Tuesday, June 30, 2009
More Americans See Democratic Party as “Too Liberal”
More believe Democratic Party’s, rather than Republican Party’s, views are about right
by Jeffrey M. Jones
PRINCETON, NJ -- A Gallup Poll finds a statistically significant increase since last year in the percentage of Americans who describe the Democratic Party's views as being "too liberal," from 39% to 46%. This is the largest percentage saying so since November 1994, after the party's losses in that year's midterm elections.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 14-17, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
I have one question - I would like to know who the 80-81 people are who think the Democrats are too conservative.
Jun 30 11:42 AM US/Eastern
Agence France Presse
Al-Qaeda's North Africa wing threatened on Tuesday to take revenge on France for its opposition to the burka, calling on Muslims to retaliate against the country, the US monitoring service SITE Intelligence reported.
Earlier this month, President Nicolas Sarkozy said the burka, which covers the whole face, was not welcome in the strictly secular country.
"Yesterday was the hijab (the Islamic headscarf long banned in French schools) and today, it is the niqab (the full veil)," Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was quoted as saying.
"We will take revenge for the honour of our daughters and sisters against France and against its interests by every means at our disposal."
The group also called on Muslims to retaliate for what it called French "hostility" against the community and its attempt to obstruct Islam's practice on its territory.
"For us, the mujahedeen ... we will not remain silent to such provocations and injustices," Abdul Wadud said without elaborating, according to SITE.
"We call upon all Muslims to confront this hostility with greater hostility, and to counter France's efforts to divide male and female believers from their faith with a greater effort ... (by) adherence to the teachings of their Islamic sharia."
He said Muslims in France, who are estimated at around five million, are "increasingly concerned about the practices of French politicians and leaders and their harassment".
On June 22, Sarkozy said the burka was not a symbol of religious faith but a sign of women's "subservience," adding that the head-to-toe veil was "not welcome" in staunchly secular France.
The French National Assembly set up an inquiry into the rising number of Muslim women who wear the burka.
France is home to Europe's largest Muslim community and faces a dilemma between accommodating Islam and maintaining secularism. In 2004, it passed a law banning headscarves or any other "conspicuous" religious symbols in schools to uphold a separation between church and state.
Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri criticized the law, saying the decision showed "the grudge the Western crusaders have against Islam."
France is the only state in Europe to have such a ban.
It is not known how many women wear the burka in France.
The majority of Muslim clerics around the world do not regard wearing the burka, unlike the head cover, as a religious obligation under Islam.
Obama et al should pay attention to these parasites -
Al Qaida is upset because France has 'banned' the burqa - it has no place in France said Sarkozy.
Al Qaida responds - how dare you interfere with our religious rights. We will punish you, we will strike against you.
The truth is - unless you capitulate to their demands, they will kill you. There is no way to talk to them - despite what Obama believes. It is foolish to think otherwise. Naive and dangerous.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 31% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Thirty-three percent (33%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -2. That matches the lowest level yet recorded (see trends).
Over the past two weeks, the Presidential Approval Index has stayed in a narrow range between +2 and -2. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Democrats Strongly Approve while 60% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.
Fifty percent (50%) favor passage of the health care reform proposal being crafted by Obama and Congressional Democrats. Forty-five percent (45%) are opposed.
The Presidential Approval Index is calculated by subtracting the number who Strongly Disapprove from the number who Strongly Approve. It is updated daily at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (sign up for free daily e-mail update). Updates also available on Twitter.
Overall, 54% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance so far. Forty-six percent (46%) disapprove. Eighteen percent (18%) say that Congress is doing a good or an excellent job.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The Honduran Supreme Court ruled the action about to be taken by the former president of Honduras was unconstitutional.
The Congress opposed the man.
His party opposed him.
The army opposed him.
He had lost the confidence of the government.
To prevent Honduras from becoming another Nicaragua or Venezuela, the army acted.
Obama's response - to stand with the former president and denounce the actions of the army and the Supreme Court and the Congress of Honduras.
Obama says coup in Honduras is illegal
Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:26pm EDT
By Arshad Mohammed and David Alexander
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and would set a "terrible precedent" of transition by military force unless it was reversed.
"We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there," Obama told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Zelaya, in office since 2006, was overthrown in a dawn coup on Sunday after he angered the judiciary, Congress and the army by seeking constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election beyond a four-year term.
The Honduran Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, and the country's Supreme Court said it had ordered the army to remove Zelaya.
The European Union and a string of foreign governments have voiced support for Zelaya, who was snatched by troops from his residence and whisked away by plane to Costa Rica in his pajamas.
Obama said he would work with the Organization of American States and other international institutions to restore Zelaya to power and "see if we can resolve this in a peaceful way."
"It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition, rather than democratic elections," Obama said, noting the region's progress in establishing democratic traditions in the past 20 years.
Despite Obama's comments, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the administration was not formally designating the ouster as a military coup for now, a step that would force a cut-off of most U.S. aid to Honduras.
Under U.S. law, no aid -- other than for the promotion of democracy -- may be provided to a country whose elected head of government has been toppled in a military coup.
"We do think that this has evolved into a coup," Clinton told reporters, adding the administration was withholding that determination for now.
Asked if the United States was currently considering cutting off aid, Clinton shook her head no.
The State Department said it was unable to immediately say how much assistance the United States gives Honduras.
The State Department has requested $68.2 million in aid for fiscal year 2010, which begins on October 1, up from $43.2 million. This covers funds for development, Honduran purchases of U.S. arms, military training, counter-narcotics and health care but does not include Defense Department aid, a U.S. official said.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he did not believe Obama had spoken to Zelaya since the ouster.
He said the administration had worked in recent days to try to prevent the coup from happening, and "our goal now is on restoring democratic order in Honduras."
Analysts said quick criticism of the coup by Obama and Clinton on Sunday pleased Latin American countries bitter about the long history of U.S. intervention in the region.
The Obama administration's stance contrasted with the equivocal position taken in 2002 by former President George W. Bush's administration, which was seen as tacitly accepting a coup against Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez.
A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition he not be named said that by holding off on a legal determination that a coup has taken place, Washington was trying to provide space for a negotiated settlement.
[A negotiated setllement? What, so the guy returns. Obama is a nightmare for people who want to depose tyrants. He works for the tyrant and the status quo.]
"If we were able to get to a ... status quo that returned to the rule of law and constitutional order within a relatively short period of time, I think that would be a good outcome," Clinton said.
(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Xavier Briand)
He would bring change to Washington.
