Thursday, April 28, 2011

Obama’s reshuffle of national security team signals challenges ahead

Posted at 05:35 PM ET, 04/28/2011

The most important thing that Barack Obama did this week — and no, it wasn’t the birth certificate sideshow — was the long-anticipated reshuffle of national security positions, featuring Leon Panetta moving from CIA to Defense and General Petraeus replacing him at CIA. But what’s particularly interesting about the moves he made is what they tell us about the national security dilemmas he faces.
Obama officially announced the selections this afternoon. I was inclined to think the selections were first-rate — I’ve long been a Panetta fan — but I was waiting to hear from Fred Kaplan before commenting, because he’s both a smart observer and because he has excellent sources within the national security establishment. Kaplan is...I don’t think “thrilled” is too strong:
[U]nder the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine a shrewder set of moves, both politically and substantively...Defense right now is] a nightmare job for anyone but Panetta has as much experience as anyone at carving out that sort of territory ... Picking Petraeus to run the CIA is a move worthy of chess masters.
Kaplan correctly identifies the problems facing the Obama Administration: First, downsizing and ending the active military commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya without the politically damaging perception of “losing” those conflicts; and second, the prospect of real Pentagon budget cuts.
Presidential scholar Richard Neustadt talked about viable public policy needing to be “manageable to the men who must administer it, acceptable to those who must support it, tolerable to those who must put up with it, in Washington and out.”
Budget cuts mean that there’s going to be a whole lot of “put up with it.” And Panetta, with his vast experience with bureaucratic politics, particularly in the budget realm, should be good at sniffing out which cuts would be “intolerable” and which would be merely inconvenient. Meanwhile, keeping on the popular Petraeus will help the President manage the difficult politics of drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s a nonpartisan figure who is a master of the Congressional hearing and has a great deal of credibility with the national security establishment. His presence will make it easier for everyone from generals in the field to foreign policy experts to accept the idea that each step towards withdrawal represents movement towards overall victory.
As Kaplan says, this hardly guarantees that things will magically run smoothly; the challenges are going to be difficult. But it’s a good play.

The President's Partisan Job
I have a new post up over at Greg's place agreeing with Fred Kaplan that Barack Obama made good choices in his national security reshuffle.

Two additional points. Kevin Drum highlighted one of the more interesting bits of Kaplan's article: the apparent lack of a strong "bench" in national security. It's worth mentioning that developing the party's farm team -- in both governing and electioneering -- is actually one of a president's most important partisan tasks. Not only is it important for future same-party presidents (I've talked many times about Bill Clinton's problem with finding experienced White House personnel), but it's presumably quite important for a president's second term, as well. Of course, an inattentive attitude towards executive branch staffing is not going to produce good results, there.

The second point is about Ezra Klein's question about why it's so hard to get budget cuts through the Pentagon:
This seems both perfectly plausible to me and completely insane. No one asks whether the Department of Health and Human Services will accept budget cuts, or whether the Labor Department is willing to downsize. But the Pentagon gets treated differently.
Well, yes and no. All departments and agencies, HHS included, resist budget cuts and changes to standard operating procedures; the Pentagon is just (perhaps) better at it than others. We know, certainly by reputation at least, some of why this is: contracts carefully arranged for maximum political benefit; the high esteem in which the military is held by the public, especially in wartime; the advantages of legitimate (and plausibly legitimate) secrecy. Add to that, for a Democratic president, fear of an issue "owned" by the other party, and you can see why it's hard to effect change. But the truth is that it's always hard to get the bureaucracy to go along with what the president wants.

And to tie these points together: it's presumably easier to get the bureaucracy to bend to the intent of the White House when political appointees are enthusiastic about carrying out the president's policies. Not certain, by any means; there are plenty of stories of bureaucratic capture of even the most gung-ho appointees. But easier. And for a Democratic president, it's not hard at all to find lots of enthusiastic nominees for Interior, or EPA, or Justice's Civil Rights Division. It's an important part of the president's job to develop an equally strong group in national security and other areas that might not spark quite as much natural passion.

Unpopulare Ryan plan sparks townhall blowback

Oil Companies preserve profits as gas prices rise

Is this a teachable moment for America?

