Monday, July 30, 2012

This is my salute to the Olympic Games in London.  With all the coverage from everybody else, I just do not see any need to repeat it. I wish all the athletes all the best, and those from the US God's speed.

Mitt Romney would 'respect' Israel strike on Iran, aide says

Jason Reed / Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney meets Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Sunday.
JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney would “respect” Israel's use of military force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a senior aide said on Sunday as the Republican presidential candidate began his visit to Jerusalem.
"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision," Romney's senior national security aide Dan Senor told reporters traveling with the candidate.
While stopping short of endorsing a preemptive military attack, the comment seemed to differ with President Barack Obama's attempts to convince Israel to avoid any such move.
Shaking hands underneath U.S. and Israel flags, the pair signaled that Iran would be top of the agenda in their discussions.Gov. Romney’s first meeting was Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who greeted him as a “personal friend and friend of Israel.”
Netanyahu said: "We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And that's why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation."
Later, Gov. Romney and his wife Ann visited the city's Western Wall.
Sunday’s comments came as a senior Israeli official denied a newspaper report that President Barack Obama's national security adviser had briefed Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear program.
The Israeli liberal Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying the adviser, Thomas Donilon, had described the plan over dinner with Netanyahu earlier this month.
"Nothing in the article is correct. Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one-on-one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran," the senior official, who declined to be named given the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters.

What drives the Obama doubters and haters?

By David Maraniss, Published: July 27

There are Obama doubters and haters out there who claim with righteous anger that they are “vetting” the president, something they say the mainstream media never did.

Some of them have said that my new biography — unwittingly, they argue, for I am too dumb to understand what my research has unearthed — proves that Barack Obama’s defining memoir is phony and that his entire life is a fraud. 

My intent is not to defend Obama or his book; he can take care of himself, and I have my own questions about “Dreams From My Father,” which I make clear in my book. But when comparing the liberties Obama took with composite characters and compressed chronology — which he acknowledged in the introduction to his memoir — to the stretches his most virulent detractors have taken in building their various conspiracies, I believe that they are the frauds and fabricators.

Not all of them are “birthers,” but the notion that the president was not born in the United States remains at the epicenter of the anti-Obama mythology. 

Here is the conspiracy that would have had to exist if Barack Hussein Obama II were not born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Aug. 4, 1961:

First, the local newspapers would have had to have been in on the scheme, because they ran notices of his birth among all the other local births that week. Second, the Immigration and Naturalization Service would have had to have been covering something up, because INS officials were closely tracking Barack Obama Sr. when he was at the University of Hawaii on a student visa from Kenya. They thought that he was a bigamist — which he was, having married a woman in Kenya before coming to the States — and a womanizer, which he also was. INS documents in the weeks and months before and after the son’s birth clearly establish the father’s whereabouts and the birth of his son. Finally, the name of Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann, was unusual enough that doctors and nurses in Honolulu remembered it and her giving birth. One prominent doctor was asked by a young journalist if anything interesting had happened in the medical world that week, and he responded, “Well, Stanley had a baby!”
In tandem with the birther notion comes the idea that Obama is a secret Muslim. His Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango, was Muslim; his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was Muslim; as a boy he was instructed in Islam at a school in Jakarta; and many of his college friends were Muslim. 

None of this adds up to Obama being Muslim, except in the minds of conspiratorialists. Obama never met his Kenyan grandfather. After infancy, he spent time with his Kenyan father only once, and in any case Barack Obama Sr. was an atheist. The truth is that Muslims had nothing to do with the rise of the Obamas of Kenya and that conservative evangelical Christians were essential every step of the way.

It was proselytizing Seventh-day Adventists who first came to the Obamas’ villages out near Lake Victoria at the start of the 20th century. They taught English and Western ways to the first wave of young boys from the Luo tribe, including Hussein Onyango. His son, the president’s father, was also educated at a missionary school. Later, as a young adult, Barack Obama Sr. was mentored by a remarkable evangelical Christian, Betty Mooney, whose grandfather was one of the founders of Texas Christian University. Mooney, who went to Kenya in the late 1950s to spread the gospel and literacy, met Obama Sr. in Nairobi and hired him to translate some of her literacy books into the Luo tribal language. She encouraged and helped sponsor his coming to the United States and specifically to the University of Hawaii, where he met Stanley Ann Dunham. One can say that President Obama would not exist except for evangelical Christians.