His would be the most transparent administration - ever.
He would not let the lobbyists in. He would not have secret meetings with the lobbyists and then not reveal who came calling for favor.
He would sit down, without pre-conditions - with Iran and North Korea and Venezuela.
He would negotiate and talk, not make war and demand.
He would do a world tour to let our allies know we were back and we wanted to be friends.
He would rebuild the world after Bush tore it down.
He would go into Pakistan if their were actionable intelligence as to where Osama was.
That pretty much summed up the basics of why you should vote for the inexperienced Senator who crawled out of the muck of Chicago politics.
He didn't know who Blagovich was, he didn't know who Resco was, he didn't know who Ayers was, he didn't know .... very much. He had less experience than my mailman in international travel.
But he would be transparent - except when he didn't want to be, and then he would scowl at you like you asked him how many pairs of underwear he had. He felt certain questions were impertinent and when he didn't want to answer he would wind himself up and mock the reporter and then move on. As if Bush ever got away with that - NOT. Yet the media was complicit in carrying this forward and not questioning him or risking his ire, and presumably their exclusion from the club. With Bush, they wore it like ... well, they were never excluded and what ire they did irk, they wore like a badge of honor.
Not transparent - asked about who has visited the White House - the lobbyists - in the last six months, the Secret Service refused to release the logs and the White House simply ignored the whole thing.
But perhaps worse - his no conditions to talk to Amidinejad.
He scorned Bush for not doing so, he said he would, he was different, he would not be afraid to engage.
The Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck back Saturday, June 27, barely 24 hours after US president Barack Obama poured scorn on him and warned that "direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran" would be "affected by the events of the last several weeks."
This time, the Iranian president included Europe in his verbal offensive against the US president over so-called interference in Tehran's internal affairs and threatened "decisive and harsh" punishment.
So the people of Iran showed the heaping scorn they had for Amidienjad, Obama lost the nerve because he saw blood in the water, and now Iran is closing the doors on the US .... NOW Mr. Obama, tell me, please ... how Amidienjad is any different at this moment than 1 year ago. How is his character, his respect ... how is he different? Not just that he has cracked down, but that the ability to squash the people was always present, he simply had no need to exercise that power until the middle of June. So Mr. Obama why now, why not talk - he is the same guy, he is the guy who Bush refused to talk to .... the guy you now will not speak to (remember - READ MY LIPS - NO CONDITIONS).
International events, world affairs are for adults Mr. Obama and you and Joe have demonstrated very clearly how unprepared you are in this dangerous world.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
By Molly K. Hooper
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a few choice words about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) landmark climate-change bill after its passage Friday.
When asked why he read portions of the cap-and-trade bill on the floor Friday night, Boehner told The Hill, "Hey, people deserve to know what's in this pile of s--t."
Using his privilege as leader to speak for an unlimited time on the House floor, Boehner spent an hour reading from the 1200-plus page bill that was amended 20 hours before the lower chamber voted 219-212 to approve it.
Eight Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the bill; 44 House Democrats voted against it.
Pelosi's office declined to comment on Boehner's jab. But one Democratic aide quipped, "What do you expect from a guy who thinks global warming is caused by cow manure?"
Even though Sen. Majorty Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) holds the bill's fate in his hands, House Republicans intend to hammer Speaker Pelosi's signature climate-change measure over recess.
And GOP Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) said "we have only just begun to fight” as he left the Capitol Friday night.
Pence encouraged GOP rank-and-file lawmakers to hold energy summits in their districts over the Independence Day recess. In the recess packets sent home with members, he even included directions on how to organize energy summits.
The goal of holding an energy forum is to “educate your constituents about the Democrats’ national energy tax legislation and let them know what 'all of the above' solution you support.”
"All of the above” solution is a reference to the Republicans' plan that would increase the use of and exploration for domestic energy supplies.
Further, officials with the House GOP's campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, confirm that they will run with paid media over recess in districts of conservative Dems who voted for the bill. The official would not reveal details on the ad buys at this time.
One Democrat was upset that his leaders would needlessly force vulnerable Dems to vote for a bill that will come back to haunt them. Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor (D) voted against the measure that he says will die in the Senate.
"A lot of people walked the plank on a bill that will never become law," Taylor told The Hill after the gavel came down.
Friday, June 26, 2009
What Iran and OTHERS do with their protestors.
When you wish to hold talks with despots - no restrictions, no prerequisites ... this is what you are doing - ignoring the deaths, ignoring the humna rights violations, ignoring the inhumnaity, ignoring the crimes, ignoring the murders, ignoring ... blinded by naivete!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
And Obama ... what is he doing about this. Watching.
NKorea threatens US; world anticipates missile
By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer
Jun 24, 2009
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea threatened Wednesday to wipe the United States off the map as Washington and its allies watched for signs the regime will launch a series of missiles in the coming days.
Off China's coast, a U.S. destroyer was tailing a North Korean ship suspected of transporting illicit weapons to Myanmar in what could be the first test of U.N. sanctions passed to punish the nation for an underground nuclear test last month.
The Kang Nam left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago with the USS John S. McCain close behind. The ship, accused of transporting banned goods in the past, is believed bound for Myanmar, according to South Korean and U.S. officials.
The new U.N. Security Council resolution requires member states to seek permission to inspect suspicious cargo. North Korea has said it would consider interception a declaration of war and on Wednesday accused the U.S. of seeking to provoke another Korean War.
"If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will ... wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all," the official Korean Central News Agency said.
The warning came on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the start of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in state of war.
The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect against an outbreak of hostilities.
Tensions have been high since North Korea launched a long-range rocket in April and then conducted its second underground atomic test on May 25.
Reacting to U.N. condemnation of that test, North Korea walked away from nuclear disarmament talks and warned it would fire a long-range missile.
North Korea has banned ships from the waters off its east coast starting Thursday through July 10 for military exercises, Japan's Coast Guard said.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that the North may fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.
A senior South Korean government official said the no-sail ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
South Korea will expedite the introduction of high-tech unmanned aerial surveillance systems and "bunker-buster" bombs in response to North Korea's provocations, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing unidentified ruling party members.
Meanwhile, a flurry of diplomatic efforts were under way to try getting North Korea to return to disarmament talks.
Russia's top nuclear envoy, Alexei Borodavkin, said after meeting with his South Korean counterpart that Moscow is open to other formats for discussion since Pyongyang has pulled out of formal six-nation negotiations.
