An anti-spending group has issued an economic assessment of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
The conservative Club for Growth today released its fifth white paper on the GOP candidates.
It is available at the group's website.
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney tonight began a speech to a ballroom full of Christian conservatives by reaffirming his positions against abortion and gay marriage.
“We’re united tonight in a lot of things,” the former Massachusetts governor said at the start of a 13-minute address in a downtown hotel here. “We’re united in the love we have for this great country. We’re united in our belief in the sanctity of human life. We’re united in our belief in the importance and significance of a marriage between one man and one woman.”
Romney, who wrote a portion of the speech on a legal pad during a flight from Boston to Washington late this afternoon, then turned to the economic themes that are expected to drive his recently launched presidential campaign.FULL ENTRY
The head of Fiat-Chrysler said today that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney must have been "smoking illegal material" when he argued in 2008 that the US auto industry could be resurrected without federal financial assistance.
During an interview with CNN, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler, said government support was pivotal.
The comment contrasted with a 2008 op-ed column in which Romney urged the federal government not to provide an industry bailout but instead force automakers into a "managed bankruptcy."
MANCHESTER, N.H. Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney was headed from New Hampshire to Washington this afternoon so he could speak tonight at the Faith and Freedom Conference.
Just don't expect much talk about social conservative issues, which were the bane of his first campaign for the presidency in 2008.
Instead, advance excerpts show a reprise of the economic focus that permeated Romney's campaign kickoff speech yesterday.
It's part of his campaign's message-management the second time around:
“President Obama said that unemployment wouldn’t go beyond 8 percent. Today it is over 9 percent. We are going backwards, and that is the wrong direction for America. President Obama has failed.
“Unemployment is not just a statistic. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. President Obama has failed these good and decent Americans.
“Sixteen million Americans are out of work or have stopped looking for work. Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy - a moral tragedy of epic proportion.
"President Obama should have had one central mission when he took office - put Americans back to work! Fight for every job! Because every job is a paycheck and paychecks fuel Americans dreams. Without a paycheck, you can’t take care of your family. Without a paycheck you can’t buy school books for your kids, keep a car on the road or help an aging parent make ends meet.
“The debt we are amassing as a nation and passing on to our children is immoral. It was once said that we should pass a torch to the next generation. Instead, we are passing on an unpaid bill. Throwing more money at our problems is not the answer.”
MANCHESTER, N.H. Prospective Republican presidential contender Sarah Palin will continue her "One Nation" tour beyond Washington, D.C., and the New England states.
She said this morning that she plans to take her tour to Iowa and South Carolina, two early voting states.
She made the announcement after having breakfast in Portsmouth with US Senator Kelly Ayotte.
While Palin insisted her visit to the Granite State wasn't a poke in the eye to Mitt Romney as her potential rival held two days of events in New Hampshire, news of her visit trumped coverage of Romney’s formal announcement speech yesterday.
"Palin hits the Seacoast," blared a four-column headline in today's New Hampshire Union Leader.
A story about Romney's speech was relegated to Page A3.
MANCHESTER, N.H. – In the first town hall of his freshly-announced presidential campaign, Mitt Romney this morning continued to offer a sharp critique of President Obama’s handling of the economy.
“Look he’s a nice guy, he’s well spoken - he could talk a dog off a meat wagon - and yet he hasn’t delivered,” the former Massachusetts governor said in a conference room at the University of New Hampshire’s campus here. “We’ve had three years now - at the beginning it was all George Bush - we’re not hearing a lot about George Bush now, by the way, as we’re seeing unemployment at nine percent plus. It went up again today.”
“He can’t keep blaming George Bush,” he added. “This is now his economy.”
It was the first time this year that Romney has faced a group of voters in the unscripted forums that New Hampshire prides itself on. About 100 people showed up to the event, bringing written questions to ask the candidate about issues he has not brought up himself: education, climate change, and abortion.FULL ENTRY
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
STRATHAM, N.H. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney today publicly launched his second bid for the presidency with an outdoor speech at a farm in the lead primary state of New Hampshire.
1:16 p.m. - "I refuse to believe that America is just another place on the map with a flag," Mitt Romney told the crowd.
"We know we can bring country back," he said, before reprising a line from the movie, "The American President." "I'm Mitt Romney. I believe in America. And I'm running for president of the United States.
The declaration triggered a chorus of "Go, Mitt, Go."
With that, the speech was over.
1:12 p.m. - "Turning around a crisis takes bold action," Mitt Romney declares.
He says he will cap government spending at 20 percent of the budget and "finally, finally" balance the budget.
Then, channeling a famous Democrat, President John F. Kennedy, he says his generation will pass a torch to the next generation "not a bill."
He pledges his primary focus from Day One as president will be job-creation.
"You know, if you want to create jobs, it helps to have actually had a job and I have," he said.
Of course, Romney has joked that he has been unemployed since leaving the governor's office in January 2007.
1:09 p.m. - Unlike President Obama's European-style solutions, Romney is saying he will bring a CEO's acumen to the White House.
He recalls that he balanced the Massachusetts budget without taxes but fails to mention he also jacked up fees for a variety of services.
And, despite criticism from conservatives and some of his presidential contenders, Romney says his Massachusetts health care plan was "a state solution to a state problem."
1:04 p.m. - The speech is not much of a departure from what Mitt Romney has been saying for the past couple years.
Romney says he believes in a country of freedom and opportunity, propelled by entrepreneurship.
He complained that a newly inaugurated President Obama traveled the world, "apologizing" for America.
And he said the president is treating Israel "the same way so many European countries have, with suspicion."
1:01 p.m. - The audience applauds as Mitt Romney delivers the signature line of his announcement speech: "Barack Obama has failed America."
Three years later, he said, jobs are hard to come by, grocery and gas prices are up.
"It breaks my heart to see what is happening to our country," he said.
12:59 p.m. - Mitt Romney is lauding the country's history as a democracy, and a republic, not a monarchy.
"Who is it that rules this great nation?" he said. "You do."
The voters, in 17 months time, will choose who gives the State of the Union speech.
12:56 p.m. - Ann Romney is testfying to her husband as a partner, father, and problem-solver.
"That's why I have all the confidence in the world that this man standing next to me will be the next nominee for the Republican Party and will be the next president of the United States."
12:54 p.m. - Ann and Mitt Romney are taking the stage. She will introduce him.
"Thank-you; very generous," Mitt Romney said to Doug Scamman.
As he has said elsewhere this second campaign, Mitt Romney told the crowd, "Old friends."
12:53 p.m. - Doug Scamman, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House, is now introducing the Romneys.
The Scammans supported John McCain the last time around, and now they are with the proverbial party "next-in-line."
But Doug Scamman is citing Romney's business and civic background as the basis for his support.
"We need somebody in the White House who can work with everybody," Scamman said.
12:50 p.m. - The program is beginning with Stella Scamman saying hello and a 12-year-old leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
12:31 p.m. - Events are running behind schedule, as Mitt and Ann Romney greet their supporters amid a scrum of TV cameras...
12:22 p.m. - Former New Hampshire governor and Bush 41 White House Chief of Staff John Sununu is among those on hand.
12:11 p.m. - It IS a different kind of campaign the second time around.
Mitt Romney emerged the Doug and Stella Scamman's farmhouse clad in an open collar and lacking a suitcoat, and then he and his wife, Ann, made their way not to the stage for his announcement speech, but to a table of crockpots to serve her recipe of chicken-and-bean chili.
"Who wants some chili?" the candidate said as he served up heaping scoops.
12:04 p.m. - Ace campaign photographer Brooks Kraft reports the chili being served in conjunction with the announcement speech is fantastic.
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom says volunteers had 36 crockpots in the campaign headquarters yesterday to cook chili according to Ann Romney's family recipe.
11:55 a.m. - They've brought the crowd in front of the stage to provide a populist scene for the announcement speech.
Old Romney hands Eric Fehrnstrom, Peter Flaherty, and Russ Schriefer are working through the crowd of supporters and reporters.
Also here is at least one of Mitt Romney's sons, Josh, a father of five who deals in real estate in Utah.
11:40 a.m. - For Republicans who like to criticize President Obama and his use of TelePrompTers, Romney will be speaking from one.
His campaign has also set-up a tripod just below his podium so it can get close-up shots for use in future videos and campaign commercials.
11:18 a.m. - It has been hard to blog from the site, with the wind whipping and the excessive glare from the sun as it jumps in and out of the clouds.
Nonetheless, the report begins: A crowd is assembling at the Scammans' farm, including New Hampshire politicos such as Tom Rath and former Massachusetts supporters including House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. He brought his father-in-law.
Groups of Romney aides, dressed in blue T-shirts with the campaign slogan "Believe in America" are racing around, completing last-minute preparations.
Mitt Romney was doing a handful a pull-aside interviews beforehand, including with the Fox New Channel's Sean Hannity and ABC News correspondent John Berman, whose network broadcasts over WMUR-TV, the dominant television station in New Hampshire.
Romey is slated to begin speaking about noon.
10:24 a.m. - The bucolic setting at Doug and Stella Scamman's Bittersweet Farm was leavened with blustery conditions in the aftermath of a tornado-laden weather system that blew through Romney's home state overnight.
Campaign workers had erected tents and sunscreens for a chili cookoff following the speech, but they dismantled them to avoid them going airborne.
In a nod to the setting, hay bales ringed the stage, media riser, and even the speaker stands.
Mitt Romney this morning is planning to announce his presidential bid by delivering a forceful speech that continues to criticize President Obama’s handling of the economy.
The former Massachusetts governor and Bain Capital executive will also seek to portray himself as the candidate with the know-how to get the country’s economy back on track.
“When Barack Obama came to office, we wished him well and hoped for the best,” Romney plans to say, according to excerpts of the speech. “Now, in the third year of his four-year term, we have more than promises and slogans to go by. Barack Obama has failed America.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are poised to continue focusing most of their own attacks on Romney, with plans for conference calls and the release of a new video tagging him as a wishy-washy politician. The video, called "Romney: Same Candidate, Different Positions," is being released this morning by the Democratic National Committee.FULL ENTRY
Be sure to return to "Political Intelligence" before noon tomorrow for coverage as Mitt Romney's publicly declares his second campaign for the presidency.
My Globe colleague Matt Viser and I will be on hand at Doug and Stella Scamman's Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, N.H., for the speech and ensuing chili cookoff.
Ann Romney will be offering her signature campaign; does that stack the odds in her favor?
We plan to live-blog the pre-speech activities and announcement itself, wrap up Romney's remarks, and gather video to complement the coverage.
Massachusetts Democrats plan to focus on Republican Scott Brown and the record he has compiled in the US Senate during their annual convention in Lowell on Saturday.
According to an agenda released this afternoon, the party will also focus on building upon its 2010 achievements, including repelling a national GOP tide by reelecting an all-Democratic congressional delegation, as well as President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.
The convention gavels to order at 10 a.m. at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
It will include remarks by Governor Deval Patrick and the state's other constitutional officers, as well as the four Democrats who have already declared their candidacy against Brown.
Mitt Romney is publicly announcing his second presidential campaign tomorrow in Stratham, N.H., and he'll get down to work fast.
His campaign committee has announced that he will hold a town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., on Friday.
It will take place at the University of New Hampshire Manchester Campus at 8:30 a.m.
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Sarah Palin’s mystery tour/summer vacation/media scavenger hunt is headed toward Boston, perhaps as soon as this afternoon.
The former Alaska governor, who has been visiting historic sites across the Northeast (and eating pizza with Donald Trump), as part of her One Nation bus tour, spent the morning in New York City, visiting Ellis Island.
Now, reporters for ABC News, CNN, and Real Clear Politics, who have been chasing after her bus, are reporting that she’s headed to Boston en route to New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary.
For anyone who listened to Mitt Romney during his first campaign for president, it’s no surprise that Olympic speedskater Dan Jansen attended the biggest fund-raiser to date for Romney’s second campaign.
Jansen became an international sports celebrity with his example of picking himself up after defeat and pushing on to victory.
It’s an example the former Massachusetts governor hopes to emulate starting tomorrow, when he publicly kicks off his 2012 White House bid.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Republican Scott Brown may be a US senator now, but that hasn't stopped him from rekindling his roots as a state senator as he tries to stoke support for his 2012 reelection campaign.
Twice in recent weeks, Brown has issued statements condemning local Democrats amid the ongoing federal corruption trial of former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi.
Yesterday, he did so after Governor Deval Patrick appeared on the witness stand, though Brown was careful not to single out the most powerful Democrat in the state by name.
Massachusetts Democrats and their counterparts in Washington are at odds over how best precisely to field a challenger to Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
Governor Deval Patrick, who controls the Massachusetts Democratic Party, favors an organic process, with the candidate rising from a contested primary field.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is charged with ensuring President Obama has the party majority he needs to pass his legislative agenda, is pointed toward landing a big-name candidate who can clear the field and take on Brown with maximum resources and minimum infighting.
Some of them haven't forgotten that Massachusetts Democrats took the blame when Brown surprised the 2010 state nominee, Martha Coakley, and cost the national Democrats their filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate.
Washington colleague Mark Arsenault and I looked at the dispute for a story in today's Globe.
MILFORD, N.H. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty today denounced the federal stimulus program, even though under his leadership his state benefited from billions of dollars of the federal aid.
During his first trip New Hampshire as an official candidate for president, the Republican also said for the first time that he could support Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
Pawlenty said he would publish his own plan with some differences, but, he said, “If that was the only bill that came to my desk and I wasn’t able to pass my own plan, I would sign it.”
Democrat John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today said China must do more to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promote human rights given its growing economic power.
Speaking at the start of a confirmation hearing for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, nominated to be the US ambassador to China, the Massachusetts senator said Locke will face a great challenge if approved by the Senate.
MANCHESTER, N.H. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich continues to back away from criticism he made earlier this month of Representative Paul Ryan's plan to overhaul Medicare, but at the same time he is stopping short of fully endorsing the plan.
Speaking at Derry Medical Center yesterday, Gingrich delivered an entire speech about health care without mentioning the overhaul, and then declined to take press questions about it.
Later in the day, at the Manchester home of former US Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne, Gingrich said his words criticizing Ryan's plan were "clumsy."
Vice President Joe Biden today marked the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's speech about reaching the moon by complaining the United States has occasionally become "too incremental" instead of pursuing similarly big dreams.
The Democrat, speaking at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, recalled being an 18-year student at a Catholic boys school when the newly inaugurated president addressed Congress and laid down a monumental challenge.
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," Kennedy declared on May 25, 1961.
That goal was achieved in July 1969, nearly six years after Kennedy was assassinated, when the crew of Apollo 11 visited the moon and successfully returned home.
DERRY, N.H. Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare is causing controversy in Congress and likely contributed to yesterday’s defeat of a Republican House candidate in New York’s special election.
But speaking at Derry Medical Center in New Hampshire today, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich delivered an entire speech about health care without mentioning the overhaul, and then declined to take press questions about it.
Gingrich had previously criticized Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, but the former House speaker backtracked after taking flak from his fellow Republicans.
HENNIKER, N.H. Former New York Governor George Pataki today kicked off a New Hampshire advertising campaign aimed at pressuring President Obama and Republican presidential candidates to address the mounting national debt.
“President Obama has the worst fiscal record of any president in the history of our country,” Pataki said, speaking to around 65 people at New England College. “This year, we’ll have the largest deficit than in any year in the history of our country. …It’s not sustainable.”
In a companion interview with the Globe, Pataki said he was reconsidering his decision not to seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination out of concern over government spending.
HENNIKER, N.H. Former New York Governor George Pataki, who recently started an organization focused on reducing the federal debt, has not ruled out a 2012 presidential run.
The Republican said last month that he would not run, but he said today the recent decision of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels to skip a campaign may prompt him to reconsider.
“I’m not a candidate at this point, but down the road, you never say never,” Pataki said during an interview after a speech at New England College. “I’m not running now. …We’ll see what happens over the course of the next month.”
Another New Yorker, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, is also weighing a campaign.
IRMO, S.C. – Mitt Romney this afternoon assailed President Obama for not articulating a clear position on how he would reform Medicare – but then the former Massachusetts governor declined to articulate such a position himself.
The health care program for the elderly has become an increasingly hot-button issue in national politics and is bound to dominate debate in the 2012 presidential race. House Republicans recently passed a plan – spearheaded by Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin – that includes drastic cuts to Medicare.
“Where’s our president’s plan? What would he do?” Romney told reporters today after meeting with small business owners at a plumbing company here. “Is he just going to sit on the side and accuse Paul Ryan of being un-America? I simply can’t understand how the president and his people can attack Republicans who are putting forward constructive ideas, when he hasn’t got an idea of his own.”
Still, Romney would not elaborate on what he himself would do, saying he’s still an undeclared presidential candidate and would give detailed proposals later. “I will be happy to describe my specific plan, but clearly at this stage that’s still a little premature,” he said.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON – A Massachusetts native and former Senator Edward M. Kennedy aide was tapped today to take the top post in coordinating the Democratic Party’s national convention.
Stephen J. Kerrigan, who also helped coordinate the Democratic convention when it was in Boston in 2004, has been named as chief executive officer overseeing the 2012 convention in Charlotte, N.C.
“It’s basically everything, start to finish,” he said in an interview.
Kerrigan, 39, grew up in Lancaster, Mass., and graduated from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury (fun fact: Kerrigan was three years behind future Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray).
At 25, he was elected to the Lancaster Board of Selectmen, and later became Kennedy’s national political director. He was also chief of staff to Thomas F. Reilly, who was Massachusetts Attorney General.
Kerrigan is getting ready to move to Charlotte, where he’ll oversee all operations involving the convention – from security to transportation to housing.
“We’re very excited to bring the 2012 Democratic National Convention to Charlotte where we will re-nominate President Barack Obama,” Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said today in a statement. “The team we’ve put together to lead the Convention embodies the diversity and talent of the Democratic Party, and they’ll work closely with our partners in Charlotte to put on an event that showcases the progress President Obama and Democrats have made on behalf of the American people and our vision for the future.”
The Republicans are holding their convention in Tampa, Fla., and it’s no mistake that the Democrats chose Charlotte for their convention. North Carolina, which Obama carried narrowly in 2008, is expected to be a major battleground in the 2012 election.
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney is the focus of the first attack ad of the 2012 presidential race, with an independent group run by former aides to President Obama tagging Romney as both a flip-flopper and a politician who would not protect Medicare.
“Mitt Romney says he's 'on the same page' as Paul Ryan, who wrote the plan to essentially end Medicare,” a narrator says, as dark, black and white images of the former Massachusetts governor flash across the screen. “But with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder...which page is he on today?"
The ad, which also tweaks Newt Gingrich, is going to be running in South Carolina just as Romney makes his first visit of the year to the state tomorrow.
The ad is being run by Priorities USA Action, a political action committee that is headed by President Obama’s former deputy press secretary, Bill Burton. The group can accept unlimited donations and is meant to counter Republican groups that were formed during the 2010 midterm elections. Those groups were criticized at the time by top Democrats, who have filed legislation to curb the influence of outside money in politics.
" President Obama and his team are desperate to change the subject to anything other than jobs and the millions of Americans out of work,” Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney’s presidential exploratory committee, said in a statement. “With 9.6% unemployment in South Carolina, voters are looking for a jobs plan not a smear campaign."
Romney tomorrow is planning to visit South Carolina and meet with business owners. It is his first trip to the Palmetto State this year.
Romney has in fact said that he and Ryan were “on the same page,” although he has not wholly embraced the Wisconsin Republican’s budget plan, which includes drastic cuts to Medicare. Romney said last week that he would at some point present his own plan on reforming the health care program for the elderly sand said it would “not be identical but shares objectives” with Ryan’s plan.