While living in Jakarta from ages 6 through 9, young Obama temporarily took the last name of his stepfather, Soetoro, for school purposes. He was listed as a Muslim on school documents because students were listed in the religion of their fathers. Lolo was not particularly religious; Stanley Ann was spiritual but not part of any formal religion. For most of his three-plus years in Indonesia, Obama attended a Catholic grade school. When his family moved to a better neighborhood in his final year, he went to the local grade school, one of the best in the city. The central doctrine taught at S.D. Besuki was not Islam but Pancasila, or five principles, of modern Indonesia, which evoked the unity of the islands on the vast archipelago, social justice and a belief in one God. Conservative Muslims detested Pancasila (a Sanskrit word revealing Indonesia’s Hindu heritage), insisting that it was too liberal and open to too many religions and interpretations.

In both the issues of Obama’s birth and of his religion, documents and common sense lead in one direction. Obama’s doubters run the other way: His birth certificates must be fake; his espoused Christianity must be a cover. Another group of right-wing doubters hold on to the notion that Obama is a closet socialist, some sort of Manchurian candidate, an idea that his every move as a pragmatic liberal politician over the past 16 years has utterly disproved. Some others maintain that he was not smart enough to get into Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law, and too inept to write his own memoir, which one particularly obsessed conspiratorialist claims was penned by the former radical Bill Ayers. What about the well-written letters from Obama that are published in my book? Those, too, must be frauds slipped to me by the Obama administration.

In the introduction to my book, I took note of a sick political culture where “facts are so easily twisted for political purposes and where strange armies of ideological pseudo-historians roam the biographical fields in search of stray ammunition.” That sentence is now cited on right-wing Web sites as evidence that I hold them in contempt. True enough, one of the few accurate things that I’ve read from them. I do hold some of them in contempt, not because of their politics, nor because of their dislike of Obama. Political debate and disagreement are the lifeblood of American democracy. No, I hold them in contempt for the way they disregard facts and common sense and undermine the role of serious history as they concoct conspiracy theories that portray the president as dangerous, alien and less than American.

What drives them? Some of it can be attributed to the give-and-take of today’s harsh ideological divide. Some of it can be explained by the way misinformation spreads virally to millions of like-minded people, reinforcing preconceptions. And some of it, I believe, arises out of fears of demographic changes in this country, and out of racism.