In Beijing, top U.S. and Chinese defense officials also discussed North Korea. U.S. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy was heading next to Tokyo and Seoul for talks.
South Korea has proposed high-level "consultations" to discuss North Korea with the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Mr. Obama, I can say with 100% certainty, you would rather they hate you, fear you, loathe you than think of you as weak and coddling.
EXCLUSIVE: U.S. contacted Iran's ayatollah before election
Administration overture to Khamenei ridiculed in sermon
By Barbara Slavin Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Prior to this month's disputed presidential election in Iran, the Obama administration sent a letter to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for an improvement in relations, according to interviews and the leader himself.
Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed the letter toward the end of a lengthy sermon last week, in which he accused the United States of fomenting protests in his country in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential election.
U.S. officials declined to discuss the letter on Tuesday, a day in which President Obama gave his strongest condemnation yet of the Iranian crackdown against protesters.
An Iranian with knowledge of the overture, however, told The Washington Times that the letter was sent between May 4 and May 10 and laid out the prospect of "cooperation in regional and bilateral relations" and a resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.
The Iranian, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said the letter was given to the Iranian Foreign Ministry by a representative of the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran in the absence of U.S.-Iran diplomatic relations. The letter was then delivered to the office of Ayatollah Khamenei, he said.
The letter was sent before the election, whose outcome - delivering a supposed landslide to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - has touched off the biggest anti-government protests in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Obama administration, while criticizing a violent crackdown on demonstrators by Iranian security forces, has said that it will continue efforts to engage the Iranian government about its nuclear program and other issues touching on U.S. national security.
In his news conference on Tuesday, however, President Obama gave his most forceful statement yet about Iran's actions, which have led to the deaths of at least 17 protesters, including a young woman whose shooting death has become known around the world through the Internet.
"I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost," Mr. Obama said. "I've made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran's affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and the dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place. ... Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history."
Mr. Obama added, however, that the United States has "core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn't possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders."
"We have provided a path whereby Iran can reach out to the international community, engage, and become a part of international norms.
"It is up to them to make a decision as to whether they choose that path."
A senior Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he was discussing private communications, would not confirm or deny that a letter had been sent to Ayatollah Khamenei and would not say if there had been a response.
However, the official said, "We have indicated a willingness to talk for a long time and have sought to communicate with the Iranians in a variety of ways. We have made it clear that any real dialogue - multilateral or bilateral - needed to be authoritative."
Under the Iranian Constitution, Ayatollah Khamenei makes the final decisions on Iran's foreign and defense policies.
In a lengthy sermon Friday that reaffirmed the disputed re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Ayatollah Khamenei made an oblique reference to a letter from the U.S. but embedded the reference in a diatribe against purported U.S. interference in Iranian affairs.
"The American president was quoted as saying that he expected the people of Iran to take to the streets," Ayatollah Khamenei misquoted Mr. Obama as saying, according to a translation by Mideastwire.com.
"On the one hand, they [the Obama administration] write a letter to us to express their respect for the Islamic Republic and for re-establishment of ties, and on the other hand they make these remarks. Which one of these remarks are we supposed to believe? Inside the country, their agents were activated. Vandalism started. Sabotaging and setting fires on the streets started.
Some shops were looted. They wanted to create chaos. Public security was violated. The violators are not the public or the supporters of the candidates. They are the ill-wishers, mercenaries and agents of the Western intelligence services and the Zionists."
An Iranian news site, Ayandehnews.com, first reported on the U.S. letter on Tuesday.
Asked about the letter, the Swiss ambassador to Washington, Urs Ziswiller, told The Times, "I cannot comment on that."
Past U.S. efforts to engage Iran have foundered, in part because the overture was addressed to Iran's president rather than the supreme leader. This was the case in the late 1990s when then-President Clinton wrote a letter to then-President Mohammed Khatami seeking cooperation against terrorism in the aftermath of a bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans. The 1996 bombing at Khobar Towers, thought to have been committed by Iran-backed Saudi Shi'ites, took place before Mr. Khatami took office.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration would do better to "avoid any talk of engagement" with Iran until the outcome of the current political ferment is clearer.
"The fact is, we will by necessity engage, but not at the moment," he said. "I don't think we want to suggest it will be business as usual, regardless of the outcome" of the political struggle in Iran.
Patrick Clawson, an Iran specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Mr. Obama's tougher remarks on Tuesday showed that he understands that "the prospects for a successful engagement are declining."
I will expect Obama to immediately apologize to Bush for 1.5 years of personal attacks concerning Iran!
June 20, 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald
Barack Obama should remember that it is good to be loved, but more important to be feared.
Barack Obama's Cairo speech on Islam and the West was yet another rendezvous in Obama's romance with the wider world. George Bush dodged shoes on his last Middle East visit. Obama was catching bouquets. "Obama, Obama," the overwhelmingly Arab audience chanted as he left Cairo University's Great Hall stage.
Why such remarkable international prestige? Some of the answer has to do with America. Most people know instinctively that reports of America's death are greatly exaggerated, that Washington will be central to the resolution of all great international issues for some time to come. There is relief, therefore, that the alternatively intransigent and hapless Bush was replaced by someone of Obama's talent and agility - a victory that chimes with America's most liked attributes, its openness and receptiveness to talent.
And an African-American president is attractive to anybody moved by the injustice of slavery, particularly those at the margins.
Obama's multinational make-up appeals too. All quarters of the world claim kinship with Obama: Europeans discern a similar mindset; Muslims look to his middle name; Africans recall his lineage; Asians think of his upbringing.
Every foreign trip, therefore, has the feeling of a homecoming or at least a major cultural event. Next month, he's scheduled to visit Ghana, where he will visit the hub of the British slave trade, the Cape Coast Castle. In November he is expected to visit his childhood home in Jakarta.
Images from the slave dungeons of Africa and the streets of Indonesia may be as powerful as Obama's inauguration on the brilliant white steps of the US Capitol.
People can tire of all this, perhaps sooner than we think, but Obama is backing up his international charm offensive with an impressive display of diplomacy. He inherited from Bush diabolical international challenges including bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, a shrinking economy and a heating planet. But his policy responses have been adroit. Obama has not faced his most challenging tests, but he is off to a sure-footed start.
Ambition is the first of four themes that characterise Obama's foreign policy. The US President does not lack self-confidence. On his first day in the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs reported that he "looked very comfortable in his surroundings" notwithstanding that a mere four years earlier, his surroundings were the Illinois Senate.