President Obama told a revved up crowd in Boston this evening that he needs to be reelected next year because "we've got more work to do."
At the first of two fund-raisers in Massachusetts, he said, "Change is hard. Change takes time ... We've got more work to do!"
He said that to-do list includes immigration reform.
A complaint by the Boston Herald about the limited access its staff would have to President Obama during his visit to Boston today prompted an Obama aide to fault the paper for its coverage of an Obama visit to Boston in March.
On that day, the Herald devoted its front page to an opinion article by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, in which he criticized the administration's job-creation record.
"I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the president's visits,'' White House spokesman Matt Lehrich told the Herald in an email.
WASHINGTON New Hampshire voters will get their first glimpse of another potential GOP presidential contender in coming days when former ambassador Jon M. Huntsman Jr. sweeps through the crucial primary state.
It starts with a Thursday afternoon meet-and-greet in Hanover, then continues Friday with back-to-back house parties in Keene and Hancock, before he speaks at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Concord late in the day.
On Saturday, he delivers the commencement address at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, then participates in photo ops at a gun shop and a country store before speaking before the Windham County GOP.
A commencement speech and missed Air Force One landing behind him, President Obama was departing New London, Conn., this afternoon en route to two fundraisers in Boston and Brookline.
The president had a more than hourlong drive to Bradley International Airport before flying on to Logan International Airport.
The campaign events were preceded by the day's "official" appearance, the president's address to graduates of the US Coast Guard Academy. He noted they collectively had the highest GPA of any class in the academy's history.
When President Obama pulls up tonight at a stately Brookline home for a campaign fundraiser, he will have two hosts in the flesh Jack and Eileen Connors and a third in spirit.
Elizabeth Minot Graves was the daughter of George Minot, a Massachusetts General Hospital physician and Harvard Medical School professor who shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1934 for his work in developing a treatment for pernicious anemia.
In the eyes of Liza Weld Graves, the daughter of Elizabeth Minot Graves, her late mother has been expecting the president.
"My mom died shortly after Obama took office," Liza Graves wrote today in an email from her current house in Sonoma, Calif.
"She had dementia, but was thrilled when Obama was elected, so much so that through her dementia haze, she demanded that my brother call the president-elect to invite him to tea with her father... She was quite upset when we told her this was not to be.
"In an odd way, her wish is being granted tonight," she wrote.FULL ENTRY
A trip that will bring President Obama to Boston got off to a rocky start this morning.
Air Force One executed a missed approach as it neared its first destination, Bradley International Airport outside Hartford.
White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro said: "AF1 did a go-round at Bradley International Airport this morning because of weather. They circled around and landed safely a few minutes later, at 10:05 a.m.
New Hampshire Democrats have announced that Vice President Joe Biden will headline a party fund-raising dinner next week.
He will deliver the keynote address at the annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club Dinner on Wednesday in Nashua.
The appearance underscores the battleground nature of the state, which broke Democratic in 2008 but went Republican in leading races last fall.
"We are excited to welcome Vice President Biden to this year's event," Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said in a statement this morning. "Working with President Obama, Joe Biden has played a key role in turning our economy around and getting America on the right track."
The announcement was made as the president was en route for his own trip to New England. He was delivering the commencement address at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., before flying to Massachusetts for reelection fund-raisers in Boston and Brookline.
President Obama is coming to Massachusetts later today for a pair of fund-raisers in Boston and Brookline.
He arrived at Andrews Air Force Base at 8:52 a.m. and Air Force One took off at 9:01 a.m., destined for New London, Conn., and a commencement address at the US Coast Guard Academy.
The Globe's White House correspondent, Donovan Slack, is in the traveling pool, riding aboard the presidential jet and getting a front-row seat for his speech at the Cyclorama in the South End and, this evening, at the Brookline home of Boston advertising executive Jack Connors Jr.
Cornel West, a Princeton University professor and leading black intellectual, is harshly criticizing President Obama, a candidate he once supported but now calls “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”
West, a former Harvard University professor, said during an interview with the website Truthdig posted yesterday that the president has not been true to his race.
“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West said. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white…When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening.”
The White House did not have an immediate comment. West did not respond to messages left at his office.
The First Hoopster will get a salute tomorrow from two prominent members of the Boston Celtics family, Hall of Fame member Bill Russell and current All-Star Ray Allen, according to a top Democrat briefed on the plans.
Both will address the audience tomorrow afternoon when President Obama visits Massachusetts for a fund-raiser at the Cyclorama in Boston, said the Democrat, who requested anonymity to speak in advance of the formal announcement.
The president will then attend a smaller event at the Brookline home of advertising executive Jack Connors Jr.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters today in Pakistan that "there is too much at stake" for the United States and Pakistan to abandon their alliance.
He said he and Pakistani officials have agreed on a series of steps that each side would take to improve relations, but declined to detail what those steps were.
"There are real differences between our two countries, but the bonds that tie us together in the fight against the threat of extremists is stronger than those differences," he said during a news conference in Islamabad.
In announcing today that he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump made clear that for all his sound and fury, he prefers to make money above solving political problems.
"I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly," he said in a statement. "Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector."
Weeks earlier, Trump hinted at his priorities in a less-polished fashion, as he visited New Hampshire with all the atmospherics of a traveling carnival.
There's never been a shortage of people willing to lampoon Senator John Kerry, or who have delighted in him being roasted.
Kerry has inflicted some of the damage himself, from trying to register a yacht in Rhode Island in an apparent Massachusetts tax dodge, to heading out windsurfing when presidential campaign advisers said it would underscore the elitist image they were trying to overcome.
Other damage has come from piling-on, all too easy with a person who can spend nearly as much time deciding what brand of beer to drink as it takes to down the first pint.
But those thoughts, emotions, or memories can seem petty when considering the duties he undertook today: representing the United States and delivering its complaints in the aftermath of the May 2 raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden while he hid amid a Pakistani military garrison.
Jane Flavell Collins
Senator Scott Brown said yesterday the federal corruption trial of former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi highlights the dangers of one-party dominance in Massachusetts and a "go-along-to-get-along" political culture.
Injecting politics into a normally celebratory moment, Brown said in remarks delivered at the Lasell College commencement ceremony: "I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, just as one political party can't be right 100 percent of the time, it shouldn't have 100 percent of the power. Unchallenged power grows arrogant over time. It is what has given us one case of graft after another."
The lone Republican in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Brown is seeking reelection next year in what has historically been a Democratic state. Democrats have begun lining up to challenge him, and Brown opponents have already started pounding him with advertising campaigns.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren has outlined how far he is willing to go to become the next US senator from Massachusetts: He will shake hands in the cold outside Fenway Park, if need be.
“I love the Red Sox they're doing pretty well," he told former Globe reporter Rick Klein when he appeared on "Top Line," the ABC News online program he now hosts each weekday. "I was at a game a few weeks ago. I’m gonna be out there, and across the state. We've been to cities and towns that's the kind of campaign I'm going to run, and that's the kind of campaign that will win.”
The comment harks back to January 2010, when fellow Democrat Martha Coakley mocked her then-Republican rival, then-state Senator Scott Brown, for pressing the flesh outside the ballpark when it hosted the NHL's "Winter Classic" on a frigid New Year's Day.
Brown went on to win the campaign and replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Coakley went back to being attorney general.
Jim Brett, president of the New England Council and a former state legislator, has been named chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
Brett previously served two two-year terms as a member of the committee under President George W. Bush. He was urged to apply for the chairmanship, he said, by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
“I am very honored and humbled to be chair of this commission," Brett said during an interview.
The Dorchester resident a special perspective to the committee: His late brother, Jack, the eldest of his family's six children, was born with an intellectual disability.
He recalled how doctors advised his mother to institutionalize Jack, but, instead, she replied, "No way. He's coming home with me. And I'm going to have more children."
Brett added: "She taught us to make sure that he’s part of everyone’s daily life. And he taught me about the issues of disability, and the challenges just to function every day. When I got elected, I promised to learn about the situation and be an advocate."
WASHINGTON -- After Navy SEALS shot Osama bin Laden early this month, the Situation Room photo of President Obama and his national security team gravely monitoring the operation across the globe quickly became a defining image of that long night.
The White House’s high-tech bunker, where the president held a ceremony today, was quickly built in what had been an old basement bowling alley fifty years ago because of another overseas operation that ended with far less success: the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
“The seeds of what we saw in that photo were planted in the Kennedy administration,” said Tom Putnam, director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Tying together the half-century of history, President Obama renamed a secure conference room today after President Kennedy. The assassinated president's daughter Caroline Kennedy attended, along with grandson, John "Jack" Schlossberg.
"It’s the nerve center for the U.S. government, the place where we come together to make policy and respond to crises from wars abroad to floods at home," President Obama said.
"Mitt Romney, Belmont, Mass." penned a Letter to the Editor that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal, responding to a scathing editorial on the newpaper's conservative editorial page the day before.
In it, Romney sought to address some criticisms of the universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts, a measure the Journal had argued raised questions about his fitness to be president.
The 2006 Massachusetts law became the template for the federal universal health care law signed last year by President Obama, which the Journal and others deride as "ObamaCare."
"While I have had my disagreements with the Journal's editorial board, where we find common ground is on the need to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with reforms that empower states to craft their own solutions," Romney wrote. "A one-size-fits-all plan that raises taxes and ignores the very real differences between states is the wrong course for our nation."
WASHINGTON -- The US House of Representatives passed legislation today to expand offshore gas and oil exploration to New England coastal waters and other areas where drilling is now banned.
The measure, which passed 243-179, is unlikely to advance beyond the House and would garner a veto from President Obama regardless. But the legislation highlights how energy and fuel prices have become one of the biggest political battlegrounds in the sharply divided Congress.
The bill makes no bones about its intent. Entitled the “Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act,” the legislation countered a seven-year moratorium President Obama imposed last year on new offshore drilling. The bill would require the federal government to offer offshore leases in areas believed to have substantial oil and natural gas reserves.
“This legislation ensures that the Obama Administration can no longer withhold valuable energy resources necessary to increase American energy production here at home,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement. Cantor was among nine House members who didn’t vote on the bill.FULL ENTRY
J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Mitt Romney this afternoon tried to rebut conservative criticisms of his Massachusetts health care law as he called for abolishing President Obama’s national plan and replacing it with a new, more state-based reform of the US health care system.
In his first and perhaps most significant policy speech of his budding presidential campaign, he gave the strongest defense to date of his signature Massachusetts health care plan.
“A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake, and walk away from it,” Romney said. “And I presume that a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that, that would be good for me politically. But there’s only one problem with that: it wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I believed was right for the people of my state.”
ANN ARBOR, Mich. The topic: health care. The concern: It could undermine Mitt Romney's run for president. A key critic: The Wall Street Journal. The response: A speech and a PowerPoint presentation.
That was the tack the former Massachusetts governor took today as he tried to address a key vulnerability in his expected presidential campaign. But it's also the exact tack Romney took in 2006, while he still was governor, as he geared up for his first White House campaign.
In each instance, he tried to mollify conservative critics who argued universal health care cut against their free-market and libertarian beliefs.
The following article was published in The Boston Globe on April 26, 2006:
Check "Political Intelligence" at 2 p.m. for a live stream of the health care speech being delivered today by expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney's favored communication medium in the run-up to his second presidential campaign has been the op-ed column, with sometimes unexpected results, since expounding in such a sober medium allows him to avoid distracting questions from other elements of the media.
Today, though, he is the focus of a blistering editorial in The Wall Street Journal, which carries the unflattering headline, "Obama's Running Mate."
The editorial, which included a trademark Journal stipple portrait of the former Massachusetts governor, runs across two columns and consumes two-thirds of the space usually allotted to editorials written from a conservative perspective.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
ANN ARBOR, Mich. As Mitt Romney prepares for a major address on health care here this afternoon, the likely presidential contender is still expected to continue defending what has become a third rail in Republican politics: a requirement from government that people purchase health insurance.
The so-called individual mandate was a core component of the signature health care plan Romney signed into law while governor of Massachusetts, and he has stuck by that decision even as he has decried it as part of the federal plan signed into law last year by President Obama.
During a question-and-answer period last month in Las Vegas, for instance, Romney used an example of someone without insurance getting in a car wreck and going to the hospital.
“We don’t let them die in the streets,” Romney said. “They go to the hospital and are treated. And guess who pays for that? You. Government. You all are paying for that.”
A spokesman for Senator Scott Brown refused to say if he will travel to the CIA to see photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, after the agency offered today to show them to members of a congressional committee upon which the Republican serves.
The only other member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation who would qualify under the same offer, Democrat Niki Tsongas, will decline.
“The congresswoman is convinced that Osama bin Laden was killed and will not be requesting to see the photos,” said spokesman John Noble.
Brown spokesman Colin Reed said, “No comment on this.”
Democrat Warren Tolman is considering a campaign to unseat Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
Tolman refused to say if those people are dissatisfied with the current field, which doesn't include any of the better-known politicians in Massachusetts. Those who have already declared include Newton Mayor Setti Warren, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, former lieutenant governor candidate Bob Massie, and Salem immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco.
Senator John Kerry today labeled Osama bin Laden's death "a potentially game-changing opportunity" for a political solution in war-torn Afghanistan.
Kicking off the third of six hearings on Afghanistan and Pakistan this month by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, Kerry said that could "bring greater stability to the region and bring our troops home." The Massachusetts Democrat serves as chairman of the committee.
"Let me be very clear: A precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a mistake and I, for one, would take that option off the table," Kerry said in his prepared remarks. "Instead, we should be working toward the smallest footprint necessary, a presence that puts Afghans in charge and presses them to step up to that task at the same time that it secures our interests and accomplishes our mission of destroying Al Qaeda and preventing Afghanistan from ever again becoming a terrorist sanctuary.
"But make no mistake, it is unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight and the good news is, we don’t have to. I am convinced that we can achieve our core goals at a more sustainable cost, in both lives and dollars," he added.
President Obama has pledged to begin removing some of the 130,000 US troops by July 31.
Matthew J. Lee / Globe Staff
(Editor's Note: This post contains math and, even more ominously, math performed by a journalist with guidance from politicians.)
Newton Mayor Setti Warren was set this morning to personally declare what he stated yesterday in a slick movie: He is a candidate for US Senate next year.
With City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, Somerville activist Bob Massie, and Salem immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco already declared candidates, that all but guarantees a contested Democratic primary in September 2012, even with some dropouts.
Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff
Newton Mayor Setti Warren announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Senator Scott Brown for re-election next year.
In a heavily produced video, complete with stirring music, the former Kerry and Clinton aide said: "Many of you don't know me; I'm probably about as well known as Scott Brown was at this point two years ago."
Nonetheless, Warren said the race should reduce to a debate about party values.
Massachusetts Republican Party leaders today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the League of Women Voters, alleging the nonprofit organization failed to properly file paperwork after it launched a television ad campaign criticizing Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
"We are calling on the League to immediately reveal their secret donors as the law requires, and to live by the same standards of openness and transparency they have encouraged others to adopt," Massachusetts Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour said in a written statement.
The ads criticized Brown as well as Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, for votes related to the Clean Air Act. Responding to the complaint, Elisabeth MacNamara, the organization's president, defended the ad, saying the ad targeted one particular issue, not the upcoming elections.
"Our ad will stand up to scrutiny because it is about Senator Scott Brown's vote to weaken the Clean Air Act and endanger public health," McNamara said in a statement issued Sunday. "It is not about an election that is 18 months away or a politician who may or may not be on the ballot in that election. The allegation to the FEC is simply a charade, designed to deflect attention away from Senator Brown's vote to block the Clean Air Act."
Tom Rettig / Worcester Telegram & Gazette
On Saturday morning, Scott Brown joined his Senate colleague, John Kerry, as well as Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray in Auburn for the funeral of an Air Force officer killed by a rampaging gunman in Afghanistan.
In so doing, the officeholders conferred the weight and stature of their respective offices on the event, signaling to the public in deed if not in word that this was a moment worthy of pause amid the motion of daily life.
It’s because of the esteem the public holds for such high office that people also stopped and listened last week when Brown went on television and weighed in on the debate about whether to release photos showing Osama bin Laden after he had been shot to death by US troops in Pakistan.
“Hello, I’m Scott Brown, and I have the honor of representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate.
“Last Sunday night, we heard President Obama deliver the message that Americans have been waiting for since September 11, 2001. It’s a very rare thing when so many people across the world observe the loss of life with something other than regret. But this man, the late Osama bin Laden, had chosen his fate long before in a life filled with cruelty. If he expected mercy when our forces found him that was asking much more than he was ever known to give.
“This was a man who rejoiced in the suffering and death of others, who set in motion all the horror and grief of 9/11 and considered it just a start. He was a teacher of evil, and now, for him, the lesson is over. It ends not in the fulfillment of some fanatical vision, but in the depths of the
WASHINGTON — US Senator Scott Brown will deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s weekly address this week, focusing on the killing of Osama bin Laden, American’s continued fight against terrorism and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Brown’s remarks will be released tomorrow morning, according to the senator’s office.
Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, is a 31-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and currently holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. He had to backtrack earlier this week from comments he made in a TV interview, in which he claimed to have seen a photo of bin Laden’s corpse, which turned out to be a fake.
The Massachusetts Democratic Party issued a statement today saying Senator Scott Brown "owes" Massachusetts residents an explanation after the Republican asserted and then retracted that he had seen postmortem photos of Osama bin Laden.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Brown owes the people of Massachusetts more details as to what led him to believe that he was shown an authentic photo, and then what led him to feel comfortable enough to speak out publicly about the photo," party Chairman John Walsh said in a statement.
"He needs right away, today to provide answers to the following questions: who showed him the fake photo; who told him it was genuine when it wasn’t; and what are the procedures he uses to make sure he has reliable information before he gives voters that information?" Walsh added.
The chairman said the senator needs to “understand that his words matter, and his assertions are taken at face value because of his position."
Brown spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom replied: "With the Sal DiMasi corruption trial going on, I'm surprised that John Walsh has the time to criticize Republicans."
US Senator Scott Brown said in several televised interviews today that he had seen perhaps the most controversial and closely guarded photos in the world: those showing Osama bin Laden’s dead body.
Brown, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested he had viewed them as part of an official briefing, and he argued that they were too graphic to be released to the public and could enflame terrorists.
Brown later acknowledged that he had fallen victim to a hoax, apparently the same doctored images that were making the rounds on the Internet.
‘‘The photo that I saw and that a lot of other people saw is not authentic,’’ the senator said in a one-sentence statement issued hours after the interviews aired.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON Having seen unreleased photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, US Senator Scott Brown does not believe pictures of the dead terrorist leader should be made public, the Massachusetts Republican said in an interview on NECN.
“Let me assure you that he is dead, that bin Laden is dead I have seen the photos,” Brown said hours before President Obama declared he would not release the images.
During an interview with "60 Minutes," the president told the CBS News program that "we don't trot out trophies."
Asked directly if the pictures, which have been described as bloody and gruesome, should be made available for everyone, Brown told NECN: “If it’s to sell newspapers or just have a news cycle story, no, I don’t think they should be released. We’re still dealing with the sensitivities of the Muslim and Arab world. And we still have men and women serving throughout the world.”
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a prospective candidate for US Senate, has booked the same American Legion Post where he announced his mayoral run for an unspecified event next Tuesday.
Aaron Goldman, who handles constituent services for the mayor, said Warren had reserved Post 440 in Newton for a “service breakfast,” but declined to elaborate.
"No comment," Warren told the Newton Tab, which first reported the booking, when the paper asked Warren if he planned to announce he is running against Republican Senator Scott Brown.
Deborah Shah, the mayor’s political director, said, “The mayor is hosting a service breakfast with people in his life who have done things for the community and he wants to honor them. I can’t say anything further at this time.”
