A foreign policy novice when he came to office, President Obama can now claim a national security victory that eluded his predecessor for almost eight years.
The caliber of his leadership, often the target of withering attacks by the Republican opposition, has now been bolstered in a very tangible way, as the image of celebrating crowds gathering spontaneously at the White House and the former World Trade Center in New York late Sunday night demonstrated.
In his speech to Americans announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, he made clear Sunday night that he had been in the driver's seat all along, noting that he had approved the operation at its key moments And he could trumpet that no Americans were harmed in the mission carried out by U.S. special forces.
More details are likely to emerge in coming days that could alter public attitudes. And the unexpected news that "justice had been done" after almost a decade-long hunt may not be the turning point many Obama supporters would like it to be. Similar developments over the years, such as the successful Persian Gulf war of the early 1990s or the apprehension of Saddam Hussein in 2003, did not prove to have lasting impact.
But the immediate result will almost certainly help Obama's sagging popularity, which had returned to its lowest levels in the midst of high gas prices and even questions about the legitimacy of his presidency.
The development is "a great boost for him, as it would be for any president," said pollster Andrew Kohut, who directs the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
"This is the most symbolic victory he could have," Kohut said. "It's not the end of the war on terror, but it is likely to be seen as a great achievement for the country."
In tracing the roots of the successful mission back almost a year, Obama may have validated his oft-criticized reputation for caution. In combination with the military surge that Obama ordered in Afghanistan and the recent attacks on Libya, the successful operation to kill Bin Laden will make it much more difficult for a Republican to employ in next year's campaign the familiar charge that Democrats are weak on defense.
Obama was able to proclaim that "the most significant achievement to date" in the war against Al Qaeda was a triumph for the U.S. military and intelligence personnel who hunted down and killed the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that no Americans were killed in the operation.
By comparison, another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, had to break the sad news to the nation that a rescue attempt to free the U.S. hostages in Iran had not only failed but had resulted in the loss of U.S. lives.
"This can be portrayed credibly as one more example of a president willing to take the long view for success and to achieve it," said Bill Galston, a former Clinton White House aide. "It is also likely to generate a reevaluation of [Obama's] foreign policy apparatus, which hasn't exactly been showered in praise."
Beyond that, Obama has further elevated himself above a field of Republican challengers that is remarkably lacking in foreign-policy expertise, unlike his 2008 opponent, John McCain. Initial reaction from GOP presidential candidates was, as might be expected, positive.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called it "a great victory for lovers of freedom and justice everywhere" and praised "our intelligence community, our military and the president." SOURCE
Obama To Deliver Deficit-Reduction Speech Wednesday Senior adviser David Plouffe told the Sunday shows that the president will outline his plan to reduce federal budget deficits and debt, including a call for wealthier Americans to pay more taxes. Read original story in USA Today | Sunday, April 10, 2011
Qaddafi Agrees to Peace Plan Libya's leader has agreed to the African Union's proposed cease-fire and "dialogue." But rebels say they will accept nothing less than the despot's resignation. Read original story in Washington Post | Monday, April 11, 2011
Concern Grows Over Debt Ceiling Vote If it was so difficult to reach a deal on a budget until September that cut $38 billion, many are growing worried about the possibility that a divided Washington won't be able to agree on raising the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling. Read original story in The New York Times | Sunday, April 10, 2011
General McChrystal is Back After dismissing McChrystal following his Rolling Stone debacle, Obama has asked the former Afghanistan commander to lead a program for military families. Read original story in New York Times | Monday, April 11, 2011
U.N. Hammers Ivory Coast President President Laurent Gbagbo is vying for the title of most tenacious dictator, which means the U.N. and France have started bombarding his forces again. Read original story in CNN | Monday, April 11, 2011
Unusual Device Led To Confusion in Synagogue Blast First, officials said it was a bomb, then they said it was an accident, and now it's a bomb again. Part of the issue had to do with the fact that the explosive was layered under hundreds of pounds of concrete, making it difficult to identify. Read original story in The Los Angeles Times | Sunday, April 10, 2011
Mubarak Denies he Was a Corrupt President In his first comments since he was ousted from the Egyptian presidency, Hosni Mubarak denied he had abused his power and vowed to cooperate in any investigation. Read original story in Al Jazeera | Sunday, April 10, 2011
Budget Dispute Drags on Obama, Boehner, and Reid met for 90 minutes in the Oval Office on Wednesday, and say they are inching closer to a deal. Read original story in New York Times | Thursday, April 7, 2011
Fox Drops Glenn Beck Ding-dong! The demagogic host announced his departure from Fox News Wednesday, but not before likening himself to Paul Revere. Read original story in Los Angeles Times | Thursday, April 7, 2011
Qaddafi to Obama: Be My Pen Pal? "Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama, your intervention is the name of the U.S.A. is a must," the Libyan dictator wrote in a letter. Read original story in AP | Thursday, April 7, 2011
Berlusconi to Bunga Bunga Another Day Both the Italian Prime Minister and his alleged escort, "Ruby Heartstealer," skipped their first day in court. The trial will resume May 31. Read original story in NPR | Wednesday, April 6, 2011
WASHINGTON — A massive bipartisan tax package preventing a big New Year's Day tax hike for millions of Americans is on its way to President Barack Obama for his signature Friday.