Obama's confidence extends from the personal to the political. He has promised to change the way America is perceived, work towards a nuclear-free world, bring peace to the Holy Land and effect a comprehensive settlement between Israelis and Arabs, and avert a climate catastrophe at the same time that he retools the financial system and kick-starts an economic recovery.
The second theme is pragmatism. On Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, Obama has been prepared to shade his campaign promises in order to conform with the advice of his military commanders.
Obama is attracted to things that work. His decision to make Hillary Clinton secretary of state strengthened his administration but also stunted the careers of many loyal foreign policy wonks who had spurned Clinton in the primaries and signed up with the Obama campaign instead.
Obama's pre-presidential writings and speeches on foreign policy were mainly free of ideological content, and some of his statements as president reveal a professorial pragmatism. In Europe, Obama was asked whether he believed in American exceptionalism. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Does Obama not realise that America is unique, a shining city on a hill which cannot possibly be compared with other countries?
The third theme is liberalism. Obama had a very liberal voting record in Illinois and in the US Senate. Unlike other Democratic candidates for president, he did not stew for decades in the Washington foreign policy soup. He did not believe he had to look tougher than the Republicans in order to beat them.
Obama's liberalism is evident in plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, the ban on torture, his comments on nuclear weapons, and the ending of Washington's macabre dance of climate change denial, scepticism and delay.
The final theme is that of engagement. In Clinton, he appointed one of the world's most famous people as his chief diplomat, and installed big beasts such as Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell as special envoys. He recorded a video message to the Iranian people commemorating the Persian new year, pressed "reset" on relations with Russia, and made nice with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. Obama is no pacifist, as Somali pirates have learned, but diplomacy is on the rise.
All this makes for an impressive combination. Most of it is good news for Australia, although we will have to be smarter and work harder to get access to Washington's inner councils. Obama doesn't know Australia well, and he's not really an alliance man anyway, and competition for the president's attention is fiercer. Like Obama, Kevin Rudd is a pragmatic policy wonk from the centre-left.
Bush's approach of punishing adversaries by not speaking to them did not work. It makes sense to reach out to competitors and to try to identify mutual interests. But not all interests are mutual or even reconcilable.
International relations is an unsentimental business; you must deploy leverage and pressure as well as sweet reason.
On international as well as domestic issues such as farm subsidies and the assault weapons ban, however, Obama has been surprisingly quick to compromise. A rare exception has been Washington's public dispute with Israel over settlements, with Obama squeezing Benjamin Netanyahu between attachment to settlers and the Israeli public's attachment to good relations the US.
To be a great foreign policy president, Obama must demonstrate there are significant costs in opposing him on important issues. It is good to be loved, said Machiavelli, but more important to be feared. As Obama deals with Tehran and Pyongyang and tries to force his way through the thicket of national interests on climate change, he may wish to download some Machiavelli onto his BlackBerry along with Miles Davis and Jay-Z.
Michael Fullilove is director of the global issues program at the Lowy Institute and a non-resident senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
I agree with Mr. Fullilove almost entirely, but he has a number points I do not believe accurately reflect Mr. Obama, or his view of the world.
Mr. Fullilove asks whether or not Obama realizes that America is unique, a shining city on a hill which cannot possibly be compared with other countries? The answer - No, he honestly does not.
In order then -
People can tire of all this, perhaps sooner than we think, but Obama is
backing up his international charm offensive with an impressive display of
diplomacy. He inherited from Bush diabolical international challenges including
bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, a
shrinking economy and a heating planet. But his policy responses have been
His 'diplomacy' is not exactly active. George Mitchel, for all the brilliance he is showered with managed to accomplish what? A peace plan in Ireland? Keep in mind other parties were involved and had to be desirous of peace for any process to work. Mitchell was sent to fix something already on the mend. In addition, within days of the signing of the paperwork, distrust and hostility broke out. Violence ensued and flared up for weeks afterwards. It was only ten years later that the work Mitchell did appears to have worked.
Bush inherited North Korea from Clinton, and while Obama inherited Iraq and Afghanistan, the more accurate depiction of those wars is - the Western world has inherited the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, except Iraq today is comparable to the days when Saddam ruled with his iron first in terms of calm and peace - only without the diabolical regime and nuclear weapons.
The heating planet is a non-starter and we should leave it to the side until we in the US begin to start having a summer. Don't credit Obama with this - not when his plan includes curbs on emissions to begin in 3 years and raising taxes. THAT doesn't fix anything. That takes money from the American people to spread around the globe to people who do not do very much other than to hate the US - and their hate is not because we pollute, for we do much more than pollute, unless your TV is locked on Earth Channel 24/7.
The US President does not lack self-confidence. On his first day in the White
House, press secretary Robert Gibbs reported that he "looked very comfortable in
his surroundings" notwithstanding that a mere four years earlier, his
surroundings were the Illinois Senate.
And this means what? You draw from this a conclusion, or support for a position that is not reasonable. Clinton looked comfortable. Bush was comfortable. Reagan was very comfortable. Nixon, Ford, and Bush 41 were all comfortable. Kennedy was comfortable, even Johnson was comfortable. Perhaps only Carter was uncomfortable.
Obama's confidence extends from the personal to the political. He has
promised to change the way America is perceived, work towards a nuclear-free
world, bring peace to the Holy Land and effect a comprehensive settlement
between Israelis and Arabs, and avert a climate catastrophe at the same time
that he retools the financial system and kick-starts an economic recovery.
The dislike for the US among Arabs - the ones who count, because it is the ones who count who protest, burn flags, plant bombs, and kill people. The others who are peaceful, law abiding - do not count. In large part because of the nature of Islam. So the ones who count hate us as much or more - the US has shown weakness and to those who count, weakness must be taken advantage of.
Egypt, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas are no closer to peace with Israel and acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state today than they were thirty years ago. Israel has been alienated, the Israeli people (majority) do not like Obama.
Obama is not averting a climate catastrophe - the changes don't go into effect for three years, and when they do the bloody joke is on us all - NOTHING will change except to transfer hundreds of millions from the rich to the poor. Same pollution, different method of computing it.
A nuclear free world - what a joke. Within six months of being in office, Bush met with Putin and the two of them deactivated the majority of our stockpiles and took them off line. They went back to the storage shelves. That was a major step and done without the usual pomp and circumstance. Obama has talked a lot, as nuclear technology seems to be proliferating - Saudi Arabia and Egypt have made public statements about their interest in nuclear reactors (bombs). Russia has said it will never go below a specified level and has in fact re-activated its nuclear arsenal in the last ten months.
