connors and Jane Dougherty, who lost their sister in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Stephanie Miller of Sandusky Ohio cries on the shoulder of U.S. President Barack Obama at a campaign event at Washington Park in Sandusky, Ohio July 5, 2012. Miller’s sister died of cancer and said that Obama’s healthcare plan would have given her better treatment options.
President Barack Obama signs a photograph as he greets people on the tarmac upon arrival at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., July 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
UT included the above photo in today’s R&S – the young man pictured is Tyren Edward Anthony Scott. Tyren’s mother Lisa contacted us at the time to let us know that Tyren was the same young man who asked the President “why do people hate you?’ at a town hall in New Orleans three years earlier:
“He was nine when he asked the President that question and in the latest picture he’s 12. President Obama stood there with us, talked for about three minutes, he remembered Tyren and signed an 11 x 14 picture of their first encounter.”
We sent our best wishes to Tyren, Lisa and all the Scott family this morning, so it was really lovely to receive this comment from Lisa:
Thanks for the great comments on my son Tyren Edward Anthony Scott.
Tyren starts school on Aug. 6. He’s now 13 and in the 8th grade.
Tyren and I are doing great. I visit the website several times a day and was surprised to see Tyren. He’s growing up to be a fine young man. I am not saying that because he is my son, I say that because he has a great heart. He was upset with the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. As a matter of fact after President Obama spoke on Friday he emailed the President on Sunday.
I had to have that talk with him on how to be careful especially as a young black teen.
He’s still very respectful (yes sir/no sir). Tyren is still a good student and he’s involved in the community. He loves people and he does not see color until it slaps him in his face. I had to tell him he is not a thug.
Tyren loves fishing, deer hunting, plays in high school band (sax), football, baseball and he still helps his Uncle Tweed with the chickens LOL.
I tell people all the time you can not raise a child by yourself. So I ask The Obama Diary family to keep us in your prayers.
DARKNESS CANNOT DRIVE OUT DARKNESS; ONLY LIGHT CAN DO THAT.
HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE, ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT.
Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.
Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
Mr. Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the United States over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
Steve Benen: …. We’re left with a dynamic that the political establishment still finds difficult to fully grasp: GOP officials could make the federal health care system better and more to their liking, but they see no value in that. They’d rather sabotage it, regardless of the real-world consequences. They could help get rid of a mandate they oppose, but they’d rather keep the policy they hate in the hopes it won’t work, people will feel adverse consequences, and there will be new fodder for 30-second attack ads a year from now.
Some people pursue public service want to build things, and some pursue public service because they just want to watch things burn.
…. The most generous thing I can say about their approach is that it’s fundamentally unserious about helping anyone. The least generous thing I can say is probably inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.
Ezra Klein: Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harder
This hasn’t been a banner news week for Obamacare. But can it really be true, as my colleague Jennifer Rubin writes, that “Everyone now agrees: Obamacare can’t be implemented”?
I asked around …. Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation: “….. If anything the delay removes some potential administrative complexities from the plates of the implementers……” …. Timothy Jost, a health law expert at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, was even blunter. “Implementation just got easier rather than harder,” he said.
Well, so much for “everyone.”
As those interviews indicate, the thinking among health-care experts is closer to the precise opposite of Rubin’s bombastic headline: The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year…..
Steve Benen: On Friday, when he hoped no one was looking, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) approved sweeping new restrictions on reproductive rights, including a requirement that women receive a medically unnecessary ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy, and regulatory measures that would close half of the state’s abortion clinics.
The law was supposed to go into effect statewide yesterday. A federal court had other ideas…..
ThinkProgress: Sorry, Republicans, Your Own Investigation Proves No Dead People Voted In South Carolina….
South Carolina never found a single dead voter in recent elections. At least, that is the final word from the State Election Commission investigation into whether 900 people voted using a dead person’s name….
…. When Attorney General Alan Wilson demanded the original investigation, he cited “an alarming number” of cases reported by the DMV that “clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.” ….
…. [This] will not prevent state Republicans from redoubling strict voter ID efforts, invigorated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. In fact, Wilson celebrated the decision, calling the Voting Rights Act an “extraordinary intrusion” and pledging to implement voter ID ….
ThinkProgress: Bush-Appointed Judge Slams Decision Striking Voting Rights Act — Court’s Reasoning Was ‘Made Up’
If a leading conservative scholar and former judge were now on the Supreme Court instead of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito, it is likely that the Voting Right Act would remain intact.
Judge Michael McConnell was a leading conservative law professor at the time President George W. Bush named him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2002 …. McConnell was also widely viewed as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Bush Administration.
In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, McConnell has harsh words for the five conservative justices’ recent decision neutering much of the Voting Rights Act — labeling the reasoning that drove that decision “made up.”
ThinkProgress: The “whistleblowers” at today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on what really happened in Benghazi, Libya last September were supposed to break the dam that would lead to President Obama’s eventual downfall, in the eyes of conservatives. Instead, these witness actually served to debunk several theories that the right-wing has pushed on Benghazi, leaving the hearing a fizzle for the GOP…..