Warren is a Navy veteran and a former aide to Senator John F. Kerry. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Somerville activist Bob Massie have already announced campaigns.
Governor Deval Patrick, just back from addressing Wisconsin Democrats, will reprise the role next month in Florida.
The Florida Democratic Party made the announcement today. Patrick will speak June 11 in Hollywood, just south of Fort Lauderdale.
“As Governor, Deval Patrick has focused on common sense solutions to bring jobs to his state. His leadership in implementing Massachusetts’ landmark health care reform law now serves as the national model for bringing affordable health insurance to all Americans,” Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement.
“We are thrilled that Governor Patrick is joining us at our 2011 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, helping us as get ready for the 2012 elections and work to hold (Governor) Rick Scott and his extreme Republican Party accountable," said Smith.
Mary Beth Cahill, once Senator Edward M. Kennedy's chief of staff, has been named director of the United Auto Workers' Washington office, as well as director of its UAW Community Action Program.
In both jobs, she will oversee the UAW’s political program nationally. She will also serve as a senior adviser to UAW President Bob King.
Cahill formerly served as assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison in the Clinton White House, as well as Kennedy's chief of staff and director of Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.
She also spent five years at EMILY’s List, a PAC that supports female candidates and supports abortion rights.
“We are thrilled to have Mary Beth join the UAW leadership team especially in light of the difficult challenges ahead for our union,” King said in a statement. "As we navigate the tough political environment in this era of attacks on American working families and the middle class, and head into national contract talks for the domestic automakers, I’m confident that she will help us elect officeholders who are allies in the battle to save the American middle class."
Cahill is a Massachusetts native and the daughter of a UAW autoworker. She graduated from Emmanuel College with a degree in English and political science, and held a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2005.
WASHINGTON -- Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney this morning said President Obama deserved to be credited with an “enormous success” for overseeing the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.
“We’ll all remember where we were when Osama bin Laden was finally killed,” Romney told reporters this morning, according to an NECN video. “I congratulate the president, the intelligence community, our military. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment.”
“The bad guy took one in the eye,” he added.
Romney, who is considering vying for the role of occupying the Oval Office, was also eager for some more behind-the-scenes details.
“I look forward to hearing more,” Romney said. “How did we find out where he was located? What sources of intelligence were developed over the years? How many blind allies did they have to pursue until they finally found this guy?”
WASHINGTON Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican who is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said today the strike on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan raises questions about whether the continuing war in Afghanistan is worth the cost.
“With al Qaeda largely displaced from the country, but franchised in other locations, Afghanistan does not carry a strategic value that justifies 100,000 American troops and a $100 billion per year cost, especially given current fiscal restraints,” Lugar said in his opening statement at a hearing on Afghanistan.
Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who serves as chairman of the committee, called the death of bin Laden a "seminal moment." Questions about the future US role in Afghanistan are even more relevant now, he said.
"The death of Osama bin Laden is obviously an event with enormous consequence," he said. "It doesn't end the threat, however, but still it is a major victory in the long campaign against terrorism waged by our intelligence agencies and our military."FULL ENTRY
Essdras M. Suarez / Globe Staff
When Vice President Joe Biden wanted to meet the right people in March to set up the fundraising apparatus for his and President Obama's reelection committee, it was Jack Connors who greeted him at his 60th floor office in the John Hancock Tower and then took him down two flights for a reception he put together.
And when Obama comes to Boston in a couple weeks to ask for cash itself, it will be Connors again who welcomes him, this time at his Brookline home.
The president will leave with about $2 million from a dinner that is already sold out.
The back-to-back events highlight Connors's connection to the White House, as well as his expansion from the philanthropy and foundation work that has followed his successful career founding the advertising powerhouse Hill Holliday.
WASHINGTON -- Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not participating this week in the first GOP presidential debate, saying it was too early to begin facing off against opponents.
The debate, being held Thursday in South Carolina and sponsored by Fox News, will feature only a handful of candidates, including former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania.
Romney, who is planning to be in South Carolina for a visit later this month, did participate in a forum on Friday in New Hampshire. The candidates were each given eight minutes for prepared remarks, but never appeared on stage with one another.
But he has been coy about whether he would participate in the first debate. On Friday, he told reporters, "Stay tuned," when asked whether he would be there. Today, he definitively said no.
"Gov. Romney will not be participating in this week's South Carolina debate because it's still early, the field is too unsettled and he's not yet an announced candidate," Matt Rhoades, one of his top advisers, said in a statement. "Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party have both been notified of this decision. Gov. Romney is planning to visit South Carolina on May 21st and he looks forward to debating there closer to their primary."
WASHINGTON Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is seeking to refocus the nation's focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan in the run-up to a scheduled withdrawal of some US forces from Afghanistan, set to begin in July.
On Tuesday morning, Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Princeton University Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ronald E. Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy will appear before the committee.
It has already conducted 14 oversight hearings on the war, including the first congressional hearings on reconciliation and the mission in Marja.
The latest hearing was planned before Sunday's surprise announcement about the killing Osama bin Laden.
“The killing of Osama bin Laden closes an important chapter in our war against extremists who kill innocent people around the world." Kerry said in a statement. "A single death does not end the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliated groups and highlights the need to thoroughly evaluate our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to make certain we are asking tough questions about the direction and effectiveness of our policy/"
Farah Stockman can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @fstockman.
Senator Scott Brown just issued a statement saying he requested his annual summer Massachusetts National Guard service period in Afghanistan.
“As a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I have service obligations that I fulfill each year.
"Following in the tradition of other lawmakers who have completed their military service requirements overseas, this year I have requested to conduct my annual training in Afghanistan.
"Doing so will help me to better understand our ongoing mission in that country, and provide me first-hand experience for my duties on the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs committees," he said.
Brown has been in the Guard since 1979, but he has never been deployed to a war zone. His service this summer will come around the July set by President Obama for beginning to start removing some of the 132,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Typically such training periods last two weeks. It would not be considered a formal activation of his JAG unit.
The statement was issued about 90 minutes after Brown spoke with the Globe about heading to the war zone.
The Atlantic magazine has a fascinating interview with the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, in which he attempts to deflect criticism of his country's efforts to root out Osama bin Laden from its midst by comparing it to the ongoing search for Boston fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger.
"If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long, why can't Osama bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?" asked Ambassador Husain Haqqani.
Read the full story here.
WASHINGTON -- Just after President Obama made the most important announcement of his presidency, the field of candidates hoping to unseat him began reacting to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
"Welcome to hell, bin Laden," former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, in one of the bluntest statements.
The shocking news is likely to temporarily divert away from any talk of the economy and high gas prices -- topics that Republican candidates have focused on in recent months. It could also bolster Obama's low approval ratings, and could expose a Republican presidential field that so far lacks a candidate with substantial foreign policy experience.FULL ENTRY
Senator Scott Brown issued a statement this morning saying he has requested to conduct his annual National Guard training in Afghanistan.
“As a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I have service obligations that I fulfill each year.
"Following in the tradition of other lawmakers who have completed their military service requirements overseas, this year I have requested to conduct my annual training in Afghanistan.
"Doing so will help me to better understand our ongoing mission in that country, and provide me first-hand experience for my duties on the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs committees," he said.
Brown has been in the Guard since 1979, but he has never been deployed to a war zone. His service this summer will come around the July set by President Obama for beginning to start removing some of the 132,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Typically such training periods last two weeks. It would not be considered a formal activation of his JAG unit.
About 90 minutes before issuing his statement, Brown said in a telephone interview with the Globe, "I’m going to be going over at some point to do some missions.”
After President Obama told the nation last night about the death of Osama bin Laden, senior members of his administration held a conference call to brief reporters on the details of the mission.
Following is a transcript of that call, as provided by the White House, with all but one of the speakers identified as "senior administration officials."
It was led by Tommy Vietor, the chief spokesman for the National Security Council:
Following are the full texts of statements issued last night by President Obama and Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown after the death of Osama bin Laden:
Jason Reed / Reuters
President Bush started the search for Osama bin Laden on Sept. 11, 2001, and President Obama ended it yesterday, and each man took special pride in the accomplishment.
Bush, in a statement posted on the Facebook page of his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, said: "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
Obama, meanwhile, wore an American flag pin on his lapel as he strode to a lectern in the East Room of the White House to make the official announcement.
"Justice has been done," the president said in remarks that began at 11:35 p.m.
Obama also went to lengths to detail the circumstances that led to bin Laden's death, as well as his leadership of it, starting with him saying he made it his top terrorism priority since shortly after taking office in 2009.
"Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice," said the president.
Then, in his crescendo, he added: "Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan."
Obama's backers will surely argue that the achievement validates his effort to shift the focus from the war on terror from insurgents and Saddam Hussein's loyalists in Iraq to the Taliban in Afghanistan, part of a campaign pledge he made to target bin Laden, the culprit of the 9/11 attacks.
As a senator, Obama declared he would authorize US forces to go into Pakistan to get bin Laden if that was where he sought refuge. In the end, that is what happened, with uncertain diplomatic repercussions for the country.
The president himself did not have to gloat, the facts potent enough to speak for themselves.
Glen Johnson / Globe Staff
MILWAUKEE Governor Deval Patrick addressed Wisconsin Democrats last night.
Here is the full story:
MILWAUKEE Governor Deval Patrick waded into the national debate over labor rights last night, telling fellow Democrats in the union battleground state of Wisconsin that Republicans “have abandoned any sense of responsibility for our common future in order to win power at all costs.’’
MILWAUKEE At least one Massachusetts labor leader wants Wisconsin Democrats to know Governor Deval Patrick is a union friend despite their own political spat back in the Bay State this week.
Just before the governor addressed a Democratic dinner in Milwaukee, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes issued a statement defending Patrick against possible criticism after the Massachusetts House voted this week on a budget that sought to change health insurance programs for municipal workers.
Patrick has filed his own cost-saving proposal, and both he and Senate President Therese Murray have withheld commenting on the details of the House budget.
Glen Johnson / Globe Staff
MILWAUKEE Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is in Wisconsin tonight, addressing state Democrats energized in the aftermath of their collective bargaining dispute with Republican Governor Scott Walker.
Patrick is the keynote speaker at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's Founders Day Dinner, which organizers proudly say sold out at 400 attendees in the aftermath of the Walker fight.
The governor flew into town this morning from Los Angeles, where he appeared on HBO as part of the book tour for his new memoir, "A Reason to Believe." He also was pulling double duty in Wisconsin, holding a book signing after the dinner. In addition, copies were available for purchase at a table outside the ballroom entrance.
MANCHESTER, N.H. Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney tread on socially dangerous ground last night as he talked about the need to "hang" a misery index around the neck of Barack Obama, the nation's first black president.
Romney almost immediately caught himself, with the English major declaring "metaphorically" speaking, but the mix of nervous laughter with applause indicated at least some in the audience realized its potency.
Romney said: "You remember during the Ronald Reagan/Jimmy Carter debates? That Ronald Reagan came up with this great thing about the 'misery index,' and that he hung that around Jimmy Carter's neck, and that had a lot to do with Jimmy Carter losing. Well, we're going to have to hang the 'Obama Misery Index' around his neck. And, I'll tell you, the fact that you've got people in this country, really squeezed, with gasoline getting so expensive, with commodities getting so expensive, families are having a hard time making ends meet. So, we're going to have to talk about that, and housing foreclosures and bankruptcies and higher taxation. We're going to hang him uh, so to speak, metaphorically with, uh, with, uh you have to be careful these days, I've learned that, with an Obama Misery Index."
A video of the remarks posted on YouTube cuts off at, "you have to be careful," without the final 10 words.
Glen Johnson / Globe Staff
MANCHESTER, N.H. Five prospective Republican presidential contenders are attending a forum tonight sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a pro-GOP group with ties to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Glen Johnson / Globe Staff
MANCHESTER, N.H. Mitt Romney pulled out his own credit card and spent $38.52 today to fill up the Ford Escape owned by aide Will Ritter, before he blamed high gasoline prices on the country's inability to generate a sufficient supply of energy.
The prospective Republican presidential contender said the Obama administration's reliance on creating green technologies and renewable energy supplies is commendable, but it has also caused price increases because of the expectation that supply of existing fuels will not increase.
He called for more oil drilling and natural gas pipelines, as well as coal production.
Matthew Barzun, a former Lincoln resident who is now US ambassador to Sweden, will give up his diplomatic post to work for President Obama's re-election by overseeing what some have projected could be the country's first $1 billion White House campaign, The Boston Globe has learned.
Barzun, a 40-year-old Harvard College graduate, will serve as national finance chairman for Obama for America, the president's Chicago-based campaign committee. He is replacing Penny Pritzker, the Chicago billionaire who helped raise nearly $750 million for Obama's 2008 campaign.
During the 2012 race, the Obama committee, working in unison with the Democratic National Committee, expects a fierce advertising battle after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on corporate funding of campaign commercials.
"Not only was Matthew Barzun one of the Obama campaign's top fundraisers in 2008, but he also brings strong working relationships with President Obama's supporters from across the country to this race," said a national Democrat who confirmed the appointment today.
Check "Political Intelligence" after 6 p.m. tonight for a live blog from the Americans for Prosperity forum in Manchester, N.H.
Five prospective Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain will address Republican activists in the first candidate cattle call in almost two months.
The event kicks off at 7 p.m., when Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina speaks at an hourlong dinner honoring former New Hampshire Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne as “Conservative of the Year."
Lamontagne has become something of a GOP kingmaker in the first presidential primary state, helping to explain the turnout.
At 8 p.m., the broader speaking program begins, with each prospective candidate addressing the audience for eight minutes and then responding to questions from Tim Phillips, president of the AFP Foundation.
There will not be a direct debate, as the candidates are slated to speak in this order: Pawlenty, Santorum, Romney, Cain, and Bachmann.
The gathering is billed as a "Summit on Spending and Job Creation."
The appearance comes as a new poll sponsored by New Hampshire's leading television station, WMUR-TV, finds that President Obama's approval rating has fallen to 44 percent.
The survey also found that 52 percent of respondents disapproved of his job performance.
In one potential head-to-head matchup, Obama lost to Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, by a margin of 50 percent to 43 percent.
WASHINGTON The New Hampshire Democratic Party announced this morning that it is filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Republican Mitt Romney violated campaign finance laws by using large contributions given to a series of state PACs to fund his presidential ambitions.
The complaint asks the commission to investigate and cites a Boston Globe story published earlier this month that outlined Romney's state committee fund-raising system.
By using committees set up in individual states with no contribution limits, Romney was able to get around individual federal contribution limits of $5,000 per year. Through state committees in Alabama, Iowa, Michigan, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, the former Massachusetts governor raised large contributions totaling $1.62 million from 43 individuals in 2009 and 2010. That's an average contribution amount of $37,700.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s nomination of Leon Panetta as his next secretary of defense and General David Petraeus as CIA director are getting high marks today from both Massachusetts senators.
John Kerry, a Democrat, and Scott P. Brown, a Republican, praised the two men on the day that the president announced the nominations in a reshuffling of his national security team.
“While the country will miss the service of Secretary (Robert) Gates, Leon Panetta and General Petraeus are first-rate public servants whose reputations and records transcend party, and I expect broad approval and swift confirmations,” Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
Petraeus and Panetta have both served "admirably," Brown said of the two men. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he will participate in Panetta's hearing and vote on his nomination it goes to the full senate for confirmation.
"I look forward to learning more about their views and goals for the future during their confirmation hearings," Brown said in a statement.FULL ENTRY
President Obama is coming back to Boston next month for a fundraiser on behalf of his newly created reelection committee.
The Democrat is scheduled to appear at a 3 p.m. event at the Cyclorama in the South End on May 18.
A Democratic official who confirmed the trip would not provide further details, but if Obama follows the practice he has used in recent weeks in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, he will attend several events for both mass audiences and more intimate groups while in the city.
The goal is to raise money for the 2012 campaign.
Obama was in Boston last month for an education event at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester, as well as a fundraiser on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the Museum of Fine Arts.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Governor Deval Patrick, a close personal and political friend of President Obama, today said questions about the authenticity of his birth certificate and thus his legitimacy as the country's leader represent "a new low in American politics."
“I hope and I believe that the American people are bigger and better than this," the Democrat said during his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM, his most free-wheeling regular public engagement.
Asked whether he felt race was motivating questions not only about Obama's birthplace but also his academic record, Patrick like Obama the first African-American to hold his job said: “I have no idea, but whatever is motivating it, it feels like a new low in American politics, particularly when you consider the extraordinary challenges facing this country and this president, that we would spend our time on stuff like that and attempts to marginalize our president.”
Jim Wilson/Globe Staff
Listening to Donald Trump yesterday, speaking caustically and bombastically against the backdrop of a gleaming helicopter emblazoned with the name "Trump," I was struck by the contrast between him and the late Senator Paul Tsongas.
The Massachusetts Democrat announced his candidacy for the presidency 20 years ago Saturday, on April 30, 1991, and the approaching anniversary had prompted me to reminisce in recent weeks about the first White House campaign I covered.
The difference between Tsongas and Trump could not be more pronounced.
Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has weighed in on Mitt Romney's suggestion earlier this week that President Obama had engaged in a huge "peacetime" spending binge.
Romney's staff later clarified that in his op-ed piece Monday for The New Hampshire Union Leader, the prospective Republican presidential contender meant to blast the incumbent for the largest expenditures since World War II.
Colbert addressed the situation last night on his satirical pundit program.
WASHINGTON - British Petroleum’s billion-dollar increase in profits during the first three months of this year has added further fuel to partisan debate in Congress over energy policy and tax breaks for oil companies.
A year ago, BP’s Macondo well exploded and toppled into the Gulf of Mexico, triggering one of the worst oil spills in the nation’s history. The company’s announcement today that it had earned $1.1 billion more in profits in the first quarter of this year than the same period in 2010 earned sharp criticism from US Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden. ConocoPhillips also announced about $1 billion more in profits over that period last year.
“When BP makes billions in profits, even after the year they just had, you know it’s time to cap the gusher of tax breaks that have been subsidizing the biggest oil companies for decades,” said Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - With his trademark New York bravado, Donald Trump today said "I'm very proud of myself" for supposedly prompting President Obama to release a copy of his birth certificate.
"I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role," the New York real estate mogul and television celebrity told reporters just after the White House announced its release.
The decision came amid lingering suggestions from so-called "birthers" that the president is not a legitimate leader because he allegedly was born in his father's native Kenya and not Hawaii, as the certificate endorses.
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. Donald Trump's New Hampshire schedule is secret no longer.
The prospective Republican presidential contender is scheduled to arrive at 9 a.m. at the Pease International Tradeport.
After a press conference in a Port City Air hangar (which won't begin until the rotors on Trump's helicopter stop - hair concern?), Trump will head to the Roundabout Diner at the Portsmouth Traffic Circle.
Then, at 10:30 a.m., he's slated to visit the Wilcox Industries Corp. in Newington, where he will go on a tour and meet with employees and guests.
At 12:30 p.m., Trump is the headliner at a fundraiser for the New Hampshire Republican Party, which is providing logistical support for his visit.
Then, at 3:15 p.m., Trump is stopping by Newick's Lobster House for what is sure to be a picturesque photo op.
He is due to fly out at 4:50 p.m.
Before this morning, Trump associates had refused to release his schedule, citing concerns about mischief-makers and "security" worries.
Real estate mogul and television celebrity Donald Trump is making his first visit to New Hampshire today as a prospective presidential candidate.
Just don't ask where.
After a press conference at the Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth, the New York Republican is going to try to ditch the media pack as he makes a half-dozen secret stops aimed at introducing him to key players in the lead presidential primary state.
Veteran Democratic political strategist Joe Trippi has signed on with Somerville activist Bob Massie in his campaign against US Senator Scott Brown.