Tea party threat defused, Hatch wants to do a deal

Rare is the Tea Party-tested Republican senator who hangs an image of the Kennedys' Hyannisport home over his desk and shows off the painter's personal inscription.
"Orrin," reads the note, scribbled below a cobalt-blue sea. "We'll leave the light on at the compound for you anytime. Ted Kennedy, '91."
The beacon of bipartisanship that defined their odd-couple relationship still guides Utah's Orrin Hatch. He didn't advertise it as he wooed and won over the tea partiers who, two years ago, toppled fellow conservative Robert Bennett from his Senate perch.
But now, with his state's Senate GOP nomination in hand and re-election to a seventh term all but assured, Hatch, 78, can think about his legacy.
He's very clear about what he wants: As the senior Republican in the Senate, his party's top voice on the tax-writing Finance Committee, Hatch wants a deal that restructures the tax code while also slowing and even stopping the government's accumulation of debt. To get it, he says he'll practice the art of compromise over the take-my-marbles-and-leave mentality that has tied up Congress in recent years.
"There has to be a course correction," Hatch said in a recent interview. "If I am chairman of the Finance Committee, you can bet your sweet bippy I will take a leading role."
A new tax code, he says, would have to be bipartisan to pass Congress and, as importantly, have credibility with the Americans who will fork over large chunks of their paychecks under it. Orchestrating it will require a delicate touch with Washington's most muscular interest groups and stubborn factions of both parties.
In the vaulted Capitol hideaway office he inherited from Kennedy — the seascape hanging nearby — Hatch offered a reality check on how lawmaking happens.
"Neither side is going to get everything they want," he said. "But it is important that we move ahead, and that we do the art of the doable to pull this country out of the fiscal morass it's in. And I think we can."
Hatch can be so explicit about compromise now because he is the ultimate Senate survivor:
—Of his own stern, televised reading of "The Exorcist" during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
—Of a failed presidential bid in 2000 that was dwarfed by the George W. Bush juggernaut.
—Of his vote for the 2008 bank bailout, an apostasy to the same tea partiers who ousted Bennett.
—And in June, of the first real threat to re-election since winning his Senate seat in 1976.
Washington's political tribal chiefs know that the conservatism Hatch has emphasized in his re-election campaign co-exists with an interest in getting results on Capitol Hill and a long-demonstrated willingness to compromise.
The type of real, red-faced debate that delighted Hatch and Kennedy also produced landmark laws like the American Disabilities Act and children's health insurance. With former Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, the bellowing begat federally subsidized child care. Tense talks with no less a partisan than Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., produced a patent exemption that cleared the way for the generic drug industry.
Hatch's last two years of ideological purity — a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, compared with an average 84 percent rating the previous five years — may have been driven by a survival instinct, but it still irritates some.
Vice President Biden recalled how the Utah Republican was an original co-sponsor of his 1994 bill that became the Violence Against Women Act, only to vote against its renewal and expansion this year.
"Orrin and I always had a good personal relationship. We disagreed on a lot but where we found common ground, we worked together," Biden said in a statement to The Associated Press. "I hope those days return."
Tax reform could well be Hatch's enduring legacy. The contours of the debate are clear and broadly philosophical: Republicans think the government levies enough taxes already but growing the economy would produce more revenue. Democrats say the wealthiest are not taxed enough.
Much, of course, depends on who wins the White House and control of Congress.
Here is where the debate would start: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney agrees with Hatch that there should be a one-year extension on all of the Bush-era tax cuts, then comprehensive tax reform. President Barack Obama wants to let those tax cuts expire for Americans making more than $250,000 a year, and then do reform.
Hatch would have great say in where the discussion ends — with a new tax code, a collapse of talks or something in-between. He has willing negotiating partners in both parties, beginning with his Democratic counterpart atop the Finance Committee hierarchy, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, and including some of the most agile dealmakers in Congress.
"Orrin is good, one of the best," says Waxman.
No one suggests that Hatch, for all his red meat bluster lately, comes back to the Senate next year any less of a dealmaker. Right now, longtime colleagues say, Hatch is doing what Hatch does best: adapt to the "rhythms of change."
"Politics is not a static business. The ability of someone who's good at this, and unfortunately we don't give enough credit for it, is the ability to understand that the public's mood is not static either," Dodd, now president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in an interview. "Orrin's got a very good ear. And he used it."
The South Carolina Republican who calls himself "Sen. Tea Party" attributes Hatch's longevity to engaging, rather than dismissing, critics from the right.
"He didn't go home and try to explain to people why they were wrong," said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a chief patron of tea party candidates. "He went home and listened."
By the time the tea party had defeated Bennett in a state convention two years ago, Hatch was already on the move. He faced voters deeply suspicious about Washington insiders. For those who said that 36 years in office was enough, he said that he wouldn't be running again if it weren't for the chance he'll become chairman of the Finance Committee. For those who said he wasn't conservative enough, he gravitated to the right.
Hatch also spent about $10 million on a campaign unlike any Utah had seen. He won endorsement from Romney, another of Utah's favorite sons. In the state's June primary running against former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, Hatch won two-thirds of the vote.
Three months from the general election, Hatch is still riling up the base. He'll casually toss off a comment about how he doesn't understand why Obama's experience as a community organizer qualifies him to lead the country. He framed Obama's plans to tax the wealthiest Americans as an attack on small businesses.
For many, the question is whether Hatch hews to conservatism in what are sure to be tough negotiations on taxes and changing entitlement benefit programs.
DeMint thinks a brief moment and concludes, "I trust him."

Key role for Bill Clinton at Democratic convention

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton delivers closing remarks at the International AIDS Conference at the Walter Washington Convention Center July 27, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Former President Bill Clinton will have a marquee role in this summer's Democratic National Convention, where he will make a forceful case for President Barack Obama's re-election and his economic vision for the country, several Obama campaign and Democratic party officials said Sunday.
The move gives the Obama campaign an opportunity to take advantage of the former president's immense popularity and remind voters that a Democrat was in the White House the last time the American economy was thriving.
Obama personally asked Clinton to speak at the convention and place Obama's name in nomination, and Clinton enthusiastically accepted, officials said. Clinton speaks regularly to Obama and to campaign officials about strategy.
George W. Bush, the last Republican to hold the White House, remains politically toxic in some circles. While Bush has endorsed Romney, he is not involved in his campaign and has said he does not plan to attend the GOP convention.Clinton's prominent role at the convention will also allow Democrats to embrace party unity in a way that is impossible for Republican rival Mitt Romney.
Clinton will speak in prime-time at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 5, the night before Obama formally accepts the party nomination. While the number two on the ticket often speaks that night, the Obama campaign has instead decided that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will speak on the same night.
Biden will speak before Obama on Sept. 6, in front of tens of thousands of people expected to fill an outdoor stadium in Charlotte, and millions more on television.
The vice president's speech will focus on outlining many of the challenges the White House has faced over the past four years and the decisions Obama made to address them, officials said.
"To us it's about deploying our assets in the most effective way," Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said. "To have President Clinton on Wednesday night laying out the choice facing voters, and then having Vice President Biden speak right before the president in prime time on Thursday, giving a testimony to the decisions the president has made, the character of his leadership and the battle to rebuild the middle class that's so central to our message."
Clinton's role at the convention was to be formally announced Monday. It was first reported by The New York Times.
Clinton spoke at the 2008 convention, part of a healing process for the Democratic party following the heated primary battle between Obama and the former president's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Since then, the ties between Obama and Bill Clinton have strengthened significantly. Obama has called on the former president for advice several times during his term and the two have appeared together this year at campaign fundraisers for Obama's re-election bid.