The second theme is pragmatism. On Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, Obama
has been prepared to shade his campaign promises in order to conform with the
advice of his military commanders.
In English - he is backpedaling. Or for the very simple liberals - he is not about to fulfill his promises. He lied.
Obama is attracted to things that work.
Like socialized medicine? Ha.
His decision to make Hillary Clinton secretary of state strengthened his
administration but also stunted the careers of many loyal foreign policy wonks
who had spurned Clinton in the primaries and signed up with the Obama campaign
Mr. Fullilove, you must understand why he put her where he did. Mitchell, Ross, and Holbrooke run the show. Samantha Powers and Rice handle the rest. Hillary is left as the token spokesperson for State, without real power, popping up and down as Kennedy used Johnson - an emissary to keep him away and out of the country. Hillary is not a political threat to him while she holds the job she does. That is very nearly the entire reason for her having the job she holds.
Obama's pre-presidential writings and speeches on foreign policy were mainly
free of ideological content, and some of his statements as president reveal a
professorial pragmatism. In Europe, Obama was asked whether he believed in
American exceptionalism. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I
suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe
in Greek exceptionalism." Does Obama not realise that America is unique, a
shining city on a hill which cannot possibly be compared with other countries?
Come on, his statements, writing in law school, social involvements - all show his leanings. He has been shaped by Marxian theory in law, history, cultural interpretations ... across the board he shows a very Marxian analysis and purpose to his driven agenda. he does not believe in American exceptionalism any more than nearly every liberal academic in the country - America is not exceptional, we are all the same, we are equal, they are good, we are good, their is not judgment as to which is better for we cannot judge. Marxian and also very academic.
He recorded a video message to the Iranian people commemorating the Persian new year, pressed "reset" on relations with Russia, and made nice with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. Obama is no pacifist, as Somali pirates have learned, but diplomacy is on the rise.
'Reset' with the Russians. That is why they have mocked him and ignored US overtures. They play with the US, but understand the leadership is weak, and they will use that weakness to their political gain in several countries in Eastern Europe coming very soon.
Message to the Iranian people - that really went over well ... with NO ONE. Amindinejad doesn't like Obama and the people never heard it nor did those who did, care.
Hugs to Chavez. Hugs to Ortega and Morales. And from all this hugging and useless banter Mr. Fullilove determines Obama is not a pacifist? Nothing presented would suggest anything but. The Somali pirates are an entirely different story. What happened was ... Obama wanted negotiation (which was ongoing), Obama wanted a trade ($ for the Captain) - the Navy had the three SEAL snipers in place simply as a matter of protocol. While everyone was waiting, Obama was told they could do it 100% without failure, and Obama recognizing that 100% was the best he could get, agreed. His first choice was negotiation, but the pirates were using negotiation to paddle their way to safety.
All this makes for an impressive combination. Most of it is good news for
Australia, although we will have to be smarter and work harder to get access to
Washington's inner councils. Obama doesn't know Australia well, and he's not
really an alliance man anyway, and competition for the president's attention is
fiercer. Like Obama, Kevin Rudd is a pragmatic policy wonk from the
This is interesting. Obama is not an alliance man! But Obama told the world THAT IS EXACTLY what he would do when he was elected. So, is he or not. if not, then this promise was also a lie.
Bush's approach of punishing adversaries by not speaking to them did not
work. It makes sense to reach out to competitors and to try to identify mutual
interests. But not all interests are mutual or even reconcilable.
This is a statement offered with no facts. Which adversaries? N Korea? Iran? We NEVER stopped speaking to Iran. Lies told and repeated often enough everyone believes them and repeats them. The US continued to hold low level meetings with Iran all through the Bush terms. The US was constantly in meetings with North Korea. Nearly six years of meetings. Just because you never paid attention to the news and or didn't look for details on the meetings does not mean they did not occur.
International relations is an unsentimental business; you must deploy leverage
and pressure as well as sweet reason.
And under Bush we exerted the carrot - oil and food to North Korea and the pressure. It worked until the Democrats took control of Congress and if you review the history, it was in late 2006 when North Korea again went off the deep end. Bush, embattled and attacked daily, Democrats taking control - North Korea took advantage, and what better party to have in power when you do it - the Democrats.
It is good to be loved, said Machiavelli, but more important to be feared.
True. But liberals are about feelings and to be loved for liberals and Democrats is a sign that everyone respects you and being feared is a bad thing, like when you went to church and were told to be afraid of God ... a bad thing ...
Come to think of it, I don't much agree with very much Mr. Fullilove argues, except the belief Machiavelli held about love and fear / respect.
But yesterday's daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner -- from the Huffington Post.
Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question's wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian. And, as it turned out, he was not the only prearranged questioner at yesterday's show. Later, Obama passed over the usual suspects to call on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language EFE news agency. The White House called Vidal in advance to see whether she was coming and arranged for her to sit in a seat usually assigned to a financial trade publication. She asked about Chile and Colombia.
A couple of more questions and Obama called it a day. "Mr. President!" yelled Mike Allen of Politico. "May I ask about Afghanistan? No questions about Iraq or Afghanistan?"
Sorry: Those weren't prearranged.
June 21, 2009
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 32% of the nation's voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President.
June 19, 2009
Obama Job Approval Slips to 58% for First Time
Lowest reading for Obama thus far in Gallup Poll Daily tracking
by Lydia Saad
PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama's job approval rating fell to 58% in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from June 16-18 -- a new low for Obama in Gallup tracking, although not dissimilar to the 59% he has received on four other occasions.
[To read the rest of the article, click on the title link.]
If you are a liberal, you will smile, but the really funny part - Bush's approval ratings for the same time period ranged around 54 - 57%
I hope Obama is enjoying himself. Yet from the media, one would think everyone is in love with the guy. Perhaps it is just the media who want to believe he is their savior.
1. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) $266.76
2. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) 225.96
3. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) 160.62
4. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) 85.90
5. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) 79.96
6. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) 102.34
7. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) 55.83
8. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) 54.34
9. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) 48.62
10. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) 28.90
11. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) 23.93
12. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) 22.41
13. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) 22.61
14. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) 20.42
15. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) 22.19
16. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) 21.01
17. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) 30.96
18. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) 17.77
19. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (D-N.C.) 16.45
20. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) 15.05
Democrats and Republicans. Are they interested in fair taxes?