Massie has already declared his candidacy for next year's Democratic nomination. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei also announced today that he was running.
In a statement, Trippi noted he began his career on the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy's 1980 presidential campaign. The strategist also was instrumental in Howard Dean's surprise showing in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary campaign.
“Bob Massie has a remarkable story in which he has demonstrated insight, courage, and tenacity," Trippi said in a statement. "He will defend the American Dream, excite the Democratic base, draw in independents, and take the seat back from Scott Brown, who simply does not represent the values of Massachusetts."
Massie campaign manager Matt Wilson said: “Joe Trippi’s history motivating and engaging the grassroots is second to none. His experience in local, national, and international politics complements Bob’s vision of a better life for all.”
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Deval Patrick railed against the "Beacon Hill culture" when he ran for governor in 2006. Now he's part of a trial with the potential to expose its most unsavory elements.
Patrick is the highest-profile potential witness in the trial of former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, which begins today in federal court as prospective jurors fill out questionnaires. DiMasi, a Boston Democrat, is accused of receiving $65,000 in kickbacks for helping funnel $17.5 million in state contracts to the Burlington software company Cognos.
Richard Vitale, DiMasi's friend and former accountant, and their friend Richard McDonough, are charged with extortion and mail and wire fraud, among other charges, for allegedly misappropriating DiMasi's power as speaker.
Live by the op-ed, die by the op-ed.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney learned that today, when he made an apparent gaffe in what has become the favored form of communication in his carefully choreographed pre-campaign run-up: the newspaper op-ed column.
The former Massachusetts governor found that when you virtually limit your media exposure to written columns, as opposed to unrestricted media questions, you can control your message but you also leave no one else to blame when there's trouble.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced today he would not be a candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
In a statement, he highlighted the grueling personal commitment that had made his wife, Marsha, wary of such a campaign.
"A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else," Barbour said. "His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate. I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required."
Brian Blanco for The Boston Globe
None of the best-known potential Republican presidential contenders has yet to formally declare his candidacy, but when they do, it's clear it'll be a two-fer.
Mitt Romney says his wife, Ann, has been the one egging him on to mount a second White House campaign.
Tim Pawlenty doesn't issue a press release without mentioning his wife Mary's assent with the news.
President Obama didn't exactly blame the American people for missing the point last night as his poll numbers have plunged, but he did state they have been so focused on their daily lives they haven't focused deeply enough on the broader, more thematic underpinnings of the great recent congressional debates.
Addressing a star-studded fundraiser audience at the Tavern restaurant in Los Angeles that included actors Tom Hanks and George Clooney, Obama said he expected the majority of voters to end up siding with him when they focus their attention on the candidates, the policies they propose, and their personal values during next year's campaign.
Massachusetts listeners can't but hear the echoes of the "values" focus that Governor Deval Patrick offered during his successful reelection campaign last fall, and which he has continued amid his recent book tour.
WASHINGTON Likely presidential contender Mitt Romney today criticized President Obama for not being clearer on the mission in Libya, saying that the United States was entering into a "mission creep" in the war-torn country.
“It is apparent that our military is engaged in much more than enforcing a no-fly zone,” Romney wrote in a blog post on National Review Online. “What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle.”
“Military action cannot be under-deliberated and ad hoc,” Romney added. “The president owes it to the American people and Congress to immediately explain his new Libya mission and its strategic rationale.”
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is trying to pick and choose which media outlets he appears in before he makes any formal announcement, but there was no avoiding The Onion today.
The satirical newspaper posted a mock article in which the former Massachusetts governor ostensibly regretted signing the state's universal health care law in 2006.
"Every day I am haunted by the fact that I gave impoverished Massachusetts citizens a chance to receive health care," The Onion "quotes" Romney as saying in the satirical piece. "I'm only human, and I've made mistakes. None bigger, of course, than helping cancer patients receive chemotherapy treatments and making sure that those suffering from pediatric AIDS could obtain medications, but that's my cross to bear."
Again, it's satire. I think.
Governor Deval Patrick, pressed about his aspirations for higher
office during an appearance on national television today, said he would
not run against US Senator Scott Brown, even if President Obama urged
him to do so.
"That conversation is not going to happen, and I've been very clear I
do not want to serve in the United States Senate," Patrick said during
a five-minute interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.
Patrick was appearing on the show to promote his memoir, and Lauer,
who introduced the governor as a "rising star," asked several times
whether the book was a precursor to a run for national office. Patrick
insisted it was not.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney wants President Obama to personally meet with officials from Standard & Poor's after the financial agency maintained the country's AAA bond rating on Monday but downgraded its long-term outlook from "stable" to "negative."
“If you will, they downgraded the Obama presidency," Romney said today during an interview on the San Diego-based “Mark Larson Show."
"In my own view, this is not something to be laughed off as the president’s people seem to be doing. The president really ought to personally sit down and meet with S&P. I did that when I was governor (of Massachusetts); I met with the ratings agencies and talked about our future and tried to instill confidence in our future because, look, how they rate our debt and how they rate our future as a nation will affect the interest costs that we end up paying and will affect homeowners and borrowers all over the country," said Romney.
Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar is coming to Boston tomorrow to make an undisclosed announcement related to the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project.
He will appear at 10:30 a.m. at Pier 1 of the Charlestown Navy Yard along with Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard K. Sullivan Jr. and and Cape Wind Associates Vice President Dennis Duffy.
Cape Wind is proposed for federal waters nearly five miles off Cape Cod. Over 100 generators spread across 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound would produce up to 468 megawatts of power.
President Obama's deficit-reduction speech wasn't just about numbers but what kind of country America will become, Governor Deval Patrick said this morning during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" news program.
While Republicans have criticized the partisan nature of last week's address, in which Obama proposed cutting $4 trillion over 12 years, Patrick said the critics glossed over its overarching theme.
“It’s a fiscally responsible but also mutually responsible kind of community, and I support that," the governor told host Christiane Amanpour.
Brian Blanco for The Boston Globe
ORLANDO Former Governor Mitt Romney this morning criticized President Obama’s deficit reduction plan as “deceptive and intellectually dishonest,” but largely strayed from outlining what his own proposals would look like.
He also did not fully embrace the House Republican plan to curb spending in the cherished entitlement programs Medicaid and Medicare, saying at one point that “it’s essential for us to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as safety nets for the American people.”
Republican presidential candidates have struggled to discuss both the desire to cut spending, and whether those cuts should include the politically popular entitlement programs that make up the largest chunk of spending. Romney said he supported Representative Paul Ryan for bringing the ideas forward.
“I applaud the fact that we are now talking about this issue,” Romney said, in his first public appearance since announcing on Monday that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee. “Chairman Ryan’s plan is not identical, I don’t imagine, to what I’ll be putting forward in a campaign that will potentially go forward. But it’s the right step. We’re on the same page, to put this agenda out there and talk about spending restraint.”
Both Massachusetts senators voted against a budget amendment today that would have banned federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood, a measure that was part of a bargain struck last week to avoid a government shutdown.
Scott Brown, a Republican, and John Kerry, a Democrat, were among those voting against the Planned Parenthood resolution, which was defeated 58-42. Both senators went on to vote for the six-month budget measure funding the government through September.
"As I've said before, I believe this particular cut goes too far," Brown said in a brief statement.
Brown’s vote earned praise from Dianne Luby, president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who said the amendment would have cut off federal funds for a range of women’s health services, from breast cancer screening to HIV testing.
“Clearly, Senator Brown was listening to his constituents when he cast his vote to protect women’s health,” Luby said in a statement. “He understands that Planned Parenthood is an essential community provider and that cutting off access to critical preventive health services is not smart public health or fiscal policy.”
The vote was included in a pact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and President Obama reached late last week just before a midnight deadline to fund the government.
During the tense budget talks, House Republicans had sought to ban the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, although federal law already prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. The issue became a major obstacle to a budget deal long after spending reductions and disagreement over other social issues had been decided.
The Planned Parenthood amendment allowed the measure to receive a debate and a vote in the Senate, where the Democrats have a majority, and its defeat was expected.
Theo Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
HOOKSETT, N.H. With a 22-person media contingent outside, and only a handful of prospective voters inside, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour wasn't trying to conceal the message he was sending to New Hampshire voters as he wound down his first visit of the year as a prospective presidential contender.
I'm one of you, he said with deeds as much as words nonetheless spoken with a Southern drawl.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
MANCHESTER, N.H. Who knew?
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour claimed a New England connection this morning as he confessed to being a Boston Red Sox fan on the strength of his longtime friendship with a former team catcher.
Stopping by a frequent political haunt, the Chez Vachon on the west side of Manchester, Barbour told a table that included Mayor Ted Gatsas that he played on a two-time state high school championship team with future Red Sox player Jerry Moses.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
BOW, N.H. Southern charm collided with Yankee skepticism last night as Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made his first visit of the year to New Hampshire as a prospective presidential candidate.
With his trademark drawl and affable demeanor, Barbour worked a crowd of about 30 people at the home of former New Hampshire Republican Party chairwoman Jayne Millerick, introducing himself by saying simply, "Hi, I'm Haley."
(See my earlier post here.)
Then he was peppered with questions about everything from his views on spending cuts and entitlement reform to US intervention in Libya, as voters in the lead presidential primary state upheld their tradition as vetters-in-chief of would-be commanders-in-chief.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
BOW, N.H. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tonight told an audience in the lead presidential primary state of New Hampshire he would offer "casual, comfortable, plainspoken commonsense" if he decided to seek the Republican nomination.
He argued that the American people "are tired of happy talk," and need straight information about cutting government spending while also resisting the temptation to raise taxes.
He pledged a decision about his candidacy by the end of the month, as he kicked off a two-day trip that was his first to the state this year.
WASHINGTON Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney immediately pounced on President Obama’s deficit-cutting proposal, saying it didn’t go far enough and relied too heavily on tax increases.
“President Obama’s proposals are too little, too late,” Romney said in a statement released minutes after Obama today finished his speech outlining his plan. “Instead of supporting spending cuts that lead to real deficit reduction and true reform of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the President dug deep into his liberal playbook for ‘solutions’ highlighted by higher taxes.”
Obama proposed a menu of options to reduce the deficit, including cuts in defense spending, an overhaul of the tax system, and an end to Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans. The plan would lower the deficit by about $4 trillion over a dozen years.
Obama’s proposal comes in response to a House Republican plan that would cut $5.8 trillion in spending over the next decade. That plan would allow the Bush tax cuts now set to expire in 2012 to be extended indefinitely, and Republicans have opposed any proposal to end the tax break.
"With over 20 million people who are unemployed or who have stopped looking for work, the last thing we should be doing is raising taxes on job-creators, entrepreneurs, and small business owners across America,” Romney said in his statement.
So when is a would-be president officially a candidate?
It's a hard question to answer, since some of the rules and regulations are gray, and enforcement of them all can depend on whether a prospective candidate faces a complaint alleging their breach.
Right now, the most prominent official candidate for president of the United States is the person who already has the job, Democrat Barack Obama.
Governor Deval Patrick endured some friendly ribbing about the state’s health care law and his political future from Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” last night. But Patrick mostly stuck to script and let Stewart make the jokes.
Poking fun at the governor’s declaration that he is guided by conviction and idealism, Stewart said, “This politics of conviction, this idealism, have you ever thought of giving those up to run for national office?”
“I’m not running for anything else,” Patrick said, laughing. “But I haven’t given up those ideals and those values for any job.”
“I look forward to the system corrupting you,” Stewart quipped.
“Not gonna happen,” Patrick shot back in his 8-minute spot on the show, which he flew to New York to tape.
Patrick’s appearance was part of a flurry of national media appearances he is making over the next two weeks to sell his memoir, “A Reason To Believe.”
Mitt Romney tonight pushed back against those in his party who are questioning President Obama's citizenship, suggesting his fellow Republicans should put their energy into more substantive issues.
"The citizenship test has been passed," Romney said tonight on CNBC's Kudlow Report. "I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office...but his citizenship isn't the reason why."
Several prominent Republicans including Donald Trump and Sarah Palin have once again tried to stoke controversy by questioning Obama's citizenship even though his birth in Hawaii has been confirmed by officials in the state.
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson said today he will make a "major announcement" on April 21 in New Hampshire.
Since the Republican previously said he would eschew the interim step of forming a presidential exploratory committee, and instead plunge directly into a campaign itself if he were to run, that announcement most likely is of his decision to become a candidate for the 2012 GOP nomination.
The announcement will be made at 9 a.m. at the Capitol in Concord, and his followup schedule only perpetuates the thought that he will declare his candidacy.
He will meet with the media for two hours afterward, lunch with state legislators, and then hold what is billed as a "public kick-off event" in Manchester.
A similar schedule holds for the next two days.
Amid all the fluff and confection of presenting Mitt Romney with cakes celebrating today's fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts universal health care law, state Democrats also produced a video with some meat on its bones.
"Thank You Mitt" contains clips of Romney, then the Bay State's governor, touting the law during appearances on the Fox News Channel and, gasp, MSNBC back in 2006.
The most potentially problematic comment is Romney claiming he "authored" the measure, since many of his fellow conservatives view the law as a precursor to the federal universal health care law enacted last year by President Obama.
Congress begins a new scramble today to pass a budget bill cutting billions of dollars in spending this year, resetting the clock on the next deadline to keep the federal government running.
Early this morning, aides completed work on an appropriations bill that cuts nearly $40 billion in spending. The committee staff have been working around the clock on the bill since House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House shook hands on a deal that averted a government shutdown last Friday at midnight.
The bargain makes about $27 billion in new cuts on top of roughly $12 billion that have been previously agreed to. While the Obama administration and others have described the broad outlines of the agreement, details only emerged with the release of the bill this morning.
Former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, the Republican who launched a 16-year period of GOP rule on Beacon Hill, favored an expression apparently shared by Mitt Romney, the former governor who concluded their party's era of State House control.
"Revenge is a dish best served cold," Weld would say, quoting a phrase used in everything from the French novel "Mathilde" to "The Godfather" and "Star Trek II."
In announcing his presidential exploratory committee in a deliberately understated way, Romney declared his intentions on his terms and in his own tone with a variety of messages for an array of audiences.
WASHINGTON Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney this afternoon announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, allowing him to start raising money for a presidential bid he has been preparing for almost since the moment he lost the 2008 Republican nomination.
Romney made the announcement in a video posted on a new website. It was taped with little fanfare at the University of New Hampshire following a meeting between the Romney and students who said they were worried about getting a job after graduation.
“I have become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians, and it has become even worse during the last two years. But I am also convinced that with able leadership, America's best days are still ahead,” Romney says in the video. “That is why today I am announcing my exploratory committee for the presidency of the United States.”
Romney is planning to open his campaign headquarters next month in Boston – in the same building his last campaign was based, on Commercial Street in the North End. Romney aides declined to say whether he would participate in the first GOP presidential debate, scheduled for May 5 in South Carolina.FULL ENTRY
David L. Ryan, Globe Staff
Northeast Democrats will be at their most creative today and tomorrow, as they aim to tweak Republican Mitt Romney in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts universal health care law.
New Hampshire Democrats are sending out an email at 9 a.m. today, urging their supporters to flood Romney's official Twitter handle, @MittRomney, with thanks and congratulations for a piece of legislation that is anathema to many of his fellow conservatives across the country.
The 2006 Massachusetts law, signed while Romney was governor of the state, became the model for the 2010 federal universal health care law signed by President Obama, the Democrat he hopes to face in next year's presidential race.
Governor Deval Patrick's planned appearance Monday on NBC-TV's "Today" show is being postponed until later this week.
The date still has yet to be set, but spokesman Steve Crawford said the Democrat fell prey to the crush of recent news, including the near-government shutdown that finally was resolved just before midnight Friday.
Instead, the governor will spend Monday in Boston.
This week is the launch of the book tour for the governor's memoir, "A Reason to Believe."
Patrick is still slated to head to New York on Tuesday for a series of stops, including Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.
Governor Deval Patrick embarks on his booktour Monday, with a pretty good first stop: A time slot in the 7 a.m. hour on NBC-TV's "Today" show.
It's shown locally on WHDH-TV (Channel 7).
It's still unclear who will interview him, but the governor is expected to talk about his memoir, "A Reason to Believe."
As a friend and political ally of President Obama, he could also expect questions about any government shutdown, the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts health care law (on Tuesday), and his dust-up with Senator Scott Brown at today's groundbreaking for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
The governor is coming back to Massachusetts after the show, but heading back to New York on Tuesday for a series of stops, including Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.
Several readers have written in the aftermath of my recent post about the wonderful annual spring White House Garden Tour being offered this weekend.
They have asked whether the tours would be affected by a federal government shutdown, and the answer is yes.
A White House official told me that all tours of the president's home would be cancelled during a shutdown, including garden tours.
President Obama and his family were supposed to vacate the premises this weekend and visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, but that trip has been scotched as the administration tries to avert a shutdown at midnight.
If one were avoided, the silver lining for anyone on a garden tour is that they would apparently gain a chance to see the president.
The White House also offers garden tours each fall, typically in October assuming any shutdown doesn't last that long.
Massachusetts Democrats plan to mark Tuesday's fifth anniversary of the state's universal health care law with balloons, speeches, and a sheetcake.
For former Governor Mitt Romney.
The tweak is aimed at embarrassing the expected Republican presidential contenders as he continues to criticize the Obama administration's federal universal health care law that is based on his Massachusetts law.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is delivering the inaugural Alan D. Solomont Lecture at Tufts University today.
The California Democrat, who served as the first female speaker of the House, planned to reflect on her career and the importance of public service during a 2 p.m. address in the school's Cohen Auditorium.
This lecture is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is giving $45,000 to GOP election committees in the aftermath of President Obama announcing his re-election campaign.
Romney's Free and Strong America PAC is giving $15,000 apiece to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The latter two are charged with electing Republicans to the US Senate and US House, respectively. The RNC, meanwhile, is ultimately charged with helping elect a Republican president.
The former Massachusetts governor said in a statement this afternoon: “President Obama and his big spending allies in Congress have confused priorities for our nation. Instead of focusing on putting unemployed Americans back to work, they have raised taxes, expanded the size and scope of government, and prolonged the recession. I believe that by electing Republicans, we will make America strong and prosperous again.”
Tim Pawlenty announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee via Facebook.
President Obama announced he was seeking reelection to the highest office in the country via a YouTube video.
Mitt Romney sent out his retort via Twitter.
Collectively, those developments have highlighted the prominent role social media will play in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney today gave a Bronx cheer for the Obama administration's decision to hold trials for the top 9/11 suspect and four alleged co-conspirators at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, instead of as planned in New York City.
“An inexperienced and naïve president has finally reversed himself on Guantanamo and terrorist trials; let’s hope he sees the light on his other flawed policies," the former Massachusetts governor said in a statement.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the others will appear before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay rather than before a civilian court on Manhattan.
Another Massachusetts Republican, Senator Scott Brown, lauded the reversal, too.
Senator Scott Brown today issued a statement in reaction to the Obama administration's decision to forgo a civilian trial in New York City for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects.
Instead, they will appear before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Brown, a military lawyer in the Massachusetts National Guard, had opposed the New York plan and advocated for a Guantanamo proceeding.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney used his Twitter account this morning to respond to the announcement of President Obama's re-election campaign.
"@barackobama I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan, as are 14m unemployed Americans," @MittRomney said in his cheeky post.
Romney's retort followed Obama's decision to use YouTube to release a video announcing his re-election campaign.
Romney then popped out his Twitter response, before another likely GOP presidential candidate, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, released his own response via YouTube.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty certainly isn't dithering.
No sooner had President Obama's re-election committee released its kickoff video this morning than did Pawlenty's committee release its retort.