Charles Pierce: There has been quite a bit of hemming and hawing about the death penalty recently. Six states in six years — Maryland most recently, thanks to Esquire’s favorite BFF, Martin O’Malley — have abolished it. Ah, but that’s not to reckon with the great state of Florida, which this week will decide to grease the wheels of state-sanctioned killing, thanks to Governor Rick Scott, who really doesn’t have fk-all to lose at this point.
Governor Bat Boy is poised to sign the Timely Justice Act — Somebody grab Orwell before he throws himself off a cloud — which will restrict the right of Death Row inmates to appeal their sentences. The bill was passed through the legislature with the usual cool reason that we’ve come to expect from Republican state legislatures since the voters of the several states decided to make monkeyhouses out of them in 2010…..
First lady Michelle Obama speaks about the nation’s libraries and museums before handing out the 2013 National Medals for Museum and Library Service to recipients in the East Room of the White House, May 8
Steve Benen: With just 10 days to go before brutal sequestration cuts kick in, President Obama has decided to use his bully pulpit, not just to frame the debate and show the way out of this latest manufactured crisis, but also to make his opponents look reckless and irresponsible …. The president had a fairly compelling pitch to present, which had the added benefit of being true….
…. For those who care about reality, the sequester really wasn’t Obama’s idea – it was part of the ransom paid to Republicans when GOP lawmakers held the nation hostage in 2011, threatening to crash the economy and trash the full faith and credit of the United States. Republicans took credit for the sequester and they voted for the sequester.
But as a practical matter, it doesn’t matter whose idea it was. There’s a looming threat to the nation and it kicks in next week. One side is focused on resolving the manufactured crisis with a bipartisan compromise; the other side is focused on how to win a public-relations battle, instead of focusing on fixing the problem they helped create…..
Bloomberg: In the spring of 1986, a grassroots organizer named Barack Obama was walking through a trash-strewn playground on Chicago’s South Side when the sound of gunshots pierced the air.
Obama ducked and glanced nervously at John Owens, an activist working for a local nonprofit, who was giving him a tour of the neighborhood’s parks. “He said: ‘You hear that? Whoa’,” Owens, recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘Well, he hasn’t been around here very long’.”
The president’s three-year stretch as a community organizer in an impoverished section of Chicago gave him a first-hand look at how gun violence affects a community. He’s now drawing upon that experience, and the solutions he saw then, as he crafts a second-term agenda in which gun control finally has political momentum after the Dec. 14 shootings at a Connecticut school…..
ThinkProgress: The Supreme Court’s election-buying decision in Citizens United v FEC enabled wealthy corporations to spend unlimited money to change the course of American elections, and a subsequent lower court decision gave the green light to super PACs funded by unlimited donations from millionaires, billionaires and corporations. Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced it would hear another case — brought by none other than the Republican National Committee — that would go even further towards transforming American democracy into the Wild West.
Washington Post: Since November, President Obama has been promising to do something about extremely long voting lines and other shameful Election Day lapses. Last week, he began to make good on his pledge, unveiling “a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America,” headed by Bob Bauer and Benjamin Ginsburg, the lawyers for Mr. Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaigns, respectively.
….. critics are already attacking the idea. Conservatives question why the federal government needs to get more involved with voting. Voting-rights activists wonder why the president needs a commission when he could champion any of the sensible reform proposals already sitting in Congress.
But the commission is a good idea, for at least two reasons.
Steve Benen: I suspect most folks have, at least once, accidentally mistaken satirical news for real news. But Spencer Ackerman’s report on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s misstep is a doozy.
On November 14, 2012, Mitch McConnell wrote to Elizabeth King, the Pentagon’s congressional liaison, with a an unusually credulous query. “I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits,” McConnell wrote in a letter acquired by Danger Room. “I would appreciate your review and response to my constituent’s concerns.”
…… the United States government is not providing GI Bill benefits to detainees at the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay. What McConnell forwarded to the Pentagon was a satirical piece, published by a terrific online humor outlet. Picture The Onion with a sole focus on the military.
Raw Story: A Republican state representative in Alabama says that her bill to force new restrictions on abortion clinics is necessary because the fetus is “the largest organ in a body.”
…. “When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body,” Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin declared. “That’s a big thing. That’s a big surgery. You don’t have any other organs in your body that are bigger than that.”
…. “My liver, heart, and skin are all very excited that we are now giving organs personhood rights, although the latter is slightly upset about losing out on its ‘largest organ in the human body’ rep,” Jezebel’s Katie J.M. Baker wrote on Monday.
Charles Pierce: ….. Scott Brown took to the local Fox affiliate to explain the bizarre episode in which he got into a Twittery wrangle that ended up with former senator McDreamy exclaiming, “Bqhatevwr!” .. which caused more than a few people to wonder whether or not he was a bit sockless at the time. His explanation for what happened is quite remarkable in its sub-plausibility….
….. I am not buying the pocket-tweet explanation if, for no other reason, than believing that whole colloquy was an accident would require you to believe that McDreamy was sliding down the back of a stegosaurus for that many accidental keystrokes to have occurred.