Democrats (just those in top 20): $844 million
Republicans (just those in top 20): $478 million
Do any of these people understand someone who struggles to make their mortgage, pay for gas in the car ...
I do have one issue - John McCain is valued at 22.6 million, but a considerable portion of that comes from property his wife purchased with her money. if we were to follow the same logic, Kerry should have a considerable portion added to his wealth from his wife's nearly $800 million portfolio.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
It WILL NOT reduce emissions. It simply moves it around. AND they all know it, which makes them ...?
Climate Bill Set for Vote After Deal Is Reached
By IAN TALLEY and SIOBHAN HUGHES
June 24, 2009
WASHINGTON -- A deal on the climate bill has been reached with the head of the House Agriculture Committee, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a vote on the legislation for Friday.
Late Tuesday, Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) said the accord with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.) would allay the concerns of many Farm Belt lawmakers.
The legislation had stalled last week because of opposition from Farm Belt Democrats who were concerned their states will face heavier costs under the proposed law to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
Under the agreement, Mr. Peterson said, rural electric cooperatives will receive more free emissions permits that power producers will be required to hold in order to emit carbon dioxide.
The legislation will also place the Agriculture Department -- rather than the Environmental Protection Agency, as initially proposed -- in charge of determining what kinds of agricultural practices will qualify as "offsets," activities that avoid or reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
The question was important to farm groups because the legislation would allow businesses to pay farmers to engage in activities like injecting the soil with seed rather than plowing the ground and causing the release of carbon. Many farm groups had feared the EPA would be less likely to approve such projects than the Agriculture Department.
Opponents and supporters of landmark climate legislation are ramping up their public-relations campaigns ahead of the planned House vote. The Obama administration is pushing the measure as a job-creator, while critics, including many Republicans, are portraying the bill as an energy tax that could slow the economy.
The bill aims to cut U.S. emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% below 2005 levels by midcentury, creating a market for companies to buy and sell the right to emit carbon dioxide and other gases. It also mandates a new renewable electricity standard and establishes new national building codes.
Mr. Obama on Tuesday said the House climate bill is "extraordinarily important for our country," urging House members "to come together and pass it."
Obama calls on HuffPost for Iran question
In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran.
“Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”
Pitney, as if ignoring what Obama had just said, said: “I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.”
He then noted that the site had solicited questions from people in the country “who were still courageous enough to be communicating online.”
“Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of the — of what the demonstrators there are working towards?”
Reporters typically don’t coordinate their questions for the president before press conferences, so it seemed odd that Obama might have an idea what the question would be. Also, it was a departure from White House protocol by calling on The Huffington Post second, in between the AP and Reuters.
CBS Radio's Mark Knoller, a veteran White House correspondent, said over Twitter it was "very unusual that Obama called on Huffington Post second, appearing to know the issue the reporter would ask about."
According to POLITICO's Carol Lee, The Huffington Post reporter was brought out of lower press by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest and placed just inside the barricade for reporters a few minutes before the start of the press conference.
(This post was rewritten shortly after the exchange and updated in the text. Initially, I wrote the exchange was "clearly coordinated," but have since put the question to a Huffington Post spokesperson and the White House for more elaboration. See updates: There was discussion between the White House and Pitney about asking an Iran question).
UPDATE: Deputy press secretary Bill Burton responds: "We did reach out to him prior to press conference to tell him that we had been paying attention to what he had been doing on Iran and there was a chance that he’d be called on. And, he ended up asking the toughest question that the President took on Iran. In the absence of an Iranian press corps in Washington, it was an innovative way to get a question directly from an Iranian."
UPDATE 2: Knoller, again via Twitter: "Huffington Post's Nico Pitney says the WH called him this morning and invited him to ask his Iran questions at the news conference."
UPDATE 3: Pitney says the White House reached out about his Iran coverage, but only said it was possible he'd get a question.
At the end of the Shah's control of Iran's government in 1979, no more than a dozen demonstrators were killed. He called them communists and dissidents, extremists, and let his police attack and brutalize them.
Under the regime of the immoral and corrupted mullahs at least fifty have been killed and hundreds beaten, thousands arrested.
They call the protestors dissidents and foreign puppets, anti-Islamic forces ... and they brutalize them, torture, and kill them.
They have buried their holy Islamic Revolution - they are a shell.
The Iranian people have turned against the evil and corrupt.
Everywhere these apostates of Islam turn they will have millions watching them. They will need to sleep with their eyes open.
Intensified crackdown mutes protests in Iran
By WILLIAM J. KOLE
June 23, 2009
CAIRO (AP) — Overwhelmed by police and left with limited alternatives, Iranian demonstrators resorted Tuesday to more subtle ways of challenging the outcome of the presidential election: holding up posters, shouting from rooftops and turning on car headlights.
But the restrained expressions of discontent appeared to be scattered as Iran's ruling clerics dealt the opposition new setbacks, making clear they have no intention of holding a new vote and setting up a special court to deal with hundreds of protesters arrested in more than a week of unrest.
Iran also expelled two diplomats from Britain — a nation it bitterly accuses of meddling and spying — and Britain in turn sent two Iranian envoys home.
The latest moves, and a fresh deployment of riot police and militia to break up any street gatherings, signaled the regime's determination to squelch dissent and mute the voices of those whose protests have been the largest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"People are calmly protesting, more symbolically than with their voices," a Tehran resident said in a telephone interview, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government retribution.
No rallies were reported Tuesday. Many in Tehran seemed hesitant to confront the feared Revolutionary Guard and members of the Basij militia, suggesting the harsh response wrought by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to large and boisterous demonstrations may have weakened the opposition's resolve.
In Tehran's sprawling Grand Bazaar market, shopkeepers said customers frightened away by the violent crackdown were venturing back outdoors.
"These past few days the situation was not good," said a vendor who gave his name only as Ali because he feared retaliation. "People were scared because there was not any security and people didn't come out. But thank God, in the past two or three days the situation has gotten much better and business is good."
Severe restrictions on reporters have made it almost impossible to independently verify reports on demonstrations, clashes and casualties. Iran has ordered journalists for international news agencies to stay in their offices, barring them from reporting on the streets.
President Barack Obama said the world was "appalled and outraged" at Tehran's use of violence, and other nations expressed grave concerns as the standoff fueled an increasingly acrimonious international dispute on how to engage Iran — a country the U.S. and its allies have accused of covertly trying to build a nuclear weapon.
"I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering in Iran's affairs," Obama said. "But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place."
