10:35: President Obama departs the White House en route Woodbridge, Va.
11:05: Arrives in Woodbridge, Va.
11:30: Delivers remarks via satellite at the AARP Life@50+ National Event & Expo at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge
12:45: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge (C-Span)
1:30: VP Biden and Jill Biden travel to Hanover, N.H., to deliver remarks at a campaign event at Dartmouth College
2:30: President Obama arrives at the White House
3:0 First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at Morgan State University, Baltimore (need to check the time on this)
5:15: VP Biden and Jill Biden travel to Concord, N.H., to deliver remarks at a campaign event at the New Hampshire State House
Washington Post: The last of the 33,000 “surge” troops President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 have left the country, the Pentagon announced Friday, just ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline.
The number of U.S. troops in the war zone now stands at 68,000, Secretary of State Leon E. Panetta told reporters traveling with him during a week-long visit to the Asia-Pacific region. The troop count is down from a peak of 101,000 U.S. forces last year and marks the end of a critical phase in Obama’s war strategy.
…. The drawdown of U.S. forces is in keeping with Obama’s timetable to pull out all conventional combat forces by the end of 2014…
USA Today: Medicare beneficiaries have saved a total of about $4.5 billion on prescription medications because of the 2010 health care law since January 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to announce today.
“We’re seeing consistent, steady savings for seniors thanks to the health care law,” said Jon Blum, director of the Center for Medicare. “In just 21/2 half years, seniors have seen billions in savings, and those savings will continue to grow as the doughnut hole is fully closed.”
Washington Post: In 3 1/2 years in office, President Obama has set in motion a broad overhaul of public education from kindergarten through high school, largely bypassing Congress and inducing states to adopt landmark changes that none of his predecessors attempted.
He awarded billions of dollars in stimulus funding to states that agreed to promote charter schools, use student test scores to evaluate teachers and embrace other administration-backed policies. And he has effectively rewritten No Child Left Behind, the federal law passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, by excusing states from its requirements if they adopt his measures.
Greg Sargent (Washington Post): Conservatives are furious with GOP candidates like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry for attacking Mitt Romney’s Bain tenure as capitalism run amok. Gingrich has claimed that Bain “looted” other companies, and Perry today slammed enterprises like Bain as “vultures” who “eat the carcass” of its victims, prompting a fresh round of outrage from the right.
Conservatives have good reason for being angry about this. In attacking Romney’s Bain years in these terms, his fellow Republicans are mainstreaming and giving bipartisan legitimacy to one of the chief arguments Obama and Dems will use against Romney in the general election. They are badly undermining Romney’s whole pushback against it – giving Dems an advantage in the coming war to define Romney’s Bain years, which will be as central to the general election narrative as the war over John Kerry’s Vietnam service was in 2004.
WH: …. Since Chrysler and GM emerged from bankruptcy in June of 2009, the auto industry has added 170,000 jobs – the best period of job growth for the industry in more than a decade.
When President Obama took office, the American auto industry was shedding jobs by the hundreds of thousands and GM and Chrysler faced the possibility of liquidation – which would have caused at least 1 million more jobs to be lost. The President made the tough choice to help provide the auto industry the temporary support it needed to grow and prosper.
Today, GM and Chrysler have repaid their government loans, and the “Big Three” automakers – GM, Ford, and Chrysler – are all adding jobs, generating profit, and investing in their U.S. facilities. Auto sales climbed in December for the seventh consecutive month and GM, Chrysler, and Ford saw their market share increase to over 47 percent in 2011, the second straight year that Detroit gained market share against their foreign competitors, something that had not previously happened since 1995….
TPM: In a positive sign for the economy, November saw the biggest growth in consumer credit for 10 years. It should have happened much earlier. What threw it off was the GOP taking the debt ceiling hostage.
Steve Benen: A few weeks ago, PolitiFact made a serious mistake in selecting its “Lie of the Year” … Democratic claims that House Republicans voted to “end” Medicare earned the ignoble designation, despite the fact that the Democratic argument is easily supportable.
It was easy to predict what would happen next. As part of the party’s 2012 campaign message, Democrats would run ads criticizing GOP lawmakers for their anti-Medicare vote … GOP leaders would go to every station in the country, telling them not to run campaign commercials that include claims proven to be untrue. That PolitiFact’s decision was ridiculous wouldn’t matter.
And sure enough, we’re already seeing this start to play out. Greg Sargent has the latest: Earlier this week, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee aired a TV ad, timed to the GOP presidential debate, attacking GOP incumbent Rep. Charlie Bass for voting to “end Medicare.” The Bass campaign sent letters to two New Hampshire stations – WMUR and WHDH – demanding the ads be yanked. Crucially, the Bass campaign repeatedly cited PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year designation to bolster its case.
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka lauds Cecilia Muñoz’s appointment to head the Domestic Policy Council: “Cecilia Muñoz is a dedicated advocate for civil and human rights and longtime friend to the Labor movement. The AFL-CIO congratulates Cecilia on her appointment to Director of the Domestic Policy Council and looks forward to working with her to develop and implement a policy agenda that improves the lives of working families.”
President Barack Obama is introduced by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson before he speaks to employees of the EPA in Washington January 10