The measure would extend tax cuts for families at every income level, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and enact a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.
The president is expected to sign the bill Friday afternoon.
In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148, with each party contributing an almost identical number of votes in favor (the Democrats, 139 and the Republicans, 138).
In a rare reach across party lines, Obama negotiated the $858 billion package with Senate Republicans. The White House then spent the past 10 days persuading congressional Democrats to go along, providing a possible blueprint for the next two years, when Republicans will control the House and hold more seats in the Senate.
"There probably is nobody on this floor who likes this bill," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. "The judgment is, is it better than doing nothing? Some of the business groups believe it will help. I hope they're right."
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., said that with unemployment hovering just under 10 percent and the deadline for avoiding a big tax hike fast approaching, lawmakers had little choice but to support the bill.
This is just no time to be playing games with our economy," said Camp, who will become chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee in January. "The failure to block these tax increases would be a direct hit to families and small businesses."
Sweeping tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush was president are scheduled to expire Jan. 1 — a little more than two weeks away. The bill extends them for two years, placing the issue squarely in the middle of the next presidential election, in 2012.
The extended tax cuts include lower rates for the rich, the middle class and the working poor, a $1,000-per-child tax credit, tax breaks for college students and lower taxes on capital gains and dividends. The bill also extends through 2011, a series of business tax breaks designed to encourage investment that expired at the end of 2009.
Workers' Social Security taxes would be cut by nearly a third, going from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, for 2011. A worker making $50,000 in wages would save $1,000; one making $100,000 would save $2,000.
"This legislation is good for growth, good for jobs, good for working and middle class families, and good for businesses looking to invest and expand their work force," said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Some Democrats complained that the package is too generous to the wealthy; Republicans complained that it doesn't make all the tax cuts permanent.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., called it "a bipartisan moment of clarity."
The bill's cost, $858 billion, would be added to the deficit, a sore spot among budget hawks in both parties.
"I know that we are going to borrow every nickel in this bill," Hoyer lamented. CONTINUE READING...
Despite a long, hard-fought election campaign, the public rallies to
a new chief executive who has come to office riding a tide of national
discontent and strong disapproval of his predecessor. His approval
ratings remain high even as he proposes a dramatic new approach to the
role of government that has many doubters. Surveys find that Americans
think the president’s plan to rescue the nation’s troubled economy will
work, yet many are fearful of key provisions. Indeed, the polls find
the president more personally popular than his programs. Further, a
wide partisan gap exists in attitudes toward the nation’s new leader. The new president described above is, of course, Barack Obama — but,
to a startling degree, it is also Ronald Reagan. A close look at
Gallup’s polling of reactions to Reagan’s first few months in office
provides striking parallels with what Pew Research Center polls now
find about opinions of Mr. Obama. And a consideration of the Reagan
experience may well give some clues as to what lies ahead for the 44th
president. The public’s bottom lines on Presidents Reagan and Obama early in
their presidencies have so far been quite comparable: 60 percent and 59
percent of the public approved of the new presidents in mid-March,
respectively. (Going into April, the lines diverge as a sympathetic
public response to the March 31 attempt on Reagan’s life boosted his
numbers, at least for short period.) The parallels in the two presidents’ ratings go beyond overall
results. Both were extremely popular among members of their own party,
but each set off alarm bells among the opposition. Some 87 percent of
Republicans approved of Reagan, while 88 percent of Democrats approve
of Barack Obama. But both presidents evoked less positive opinion from
the opposition than had their predecessor. Only 41 percent of Democrats
approved of Reagan whereas 56 percent of Republicans had approved of
Jimmy Carter in March 1977. President Obama scores only a 27 percent
rating among Republicans, significantly lower than George W. Bush’s 36
percent approval score among Democrats in March 2001. No small part of the polarized reaction to both new presidents is
that each made proposals that went to the core precepts about
government held by the two political parties. Reagan’s expressed desire
to shrink government was as much an anathema to Democrats as Mr.