Iran's Foreign Ministry said it expelled the two Britons for "unconventional behavior," state television reported without elaborating. Tensions between Iran and Britain, which has urged the Islamic regime to respect human rights, have soared in recent days.
During Friday prayers at Tehran University, Khamenei lashed out against Western countries he said were displaying their "enmity" against the Islamic state, "and the most evil of them is the British government." Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has accused Britain of sending spies to manipulate the June 12 election.
Iran's expulsions came a day after Britain sent home a dozen dependents of diplomatic staff because of the unrest.
"I am disappointed that Iran has placed us in this position but we will continue to seek good relations with Iran and to call for the regime to respect the human rights and democratic freedoms of the Iranian people," said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
About 100 hard-line students protested outside the British Embassy in Tehran, where they burned U.S., British and Israeli flags, pelted the building with tomatoes, and chanted: "Down with Britain!" and "Down with USA!" state TV reported.
[Let them go home and walk the streets - they would be pelted by the people.]
Iran also accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of interfering in its domestic affairs.
Ban told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the "Iranian government must stop the arrest of these people and protect the civilians, and also protect the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of information."
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he was the true winner of the election. Iran's electoral commission declared Ahmadinejad the winner by a landslide, ignoring Mousavi's claims of widespread and systematic vote fraud. Mousavi has been out of sight in recent days, but a short message posted on his Web site asserted that "all the reports of violations in the elections will be published soon."
State TV reported that Ahmadinejad would be sworn in sometime between July 26 and Aug. 19.
Another opposition figure, reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi, called for a day of mourning for at least 17 people killed in protests since the election. Some social networking sites suggested that the mourning would take place Thursday.
Amid the crackdown, there was one small concession Tuesday from Khamenei, whose word is law in the Islamic Republic. State TV said he agreed to extend by five days a deadline for registering complaints about the election.
Yet the regime made it clear that it stood by the results and there would be no rerun of the disputed vote.
State-run Press TV quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for Iran's top electoral body, the Guardian Council, as saying it found "no major fraud or breach in the election."
"Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place," he was quoted as saying.
On Monday, the council had acknowledged in a rare step that it found voting irregularities in 50 of 170 districts, including ballot counts that exceeded the number of eligible voters. Still, it said the discrepancies, involving some 3 million votes, were not widespread enough to affect the outcome.
Iran has 46.2 million eligible voters, one-third of them under 30. The final tally gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 percent to Mousavi, a landslide victory in a race that was perceived to be much closer. The huge margin went against the expectation that the record 85 percent turnout would help Mousavi.
In a boost for the regime, Russia said Tuesday it respects the outcome. Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has longtime political and economic ties with Iran, where it is helping build a nuclear power plan at Bushehr. In his only trip abroad since the vote, Ahmadinejad went to Russia last week for a conference, where he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Meanwhile, Ebrahim Raisi, a top judicial official, said a special court has been set up to deal with detained protesters.
"Elements of riots must be dealt with to set an example. The judiciary will do that," he was quoted as saying by state-run radio. The judiciary is controlled by Iran's ruling clerics.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting Rome, praised the courage of Iranian protesters "in facing bullets in the streets."
Two prominent Iranian opposition figures took their case to Europe on Tuesday.
Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi asked European Union officials in Brussels not to negotiate or hold meetings with Iranian leaders until the crackdown stops. Ban said he also spoke Ebadi by telephone Tuesday.
In Rome, Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf said he had been asked by Mousavi aides to spread the word on what is happening in Iran. Makhmalbaf said that even if Ahmadinejad manages to govern for the next four years, "he will not have one day of quietness," with protesters resorting to general strikes and civil resistance.
A number of journalists have been detained since the protests began, although there have been conflicting accounts. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders put the figure of reporters detained at 34.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said 13 were in custody, including Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari. State-run TV confirmed the arrest of Iason Athanasiadis, a Greek national reporting for the Washington Times.
Get a whiff: Obama admits occasional cigarette
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer
June 23, 2009
WASHINGTON – It fell to President Barack Obama to confirm the gossip that his aides had spent weeks trying to snuff out: He still sneaks an occasional cigarette.
"There are times where I mess up," Obama said at a White House news conference on Tuesday.
But, the president hastened to add, he never smokes in front of his young daughters and not on a daily basis. Oh, and he's "95 percent cured."
It was the first public acknowledgment from the president that he still hasn't completely kicked the habit. In the past, he had alluded to his three-decades-old habit without giving direct answers.
One day after signing the nation's toughest anti-tobacco legislation into law, Obama was asked again Tuesday about his smoking habit and came clean.
"Look, I've said before that as a former smoker I constantly struggle with it. Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes," Obama said. "Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No." [As a FORMER smoker ... no, he is a regular smoker, even if it is only 4 or 5 a day, HE is not a FORMER smoker. That would be like a drug addict who took 10 grams of cocaine a day and dropped down to 1/2 a day calling himself a former drug user who relapses occasionally.]
Obama has said he used to average about five cigarettes a day, although stress sometimes drove him to reach for a lighter more often. He promised his wife he'd quit if she agreed that he should run for president.
"I hate it," Michelle Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" early in the presidential campaign. "That's why he doesn't do it anymore, I'm proud to say. I outed him — I'm the one who outed him on the smoking. That was one of my prerequisites for, you know, entering this race is that, you know, he couldn't be a smoking president." [Well, he is and .... he is. Maybe she should just bake cookies.]
Now in the White House, Obama is finding that his nicotine intake is part of the public debate — much to the president's annoyance.
When asked Tuesday about the anti-smoking measure and his own habits, Obama scolded a reporter for thinking the question was "neat ... as opposed to it being relevant to my new law."
[Isn't he the model - lecturing the media about what is and is not relevant. Ha. Mr. Obama, the media do not take kindly to being lectured. I would be careful. They will turn on you like sharks.]
He said the legislation, which faced a veto threat under former President George W. Bush, was aimed at preventing young people from taking up the habit. Obama began smoking as a teenager and has been an on-again, off-again smoker ever since.
"First of all, the new law that was put in place is not about me," Obama said. "It's about the next generation of kids coming up."
Kids like his daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 8-year-old Sasha.
"I don't do it in front of my kids, I don't do it in front of my family," Obama said.
Obama refused to say how many cigarettes he smokes, where he sneaks them or how often he lights up now that he's in the White House. Only a day earlier, his top aides had refused to answer direct questions about the president's smoking.
"I don't, honestly, see the need to get a whole lot more specific than the fact that it's a continuing struggle," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "He struggles with it every day."
