These are my news headlines for February 21st through February 22nd:
With Axelrod At NBC News, The Marriage Of Media And Politics Becomes Complete – What’s more, Team Obama has declared it has no intention of dismantling its campaign apparatus post re-election. Put Axelrod in the catbird seat at a news outlet and the “narrative” continues. Combine that with Team Obama’s masterful manipulation of journalists, its command of social media, and an ugly picture emerges of a press indistinguishable from the political establishment.This has happened in banana republics, but never in a Western democracy. Already it’s making old-school journalists who value news gathering over politics, such as the New York Times’ Roger Cohen, ABC’s Ann Compton and the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, uncomfortable. The one thing that will stop it is a press that won’t cooperate. So where is that press?
Budget hawks question Pentagon’s doomsday scenarios – But perhaps the biggest example of the Washington Monument maneuver is coming from the Defense Department, where it goes by another name. Over many decades of defense budget battles, the Pentagon has often used a tactic known as a “gold watch.” It means to answer a budget cut proposal by selecting for elimination a program so important and valued — a gold watch — that Pentagon chiefs know political leaders will restore funding rather than go through with the cut.So now, with sequestration approaching, the Pentagon has announced that the possibility of budget cuts has forced the Navy to delay deployment of the carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf. With tensions with Iran as high as they’ve ever been, that would leave the U.S. with just one carrier, instead of the preferred two, in that deeply troubled region.
What Unites Obama’s Coalition — and What Could Divide It – Overall, the survey put Obama’s approval rating at 51 percent — almost exactly replicating his share of the vote last November. For all of his key groups, his approval ratings today remain close to his vote shares against Republican Mitt Romney. The survey put his approval among African-Americans at 91 percent (compared to his vote of 93 percent in November), among Hispanics at 68 percent (compared to 71 percent in November), college-educated white women at 48 percent (compared to 46 percent), and adults ages 18 to 29 at 57 percent (compared to 60 percent). Considering that several percent of those in each group described themselves as undecided on Obama’s performance, those numbers suggest almost no change from his support in the election.
Noonan: Government by Freakout – The president’s sequester strategy is like Howard Beale in “Network”: “Woe is us. . . . And woe is us! We’re in a lot of trouble!”It is always cliffs, ceilings and looming catastrophes with Barack Obama. It is always government by freakout.
That’s what’s happening now with the daily sequester warnings. Seven hundred thousand children will be dropped from Head Start. Six hundred thousand women and children will be dropped from aid programs. Meat won’t be inspected. Seven thousand TSA workers will be laid off, customs workers too, and air traffic controllers. Lines at airports will be impossible. The Navy will slow down the building of an aircraft carrier. Troop readiness will be disrupted, weapons programs slowed or stalled, civilian contractors stiffed, uniformed first responders cut back. Our nuclear deterrent will be indefinitely suspended. Ha, made that one up, but give them time.Mr. Obama has finally hit on his own version of national unity: Everyone get scared together.
Is President Obama overplaying sequestration hand? – President Barack Obama’s greatest adversary in the latest budget battle isn’t the Republican leadership in Congress — it’s his confidence in his own ability to force a win.He has been so certain of his campaign skills that he didn’t open a line of communication with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell until Thursday, a week before the spending ax hits. And when they did finally hear from Obama, the calls were perfunctory, with no request to step up negotiations or invitations to the White House.
Fewer Americans Getting Health Insurance From Employer – Fewer Americans reported having employer-based health insurance in 2012 than did in 2008, 2009, and 2010, but at 44.5% it is unchanged from 2011. At the same time, more Americans continue to report having a government-based health plan — Medicare, Medicaid, or military or veterans’ benefits — with the 25.6% who did so in 2012 up from 23.4% in 2008.
A Tax By Another Name – Writing in the New York Times yesterday, Yuval Levin made the case for means-testing Social Security and Medicare. As you’d expect from Yuval the case is well made and elegantly thought-through. It’s also, if I may respectfully say so, misguided. Partly as a consequence of the refusal to make consumption take its fair share of the tax load, the US already taxes income on a pretty progressive basis (even more so, I suspect, if, just for the sake of argument, you excluded the very richest from the equation—highly taxed wage income generally makes up a lower percentage of their total take). Means-testing these two programs would only tighten the screws still further.