Justice Scalia steps up criticism of healthcare ruling

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Sunday renewed his criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts' reasoning in upholding President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare law and also said the Constitution undoubtedly permits some gun control.
The 76-year-old Scalia - a leading conservative on the court who has served as a justice since 1986 - also was asked whether he would time his retirement in order to let a conservative future president appoint a like-minded jurist.
"I don't know. I haven't decided when to retire," Scalia told the "Fox News Sunday" program. "... My wife doesn't want me hanging around the house - I know that."
"Of course, I would not like to be replaced by someone who immediately sets about undoing everything that I've tried to do for 25 years, 26 years, sure. I mean, I shouldn't have to tell you that. Unless you think I'm a fool."
Roberts, also a conservative, sided with the nine-member court's four liberals in upholding the constitutionality of Obama's healthcare law, considered the Democratic president's signature domestic policy achievement.
Scalia joined in a sharply worded dissent on the day of the June 28 ruling and added to his criticism on Sunday.
A central provision of the law is the "individual mandate" that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. The ruling found that this penalty "may reasonably be characterized as a tax" and thus would be constitutionally permissible under the power of Congress to impose taxes.
"There is no way to regard this penalty as a tax. ... In order to save the constitutionality, you cannot give the text a meaning it will not bear," Scalia said.
"You don't interpret a penalty to be a pig. It can't be a pig."
Supreme Court justices rarely give media interviews. Scalia is making the rounds to promote "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts," a new book he co-wrote.
Scalia brushed off Obama's comments aimed at the court regarding the healthcare law and a campaign finance ruling.
"What can he do to me? Or to any of us?" Scalia said. "We have life tenure and we have it precisely so that we will not be influenced by politics, by threats from anybody."
He was asked "why you push people's buttons every once in a while." Scalia said, "It's fun to push the buttons."
Gun control
Scalia wrote the high court's 2008 ruling that a ban on handguns in the U.S. capital violated the right to bear arms enshrined in the Constitution's Second Amendment.
In light of the July 20 massacre in which a gunman killed 12 moviegoers in Colorado, Scalia was asked whether legislatures could ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons.
He said the 2008 ruling stated that future cases will determine "what limitations upon the right to bear arms are permissible. Some undoubtedly are."
Scalia - a proponent of the idea that the Constitution must be interpreted using the meaning of its text at the time it was written - cited "a tort called affrighting" that existed when the Second Amendment was drafted in the 18th century making it a misdemeanor to carry "a really horrible weapon just to scare people like a head ax."
"So yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed," he said. "I mean, obviously, the amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried. It's to 'keep and bear' (arms). So, it doesn't apply to cannons. But I suppose there are handheld rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes that will have to be ... decided."
Regarding the death penalty, Scalia said opponents want it struck under the ban on cruel and unusual punishment included in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
"But it's absolutely clear that the American people never voted to proscribe the death penalty," he said. "They adopted a cruel and unusual punishment clause at the time when every state had the death penalty and every state continued to have it. Nobody thought that the Eighth Amendment prohibited it."
Scalia also took issue with decades-old Supreme Court precedent, saying the Constitution does not provide Americans with a right to privacy, despite a landmark 1965 ruling finding that it does. That ruling helped pave the way for the court's 1973 ruling legalizing abortion.
"There is no right to privacy - no generalized right to privacy," Scalia said. "No one ever thought that the American people ever voted to prohibit limitations on abortion. I mean, there is nothing in the Constitution that says that."
Scalia also was asked about his past criticism of rulings by Supreme Court colleagues in which he called them "folly" and "sheer applesauce."
"I don't know that I'm cantankerous," he said. "I express myself vividly."