In his own YouTube spot, Pawlenty pokes at Obama's new signature phrase by asking, "How can America 'Win the Future' when we're losing the present?"
After showing a series of dark scenes and downtrodden voices, Pawlenty himself says to camera, "In order for American to take a new direction, it's going to take a new president."
Pawlenty, a first-time national candidate, has already announced, via Facebook, the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.
Using another social medium for Obama's announcement and Pawlenty's reaction shows the rise of YouTube as an inexpensive and direct means of communicating with voters.
There's no 30-second commercial to finance, and no reporters serving as a middleman on the message.
The candidates also benefit from follow-up coverage and links to their spots that send the message virally.
As Republicans form presidential exploratory committees, or promise to do so, or hint that one is coming, the incumbent isn't dithering.
President Obama kicked off his re-election campaign this morning with a video featuring average citizens making the case for giving him a second term.
The president's team will follow-up by filing papers official paperwork with the Federal Election Committee and then a fundraising drive. The re-election campaign, as with his 2008 campaign, will be based in his hometown of Chicago.
Obama does not speak in the kickoff film, which opens with a scene featuring "Ed" from North Carolina.
It's no coincidence that someone with a Southern accent, and from a state so coveted by the Democrats they are holding their 2012 convention in Charlotte, is given such a prominent role.
His message also is an appeal to Obama true believers as well as some of his early supporters who may have lost their enthusiasm as the aftereffects of the Great Recession have lingered and, more recently, the president launched military action in Libya.
"I don't agree with Obama on everything, but I respect him and I trust him,'' says Ed.
LAS VEGAS – It was billed as a foreign policy address, but it didn’t take long before the most prominent issue that could haunt Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign came up.
The first question from the audience after his 24-minute address before the Republican Jewish Coalition here was not about Israel or unrest in the Middle East. It was about Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts.
Romney largely defended the rationale of the Massachusetts plan, saying that it helped spur greater health care coverage so uninsured residents wouldn’t simply go to emergency rooms for care.
But he sought to distinguish the plan from President Obama’s national plan by casting it as an issue of states’ rights.FULL ENTRY
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney this afternoon toured a depressed neighborhood besieged by foreclosed homes as he continued trying to criticize President Obama’s handling of the economy.
Romney so far has staked his budding presidential bid on economic concerns, but new upticks in the unemployment rates could complicate his case.
“I’m afraid some people are becoming conditioned to unemployment rates above 8 percent,” Romney said today. “Unemployment should be around 4 percent or less. And the idea that we celebrate 8.8 percent, I’m glad for the progress, but my goodness, we’ve got a lot of people out of work.”
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney today accused President Obama of inattention to job creation.
The Democratic National Committee responded by criticizing Romney's job creation record while governor of Massachusetts, as well as job losses in the aftermath of corporate acquisitions while he ran Bain Capital
In an op-ed piece appearing in USA Today, Romney called for tax polices that reward savings, investment, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and exports; free, open, and fair access to foreign markets; elimination of what he termed "the federal bureaucratic and regulatory stranglehold on business"; and budget restraints and entitlement reform.FULL ENTRY
A Harvard University poll released this morning found President Obama's approval rating rising among the so-called "Millennials" or "Generation Y" that spans from 18 to 29 years old.
The president had an approval rating of 55 percent, up 6 percentage points from a similar survey last fall. Both were conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, which is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Among students at four-year college campuses, Obama's approval rating rose even more, from 51 percent last fall to 69 percent now.
Pete Souza/The White House
Anybody thinking about a trip to Washington should consider the weekend of April 9-10, when the White House will open its grounds for its annual spring garden tour.
During our family's more than five years living in the DC area, this was a highlight.
Guests get screened at the East Gate, go through part of the East Wing, and then head outside to see the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the South Lawn, and the Rose Garden. The Obama administration also offers a new stop: the Kitchen Garden.
Vice President Joseph Biden is visiting the University of New Hampshire on Monday to call attention to the high rates of sexual assault and violence committed against young women in schools and on college campuses across the country, the White House announced today.
Joined by US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Biden will will introduce new guidance to help schools, colleges, and universities understand their civil rights obligations to better prevent and respond to sexual assault, a statement said.
Biden was the author of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and worked as a US senator to change the way domestic violence is handled.
Nonetheless, the statement said, young women aged 16-24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, while one-in-five will be a victim of sexual assault during college.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Obama has once again borrowed from Governor Deval Patrick, this time when it comes to nudging along prospective US Senate candidates.
Patrick created a stir in February when he bluntly told a National Journal reporter that City Year cofounder Alan Khazei, Somerville activist Bob Massie, and Newton Mayor Setti Warren were "in, for sure" for next year's US Senate race against Republican Scott Brown.
That left Khazei and Warren scrambling to clarify that they had not made any final decision. Massie had already declared his candidacy.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Likely Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty is headlining an upcoming Tea Party anti-tax rally on Boston Common.
The third annual event, sponsored by the Greater Boston Tea Party, will occur from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on April 15 the tax-filing deadline.
The speech will bring Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, to the home state of a potential rival for the 2012 GOP nomination, Mitt Romney.
It also puts him in a Tea Party spotlight enjoyed last year by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was the event's 2010 keynote speaker.
"Governor Pawlenty's leadership in Minnesota has put his state on a course towards economic success," said a statement issued by Christin Varley, the group's president. "His is a message voters need to hear."
Also slated to appear is former state Representative Karyn Polito, a Shrewsbury Republican who waged an unsuccessful campaign for state treasurer last fall.
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney has re-hired a policy expert from his 2008 campaign for his expected second White House run.
Though the former Massachusetts governor has not formally announced another campaign, a string of recent hirings and comments has dropped all pretense that he is undecided about running again.
His Free and Strong America PAC announced today that Lanhee Chen will join the PAC as policy director.
In 2008, Chen served as Romney's chief domestic policy adviser during his first campaign for president. He was also a health policy adviser to the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign.
Chen went on to serve the Bush administration as a senior policy and political aide at the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Most recently, Chen was the deputy campaign manager and policy director for Steve Poizner, the California insurance commissioner who made a failed bid for governor.
Chen earned a doctorate and masters in political science, a law degree cum laude, and an undergraduate degree in Government, magna cum laude, all from Harvard University.
Romney himself has business and law degrees from the school.
In recent weeks, the former governor has hired a new communications adviser and filled other top jobs at the PAC, which previously had been financing his national travels and providing a vehicle for him to make donations to like-minded political candidates.
Most recently, Romney sent $25,000 to the New Jersey Republican Party to help finance its activities.
Romney also penned a blog item last week talking about how he would change the Obama administration's health insurance program. It began, "If I were president..."
If there's one thing reporters covering the Patrick administration have come to expect, it's the Friday-afternoon news dump.
As the State House echoes with emptiness, as the public turns its attention from a week of work to a weekend of play, the administration has made a practice of stepping into the vacuum and filling it with unsavory news that can lose some of its pungency before Monday rolls around.
In a one-month span last fall, the topics ran the gamut, from tax collections that came in below expectations to the resignations of two Cabinet members, as well as the release of a well-past-deadline report analyzing the generous compensation at public-private agencies in the state.
Items that piled up amid a week focused on long-term planning for the boston.com Politics page...
For anyone who doubts if the former Massachusetts governor is going to take a second shot at the White House, Romney himself pretty much eliminated all question this week with a National Review blog post that began, "If I were president..."
It didn't say, "If I follow Ann's advice and decide to run for president...," an ode to Romney's past suggestion his wife was trying to coax him into a campaign.
Then, as Romney moved from Washington to New York for a meeting with big-money supporters, The Wall Street Journal popped up with what appeared to be a campaign-sanctioned story about Romney's effort to raise $50 million to overwhelm his potential opponents.
Follow-up reports on yesterday's meeting at the Harvard Club in Manhattan revealed that Romney may announce a presidential exploratory committee in early April, building momentum for a 15-city fundraising sweep that ends with a major event in Las Vegas on May 16.
Romney observers may recall he jumpstarted his 2008 campaign with a January 2007 telethon at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center that raised $6.5 million then a considerable sum for such a relatively unknown national candidate.
A formal campaign kickoff would come later, just as in 2007, when Romney followed up the big fundraiser with an announcement speech at the Henry Ford Museum outside Detroit.
Word also leaked this week that Team Romney had signed two operatives for any New Hampshire campaign. Jim Merrill, who served as state director in 2008, will be senior adviser in 2012. And Jason McBride, who ran Romney's winning Michigan campaign last time around, will take over as New Hampshire campaign manager.
As another Romney senior adviser, Tom Rath, recently told the Globe's Matt Viser: “It’s like a duck; there’s a lot more activity going on under the water than on top of the water."
The release of Massachusetts town-by-town US Census data this week lays the factual foundation for both legislative and congressional redistricting efforts.
That said, there is always a political overlay anytime those maps are redrawn (see: Gerry, Elbridge).
If history is any guide, the math will now be contorted to address political considerations.
Overall, the biggest mathematical fact is that the state is losing one congressional seat because of its overall population decline. It will drop from 10 to nine districts.
The other fact is that the borders of Massachusetts remain unchanged, meaning those nine districts will soon have to be stretched to cover what is currently 10 districts' worth of population.
Each will soon expand to include over 700,000 people.
From the political perspective, those redrawing the congressional lines will look for signs of candidate weakness or some figment of rationale as they force two of the current House members to square off for just one seat.
The district that had the slowest growth, and is represented by the oldest member, is the far-western District 1, where Representative John Olver serves. His district could be merged with neighboring District 2, which had more than double the growth and is represented by Richard E. Neal, the former mayor of Springfield.
But Olver sits on the House Appropriations Committee, while Neal is near the top on the House Ways and Means Committee. Forcing them to run off would inevitably hurt the state's political clout in one form or another.
The other two districts with the smallest growth Districts 6 and 10 are represented by John Tierney and William Keating, respectively.
One one level, it's a true pick-'em.
Tierney's wife just completed a jail sentence after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns for managing a banking account that collected more than $7 million in illegal gambling profits. The question lingers about how the congressman did not know about that. Keating, meanwhile, is a freshman lawmaker, with the least seniority in the delegation.
Yet Tierney represents a distinct geographical area, the North Shore, as does Keating, Cape Cod and the South Shore.
One school of thought has Tierney forced into a showdown with Representative Niki Tsongas, whose District 5 spans the neighboring Merrimack Valley and has repeatedly shown Republican tendencies. Tsongas, though, is the lone female in the delegation.
A competing school of thought has Keating forced into a runoff against Representative Barney Frank, a popular and veteran member whose District 4 stretches from Newton to Fall River. That would take some map-maneuvering, but Frank once noted that including Fall River in his current district recalls the Russians' quest for a warm-water port on the Black Sea.
It's currently hard to attach any political rationale to ousting any of the other congressmen, who have a blend of seniority, population centers, and political stature to retain a seat.
Last fall's Republican gubernatorial contender has made it clear this month he's moved on from his campaign, announcing his new job with a venture capital firm and his seat on the board of a local credit union.
Yet each could also signal he hasn't left politics behind.
Both positions will put him in proximity to small- and mid-sized businesses and job creation, a far cry from the corporate health insurance post that Governor Deval Patrick used to portray him as lacking the common touch during the 2010 campaign.
Give Baker a couple years to rebound from the more than $2 million in salary he gave up while running for governor and he'd be positioned to consider another run for the Corner Office or the US Senate.
Another sign Baker hasn't left Patrick or politics behind?
He just sent his supporters an email seeking contributions for The Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund and a tribute to Tom Kelley.
Kelley served as secretary of Veterans Affairs under both Republican and Democratic governors before Patrick, having just won re-election in November, told the Medal of Honor winner his services were no longer needed. Kelley was replaced by Coleman Nee, a Gulf War veteran the governor argued may be better attuned to the needs of more recent veterans.
"Many of us were disappointed that Tom left state service without any kind of gathering to celebrate his 40 years of service, so we decided to hold a party in his honor on his birthday, Friday, May 13th," Baker wrote in his none-too-subtle tweak to his former rival.
Net proceeds, he explained, would go to the Legacy Fund, which raises money to pay for college scholarships for the children of Massachusetts servicemen and women who have lost their lives fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq."
"Tom is a great American and a good man," Baker told his past and possibly future supporters.
The governor coldly dismissed Bernard Cohen as state transportation secretary, then backtracked on 2006 campaign criticism of the "Big Dig culture" by hiring Jim Aloisi as his replacement.
He finally seemed to hit the mark by hiring Mullan to oversee the state's road, rail, port, and aviation systems.
Mullan is part of the team that has been charged with implementing a massive transportation consolidation law, which eliminated the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as a free-standing entity and aimed to eliminate duplication by folding a lot of transportation back-office functions into the singular MassDOT.
From aging bridges to pothole-filled roads, from commuter-rail trains that don't come on time or T subway trains that dash through a flaming railbed like a circus tiger jumping through a burning hoop, the exposure to criticism for any transportation chief is immense.
For the most part, Mullan has handled it with aplomb. His admitted and biggest mistake? This month's botched explanation about how he and his department responded after a 110-pound light fixture fell off the ceiling of a Big Dig tunnel ceiling.
First, Mullan said he had kept Patrick in the dark because he wanted to inspect the other 23,000 fixtures in the Big Dig tunnel before telling the governor about the scope of the problem and his proposed remedy.
The governor was upset with that decision, and some in the public asked what responsibility Mullan would have had if another light fell and landed on some unsuspecting driver.
Then, the Globe reported yesterday that Mullan's staff actually hadn't told him about the light falling until shortly before he told the governor. He said he wasn't lying the first time around, just speaking in the collective "we" as he outlined when his agency first learned of the problem, the steps it took to quantify the problem, and when he finally told the governor about it.
He pledged a full review of internal and external communications, with answers as early as today, but the whole episode sparked questions about whether Mullan should remain as transportation secretary.
Mullan may have blown the falling-light episode, but there's a lot to like about him as a public servant.
He's from here, having grown up in Worcester. He went to school here, at UMass-Amherst and Suffolk University Law School. He has worked here, having been a partner at the Boston law firm Foley Hoag LLP.
Perhaps most importantly, he has served the state, first in the Department of Public Works, then, after leaving his law firm, in a variety of transportation roles. On top of that, he still serves his hometown of Milton in one of local government's most thankless roles, as a member of the Board of Appeals.
When the dust settled, the story about how he learned about the falling light also was instructive: Mullan, driving through the Big Dig, wondered why engineers were up on a lift, inspecting light fixtures.
His follow-up question led to an unsettling answer and admittedly lousy communication, but that runs counter to a professionalism, plainspokeness, and selflessness that's long been on display to those who closely follow state government in general and transportation matters in particular.
Likely Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is trying to put the pieces in place so he can achieve a resounding victory in the so-called first primary: fundraising.
The former Massachusetts governor has been traveling the country he was at the Harvard Club in New York today to sign up key donors for his emerging campaign. Donors are pledging to raise at least $25,000 and up to $100,000 or more in order to help him make an emphatic statement to rivals and voters alike well before the first primaries and caucuses.
“I don’t know how to underline more that I believe what will shine through is his undeniable heartfelt enthusiastic belief about the greatness of this country,” said Lewis Eisenberg, a prominent hedge fund manager who was the finance chairman for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and is now committed to Romney.
Romney’s supporters expect him to announce an exploratory committee sometime next month, which would kick off the aggressive fundraising campaign. A Romney aide said his finance team is using a figure of at least $50 million to describe the minimum amount they believe it will take to win the GOP nomination.
Most candidates, including Romney, have been dancing around the idea of running for president, but within weeks several candidates are likely to take more formal steps. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty filed paperwork earlier this week to establish an exploratory committee, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia said he soon intends to do the same.
Others have been more coy about their plans, and have suggested they would wait until the summer to make their decisions. But if Romney forms an exploratory committee next month allowing him to start raising money for his campaign it could force other candidates to jump into the race in order to compete with his fundraising.
The warning bell will go off on April 1, the start of the second quarter.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
As Senator Scott Brown skewered leading Massachusetts Democrats with a joke-filled routine during a St. Patrick's Day political roast over the weekend, one of his top advisers delighted in a moment he helped script.
"Scott Brown at St. Patty's Day breakfast says he doesn't think John Kerry is an elitist ... and 'neither do his butlers,'" communications consultant Eric Fehrnstrom said via Twitter.
"Ha! Scott Brown says Southie parade only one where (House) speaker rides in a car for which previous speaker made the license plate," Fehrnstrom said in another of his series of tweets.
Yet as the crowd roared when Brown displayed a bipartisan flair, telling another joke that tweaked fellow Republican Mitt Romney for owning not one but three houses, Fehrnstrom's Twitter feed went silent.
No re-tweet of that dig at Fehrnstrom's original, and ongoing, boss. No basking in the glory enjoyed by his subsequent, and continued, boss.
The decision illustrates the challenge confronting Romney and Brown and some of the key men and women who have helped both reach their high stations in national politics.
Fehrnstrom and business partners Peter Flaherty and Beth Myers not only served Romney as governor of Massachusetts; they were top staffers for his unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
They then branched out on their own, formed the Massachusetts-based Shawmut Group, and directed Brown's upset win in the 2010 Massachusetts US Senate special election.
Now, the trio is assisting Romney as he plots a second presidential campaign and Brown as he seeks re-election to his first full Senate term.
The men's political fates could be decided the same day, Nov. 6, 2012, but the candidates and their advisers will face a challenge until then working in such close proximity to each other.
Romney was extraordinarily popular in Massachusetts when, in 2002, he returned from his successful leadership of the Olympic Winter Games and was elected governor. His star dimmed, though, as he began laying the groundwork for his presidential campaign with a move to the right, jokes before conservative audiences about his liberal homestate, and heavy out-of-state travel.
Such was his station that he was a virtual no-show for his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, as she ran to succeed him in the 2006 gubernatorial race.
Healey was happy to have it that way.
Romney also dropped out of sight during Brown's 2010 campaign, only to take the stage on election night after voters had already cast their ballots.
Brown was happy to have it that way, too.
Today, both men are complimentary but not necessarily complementary toward each other.
Brown declared early and often that Romney has his endorsement in the race for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination. Romney has reciprocated, highlighting Brown's success as proof a strong Republican message can penetrate even the bluest of Democratic states.
Yet there is potential for future tensions.
First of all, there is time and focus for their mutual advisers. Romney will face a hydra-headed challenge for the nomination, confronted simultaneously by rivals such as Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich. Or Sarah Palin.
That will occur this fall and next spring, well before Brown's re-election campaign begins (he almost assuredly won't face a Republican challenger for the GOP's Senate nomination). So far, so good.
But if Romney wins the nomination, and Democrats succeed in their effort to recruit a challenger to Brown, both of their campaigns will reach their peaks the following fall.
Who gets the Shawmut Group's best effort? Best commercial ideas? Debate prep? Political roast jokes?
Secondly, as Romney veers rightward nationally to win the nomination, while Brown moves to the center to win re-election in Massachusetts, conflicting views are inevitable. Each is his own man, but it's only natural for two people with similar political pedigrees to face questions about the other's policy views.
After all, if Romney and Brown were to win their campaigns, Brown would have to vote on Romney administration programs.
Currently, both men express similar views about Libya: They say US air strikes were justified because Moammar Khadafy was slaughtering his own countrymen.
Recently, though, they differed on the New START Treaty: Romney vehemently opposed the pact President Obama signed with Russia, while Brown voted for its ratification.
Both will also have to stage an artful dance as they call for repealing Obama's universal health care program, which was modeled after a 2006 Massachusetts bill that then-state Senator Brown voted for and then-Governor Romney signed into law.
Advisers argue that despite their shared party, geographical roots, and team of advisers, Romney and Brown are individual candidates with their own views. On some points they agree; on others, they don't.