Charles Krauthammer: Immigration — the lesser of two evils – The president suggested he would hold off introducing his own immigration bill as long as bipartisan Senate negotiations were proceeding apace — until his own immigration bill mysteriously leaked precisely as bipartisan Senate negotiations were proceeding apace.A naked political maneuver and a blunt warning to Republicans: Finish that immigration deal in Congress, or I’ll propose something I know you can’t accept — and flog the issue mercilessly next year to win back the House.
Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands. The language of the deal was obtained by HuffPost and can be read here and here.
The pressure from the liberal senators, led by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley and backed by a major coalition of progressive groups, created the political space for Reid to cut the deal with McConnell, which includes changes to how the Senate operates but leaves a fundamental feature, the silent filibuster, in place.
I think this is a bluff by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The Nevada Democrat said he would give Republicans another 24 to 36 hours to agree to filibuster reform and then trigger the so-called nuclear option. This controversial tactic would allow him to change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote.
“I hope within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we’re going to move forward on what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that,” Reid told reporters.
Although its use has been threatened in the past to spur the minority party to agree to reforms, the nuclear option has never been used to change the standing rules, say parliamentary experts.
But, if Dingy Harry really wants to change the United States Senate to be like the House, then so be it. The GOP will benefit as NOTHING in the Senate will be voted on by the GOP controlled House for at least the next two years.
The Democrats’ and the Obama agenda will be dead as the President drifts onward to total lame duck status.
Moreover, the GOP Senators will drag their feet even more (Senate business will grind to a halt), as they attempt to get even with the majority.
These are my links for January 7th through January 8th:
Hospital Opens Emergency Tent in Midst of Increasing Flu Cases – It’s the most miserable time of the year for many people in the area. Flu season is in full effect and this one in particular is shaping up to be more extreme than usual.The State Department of Health reports that four Pennsylvanians have already died of complications from the influenza virus.In response to the early start of flu season, the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest had to open an emergency space to care for the increased number of people with flu-like symptoms.The hospital tells NBC10’s Katy Zachry why the tent was erected.
“If we can remove them from the main ED and put them in environment where everyone is masked and everyone can be protected, it’s safer for them and certainly safer for the staff,” said Terry Burger, hospital director of infection control
GOP may use debt ceiling to force Harry Reid to pass budget – Tuesday marks the 1,350th day since the Senate passed a budget. The law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, on the grounds that Americans deserve to know how the government plans to spend the trillions of taxpayer dollars it collects, along with dollars it borrows at the taxpayers’ expense. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, who last allowed a budget through the Senate in April 2009, has ignored the law since then.There’s no mystery why. The budget passed by large Democratic majorities in the first months of the Obama administration had hugely elevated levels of spending in it. By not passing a new spending plan since, Reid has in effect made those levels the new budgetary baseline. Congress has kept the government going with continuing resolutions based on the last budget signed into law.While Reid has forbidden action, the House has passed budgets as required. Senate Democrats have been highly critical of those budgets, designed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. But under Reid’s leadership, Democrats have steadfastly refused to come up with a plan of their own.
ObamaCare: Fast-Food Worker Hours Cut, New Health Care Law Blamed – A fast-food chain is slashing employee hours so franchise owners don’t have to pay health benefits. Around 100 local Wendy’s workers have learned their hours are being cut. A spokesperson says a new health care law is to blame.“Thirty-six to 37 hours a week.” That’s how many hours T.J. Growbeck works at the 84th and Giles Wendy’s restaurant. The money he earns helps him pay for the basics, but that’s not the case for all his co-workers. “There are some people doing it trying to get by.”The company has announced that all non-management positions will have their hours reduced to 28 a week. Gary Burdette, Vice President of Operations for the local franchise, says the cuts are coming because the new Affordable Health Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance to employees working 32-38 hours a week. Under the current law they are not considered full time and that as a small business owner, he can’t afford to stay in operation and pay for everyone’s health insurance.
Obama’s CIA nominee to face tough questions about ‘enhanced interrogation’ – President Obama’s pick to head the CIA could face a rough road to confirmation in the Senate due to his involvement in the “enhanced interrogation” techniques of the George W. Bush administration.The president on Monday announced he would nominate John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism chief, to lead the top spy agency following the recent departure of David Petraeus.
GOP sees Chuck Hagel pick as chance for payback – As the tactical skirmishing begins over Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, the short-term political calculus from 30,000 feet clearly favors Republicans: Hagel’s confirmation hearings are a potential boon for the GOP and a source of queasiness for pro-Israel Democrats, despite the historically long odds of blunting a presidential pick.