Romney: US has 'solemn duty' to prevent Iranian threat to Israel

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In Jerusalem Sunday, Mitt Romney said the U.S. should "employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course." NBC's Peter Alexander reports.
JERUSALEM – Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney told an audience of supporters here Sunday that the United States has a "solemn duty and a moral imperative" to do whatever necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons that could threaten the existence of Israel, a vital American ally.
Romney focused on the specter of a nuclear-capable Iran and pledged the U.S. would never forget past horrors or turn its back on Israel.
"When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the na├»ve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric. Make no mistake: The ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses," Romney said. "They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way. My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: We will not look away, and nor will my country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel."
"We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions," Romney said.

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Speaking in Jerusalem, Mitt Romney says, preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons "must be our highest national security priority." Watch his entire speech.
Romney reiterated his belief that Iran is a vexing national concern to both Israel and the U.S. – suggesting, as a Romney aide did earlier today that the U.S. would not block a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear program if diplomatic options failed.
"We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so," Romney said. "In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel's right to defend itself and that it is right for America to stand with you."

Uriel Sinai / Getty Images
Presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney spoke outside the Old City on Sunday, where he said he supports Israel's right to defend itself against the threat of a nuclear Iran. He is in Israel as part of a three-nation foreign diplomatic tour which also includes visits to Poland and the U.K.
Romney had nothing but kind words for his host nation, praising Israeli values as fitting hand-in-glove with America's.
"Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel," Romney said. "We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice and the right of every person to live in peace."
In a line clearly inserted for his audience, Romney said it was "a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel," earning his longest sustained ovation. (Israelis consider the united Jerusalem their capital, but many nations, including the U.S., have their embassies in Tel Aviv.)
The speech here Sunday capped a whirlwind day for the former Massachusetts governor, who met with top Israeli political leaders, Daniel Shapiro, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel appointed by Obama and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He visited one of Judaism's most holy sites, the Western Wall, and will dine, with wife Ann and son Josh, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family.
A cadre of top Romney donors, including New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, attended the speech and will also take part in a fundraising breakfast Monday that is expected to bring in seven figures for the campaign's war chest.
Political analysts have said that for Romney to win over Israelis (and perhaps American Jews and other supporters of Israel in the U.S.), he would need to show more warmth than President Barack Obama in his personal dealings here. Romney endeavored to do just that all day, calling Netanyahu, "my friend Benjamin Netanyahu."
Concluding his remarks Sunday, Romney alluded to the importance of presenting a united front with his host country.He also chatted up Fayyed about the 2012 London Games.
"Standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone. We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms," Romney said. "And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in our public, between our nations, emboldens Israel's adversaries."

First Thoughts: Recapping Romney's Israel stop

Recapping Romney’s stop in Israel… It wasn’t London, but there were still some snafus for Team Romney there… Romney touches down in Poland… And he admits he’s been audited by the IRS… Romney’s transparency problem… What he said at that fundraiser with Sheldon Adelson… Bill Clinton’s big role at the Democratic convention… Obama camp stops its PA ad spending, for now… And Cruz-ing to victory: Will Ted Cruz beat David Dewhurst in tomorrow’s TX SEN run-off?