[He should go on tour - with Slick Willy - he never told a lie and Obama doesn't smoke.]
During the presidential campaign, aides packed nicotine gum in their pockets to help Obama control his urges. Obama occasionally bummed cigarettes from aides, while also making sure to emphasize his efforts to stop for good and his progress toward quitting.
Jun 23 2009
Agence France Presse
A German teacher who had sued to shut down a website where pupils rank their instructors according to competence and "coolness" lost her battle in court Tuesday.
The Federal Supreme Court, Germany's top civil tribunal, rejected the claim of the teacher, Astrid Czubayko-Reiss, that her right to privacy was violated by the site, spickmich.de, (loosely translated, checkmeout.de) where she received a mediocre rating from students.
"The right of students to exchange opinions and communicate freely outweighs the right of the teacher suing to determine information available about her," the court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe said.
The website allows students to turn the tables on teachers by anonymously grading them in categories including "cool and funny", "popular", "motivated", "relaxed" and "teaches well".
Czubayko, a German teacher from the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, had received an overall grade of 4.3, or a "D". She had also lost her case before lower courts and appealed to the federal tribunal.
The German Teachers' Association criticised the ruling.
"It is inexplicable that the BGH values the personal rights of teachers less than an anonymous assessment of teachers by students on the Internet," Association president Josef Kraus said, referring to the federal court.
Kraus said his organisation hoped the case would be overturned by the country's highest tribunal, the Federal Constitutional Court.
June 19, 2009
The New York Times
Obama’s Pledge on Donations Faces Reality
By JEFF ZELENY
WASHINGTON — When President Obama arrived at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for a fund-raising reception on Thursday night, the new White House rules of political purity were in order: no lobbyists allowed.
But at the same downtown hotel on Friday morning, registered lobbyists have not only been invited to attend an issues conference with Democratic leaders, but they have also been asked to come with a $5,000 check in hand if they want to stay in good favor with the party’s House and Senate re-election committees.
The practicality of Mr. Obama’s pledge to change the ways of Washington is colliding once more with the reality of how money, influence and governance interact here. He repeatedly declared while campaigning last year that he would “not take a dime” from lobbyists or political action committees.
So to follow through with that promise, Mr. Obama is simply leaving the room.
For the first time in eight years, Democrats have a president of their own to preside over their political fund-raising activities. And Mr. Obama’s rules have hardly stopped the bustling intersection of money and politics. Not only are members of Congress already engaged in their next races, but legislative battles over health care, energy and financial regulation have also put a premium on access and influence for many lobbyists and their clients.
“We shouldn’t feel satisfied,” Mr. Obama told the donors and several Democratic lawmakers after listing achievements so far this year. “We’ve got a much longer journey to travel, and this is when it gets hard.”
In the first five months of his administration, Mr. Obama has only occasionally injected himself into the business of raising money. But the back-to-back Democratic fund-raisers on Thursday night and Friday morning show how he is striving to keep his word in turning away money from special interests without leaving the party at a financial disadvantage to Republicans.
At the Mandarin Oriental — one of the city’s finest hotels, between the Potomac River and the White House — a few hundred Democrats, and people eager to help Democrats, arrived Thursday. The familiar faces of Democratic donors, like Maurice Sonnenberg, a New York financier, and Wade Randlett, a San Francisco technology executive, mingled with Alonzo Mourning, a seven-time N.B.A. All-Star whose No. 33 jersey with the Miami Heat was retired this year.
To an audience of about 300 people, Mr. Obama asked for help finding solutions on health care and other challenges. “To those who simply criticize without offering new ideas of their own,” he said, “I have to ask, What’s your answer?”
The White House said the president had agreed to attend the event on Thursday night, expected to raise $3 million, only if federal lobbyists were not on hand. That is already the rule at the Democratic National Committee but not for the House and Senate re-election committees. So for one night only, Democratic leaders in Congress agreed to keep lobbyists out, but by morning those rules go away.
The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, dismissed a suggestion on Thursday that the rules were a sleight of hand. He said no lobbyists would be on hand when Mr. Obama addressed the donors, which is what he promised in the campaign.
“People know where the president stands,” Mr. Gibbs told reporters. Asked whether Mr. Obama would agree with critics who suggested it was hypocritical, he demurred and added, “We’re not taking their money.”
A ticket went for $5,000 on Thursday night, but most people contributed far more. The top tier for contributors was $100,000, known as the United Committee, which was assigned to those who donated their own money and helped raise even more. Most people gave $30,400 per couple, which included a photograph with the president.
The gathering at the Mandarin Oriental was the third fund-raising event in the past month for Mr. Obama, including events in California and Nevada. And this week, concerned about falling behind Republicans in raising money, Democrats sent an urgent appeal to lobbyists on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Please note that the Friday Issues Conference is NOT subject to lobbyist restrictions, though the event is intended for personal contributions only,” a finance official from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told lobbyists in an e-mail message. “The Issues Conference is separate from the D.S.C.C./D.C.C.C. events with President Obama.”
The Republican National Committee said Mr. Obama had not kept his word.
“This is the height of hypocrisy and just one more example of President Obama’s rhetoric not squaring with reality,” said the Republican chairman, Michael Steele. “Candidate Obama said lobbyists and special interests will not fund the Democratic Party, but now the Democrats are cashing their checks as fast as they come in, 364 days a year.”
Several Democratic lobbyists privately grumbled about being excluded from the presidential reception, only to be asked to attend the Friday event. None would speak openly for fear of agitating the White House or Democratic leaders in Congress. But they and others suggested that changing the ways of Washington was more of a challenge than Mr. Obama might have let on last year.
“You can say a lot of things while you’re running for election,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which studies money and influence, “but putting them into practice once in office is a different ball of wax.”
Before Mr. Obama arrived at the hotel on Thursday evening, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada; the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California; and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. met with donors for lunch. At the evening event, one element was added that was reminiscent of the Obama campaign, which thrived on major contributions but always sought to highlight the stories of first-time donors.
Sitting among people who raised tens of thousands of dollars was Eric Wikner of Lake Oswego, Ore. Mr. Wikner, a 66-year-old Air Force veteran, contributed $20 and won a free trip to Washington, a night at the Mandarin Oriental and the chance to meet the president.
“It was very pleasant,” Mr. Wikner said by phone afterward. “Fund-raising is something that I’ve been less aware of.
“It leaves room for a little cynicism that money buys votes, but realistically, it’s the engine of the process.”