You can also argue that Brown will benefit if Romney is at the top of the Massachusetts ballot come the fall of 2012, or, perhaps more likely, that Romney will benefit from being on the same ballot as a senator consistently polling as the most popular politician in Massachusetts.
And should Romney run, Fehrnstrom, Myers, and Flaherty are not expected to be paid staff members again but consultants. Fehrnstrom, for example, doesn't plan to be on Romney's plane again as traveling press secretary; rather, he intends to work from the home office and focus on message development and television commercials.
In Massachusetts, a relatively shallow Republican talent pool also doesn't give Brown many other options with Shawmut's breadth of local experience or national contacts.
Finally, Fehrnstrom and the other advisers note that they are hardly the only political consultants with more than one client. Their roster includes other politicians and businesses they prefer not to name.
"Our consulting business is not unlike other firms that have more than one client," said Fehrnstrom, readying himself for another Democratic tweak. "In this economy, we’re just thankful to have any clients at all."
Former Governor Mitt Romney is marking the first anniversary of President Obama's universal health care law by vowing to dismantle it state-by-state.
"If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states," the would-be Republican presidential candidate said Tuesday night in a blog post for the "National Review."
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who announced Monday he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, released his own statement this morning saying he would support the law's repeal. While governor last year, he joined a lawsuit seeking to do just that.
"The law infringes on individuals' and states' rights by forcing individuals to purchase a good or service," he said. "If courts do not do so first, as president, I would support the immediate repeal of 'Obamacare' and replace it with market-based health care reforms."
Romney's statement used his most aggressive language yet regarding a potential presidential campaign. He insists publicly he has yet to decide whether to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, yet nearly all of his actions for the past two years have been geared that way.
A formal kickoff is expected later this spring.
Romney presided over Massachusetts when, in 2006, it enacted the nation's first universal health care law. Now over 98 percent of state residents have private, government, or government-subsidized private coverage.
Last year, Obama signed a federal law modeled on the same principles, including a mandate that all residents obtain whatever coverage they can afford, as well as penalties for not doing so.
Romney said in his blog post that his executive order would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials "to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them."
The former governor argues states should be free to enact what Democrats have countered is "Romneycare."
He said in his statement: "As I have stated time and again, a one-size-fits-all national plan that raises taxes is simply not the answer. Under our federalist system, the states are 'laboratories of democracy.'"
Romney said his ultimate goal is to repeal the Obama program "and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs."
Acknowledging such a repeal would take time, "an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states," he said.
Globe colleague Noah Bierman represented the Boston-area media today as he served as pool reporter for Vice President Joseph Biden's appearance at what Governor Deval Patrick termed a "friend-raiser" in the Hancock tower.
My preview story is here.
In his pool report, which the White House relayed to other reporters, Bierman said Biden addressed about 110 major Democratic donors on the building's 58th floor.
He also said the vice president spoke for 21 minutes, during which he tried to rally core financial supporters; recited administration accomplishments; and talked about the need to work with Republicans while repelling some policy goals he said would damage
the nation’s economic recovery and enlarge the deficit.
A storified version of the report's highlights:
“Thank you on behalf of Barack and myself for all the hard work you did," Biden told his Boston audience. "I would not be standing here. He would not be representing the United States of America in South America right now, were it not for the work of you folks in this room and probably another 1,000 like you all across America.”
He added: “It’s not just that we couldn’t have won without you. We will not be able to win
again without you.”
Biden also spoke about new Republican majority in US House of Representatives.
“The cuts that the Republicans are talking about would not only cripple the economy, but they would also enlarge the deficit," he said.
Biden said of the more conservative members elected recently, “They mix up the Tea Party that took place in Boston Harbor and the Tea Party they represent.”
But Biden also called it a “myth” that the White House cannot work with Republicans,
pointing to the 17-day lame duck session as more productive “than any time in
the last two years.”
Biden was introduced by Governor Deval Patrick, who is planning to serve as a surrogate campaigner for Obama and Biden in the coming campaign.
“We stopped the red tide here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and we have
many of you to thank for that," Patrick said.
Offering what what could be his own stump speech, Patrick said of Republicans: “They
have set as their goal, not how to make a better country, but to stop this
Among those spotted in the crowd were advertising executive Jack Connors, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
The food included passed hors d'oeuvres of miniature beef “Wellington” and warm melted-brie tartlets.
WASHINGTON Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is taking the first formal step today toward a presidential run, putting him in front of the pack of potential candidates.
Pawlenty announced through a video posted on his Facebook page this afternoon that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee. The committee allows him to begin raising money for a presidential race, even while not technically being a formal candidate.
The video shows Pawlenty in St. Paul, Minn., dressed in a beige jacket that is strikingly familiar to the barn jacket Scott Brown wore to victory in Massachusetts (Brown’s was made by Golden Bear Sportswear; Pawlenty’s clearly has a Carhartt label).
The heavily produced video also shows Pawlenty shaking hands, posing for pictures, and skating on an ice rink.
“There is a brighter future for America,” he says at one point, with soaring music in the background. “We know what we need to do: grow jobs, limit govt spending, and tackle entitlements.”
“Today, I’m announcing the formation of an exploratory committee to run for president of the United States,” he says toward the end, as fighter planes blast through the sky and fireworks go off. “Join the team, and together we’ll restore America.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich previously declared he intends to form an exploratory committee at some future date, likely in May.
Pawlenty has already traveled to New Hampshire and hired aides to work on a campaign, but the committee step is the next available to candidates to earn free media coverage in advance of a pomp-filled formal announcement.
The announcement also reflects the new-media tools available to candidates, in how they choose to make major political news. Rather than staging a press conference or addressing supporters in a ballroom, Pawlenty is choosing to weigh in on the most popular social networking site.
“Be sure to visit my Facebook page today at 3 p.m. ET for a special message exclusive to Facebook supporters,” Pawlenty posted this morning on his Facebook page.
He sent a similar message out on his Twitter feed.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
Vice President Joseph Biden is visiting the Hancock tower in Boston this evening for a pair of events, including one that Governor Deval Patrick says is a "friend-raiser" ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
One of the two meetings is taking place in the personal offices of Jack Connors, the local advertising executive who has been spearheading the fundraising effort for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, according to a Connors assistant and a top local Democrat who saw the invitation.
"Massachusetts has been good to the Obama-Biden ticket, and was the last time around, and the administration has been good to Massachusetts, and the vice president is here to refresh those relationships and rally some of the organizers for the coming election," Patrick told reporters at the State House.
The trip is coming almost exactly two weeks after President Obama visited the city for a fundraiser on behalf of the committee charged with helping elect Democrats to the US House of Representatives.
The back-to-back visits underscore the party's emphasis on strengthening itself in the aftermath of the mid-term election, when the Democrats lost their House majority. Obama and Biden also are gearing up for what The Washington Post projected in December could be the first $1 billion presidential campaign.
Obama himself met last week with top donors in Washington, although he did not directly solicit contributions at that time.
Instead, the president told the group: "As 2012 unfolds, I expect that we’re going to have a lot of questions and there are going to be vigorous debates, but I don’t want us to lose sight of the huge opportunities we have to seize the moment and make sure that America is not just changed, but is changed for the better."
He added: "And my hope is that the same spirit that helped change this country in 2008, that that spirit is still in each and every one of you.”
Massachusetts was one of former President Bill Clinton's most reliable fund-raising states, but two area Democrats who helped him raise money Steve Grossman and Alan Solomont are now in different roles.
Grossman was elected state treasurer in November and just started his term in January; Solomont is serving as US ambassador to Spain and Andorra after an appointment from Obama himself.
"My understanding is it's a 'friend-raising' meeting getting ready for the 2012 elections," said Patrick.
Earlier in the day, Biden joined US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, US Senator Chris Coons, and other officials from his home state of Delaware to tour the Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington.
According to a pool report, "they visited a classroom of students who were learning about physical science."
Biden told reporters he is hopeful that Howard High School's turnaround plan will help students, saying that "part of it is believing in them and setting the bar high," the report said.
The 12-member Massachusetts congressional delegation, all Democrats except for Republican Senator Scott Brown, offered an array of positions today in reaction to the launch of US air strikes on Libya over the weekend.
Here are the comments they or their spokesperson made to the Globe or, in Kerry's case, as well as on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Senator John Kerry, Democrat:
"Well, the goal of this mission ... is not to get rid of (Libyan leader Moammar) Khadafy, and that's not what the United Nations licensed. And I would not call it going to war. This is a very limited operation that is geared to save lives, and it was specifically targeted on a humanitarian basis. It is not geared to try to get rid of Khadafy. He has not been targeted. That is not what is happening here. So, in my judgment, we have to see where we go from here."
In an interview with the Globe, Kerry added: "I believe very, very deeply that America's strategic interests and our values require us to support people's aspirations. ...I think you have to have some faith in what the possibilities of diversity and pluralism can produce."
Senator Scott Brown, Republican:
"I support the administration's involvement at this point. Obviously, it gets to a point where you have to draw a line in the sand, and when innocent civilians are being killed, it's important for the world community to step forward, and we're doing it in a coalition manner, and I'm supportive of that."
Representative John Olver, Democrat, 1st District:
A spokeswoman said "he supports the steps the president, the UN, our European allies, and the Arab League are taking."
Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat, 2nd District:
"I welcome the passage this week of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 implementing a no-fly zone over parts of Libya. I also support the establishment of an international coalition, working together with the Arab League, to prevent further atrocities from happening in flashpoints like Benghazi. It is clear that Colonel Khadafy and his regime were not going to stop the campaign of terror and violence against their own people. For the safety of innocent civilians, and to encourage the pro-democracy movements across the Middle East, I support the actions of the international coalition."
Representative James McGovern, Democrat, 3rd District:
"I just have this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. . . None of us know who is really calling the shots in terms of the opposition. It's very dicey and very dangerous. I am hoping and praying for success. I am deeply worried."
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat, 4th District:
"If our role is limited to Tomahawk missiles from the ships, and the airplanes are French and British, I will support it. ...Our opposition is for America picking up the entire tab. The fact that you have such a multinational, multicultural support for this, I hope it is a new paradigm. "
Representative Niki Tsongas, Democrat, 5th District:
"I am concerned that our military action in Libya lacks a clear objective. It is critically important that our commitment there not extend beyond the scope of UN Resolution 1973 and under no circumstances should American ground troops be inserted into that country."
Representative John Tierney, Democrat, 6th District:
"These are the lingering questions: Why Libya? Why now? There are certainly other dictators acting badly toward the own citizens. And who is the opposition? If you're picking sides in a civil war you better know who you're siding with."
Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat, 7th District:
“The current government of Libya has lost all legitimacy. Left unchecked, Khadafy will commit unspeakable brutalities against his own people. ...The more nations involved in this multilateral effort, the more the people of Libya will know that the movement for democracy that is spreading throughout the Middle East has global support. We are watching a watershed moment not only in Libya but throughout the Middle East. History is on the side of these 21st century young, educated people who are calling for the end to this 20th century oil-fueled dictatorship. Seventy percent of Libya is young people, but they represent 100 percent of the future of the country. The message to Colonel Khadafy is clear: the entire world community is united in protecting the Libyan people. Libyans must be able to chart their own future, free from violence and intimidation.”
Representative Michael Capuano, Democrat, 8th District:
"So far, the only stated goal is to protect civilians, the civilian population, which is a laudable goal, but if that's the new measure of when military power's going to be put in play, well then I suspect we'll be going to the Congo and Sudan, Ivory Coast, Yemen, maybe Bahrain, very very soon, if that's the measure."
Representative Stephen Lynch, Democrat, 9th District:
"I was very troubled by the decision to use US forces and to do so without consulting with Congress. I don't believe that Libya presents a direct threat to the United States. Lacking those circumstances, I think it was incumbent upon the president to talk to Congress. We have got two wars going on right now. We are tremendously over-extended."
Representative William Keating, Democrat, 10th District:
"Since the humanitarian issues surrounding the non-engaged Libyan civilians have not been fully vetted to Congress, I'm forced to view this on a step-by-step basis. I feel strongly, however, that our involvement should not expand beyond that purpose."
Senator Scott Brown said this morning he supports the unfolding wave of U.S. air strikes on Libya, saying they are necessary to stop the killing of innocent civilians.
The Massachusetts Republican, confronting the first military action launched since he took office a year ago, said, "I support the administration's involvement at this point. Obviously, it gets to a point where you have to draw a line in the sand, and when innocent civilians are being killed, it's important for the world community to step forward, and we're doing it in a coalition manner, and I'm supportive of that."
Brown, who also is a JAG officer in the Massachusetts National Guard, refused to say if he would support the additional use of ground troops. President Obama has repeatedly said the action will be limited to air support in the form of an opening wave of cruise missiles attacks, as well as an overnight B-2 bombing run and the possibility of combat air patrols to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone.
"That's a hypothetical I'm not really ready to comment on," Brown told a pair of reporters as he arrived at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day breakfast and political roast.
"But I think that we're going to follow the lead and work together with other countries to determine what the obstacles are and where it goes from here," he added. "I think it's a mission in progress and we'll know more in a day or two."
Brown also refused to say if he would support strikes on Yemen and Bahrain, two other Middle Eastern countries where pro-democracy forces have clashed with authoritarian regimes.
"You're starting to get into hypotheticals, but in this instance, it's clear that (Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy) was using his own forces to kill innocent civilians, and that's where I draw the line," Brown said.
By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Senator John F. Kerry, who has been pushing in recent weeks for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, issued a statement this afternoon supporting President Obama's declaration that he will order the use of military force if Libyan leader Moammar Kahdafi does not comply with a United Nations resolution directing him to stop military operations against the Libyan people.
“President Obama’s stern ultimatum to Kahdafi is the right message," Kerry said. "There must be a full cessation of hostilities immediately."
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reiterated earlier statements -- some of which were echoed by the president today -- that Kahdafi "has lost all legitimacy and determined international pressure will remain imperative to ensure that the will of the Libyan people prevails."
The senior senator from Massachusetts has been pushing for action in Libya since Feb. 22, after Kahdafi ordered attacks on Libyans who were protesting his regime.
The president announced today that the United States and its allies will not sit idly by as the Libyan leader uses violent force to suppress protests and re-take territory now in control of the opposition, including the major city of Benghazi, which has a population of 700,000 people.
Obama, saying the resolution passed yesterday by the UN Security Council lays out clear demands, ordered Kahdafi not to advance troops into Benghazi, to pull them back from other areas, allow humanitarian supplies to reach the Libyan people and restore gas and electric service throughout the country.
“Now once more, Moammar Kahdafi has a choice,” Obama said in brief remarks at the White House.
Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet in Paris with officials from Britain, France and other allies tomorrow to discuss what actions the coalition will take. He said the goal of any action would be to secure the lives of civilians and not to topple Kahdafi's regime, which he said would be up to the people of Libya. The president added that he would not order any ground troops into the country, so military actions likely would be confined to air strikes.
“Our goal is focused, our cause is just and our coalition is strong,” Obama said.
Kerry credited the president this afternoon with "deft" diplomacy.
"The Obama administration’s deft diplomatic efforts that built a strong international coalition to enforce tough measures against Kahdafi have been essential," Kerry said. .
Donovan Slack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @DonovanSlack.
Governor Deval Patrick is hosting a fundraiser at his Milton home Sunday evening despite his insistence that he is leaving political office after completing his term in 2015.
The suggested donation for the event, which will have a St. Patrick's Day theme, is either $250 or $500, with a notation on the invitation that up to $5,500 can be contributed.
Patrick spokesman Steve Crawford said the fundraiser will help retire the governor's campaign debts and also benefit the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
Earlier this month, members of a Boston law firm hosted a similar event on Patrick's behalf.
The first $500 donated - the maximum allowable annual contribution for individuals under state law - went to the governor's campaign account.
The remaining $5,000 was allocated to the state party.
The notation on the invitation for the Sunday event is a disclaimer outlining how any large contribution would be allocated, Crawford said.
Patrick has repeatedly said that he will serve no longer than two terms as governor. The Democrat has also ruled out a potential challenge to US Senator Scott Brown when the Republican seeks re-election next year.
Nonetheless, he has ramped up his political activity since winning his second term in November.
He flew to Washington to meet with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, and to Chicago to meet with David Axelrod, who has served as a top political adviser to both Patrick and President Barack Obama.
In addition, he is forming a political action committee to pay bills he anticipates incurring over the next two years as he speaks to his fellow Democrats and acts as a surrogate campaigner for Obama.
He addressed Colorado Democrats earlier this month.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
NASHUA, N.H. Newt Gingrich is making his first trip of the year to this politically crucial state as the Georgia Republican gauges whether there’s enough of a calling for him to run for president.
The former House speaker is scheduled to start today at a St. Patrick’s Day charity breakfast in Nashua, an event where those at the podium are judged more by the quality of their jokes than their political policies.
The breakfast has been a must-attend event in the past, with featured speakers including Pat Buchanan and Mitt Romney.
Later in the day, Gingrich is attending a luncheon at the Boys and Girls Club in Salem, N.H., before finishing his mini-tour with a dinner in Manchester.
Gingrich announced earlier this month he was starting an exploratory phase in his presidential run, and this marks his first trip to New Hampshire since that announcement.
It could prove to be a vital trip for Gingrich’s decision in running for president, for the role New Hampshire would play in his campaign, and for the GOP elite here who are still looking for a candidate who can effectively challenge President Obama.
“Most of us have fond memories of him from 94,” said Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a Concord-based conservative think tank. “The question for him is, can he transfer that sort of celebrity. He’s a great talking head on television or giving a speech, which is a slightly different skill set than being a candidate for president.”
Gingrich’s trip comes amid heightened activity in the Granite State as likely presidential candidates begin to test run their messages. Stumping in the state last week were former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, US Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and former US Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is speaking tomorrow night at a dinner in Manchester.
Romney, who addressed state GOP activists earlier this month, is far and away the frontrunner in New Hampshire : and the state is vital to his hopes in becoming the Republican nominee.
Forty percent of likely GOP primary voters said they would vote for the former Massachusetts governor, according to a poll conducted last month by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. The only other candidate in double figures was Giuliani, with 10 percent. Only 6 percent said they would vote for Gingrich.
One hurdle for Gingrich: in the poll, 40 percent said they had an unfavorable view of him, a figure that was worse than every candidate except Sarah Palin (50 percent unfavorable) and Donald Trump (64 percent)
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON US Senator John Kerry is urging the Obama administration to back a no-fly zone over Libya, calling for the United Nations to quickly approve a resolution to ground Libyan leader Moammar Kahdafi’s warplanes.
Kahdafi is using his air force to pound the rebels trying to overthrow him.
“The international community cannot simply watch from the sidelines as this quest for democracy is met with raw violence,” said Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in a lengthy policy speech today.
The Massachusetts Democrat said the Arab League’s endorsement this weekend of a no-fly zone over Libya is unprecedented.
“The Security Council should act now, in my judgment, to heed the Arab League’s call” and to avert a humanitarian disaster, said Kerry, in remarks to a room packed with foreign journalists at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
Kerry’s call for action on a no-fly zone marks an evolution in his view on the subject. He did not start out calling for immediate imposition of a no-fly zone; rather, he urged diplomatic and logistical preparation for the zone.
His call also puts him at odds with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has said attacking Libya's planes and air defenses would be an act of war.
The speech is the latest of Kerry’s high-profile efforts to guide US policy through the chain of popular uprisings in the Middle East. He urged preparations for a no-fly zone on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” two weekends ago.
Also, at the height of the unrest in Egypt last month, the senator penned a New York Times column encouraging embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s to give up power.
President Obama has not endorsed a no-fly zone, though he has “not taken any options off the table,” the president said on Friday.