Jason Reed / Reuters
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pictured in front of the Old City of Jerusalem as he delivers foreign policy remarks at Mishkenot Sha'ananim, July 29, 2012.
*** Recapping Romney’s Israel stop: Fortunately for Mitt Romney and his campaign, the visit to Israel went much smoother than the stop in Great Britain. But there were still some snafus (more on them below). In his speech yesterday in Jerusalem, Romney checked all the boxes. He embraced Israel. “We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace.” He talked tough on Iran. “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability.” And he even made a subtle dig at President Obama, referring to the tension between the Obama administration and Israel’s conservative Netanyahu government. “Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel's adversaries.” But what Romney DIDN’T SAY was almost as striking -- if not more so. Not once did he utter the phrase “peace process” nor the words “Palestine” or “Palestinian,” and that also means he never talked about or made the case for a two-state solution. Was the speech for anyone other than base Republicans? This trip to Israel felt like a primary trip, not one aimed at the general election.
*** Arrival in Poland: Romney and the media following him have touched down in Poland, the final leg of the candidate’s weeklong overseas trip. On today’s agenda in Gdansk: Romney participates in photo sprays with Polish PM Donald Tusk (at 10:15 am ET) and former President Lech Walesa (at 11:20 am ET). Later, he visits a World War II memorial and Solidarity Monument Site.*** More snafus: As mentioned above, Team Romney still had some problems while in Israel. For starters, a top adviser on Israel matters -- Dan Senor -- suggested that Romney was set to support a unilateral strike by Israel on Iran, the New York Times noted. “If Israel has to take action on its own, the governor would respect that decision,” Senor said in a briefing before Romney’s speech yesterday. But Romney later walked back Senor’s remarks, telling ABC: “I think I’ll use my own terms in that regard and that is that I recognize the right of Israel to defend itself.” Also, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Romney canceling his meeting with an Israeli opposition party figure upset folks there. And a Palestinian official criticized Romney for asserting that Jerusalem is Israel’s true capital, the AP said. “The Palestinians want to establish a capital in east Jerusalem, captured and annexed by Israel in 1967. Most of the world, including the U.S., does not recognize the annexation. The U.S. and others keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.” What’s more the same Palestinian official also criticized Romney forsuggesting that Israel’s culture is superior to the Palestinians’. So it wasn’t England, but Romney was still 1) making folks mad, and 2) having to walk back remarks.
*** Romney admits he’s been audited by the IRS: Romney made some other -- call it accidental -- news yesterday in his interview with ABC. He mentioned he had been audited by the IRS. In response to question about his tax returns, the GOP candidate said, “[M]y view is I’ve paid all the taxes required by law. From time to time I’ve been audited, as happens I think to other citizens as well… I don’t pay more than are legally due and frankly if I had paid more than are legally due I don’t think I’d be qualified to become president.”  The Romney campaign will not say what year he was audited -- only that he was found to be in compliance and that the audit took place more than 10 years ago. But while being audited isn’t that odd, it only adds to the narrative that his tax returns are so unique that it invites an audit.
*** What Romney said at that fundraiser in Israel: So what did we learn from this fundraiser after the press was allowed entry? According to the pool report, attendees included Sheldon Adelson and his wife, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, mega-donor Paul Singer, and others. What’s more, Romney’s remarks at the fundraisers seemed to criticize Obama, though Romney didn’t mention him by name. “We face some real challenges, nonetheless, and perhaps in part because of the great success of these places, this home of yours, my home of America, that some are troubled by our success and seek to bring us down.” He added, “The news that our economy grew at 1.5% last quarter was really quite troubling. We’re now four years past the big downturn that occurred in 2008, and four years down the road and still seeing tepid numbers bouncing along the bottom is troubling.”*** Romney’s transparency problem: The Romney camp was wise to reverse course and finally allow press into a fundraiser in Israel this morning that it suddenly declared off limits, which violated protocol with the media. Why was it smart to reverse course? Because the Romney campaign already has a transparency problem. It has said it won’t reveal its bundlers (as George W. Bush, John McCain, and Barack Obama have) or release Romney’s own tax returns prior to 2010. So barring the media from covering an agreed-upon event would have even furthered this transparency problem. All administrations tend to be less transparent than promised once they get into office -- it’s the natural result of partisan conflict as well as the tension between the different branches of government. But Romney is well on his way to being the first presumptive presidential nominee we can remember who has been LESS transparent than his predecessors.
*** Adelson’s top issue: Speaking of Adelson, it is especially noteworthy that the biggest issue for the No. 1 donor to Republican causes, campaigns, and interest groups right now isn’t a domestic concern like taxes or regulation. It’s Israel. Adelson has really doubled down on becoming the highest profile mega-donor to the GOP. He seemed to almost relish the attention he was getting from the U.S. press corps while in Jerusalem on Romney’s behalf.
*** Bubba’s role at the Dem convention: As the New York Times first reported, former president Bill Clinton will speak in primetime on the next-to-last day of the Democratic convention, on Wednesday, Sept 5. That decision, NBC’s Carrie Dann notes, means that Vice President Biden will instead speak before the president on the final Thursday evening of the convention. Clinton is expected to argue for Obama's economic policies in his speech. "There's no one better to cut through on economic issues and lay out the choice in the election because he understands the consequences of the policy differences" from his own presidency, an aide said. But what shouldn’t be ignored about this decision is that Wednesday Sept. 5 is the NFL’s first game of the regular season, which will air on NBC. (It’s Giants-Cowboys; not exactly a matchup of teams that have small fan bases.) The Obama camp realized that it needed a big draw to compete with the NFL game and to convince the other networks to cover (NBC will NOT be airing any of the convention on the NFL night). In addition, moving Biden to Thursday isn’t a snub at all; in fact, it means that more male eyeballs will be on him than would have been the case if he went on Wednesday. Per NBC’s Dann, sources say the decision to bump Biden to the final night of the convention was made jointly by the VP and the president. Both Biden and Obama will speak at the football stadium.
*** Cruz-ing to victory? And tomorrow is the Texas Senate run-off between LG David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz. All the momentum seems to be with Cruz right now. In fact, Politico pretty much says the race is his to lose. “Ted Cruz is on the cusp of a win in the Texas Republican Senate runoff that would shatter conventional campaign wisdom and elevate him as one of the brightest stars of the tea party generation.” Of course, anything can happen in a run-off. But if Cruz wins, it would be the Club for Growth’s biggest win in a big state. And a Dewhurst loss would mean that he got turned into the establishment incumbent. Given the unpopularity of Congress right now and of government in general, being tagged “the incumbent” is a political death sentence in competitive primaries. (Watch out Tommy Thompson).*** Obama camp stops its PA ad spending, for now:  By the way, the Obama campaign is no longer advertising in Pennsylvania -- at least for now. We’ll have more information on all the ad spending later. But their latest buy has them in 8 states: FL, VA, NH, OH, IA, NV, CO and NC.
Countdown to GOP convention: 28 days
Countdown to Dem convention: 35 days
Countdown to Election Day: 99 days