The day Americans took leave of their senses

Weather for the South

Easter Sunday

April 24, 2011

April 25, 2011

April 26, 2011

The South Hit hard by Deadly Storms

 Storms leave more than 200 dead across the Southern States

Watch Tornadoes rip through Mississippi and Alabama

Ringgold, Ga takes a direct hit

Caught on film:  Scenes of the storms wrath

Tragedy in Tuscaloosa

Alabama Governor

VIDEO: White House Correspondents Gone Wild

| Thu Apr. 28, 2011 8:00 AM PDT
It's often easy to dump on White House reporters. They frequently get attacked for hyping trivial stories or for being both prisoners and promoters of the conventional wisdom. They're routinely assailed for not asking the right questions (as in the questions their critics would like to pose the president and his aides). But it's a tough beat—try squeezing unpackaged news out of the White House—and most of them do work long and hard to penetrate (or explain) the surface story.
An especially difficult task for them occurs during one of my favorite moments of White House journalism: the pre-presidential stand-up. This happens when the president holds a press conference or issues a statement in person. In the moments before the commander in chief takes to the podium, the network correspondents do live intros, talking to their anchors in the studios, and telling the audience what to look for in the coming remarks. These journos are usually standing next to one another—and each speaking loudly. Their reports meld into an aural amalgamation of media analysis. For each of them, the challenge is to keep focus, stare straight into the camera, say something intelligent, and, above all else, not listen to the cacophony he or she is helping to create—and not to be distracted by the other reporters in the room chuckling about this cluster-report.
Here's an example from yesterday's surprise visit by Obama to the White House briefing room to discuss his long-form birth certificates. The four stars of this video are Chuck Todd of NBC News and MSNBC, Wendell Goler of Fox News, Bill Plante of CBS News, and Jake Tapper of ABC News.

Sen. Paul wants proof of Trump's GOP cred

Sen. Paul wants proof of Trump's GOP cred
April 28th, 2011
01:43 PM ET

Washington (CNN) – While real estate mogul Donald Trump continues to raise doubt over Obama's presidential credentials, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky questioned Trump's legitimacy, not as an American, but as a Republican.
Speaking at a Merrimack County Republican Committee fundraiser on Thursday in Concord, New Hampshire, Paul said, "I've come to New Hampshire today because I'm very concerned. I want to see the original long-form certificate of Donald Trump's Republican registration."

"Seriously don't you think we need to see that?" Paul said, according to media reports.
The White House released Obama's birth certificate on Wednesday, after questions about the president's birthplace were repeatedly raised, most recently by Trump.
With the "Celebrity Apprentice" star busy questioning Obama's presidential qualifications, Trump's voting record and campaign contributions to Democratic candidates have also raised issues about his GOP credentials.
Records obtained by CNN earlier this week show that Trump changed his party registration three times over the past 20 years and did not cast a vote in the 2002 general election.
Paul's address also mentioned the thousands of dollars in donations that Trump gave to Democratic majority leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York, in the last election cycle.
According to media reports, Paul's speech centered around concern that attention garnered by GOP candidates like Trump, distracts from pertinent discussions about the deficit and economy.
"Let's look to Republicans who not only talk the talk but walk the walk," Paul said. "If we find the right candidate I see no reason why we can't win in 2012."
Paul recently toyed with the idea of joining the pack of Republicans contending for the 2012 presidential bid, until his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas announced his exploratory committee earlier this week.
"He's my landlord in Washington. Can you imagine the family strife if we ran against each other?" Paul said according to media reports. "I'm afraid that I could be kicked out of my apartment."

England's Royalty

The Making of a Queen

Kate Middleton LookBook

Shareholder resolution to empower victims of breast cancer opposed by Johnson & Johnson

TRENTON, N.J., April 28, 2011/Christian Newswire --
A resolution voted on today by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) shareholders asked JNJ not to discriminate against a job applicant because of her health status. The resolution, which was opposed by JNJ, was voted down by shareholders.
Offered by Human Life International, the resolution was prompted, in part, by the numerous breast cancer survivors who have gone public with their travails to better educate woman about breast cancer and its prevention. In addition to their physical concerns, these courageous women face possible job discrimination because of potential medical liabilities they may pose to future employers. The resolution asks JNJ not to discriminate against these women or others, like AIDS victims, because of their health status. In a letter to shareholders, JNJ recommended shareholders vote against this policy because "The Board (of JNJ) does not believe it is necessary...."
In addition, the resolution highlighted the connection between breast cancer and oral contraceptives by citing a meta-analysis study by Dr. Chris Kahlenborn, which showed 21 out of 23 studies indicated a link between breast cancer and oral contraceptive use.The International Agency on Cancer Research, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified hormonal contraceptives in 2005 as a group one carcinogen, along with asbestos and radium. JNJ sells hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oral contraceptives every year. Dr. Kahlenborn gave a short presentation (text available here) of his findings at the shareholder meeting, which was held in New Jersey.
"I took birth control for years, and I have to wonder if it caused my breast cancer. I also have a niece who was on birth control and at 19 had a stroke due to blood clotting aggravated by the pill," said Bonnie Borel-Donohue, a breast cancer survivor, in response to the vote. "Having profited for years from the sale of carcinogenic and stroke-provoking birth control products, JNJ should see that this resolution is but the smallest step it could have taken to rectify the injustices and harms suffered by unsuspecting users/victims of their birth control products."