Another option under consideration is for the US to give some $32 billion in frozen Libyan government assets to the rebels, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
Office of the Governor
Governor Deval Patrick is in England, not Italy, yet there is an aura of Rome-burning-while-Nero-is-fiddling to his trade mission events and communications after Fidelity Investments announced Tuesday it's closing its Marlborough offices and costing Massachusetts over 1,000 jobs in the process.
The first week of Patrick's international trade mission produced no job deals, despite him touring Israel with such heavyweights as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Since the weekend, the immediate benefits of the trip have become even more imperceptible, as the governor has visited a World War II cemetery, taken a tourist's trip to the House of Commons for "question time," and held a series of meet-and-greet meetings with members of Parliament.
The purpose for the latter, according to a gubernatorial statement, was "to discuss growing economic opportunities between the UK and Massachusetts."
All the while, Patrick withheld issuing a statement on Fidelity's decision, delegating the duty to the acting governor, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. Murray said the state was "disappointed" at the job cuts and would offer assistance to displaced workers.
Aides initially said the governor's busy schedule had kept them from reaching him or getting him on the telephone with Boston reporters. By late afternoon today, they put him on the phone with the Globe for what an aide said would be a two-minute conversation. It ended up lasting only slightly longer than that.
In the aftermath of the announcement, the governor did not jump on a plane to make any sort of direct appeal for the company to reverse its decision.
Instead, he remained in England on Tuesday, where he attended a ceremony to sign an agreement securing an exchange of stem cell bank best practices, participated in a roundtable discussion with biotech officials, and took the cemetery tour.
On Monday, his staff trumpeted his two meetings with the US ambassador to the United Kingdom, although Lou Sussman may be less known as diplomat than he is as the Chicagoan who raised a lot of campaign cash for Patrick's good friend, President Obama.
Patrick's staff also notes he met with the CEO of Lloyd's of London, and held an economic roundtable discussion with representatives of the financial services industry.
Today, as Marlborough reeled from a blow to its tax base, Rhode Island reporters highlighted their state's efforts to expand Fidelity's presence, and the Massachusetts Senate announced it would investigate the company's decision, Patrick went to his Twitter account and wrote, "Attended Prime Minister's Questions & later met Speaker of the House of Commons Bercow."
An earlier tweet read: "Met with Members of Parliament this morning in London."
One press release highlighted his economic partnership meetings with members of Parliament. Another one today echoed the governor's tweet.
It was headlined, "Governor Patrick Attends Prime Minister Questions; Meets with British-American Parliamentary Group."
It’s become a hot spot for politicians hawking books.
Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, and Jimmy Carter have all made appearances to promote their work. Now, it’s Governor Deval Patrick’s turn.
On April 12, the day his memoir is released, Patrick will be a guest on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, according to the show’s staff.
His star turn on the popular Comedy Central program is expected to be just one of several national television appearances he makes to promote his memoir, “A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life.”
His publisher, Broadway Books, has already confirmed that the governor has agreed to several speaking engagements to promote his work, including appearances at the National Press Club in Washington and the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.
Senate Republicans are threatening to hold up White House nominations unless the Senate passes trade deals with Columbia and Panama, but GOP moderates from New England aren’t of the same mind on the matter.
Forty-four Republicans signed a letter today telling Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that they would block the administration’s nominees for commerce secretary and other positions until the Senate takes up the trade pacts.
Scott Brown of Massachusetts was among those signing the letter, but Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the two Senators from Maine who have increasingly voted with Brown in a moderate GOP bloc in the Senate, did not sign. The third GOP abstainer was Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Spokespeople for Snowe and Collins did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter accused the president of “an apparent lack of interest in seeking approval of these free trade agreements.” Approval of the pacts would be beneficial to American workers, they wrote, and further delay is “unnecessary and inexcusable.”
“So important are these deals to our economy and our relations with these key allies in Latin America that, until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the letter read.
Last week, Obama nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to replace Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, leaving the commerce chief position vacant and creating the opportunity for another high-profile nomination fight in the Senate.
NEWTON Former US Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who campaigned for Mitt Romney in 2008 but is now weighing his own bid for the Republican presidential nomination, today attacked Romney for signing Massachusetts’ universal health care law.
Calling himself a "consistent conservative," on social and economic issues, Santorum said both the 2006 Massachusetts law and President Obama’s recent overhaul of the national health care system would drive more people in to government-sponsored health plans.
“The issues, unfortunately, don’t line up particularly well for Governor Romney this time, particularly with health care being front and center on the stage,” Santorum said in an interview before he addressed a Roman Catholic group.
“I feel we need someone who is a strong, principled conservative who believes not in government mandates, not in government control of the health care system, but in a patient-centered approach to health care,” Santorum said.
Santorum added that both the state and federal laws "tend to drive employers out of the private sector plans because they’re expensive and more people end up on the government plan."
“Ultimately, it’s a failure," Santorum said.
Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, responded today by saying the Massachusetts law may not work for every state.
Governor Deval Patrick's trade mission resumed after a day off, with him convening a meeting of Massachusetts and United Kingdom financial services industry leaders in London today that focused on potential collaborations and job creation ideas.
“To maintain our competitive edge and attract the jobs of tomorrow, we must strengthen our ties to our UK counterparts and find new opportunities for mutual growth," Patrick said in a statement.
A discussion hosted by City of London Corporation in the center of London's financial district included executives such as John Hailer, president & CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management, as well as executives from PricewaterhouseCoopers, State Street Corporation, Citizens Bank, Bain Capital, Putnam Investments, Barclays Bank, and Goldman Sachs International.
Natixis Global Asset Management is a global asset management company headquartered in Boston and Paris with $719 billion of assets under management. Natixis employs 2,800 employees worldwide, including over 1,100 residing in Boston.
The roundtable marked the final forum during the first full day of the second phase of the trade mission. Last week, the governor visited Israel.
On Monday, Patrick and his delegation received a briefing from United States Ambassador to Great Britain Louis Susman.
They also traveled to the London Stock Exchange for an information technology sector roundtable.
Patrick then went US Embassy for a private meeting with Susman, a fellow Chicagoan and major financial backer of President Obama, before re-joining the delegation for a tour of Lloyd's of London and Lloyd's Market.
The delegation also met Lloyd's CEO Richard Ward, as well as Sean McGovern, director of North America.
The state of Massachusetts is making sure former Governor Mitt Romney can't run away from the universal health care program he signed into law, and his opponents can't misrepresent it.
The Health Connector and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which are charged with implementing the 2006 legislation, sent out an e-mail Friday containing a Top 10 list of facts about the measure.
One specifically describes the law Romney enacted as the model for the federal universal health care program signed into law by President Obama last year.
It has become the subject of national debate, as Republicans have derided what they term "Obamacare," while Democrats have noted it was modeled on "Romneycare."
The connection is particularly sensitive for Romney, a prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidate, since conservatives whose support he will need in his party's primaries have generally opposed both laws.
Romney has tried to rebuff the criticism by arguing that states should be free to enact their own plans, not be subjected to a single measure imposed by the federal government.
Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat who is planning to be a surrogate campaigner during Obama's re-election campaign next year, has publicly highlighted the similarities in the measures. Now his administration is echoing the message.
"As much is being written about our landmark 2006 Massachusetts health reform legislation and implementation, we want to make sure you have all the pertinent facts at your disposal," Connector spokesman Dick Powers said in the e-mail.
The No. 6 point says flatly: "Massachusetts health reform provided the model for national reform. Like Massachusetts, the new national law calls for the formation of (health insurance) Exchanges. The Health Connector’s tiering system, which offers consumers a choice of gold, silver or bronze coverage, was also adopted in a slightly expanded way. Like Massachusetts,the national law sets minimum coverage standards and will include benefits like elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions. A number of the benefits in the Massachusetts law are enhanced under national reform, most notably extension of subsidy assistance for individuals from 300 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, extension of federally-subsidized coverage to legal immigrants and extension of insurance protections to self-funded private coverage."
Item No. 7 also touches another hot-button topic: the requirement in the law Romney signed that provides tax penalties for residents who are capable of buying insurance but fail to do so.
"The individual mandate has worked fairly and effectively to expand coverage in Massachusetts," says the fact sheet. "Some 97 percent of the taxpayers are complying with new health reform filing requirements. Furthermore, the Health Connector’s appeals process, which rules on hardship exceptions, has been fair to taxpayers, with a 60-percent approval rate for those who follow through with an appeal."
Powers said the poster was produced in-house, at no additional cost to the taxpayers. The two photos used, he said, came from annual progress reports about the state law.
"It wasn't meant to tweak anyone," said Powers. "One of the frustrating things about
sitting here is watching people on both the left and the right twist information to suit their ideological agenda. With bloggers taking a more active role, it's amazing how quickly bad information can and does spread. This is just our attempt to get the facts out there so the media and eventually their readers and listeners will have the correct facts. With federal reform under the microscope and a presidential election on the horizon, it's logical to assume that more eyes will be cast on what we're doing here."
While other potential Republican presidential candidates tried to grab the spotlight this week with a series of insider announcements about new staff hires, Mitt Romney claimed substantive ground for himself with a wave of campaign donations and a potent Florida endorsement.
In a statement yesterday, Romney's Free and Strong America PAC announced he had sent out another wave of contributions to 45 Republicans in Congress.
All told, they received $93,000. That follows the $208,000 that Romney’s PAC has given to 90 US Senate and House Republicans since the start of the year.
“There are many important issues facing Congress and the nation," the former Massachusetts governor said in the statement. "By showing our support for Republican candidates who are fighting for conservative principles in Washington, we hope to influence the national debate on jobs, taxes, the economy, and the budget."
The statement came amid a week in which Romney visited Texas to meet with key financial and campaign backers, and then aimed to visit Florida to meet with Republican Governor Rick Scott. Romney had campaigned for him last fall.
Their meeting ended up cancelled because of flight delays for Romney, but he nonetheless received the endorsement of state Senator John Thrasher. The St. Augustine Republican is a former House speaker who most recently served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
“If Governor Romney decides to run for president in 2012, I will absolutely be supporting him and helping him in Florida,” Thrasher said an e-mail to Abel Harding, a columnist for The Florida Times-Union. “He would be a great GOP nominee.”
Due to population shifts, Florida will pick up two congressional seats and two Electoral College votes in the 2012 election. The state will also host the Republican National Convention, which is being held in Tampa.
Attorney General Eric Holder is visiting Boston tonight to deliver the keynote address at the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association annual gala.
Former Senator Edward W. Brooke III is slated to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Superior Court Justice Barbara Dortch-Okara and David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, are each being given the Trailblazer Award.
The dinner and awards ceremony takes place at the Boston Park Plaza & Towers, beginning at 6 p.m.
During a career that has now spanned over 25 years, I've had a chance to meet and even work with several great and legendary political journalists, including R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr. of The New York Times; Curtis Wilkie, Robert Healy, David Shribman, and Walter V. Robinson of The Boston Globe; Mary McGrory and David S. Broder of The Washington Post; and Walter R. Mears of The Associated Press.
The last two intersected in an infamous way, during the 1964 presidential campaign, when a group of reporters got to drinking before a late-evening Barry Goldwater speech.
Broder thought Mears had a few too many, so, ever the courtly mid-westerner, he decided to leave Mears a copy of his own story. His aim was to nudge his colleague along for early East Coast deadlines.
Instead, Mears banged out his own story, returned Broder's to him, and said in response, "David, I can write better drunk than you can sober."
But with Broder's death Wednesday at age 81, it's not journalism so much that prompted me to sit back down at my laptop after a long day in a new job.
It was to reflect on the uncommon decency displayed by a veteran worker for a newcomer in their shared profession. It's a lesson for everyone in every industry, and especially for me as I make the turn from the front- to back-nine of my career.
I can't believe I just wrote those words.
I graduated in 1985 from a small Wisconsin college, Lawrence University, and set out to build a career for myself in journalism. Having a father who was a stock broker and a mother who was a real estate agent, I had no real "in" with the profession, so I worked my way up the ladder.
My first full-time job was at the City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary news institution that spawned such legendary writers as novelist Kurt Vonnegut, columnist Mike Royko, and investigative reporter Seymour Hersh still going to this day.
I later moved from The Salem Evening News to The Sun of Lowell, where, in November 1990, I read a story in the Boston Sunday Globe recapping Broder's speech at Colby College. He had just received an honorary doctorate of laws and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award.
I had long admired Broder and his reporting on and analysis of national politics, so much so that I subscribed to the Post's then-national weekly edition. It contained the best of the newspaper's stories from the prior week, as well as the columns of writers such as Broder.
"I realized that I have continuously looked to you for compass headings in my quest to be the most ethical and accurate newspaper reporter possible," I wrote in a Nov. 18, 1990, letter to Broder prompted by the story.
"For example, I have paid close attention to your warnings about crisscrossing the boundary between political insider and journalist," I added.
Noting how Broder encouraged all reporters to spend more time speaking with voters than campaign consultants, I felt inspired to ask Broder if I could come to Washington, work for him, and learn at the knee of the master.
"If you ever need a researcher or cohort to assist in the preparation of your column and articles, I hope you would consider me for that position," I wrote.
I sent the letter off, not really expecting a reply, battle-hardened from the challenge of breaking into the industry just five years earlier.
Yet several weeks later, a wide postcard arrived in the mail.
When I flipped it over, it was embossed with the name, "David S. Broder," and emblazoned with the Post's logo.
In between, in hand-typed lettering, Broder responded: "Dear Glen Johnson."
He thanked me for my note, resume, and sample newsclippings, and promptly said there were no researcher openings at the Post. But then, he went further.
"Your work reads to me as if you are past that point," Broder wrote. "You show a lot of skill and confidence in your reporting and I hope you'll let it carry you to the goals you seek, not step back into a researcher role."
He signed off with an affectionate "Yours," and used a pen to write, "David Broder."
Months later, lightning struck. At the height of President George H.W. Bush's popularity following Operating Desert Storm, a former US senator from the hometown of my small newspaper, Lowell's own Paul Tsongas, announced improbably that he'd challenge the incumbent president for re-election in 1992.
The Sun remains a relatively small paper, but it had a big heart, especially for the local story, so, by then as the Lowell city political reporter, the editor sent me out on the trail.
I filled one suitcase with my clothes, the other with a "library" of news clippings, notebooks, batteries, and acoustic couplers for my Radio Shack computer, as well as a copy of The Almanac of American Politics. I was a one-man show, but I got to work in proximity to some of the great or rising young political reporters of the time: Dan Balz of the Post, Cathleen Decker and Ronald Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, Robin Toner and Richard Berke of The New York Times, and Wilkie himself.
I also was able to cross paths with Broder.
In April 1992, after Tsongas quit the race and "Comeback Kid" Bill Clinton was en route to the Democratic nomination and presidency, I wrote a thank-you note to Broder.
"I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed meeting you while I chased around Paul Tsongas for The Sun," I said.
By 1996, I was working for the AP in Boston and assigned to cover then-Governor William F. Weld's epic US Senate race against the Democratic incumbent, John Kerry. Clinton cruised to re-election against Bob Dole in a campaign that was largely a non-event.
By 2000, though, I had transferred to the AP's Washington bureau and landed a plum assignment covering the presidential campaign of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush in a wide-open race for the presidency. Mid-campaign, I joined the Globe, my hometown newspaper, and again ran into Broder on the trail.
Covering a presidential campaign is hard on everyone involved, from the candidate to the press corps to the legion of college kids who make everything work, from setting up events to unloading baggage from the charter jet.
I was amazed to see Broder, then 71, still schlepping along, listening to the candidate speeches, traipsing through Iowa and New Hampshire, and polishing gems gleaned from those voter conversations about which he always preached.
One day, in Florida as best I can remember it, I found myself trudging into a filing center behind none other than the Dean himself, David S. Broder.
There were plenty of tables at which to sit, but for a still-young political journalist, there was only one place to be.
I took the seat next to Broder.
We had chatted earlier in the trip, but as we sat next to each other and worked on our stories, he for the Post, me for the Globe, I recalled the history of our interaction, from my time in his native Chicago at the City News Bureau; to the days at The Sun as I chased after him and the other Boys on the Bus; to the present, when we together watched an election whose conclusion neither of us could have imagined at that moment.
I also remembered that everywhere I went that campaign, I carried a camera in a case affixed to my belt.
Aware of the preciousness of the moment, I pulled it out, passed it to anyone standing nearby, and asked them to take a picture of me and Broder.
Today, I remembered that picture, and flipped back through my Bush picture volume to find it.
The time-stamp on the back read, "2:49 p.m., Sept. 22, 2000."
At that moment, Broder was 71 and I was 37.
It was less than a year from Sept. 11, 2001, a day of infamy in American history, as well as the date on which Broder would mark his 72nd birthday.
It also was almost precisely a decade after I had written Broder that first letter, in which I sought to become his researcher and he pushed me to chase bigger goals, on my own.
Then, as now, another 10 years hence, I'm glad I followed his advice. And I have no doubt that in leaving this world, he'd hope that everyone follows his example as it comes time to send the next generation of workers on their way.
The nation’s No. 1 basketball fan met the team the Boston area hopes will be the nation’s No. 1 NBA franchise this year.
When President Obama visited the Museum of Fine Arts for a fundraiser this evening, he had a private meeting with members of the Boston Celtics.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and coach Doc Rivers were among those who talked hoops with Obama, a southpaw who maintains an active game and has his own court in the White House backyard. A notable absence was center Shaquille O'Neal.
The meeting was organized by two of the team’s co-owners, Jonathan Lavine and Stephen Pagliuca. Lavine is a managing director at Bain Capital, and Pagliuca tried his hand at party politics when he ran in the Democratic primary for last year's Massachusetts US Senate special election.
Several team members turned out for one of his fundraisers, too.
Lavine and Pagliuca also arranged for the Celtics to mingle with the crowd at the fundraiser, which is expected to raise $1 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It’s the body charged with helping the Democrats regain the majority in the US House of Representatives in 2012.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Representative Steve Israel of New York, the committee’s chairman, and members of the Massachusetts House delegation were slated to attend, as well.
It’s something of a sports week for the president: not only is it conference championship week for NCAA teams, and “Selection Sunday” this weekend for teams entering the NCAA men’s basketball tourney, but Obama is also welcoming his hometown Chicago Blackhawks to the White House.
The squad won hockey's NHL Stanley Cup last year.
We used this live blog and tweets @globeglen to provide up-to-the-minute updates about President Obama's visit to TechBoston Academy in Dorchester.
4:06 p.m. - The president just wrapped up. No real rising close, no real oomph. But the kids are still thrilled he came.
4:04 p.m. - This has to be the most pastoral presidential event I have ever covered. Very sober atmosphere, very respectful crowd, very solemn president, despite his jokes.
4:02 p.m. - Obama concedes it will "cost money" to make changes he's proposed, but he immediately segues to budget cuts he has offered as means to support the education programs for which he wants to pay.
"We cannot cut back on job-creating investments, like education," he said. "There's nothing responsible about cutting back in our investment in these young people."
3:57 p.m. - Instead of pouring money "into a broken system," president says, Arne Duncan has launched "Race to the Top," which draws applause. Says if states show good programs, "we'll show you the money."
3:55 p.m. - Students answer with slow "y-e-e-s-s-s" when Obama asks if they come from tough neighborhoods. But then he notes their high achievement rates.
3:53 p.m. - Obama notes each student here gets laptop upon enrolling. They then have to take care of it, and use it to take core math and other classes, including forensic science. President jokes he's not even sure what that is.
3:50 p.m. - President laments USA falling to ninth in nations in terms of proportion with college degree. It used to be first.
3:47 p.m. - Cheer as president explains he came to TechBoston because "you are model of how it's done" for rest of country.
3:45 p.m. - Obama recalls time at Harvard Law and how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. Then he started a "modest" computer software company. When kids didn't laugh, president reminded them it was a joke. They laughed at that.