Michelle Obama in Awe Meeting U.S. Olympians

BY PEGGY SHINN | JUL 27, 2012, 11:00 AM ET
Michelle ObamaLONDON — Dominique Dawes stood behind the podium in a gymnasium at the University of East London to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama to a small gathering of 2012 U.S. Olympians. But before the gold-medal-winning gymnast handed the microphone to the First Lady, she warned her fellow Olympians not to be fooled by Mrs. Obama’s high heels.
On the day that Dawes was appointed co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness in June 2010, the First Lady beat her in jump roping
“She kicked off those heels, put on some flats and jumped rope along side me,” said Dawes. “And I’m a three-time Olympian and can jump pretty well, 30 minutes easily. She just kept surpassing me!”
Then, flanked by a presidential delegation including Dawes, Summer Sanders, Brandi Chastain, Grant Hill, and Gabriel Diaz de Leon, the First Lady took the podium, clapping for the athletes in the audience as loudly as they clapped for her. And she told the whole story of her first meeting with Dawes.
“[Dominique] didn’t mention that I might have beat her a little bit jumping rope, but then she popped off some flips and spun up in the air and landed,” said Mrs. Obama. “She looked at me and said, ‘Bet you can’t do that.’ She didn’t mention that part. She was right, I can’t do that.”
But Mrs. Obama was doing mental flips as she stood before the room of U.S. Olympians at the Friday morning breakfast. The event kicked off her stint as leader of the U.S. Olympic delegation in London.
“Wow,” she said. “I’m going to be saying that a lot over the next few days. Wow. I can’t believe I’m here with you all. I am beyond proud.”
After relating her fondest memories of watching the Olympic Games, she reminded the athletes that they never know who they will inspire. She talked about how the Olympics always inspired her father, Fraser Robinson III, a high school swimmer and boxer who contracted multiple sclerosis as an adult.
“The Olympics were a special time for him to watch amazing athletes of all abilities compete on the world stage,” she said. “The Games especially affected our little house on the south side of Chicago.”
Then after reminding the athletes to have fun but also to win, the First Lady removed her red and white striped jacket and began circulating among the 60 or so U.S. Olympians, wishing them luck and encouraging them.
“It’s funny because she’s just as excited to meet us as we are to meet her,” said four-time Olympic discus thrower Aretha Thurmond. “When you know you’ve got the support of your country, support of the President and the First Lady, it’s just a huge honor. We’re super excited.”
U.S. flag bearer Mariel Zagunis attended the breakfast along with the U.S. fencing team. The team’s captain Tim Morehouse, an Olympic silver medalist in team saber in Beijing, said that the First Lady was one of the people they were really looking forward to meeting at the London Games.
“She’s really charismatic,” he said. “We all got up really early, even though there’s the Opening Ceremony tonight, to come down here to meet the First Lady.”
Afterward, the athletes headed back to the Olympic Village to work out and nap, and Mrs. Obama went to Ambassador Louis Susman’s residence, Winfield House in Regent’s Park, to promote her Let’s Move! campaign to combat child obesity and promote a healthy, active lifestyle. Susman is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
In what she called the Ambassador’s backyard, the First Lady met with 1,000 British and American children who kicked a soccer ball with David Beckham and were scheduled to meet U.S. Olympians, such as Shawn Johnson, Carl Lewis, and Dara Torres.
Tonight, the 2012 U.S. Olympic delegation will head to the Olympic Stadium to attend the Opening Ceremony. Thurmond said the butterflies of competing at the Olympics would likely start to set in then. But she was looking forward to the ceremony. This will be only the second time the four-time Olympian has walked in the Opening Ceremony; the first time was at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
As for the fencers, they will be at the head of the parade tonight, following flag bearer Zagunis, whom Morehouse nominated for the position.
“[Mariel] is representational of all those untold Olympic stories,” Morehouse said when asked how he presented Zagunis’s story to the flag bearer voters. “Here’s this two-time Olympic champion that you may not have even heard of, and she has this fantastic story.”
It was a day that the fencers — and many other athletes — want to remember from beginning to end, even though the beginning came very early Friday morning.
“Our day is a funny day,” said Morehouse. “Meet the First Lady, practice, take a nap, then the Opening Ceremony. You can’t ask for a better day than that.”