Obama’s proposals to increase the size and influence of government are
to Republicans. In May 1981, half of Democrats believed that Reagan’s
budget cuts were too large, compared with just 15 percent of
Republicans. These reactions are very similar to those evoked by any
number of Obama administration proposals. For example, in March 81
percent of Democrats favored the stimulus package, while 67 percent of
Republicans opposed it. And while an overwhelming majority of
Republicans — 70 percent — said that Mr. Obama had proposed too much
spending to address the economic situation, just 17 percent of
Democrats agreed. CONTINUE READING...
moved swiftly yesterday to begin rolling back eight years of his
predecessor's policies, ordering tough new ethics rules and preparing
to issue an order closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which has been at the center of the debate over the treatment of U.S. prisoners in the battle against terrorism. Acting to address several promises he made during his campaign, Obama
met with top generals about speeding the withdrawal from Iraq and
gathered his senior economic advisers as he continued to push for a
massive spending bill to create jobs. He also signed a series of executive orders and directives intended
to slow the revolving door between government service and lobbying, and
ordered his administration to share information more freely with the
public. Today, he will issue another order calling for the closure of
Guantanamo Bay within a year, an immediate case-by-case review of the
245 detainees remaining there, and the application of new rules
governing the treatment and interrogation of prisoners, including
compliance with international treaties that the Bush administration
deemed inapplicable to suspects in terrorism cases. Just hours after his inauguration Tuesday, Obama ordered the
suspension of all judicial proceedings at Guantanamo Bay under the
auspices of the Bush administration's military commissions system. What
is to be done with the prisoners will be part of the review, sources
said. Listed options include repatriation to their home nations or a
willing third country, civil trials in this country, or a special civil
or military system. Prisoners are to be released or transferred on a
rolling basis as soon as individual cases are reviewed and
determinations made as to whether the detainees can and should be
prosecuted, and where.
White House counsel Gregory B. Craig,
who has spent the past several weeks drafting the orders, and discussed
them with senior Democratic lawmakers in recent days, briefed House
Republicans on Capitol Hill yesterday. Rep. C.W. Bill Young
(R-Fla.) said Craig told members of Congress to expect "several"
executive orders on Guantanamo Bay, including closure of the prison,
but did not provide specific language. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner
(R-Ohio) said in a statement that "there are important questions that
must be answered before the terrorist detainee facility at Guantanamo
Bay can be closed. The key question is where do you put these
terrorists?"Sources familiar with the briefings said Obama also will sign two executive orders altering CIA
detention and interrogation rules, limiting interrogation standards in
all U.S. facilities worldwide to those outlined in the Army Field
Manual, and prohibiting the agency from secretly holding terrorist
detainees in third-country prisons.SOURCE: NYTIMES.COM
If the Obama campaign represented a sleek, new iPhone kind of future, the first day of the Obama administration looked more like the rotary-dial past.Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential
campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of
the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of
disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security
regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook
to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant
messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to
power through, among other things, relentless online social networking."It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs.In many ways, the move into the White House
resembled a first day at school: Advisers wandered the halls, looking
for their offices. Aides spent hours in orientation, learning such
things as government ethics rules as well as how their paychecks will
be delivered. And everyone filled out a seemingly endless pile of
paperwork.There were plenty of first-day glitches, too, as calls to many lines
in the West Wing were met with a busy signal all morning and those to
the main White House switchboard were greeted by a recording,
redirecting callers to the presidential Web site. A number of reporters
were also shut out of the White House because of lost security
clearance lists.By late evening, the vaunted new White House Web site did not offer any updated posts about President Obama's
busy first day on the job, which included an inaugural prayer service,
an open house with the public, and meetings with his economic and
national security teams.Nor did the site reflect the transparency Obama promised to deliver.
"The President has not yet issued any executive orders," it stated
hours after Obama issued executive orders to tighten ethics rules,
enhance Freedom of Information Act rules and freeze the salaries of
White House officials who earn more than $100,000.The site was updated for the first time last night, when information
on the executive orders was added. But there were still no pool reports
or blog entries.No one could quite explain the problem -- but they swore it would be fixed.One member of the White House new-media team came to work on
Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it
was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which
computers could be used for which purposes. The team members,
accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft
software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the
West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on
online videos.Senior advisers chafed at the new arrangements, which severely limit
mobility -- partly by tradition but also for security reasons and to
ensure that all official work is preserved under the Presidential