Bernanke Holds First Press Briefing as Fed Chief

Predicts moderate economic reco
very through 201

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke held his first press briefing with reporters as Fed Chief, beginning what is to be a quarterly event.
Bernanke said the economy will recover at a moderate pace for the remainder of the year. He also said the Federal Reserve continues to balance economic policy geared at recovery with concerns of inflation.
He reiterated a previous assertion that the Fed’s efforts to stimulate the economy, through an aggressive program of large bond purchases, will not raise inflation. The Fed keeps its federal funds rate between zero and 0.25%, a rate it has kept since December 2008.
Chair Bernanke has been a long-time advocate of Federal Reserve transparency. According to a statement on the Fed's website, "The introduction of regular press briefings is intended to further enhance the clarity and timeliness of the Federal Reserve's monetary policy communication. The Federal Reserve will continue to review its communications practices in the interest of ensuring accountability and increasing public understanding."
Tomorrow, the government will release the first-quarter gross domestic product data.  It is expected to show light economic growth at the start of the year.
Updated: Wednesday at 7:59pm (ET)

National Security Team Personnel Changes

 White House
President Obama announced changes to his national security team. Among those changes, he nominated CIA director Leon Panetta to be defense secretary and General David Petraeus to head up the CIA.

Santorum: Planned Parenthood "Not Far" From Its "Poisonous Roots"

By Robin Marty, RH Reality Check
April 28, 2011 - 5:44pm
Robin Marty's picture
Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum isn't content blaming abortion for the "need to reform" social security.  Now, he's claiming that states should continue their efforts to try and defund Planned Parenthood because they are probably practicing eugenics.
...Santorum doesn't think the Planned Parenthood of today is much different from the age of Sanger's controversial views. He called on Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) to sign a bill in his state that would "defund" Planned Parenthood for Hoosiers, pointing to what he calls the group's shady past and sketchy present.
"I can't imagine any other organization with its roots as poisonous as the roots of Planned Parenthood getting federal funding of any kind," Santorum said. "This is an organization that was founded on the eugenics movement, founded on racism -- I mean, it's horrific. It's origins are horrific. And you can say, 'well it's not that anymore.' It's not far from where it was in my opinion."
"They've stayed in that same general area of saying that there are certain people in society that we should -- you heard Ruth Bader Ginsburg say it in her comments about you know "undesirables" in society," he said. "I just don't think that's what federal government or state government money should be going to."
So, to draw the next logical step, Santorum should propose that all Title X funding should be stopped and put in the Social Security fund.

Donald Trump's racial discrimination problem

In the 1970s, he was sued by the feds for not renting to African-Americans

Apology from Orly Taitz?

Republicans Retreat


Apr 28, 2011

School choice allows Hoosier children to escape failing public schools

Indianapolis, IN- Today, FreedomWorks activists across the state of Indiana are celebrating the passage of legislation establishing a statewide school voucher program. The bill allows families to choose the school that best meets the individual needs of their children. The legislation was approved along with other Daniels proposals for education reform, including the expansion of charter schools, merit-based pay for teachers, and restrictions on the collective bargaining powers of teachers unions.
School choice vouchers cost taxpayers a fraction of what they would pay under a public school system monopolized by teachers unions, and have proven to boost student performance at every level. Just as competition and choice improve everyday products in the marketplace, they have positive effects on schools as well.
“The bold leadership of Gov. Daniels to advance the principles of freedom is exactly what voters are looking for,” commented Matt Kibbe, President of FreedomWorks. “We applaud Mitch Daniels for having the legislative courage to propose these sweeping educational reforms, and we hope it will inspire governors across the country to do the same.”
FreedomWorks recently awarded Governor Daniels with the FreedomWorks "Legislative Entrepreneur Award" for his dedication to rein in spending and restore economic competition in Indiana. “Legislative Entrepreneurs” are identified by their deep-rooted commitment and unwavering leadership in the promotion and defense of economic liberty.
FreedomWorks will continue to support school choice and education reform efforts in states like Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
“Victory in Indiana is just the beginning,” added Kibbe. “School choice is sweeping the nation state-by-state, and FreedomWorks will be there to support taxpayers and parents every step of the way.”