An appreciation: Richard Ben Cramer’s masterpiece – I don’t recall the first time I read “What It Takes,” but I knew exactly where to find it on my bookshelf Monday night upon hearing the awful news that Richard Ben Cramer had died.It’s insufficient to say that Cramer’s 1,047-page tour de force on the 1988 presidential race is the best book ever written about a campaign. It is that. But what makes it so valuable, so rewarding, just so much damn fun is that it illustrates why politics and journalism is so much damn fun.
Hagel’s Views Do Matter – Suppose a president were to request an assessment of a hypothetical strike on Iran. Suppose the secretary of defense delivers to him a plan requiring the insertion of US ground forces into Iranian cities to be sure of destroying relevant facilities. That “plan” is as much a veto of a strike as any decision.Donald Rumsfeld enabled the Iraq war by producing estimates it could be won with as few as 135,000 troops. Had he instead on 300,000, the war would not have occurred: it would have seemed too heavy a lift. (As indeed it proved.)A Secretary Hagel could similarly thwart policies he disapproved of by magnifying their cost and difficulty. That’s why his views matter, and that’s why it’s so disingenuous to claim they do not.
Gabrielle Giffords launches anti-gun website – Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband on Tuesday unveiled a new anti-gun violence initiative – two years after she was shot in the head at an event with constituents in Tucson, Arizona.Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are behind Americans for Responsible Solutions, an effort that “will encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them,” according to the newly launched website, which is paid for by the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC.
Chuck Hagel: The Armed Services Committee whip list – Seven of the 12 Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee have already expressed some opposition to Chuck Hagel, mere hours after the former Nebraska GOP senator was officially nominated to be Defense Secretary.Hagel doesn’t technically need any GOP votes to advance beyond the committee, on which Democrats hold a 14-12 majority, but some Democrats have also suggested they are hesitant to confirm him.Five of 14 Democrats on the committee have so far suggested they are either going to vote for Hagel or are leaning toward voting for him. Four others have withheld judgment and the rest haven’t spoken out publicly.Here’s how it breaks down so far
Chuck Hagel’s chances — in 3 charts – As Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator and now President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, gears up for his confirmation process in the Senate, there is at least a possibility that he won’t be cleared by the upper chamber to head up the Pentagon.Just how often does the Senate oppose a Cabinet nominee to the point that he or she is rejected or withdraws? And for what reasons? Thanks to a research paper from James D. King, who heads the political science department at the University of Wyoming, we have the answers to these questions.We encourage you to read the entire report, from which we’ve plucked out some charts illustrating three truths about the Cabinet confirmation process – two of which The Fix’s Aaron Blake also noted in a recent post — that reveal both good and bad news for Hagel’s odds:1) The vast majority of individuals whom presidents nominate to their Cabinets are confirmed by the Senate.
2) The defense secretary post has tended to be a source of very little controversy.
3) Public policy issues account for much of the opposition in the confirmation process.
Topsy-turvy Hagel politics – President Obama wants to get credit for bipartisanship, so he picks a Republican defense secretary who will garner few if any Republican votes. He walks away from a politically loyal African American woman for secretary of state (whose nomination would open up his political liabilities) but goes forward with a white, Republican man (whose nomination puts gobs of Senate Republicans in an untenable spot). The two groups of Democrats (gays and Jews) who turned out in droves for him watch a nomination proceed with someone who had tried to exclude gays from government and accused Jews of dual loyalty.
Obama’s Hagelian imperative – Presidents define themselves in large measure by the fights they pick, especially if these fights create tension with members of their own party or base. By nominating Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, President Obama has picked a fight that most would consider unnecessary, and that fight puts him in tension with some Democratic Senators and a portion of his base.He thus defines himself. Not as a president who wants to tilt away from Israel and away from confrontation with Iran; Obama can (and I would argue has) defined himself that way without nominating Hagel. Rather, he defines himself as wanting publicly to stick it to Israel and its strongest U.S. supporters – to rub their faces in his redirection of U.S. policy. As Lindsey Graham says, this is an “in your face” nomination.
Mr. Hagel and the Jews – During the hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, it’s clear that the views of gay rights organizations will be heard. There the issue seems to be whether Hagel’s apology for previous remarks and beliefs was sincere, or motivated solely by self-interest. He had years to apologize publicly, but did so only when opposition from gay rights groups threatened his nomination.