Proud, gay, marginalized Republicans plan own bash during Tampa convention

 Thursday, July 26, 2012

  • PHOTO:J. Meric/Getty Images, Photo illustration by The Daily

  • Image


    GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia is finding the silver lining despite some of his party’s anti-gay platforms.
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    PHOTO:Samantha Appleton

    R. Clarke Cooper, of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, salutes President Obama after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Even if you’re not always invited to the party, it’s fun to show up and dance.

That’s what GOProud plans to do in August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The organization for gay Republicans is planning to throw a bash at a Tampa nightclub called Honey Pot, a glass-half-full response to a challenging election cycle for what is perhaps the Republican Party’s most marginalized demographic.

Last year, GOProud was disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference following two hard-fought years as a participating sponsor, and in March, it lost one of its key champions when conservative online muckraker Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack. Moreover, there’s still a dearth of openly gay Republicans in Congress, their party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, and a former Romney campaign spokesman resigned this year, after being besieged by anti-gay voices on the right.

Despite the setbacks, GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia is finding the silver lining these days. The CPAC snub, he said, has “given us the ability to do other things,” such as the convention dance party and a sponsorship role last fall with the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas. And R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, the country’s oldest gay GOP organization, says gay Republicans still have plenty to crow about. In 2008, 28 percent of self-identified gay voters said they voted for Sen. John McCain; and 31 percent said they voted Republican in the midterm elections two years ago.

“It is a lot easier for a gay Republican to be gay at the Republican National Convention,” Cooper said, noting that openly gay Massachusetts congressional candidate Richard Tisei has received the full backing of the Republican National Committee, while a number of state GOP parties have done away with anti-gay language in their official platforms — something he and LaSalvia both intend to push for at the national level in Tampa.

“What you’re seeing is change occurring across the board in society and business … the Republican Party is experiencing that change and is part of that change,” said Carl DeMaio, another high-profile gay politician who recently won the Republican primary for the San Diego mayoralty.

Despite Romney’s foot-dragging on gay issues, both gay GOP groups say they are in ongoing dialogues with the candidate’s campaign — although neither would specify the frequency or the content of those conversations. They also argue that, since 2008, they have each gained a bigger foothold within the party apparatus.

Cooper boasts that his Log Cabin Republicans have become “go-to technocrats” in Washington.

“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ wouldn’t pass without us,” said Cooper. “The House votes that were secured and the Senate votes that were secured were from our direct lobbying.”

The Log Cabin Republicans played in 18 races in 2010, and Cooper said the party has asked for its support in roughly 25 races this cycle.

LaSalvia said there are no signs that Obama’s support of gay marriage has destabilized his organization.

“I haven’t gotten a sense that there is anybody who likes Obama any more than they did before,” LaSalvia said. “They are still just as against big government policies of this administration.”

As for the CPAC expulsion, he said he won’t rule out the possibility of returning to the conservative conference one day, but said that for now, “I am grateful for the relationships we have been able to build.”

Still, GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans are bringing some of their own political baggage to Florida.

The Log Cabin Republicans have yet to endorse Romney and may end up deciding not to.

“It is always a possibility,” said Cooper.

The group endorsed John McCain in 2008, and George W. Bush in 2000, but didn’t make any endorsement in 2004. And it ran negative ads against Romney during the 2008 Republican primary. GOProud endorsed Romney last month, but with only the thinnest of majorities, according to the publication Metro Weekly.

Nevertheless, the burden will largely be on Cooper and LaSalvia to demonstrate the GOP’s gay-friendliness at next month’s convention, considering that the party’s precious few high-profile gay politicians are unlikely to show. Tisei’s spokesman said his candidate isn’t planning to attend and DeMaio told The Daily he won’t either.

Fred Karger, the gay rights activist and long-shot Republican presidential primary candidate this cycle, who has been to the previous nine consecutive GOP conventions, says he’s only “50-50” as to whether he’ll attend this one.

PHOTO: Flickr

GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia is finding the silver lining despite some of his party’s anti-gay platforms.

PHOTO: Samantha Appleton

R. Clarke Cooper, of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans, salutes President Obama after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”