3:43 p.m. - Shriek from students as Obama takes stage.
3:39 p.m. - Melinda Gates says she and "Bill," as in Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are happy they invested in school nearly a decade ago.
She is recalling excitement among students they just meant at knowing where they are going: to college.
3:37 p.m. - Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Melinda Gates are announced to stage. She is speaking first.
3:34 p.m. - They just announced "the event will begin momentarily."
3:28 p.m. - The president is running more than 15 minutes behind schedule, allowing the Boston city councilors in the room to work the crowd for votes.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a potential US Senate candidate, is also in the audience.
3:05 p.m. - Rotor noises above from a State Police helicopter signal the motorcade's arrival at TechBoston. The president was touring a classroom and meeting some students before speaking in the gym.
Former Boston newswoman Rehema Ellis is on-hand to live shots for MSNBC.
2:46 p.m. - There's a lull in the activities as the president tours the school and the audience waits in the gynmasium. It's a relatively small crowd in here, very controlled, unlike more rambunctious campaign events. Still, all the guests appear excited.
2:36 p.m. - HE must almost be here... presidential seal attached to "blue goose" armored presidential lectern.
2:34 p.m. - Two students just led Pledge of Allegiance and did heartfelt rendition of national anthem that left their classmates cheering. Then they hugged each other with ear-to-ear smiles. Nice start.
2:30 p.m. - TechBoston Academy JROTC color guard bringing in American flag.
2:23 p.m. - Inside TechBoston Academy, people being asked to take their seats. Behind podium, banner reads, "Winning the Future," the president's forward-looking slogan since State of the Union. Presidential seal, always a last-minute addition, still not affixed to podium.
President Obama today is following the lead of other Democrats who view Massachusetts as a campaign finance ATM, yet he's hoping the focus will instead be drawn to a high-profile visit he's making to a Boston school.
Joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and philanthropist Melinda Gates, the president will tour and then speak at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided some of the funding to found the school in September 2002.
Obama will echo his State of the Union speech, as well as a visit he made last week to a rebounding Florida school, as he argues government, businesses, philanthropists, educators, and local communities have to jointly promote innovative education strategies that prepare American students to in his vernacular "win the future."
“There is no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates," said an excerpt of Obama's prepared text. “That’s why reforming education is the responsibility of every American every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official, and every student.”
Obama's 2012 budget calls for $90 million in funding for the creation of a new grant competition called the "Advanced Research Projects Agency Education" (ARPA-ED).
Groups would compete to create breakthroughs in using technology to empower learning and teaching.
The budget also calls for extending the "Investing in Innovation" (i3) program with a $300 million competition with a priority for projects in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Despite being considered hospitable Democratic territory, the president was being greeted by a protest organized by some of his fellow Democrats.
Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, along with current Representatives Edward J. Markey, Michael Capuano, and James McGovern, called a news conference to protest the administration's proposed cut in the LIHEAP program.
It provides assistance to people who cannot afford their heating bills.
LIHEAP currently receives $5.1 billion under the federal budget; the president has proposed cutting it by $2.5 billion.
After the events at TechBoston Academy, Obama was traveling across town to the newly refurbished Museum of Fine Arts for the fundraiser.
In an e-mail soliciting contributions, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi labeled the gathering as "an unforgettable evening with President Obama and leading Democrats from across America."
She added: "It is critical that we show the world how strongly we support President Obama's bold vision to encourage innovation and invest in America's future."
One of Obama's prime boosters in the area, Governor Deval Patrick, is missing the events because he is in Israel at the outset of a trade mission.
He and Obama share the same political advisers, and Patrick is gearing up to serve as a surrogate speaker for the president's re-election campaign next year.
President Obama is getting an unruly reception as he heads for an education event and party fundraiser in Boston today from his fellow Democrats.
Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, along with current Representatives Edward J. Markey, Michael Capuano, and James McGovern, have called a news conference to protest the administration's proposed cut in the LIHEAP program.
It provides assistance to people who cannot afford their heating bills.
To add drama to the event, it will be held at the East Boston home Joe and Katherine Oliveri, who saw their federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefit drop by 30 percent this year.
Their current allotment would be cut in half under the White House budget proposal. LIHEAP currently receives $5.1 billion under the federal budget; the president has proposed cutting it by $2.5 billion.
"Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same," the president said last month. "Let's go back to a more sustainable level."
The event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., less that four hours before Air Force One touches down at Logan International Airport.
Check back tonight as I live-blog here at "Political Intelligence" and tweet @globeglen about Republican Mitt Romney's speech at the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner in Bartlett, N.H.
8:54 p.m. - Wireless outage at hotel delayed me in reporting antler sold for $1,050.
Auction ending, but crowd at Red Parka in North Conway, N.H., expected to grow shortly.
Thanks for reading. Come back to "Political Intelligence" on Monday morning for my analysis for Mitt Romney's message tonight.
8:35 p.m. - Speech concluded, the live auction is now beginning.
First item for bid is ... the moose antler.
8:31 p.m. - The would-be candidate gets thick of voice and choked up in chest as he begins delivery of patriotic conclusion to remarks.
8:21 p.m. - Romney, rebutting some critics, also addresses the universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts. Some of his prospective rivals complain, as Obama himself even notes, that the state plan was the model for the federal law the president enacted last year.
"You may have noticed that the president and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts health care than 'Entertainment Tonight' spends talking about Charlie Sheen," he said to laughter.
"Now, our approach next door was a state plan, intended to address state problems, in ways that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts. What we did was what the Constitution intended for states to do we were one of the laboratories of democracy," he added.
"Now, our experiment wasn’t perfect; some things worked, some didn’t, some things I’d change. One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover. I would repeal Obamacare.
"My experience has taught me that states are where health care programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law constitutionally, it’s bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families. And that’s one reason President Obama will be a one-term president," he said.
8:16 p.m. - The Republican says he likes President Obama, but he "doesn't have a clue how jobs are created."
In a bit of gender outreach, Romney adds: "He doesn’t know what goes through an entrepreneur’s mind when she borrows and scrapes to get the money to start a new company because he’s never done it himself."
8:11 p.m. - Romney says by delaying recession recovery, president has added to "Obama Misery Index."
It will only be addressed "with a new president of the United States."
Then he recapped his work as a turnaround artist, in business, at the Salt Lake Olympics, and as governor of Massachusetts.
Romney complains that Obama delegated economic recovery to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, while he pursued personal priorities like health care reform and cap-and-trade policy.
8:06 p.m. - Romney says he likes New Hampshire so much, he "may play a double-header" here, but the applause line falls strangely flat.
He's now getting into meat of anti-Obama attacks, saying president is unprepared to conduct foreign policy.
"Instead of leading the world, he's been tiptoeing behind the Europeans," Romney said.
8:03 p.m. - Someone looking suspiciously like a television commercial or campaign-announcement movie-maker was shooting video of Romney as he worked the room and, now, as the people are applauding.
7:59 p.m. - Mitt and Ann Romney introduced, and he sets to microphone. Immediately says the "Romney for President" signs lining the drive must have been old ones from the garage.
His wife, Ann, is speaking, saying she is the one encouraging him to think about running.
Recalling their 42 years together, she said he is a problem-solver and "actually quite selfless" as shown as a husband and father.
"I love him and I think he should really think about it," she said.
7:51 p.m. - Guinta told crowd of about 300 it was great to arrive in Washington as part of a Republican majority, but it can be even better.
"I cannot wait, I cannot wait, to be in Washington watching a Republican sworn in as president," he said.
7:48 p.m. - The speaking program has resumed with Representative Frank Guinta, former mayor of Manchester.
7:42 p.m. - I guessed wrong: Romney went for the pot roast and "cleaned the plate," crack staff assistant Will Ritter said.
7:37 p.m. - The dinner plates have just gone down. Some are getting glazed salmon. Some are getting chicken marsala. Others are getting Yankee pot roast, the smell of which dominates the air.
7:10 p.m. - The moose antler debate is resolved: Mitt Romney has signed it before the bidding has ended.
And to describe it as a mere moose antler is also to not do it justice; it is a moose antler bearing a painting of the Old Man of the Mountain and an autograph from Mitt Romney.
6:53 p.m. - The dining has commenced: again, the options are chicken marsala, glazed salmon, and Yankee pot roast.
My bet for Romney, who may spend the whole time shaking hands, is salmon. He's very careful about what he eats, and Zen a sushi place near the State House was a favorite haunt.
6:48 p.m. - Senator Kelly Ayotte is following party Chairman Jack Kimball at the microphone.
She says there is a battle in Washington between fiscal responsibility and "bigger government, bloated spending."
The senator complains that the spending freeze President Obama proposes would extend to only 12 percent of the budget.
"If we make a difference in 2012, ... we can make a difference across this country by passing things like a balanced-budget amendment,'' Ayotte said.
6:41p.m. - The most intriguing item in the silent auction to raise money for the Carroll County Republicans is a moose antler. The great debate is whether to have Romney sign it first to drive up bidding, or personalize it afterward for the winning bidder.
Two other auction items: a massage, and a hair cut.
New Hampshire's Republican senator, Kelly Ayotte, is also in attendance, but she has told reporters she has yet to endorse a candidate in the primary campaign.
6:36 p.m. - Mitt and Ann Romney have arrived, shaken hands around the room, and stood for the invocation.
The former governor is dressed casually, leaving the tie back in Massachusetts and appearing open-collared in a sport coat.
6:15 p.m. - Mitt Romney has yet to arrive in the ballroom.
Those Republicans who ridicule President Obama for speaking from a TelePrompTer won't take any solace from Romney: He's got one set up on the stage.
5:55 p.m. - The likely candidate is upstairs at a private reception, but the ballroom is filling up with guests and supporters.
Among those reporters joining Sue Page in making the trek from DC are Erin McPike of Real Clear Politics and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom has also arrived.
5:12 p.m. - My Globe colleague Matt Viser and I have made it to the Grand Summit Hotel overlooking Attitash Mountain. It was a nice drive up from Boston, but it was foggy with the warmer weather melting some of the abundant snow.
Outside, you could allay any thought about whether Romney has decided to run for president for a second time: The driveway was lined with "Romney for President" signs (see the photo above I snapped).
As usual, the AP's New Hampshire photographer Jim Cole was staked out at the front door, awaiting the candidate. Just inside were Romney supporters Jim Merrill and Tom Rath, as well as Sue Page of "USA Today."
A bit of a rough reception walking in the door, though. We went into the ballroom to set up our equipment and make sure the wireless connection was good and, well, to start live-blogging, when a Romney aide asked us to leave the ballroom.
Apparently, the Romney folks aren't letting the media in until 5:30 p.m.
Harkens back to the days of Romney's velvet ropes outside the governor's office in the Massachusetts State House.
Organizers say the doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the program begins at 6 p.m.
For those interested, the menu includes a choice of chicken marsala, glazed salmon, and Yankee pot roast.
This will be Romney's public first speech in the lead primary state this year, and the former Massachusetts governor will continue to lay the groundwork for a second White House campaign beginning this spring.
I've just posted a preview of the remarks here.
The trip also offers a chance for Romney and his staff to work the locals and the local scene.
Longtime spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom tweeted earlier today that he's planning to hike Tuckerman Ravine on the southeast face of Mt. Washington tomorrow if it doesn't rain.
Republican Mitt Romney defended the universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts tonight even as he attacked President Obama over his own health care law, as well as his conduct of domestic policy and foreign affairs.
In his first speech of the year in the lead-primary state of New Hampshire, Romney said Obama didn't internalize the lessons he should have learned while campaigning in the state in 2008, so it's time for "a new president."
In remarks delivered at the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner in Bartlett, N.H., Romney said: "Senator Obama campaigned hard in New Hampshire but he apparently didn’t like what he saw. He certainly didn’t learn from it. Instead of lowering taxes, he raised them. He wrapped businesses in red tape, he grew government, he borrowed trillions of dollars, and he made it clear that he doesn’t like business people very much."
Romney says that has triggered a "deeper recession" that delayed the nation's economic recovery.
"The consequence is soaring numbers of Americans enduring unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies," said Romney, who closely followed a prepared text of his remarks by reading off a TelePrompTer. "This is the 'Obama Misery Index,' and it is at a record high. It’s going to take more than new rhetoric to put Americans back to work it’s going to take a new president."
The Democratic National Committee responded with a "Fact Check" rebutting many of Romney's claims. It cited Congressional Budget Office and media reports saying the administration's stimulus bill had added jobs, while pointing to different sources that criticized Romney's job creation record during the four years he was governor Massachusetts.
Factcheck.org wrote that Massachusetts gained only 1 percent in payroll jobs during that term, while the nation added 5.3 percent.
On the subject of health care, Romney took on critics some prospective White House rivals who complain that the state plan was the model for the federal law the president enacted last year. Obama himself has credited Romney for presaging his own plan.
"You may have noticed that the president and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts health care than 'Entertainment Tonight' spends talking about Charlie Sheen," Romney said to laughter.
"Now, our approach next door was a state plan, intended to address state problems, in ways that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts. What we did was what the Constitution intended for states to do we were one of the laboratories of democracy," he added.
"Now, our experiment wasn’t perfect; some things worked, some didn’t, some things I’d change. One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover. I would repeal Obamacare.
"My experience has taught me that states are where health care programs for the uninsured should be crafted, just as the Constitution provides. Obamacare is bad law constitutionally, it’s bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families. And that’s one reason President Obama will be a one-term president," he said.
Romney has yet to formally declare if he will launch a follow-up to his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign, but his spokesman offered a fresh take on his timetable.
"I don't know precisely when Governor Romney will announce a decision about his future plans, but I feel confident that when he does it, they'll be playing baseball at Fenway Park and the snow will be gone and the sun will be shining warmer on our faces," said spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.
The Boston Red Sox open their home baseball schedule on April 8 when they host the New York Yankees.
Romney, a former venture capitalist, has argued that the country needs someone with a business background as it rebounds from the Great Recession. In his remarks, he underscored the point.
"We need to stop penalizing companies that want to invest in America," he said. "Right now, we tax companies who make money overseas if they want to bring it home, but we don’t tax them if they keep their money abroad. That makes no sense at all. We want that money here, invested in new factories, new equipment, and new jobs."
Romney added: "How much money do American companies store overseas that’s waiting to come back? Estimates range as high as $1 trillion. Bringing a trillion dollars back to the United States will create hundreds of thousands or even millions of good, permanent, private sector jobs."
The dinner speech marked Romney's second visit to New Hampshire this year. On January 31, he made a private trip in which he met with small business leaders in Manchester and job re-trainees at Nashua Community College.
In 2010, he made four campaign visits over five days. Romney also continues to own a vacation home overlooking New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee.
In addition, Romney's so-called "leadership" political action committee, the Free and Strong America PAC, donated $86,335 to various candidates and Republican committees in New Hampshire during 2010. The biggest recipient was the state committee's non-federal account, to which the PAC donated $15,000.
Romney also sprinkled $500 and $1,000 checks on individual candidates across the street.
Larry Summers, President Obama's former National Economic Council director, is addressing the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
Summers will speak at noon at the Boston Harbor Hotel. The address is open to members of the Chamber, although the general public can register at the door and attend for a $95 fee.
Summers had served as Treasury secretary under President Clinton. In the Obama administration, he advocated for a stimulus package more focused on tax cuts than infrastructure development.
He was among three top economic policymakers to depart the administration last year, along with Peter Orzag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Summers formerly was president of Harvard University. Following his stint in Washington, he now is director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Former Governor Mitt Romney is speaking in New Hampshire Saturday night as his still-unannounced second presidential campaign gathers momentum.
Since a two-week break in Hawaii over Christmas, when both he and President Obama were vacationing in the 50th state, the Massachusetts Republican has undertaken an aggressive travel schedule making clear his intentions even if he has yet to declare them outright.
Romney has traveled from coast to coast and overseas as well. He's been on late-night television and "The View." He's talked cars at the Daytona 500 and gotten a trim at Tommy Thomas's barber shop, a political stomping grounds in Atlanta.
On Saturday alone, he's speaking behind closed doors in Florida to a meeting of the Club for Growth, then flying north for a speech at the Carroll County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Attitash Grand Summit Hotel in Bartlett, NH.
It will be his most prominent public audience since he addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington early last month.
The appearance also comes as likely rivals Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, and Haley Barbour ramp up their own activities and their rhetoric.
Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, was especially entertaining on Tuesday as he sat beside Governor Deval Patrick and testified before a US House committee examining Obama's health care overhaul.
You might have thought that Patrick, a Democrat from blue-state Massachusetts, would have been Barbour's target. Instead, it was Romney, a fellow Republican, who endured the governor's silver-tongued jabs.
“Massachusetts has a state health insurance program that they’re obviously happy with, and we think that’s their right," Barbour said.
Then, deftly unsheathing a dagger, he added: "And Senator (Edward M.) Kennedy and Governor Romney and then Governor Patrick, if that's what Massachusetts wants, we're happy for them. We don’t want that. That’s not good for us."
Nor is that kind of talk good for Romney.
Try as he may, Romney has found it a challenge as he's insisted the state universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts is different from the federal one Obama enacted into law last year.
It does him no good when a potential opponent reminds the GOP base, which can't find enough pejoratives to condemn "Obamacare," that Romney created its predecessor in concert with Kennedy, a favorite party target before his death in 2009.
The argument that may gain the most traction for Romney is that Massachusetts was free to design its own program, and other states should have the same option without having a federal plan imposed upon them.
Obama has delighted in declaring that his plan was modeled on Romney's, muddying a potential 2012 opponent in the process. But he may have given the former governor the most viable form of cover this week: The president shifted course and said he would not object to allowing states to design their own programs, as long as they are at least as good as the federal law that is being put into effect.
That sounds like the message that has been coming from Romney ever since he transitioned from governor to presidential candidate.
The speech Saturday comes as the pulse of the Republican campaign quickens.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced yesterday that he was entering the "testing the waters" phase. That will allow him to raise money and hire staff before declaring whether he is moving to an exploratory committee.
Barbour has been toying with reporters, telling them to watch his waistline as the clearest indication of his own possible candidacy and then claiming it is getting more trim.
Huckabee has been delighting in polls showing him running strong among social conservatives, and Pawlenty has been taking advantage of a veteran staff of advisers to efficiently plot his own campaign and pick his spots for making news.
Elsewhere, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin remains free of any of the traditional constraints, given her ability to command an audience and raise money in a snap.
That is why it will be interesting to hear what Romney has to say.
Instead of letting his opponents frame him, he will have the opportunity to make his own case. And in the lead presidential primary state, the reason for his remarks will be clear, whether or not he wants to admit it yet.
Most Senate Republicans are asking President Obama to withdraw the nomination of the man central to implementing the sweeping national health care law passed last year, but Senator Scott Brown is not among them.
Forty-two GOP senators sent a letter to the White House today complaining of Donald M. Berwick’s past statements and lack of experience, and saying the president should start again with a candidate to head Medicare that Republicans could support and confirm.
“Withdrawing Dr. Berwick’s nomination would be a positive first step in rebuilding the trust of the American people,” the letter read.
Brown, who was elected in large part because of his opposition to the health care law, did not sign, and nor did the two moderate Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. The other two absent Republicans are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Brown spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said the Massachusetts Republican “has always been troubled” by Berwick’s recess appointment. Senators should have the chance to question the candidate, she said, and Brown would make up his mind about Berwick after doing so.
“The president can nominate the person he thinks is best for the job and Senator Brown looks forward to reviewing Dr. Berwick's credentials," she said in a statement.
The president temporarily appointed Berwick, a former Harvard professor, when the Senate was on recess, but he has never been confirmed. The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a key role in implementing the overhaul that Congress passed last year.
In response to the letter, the White House said that Berwick is “far and away the best person for the job.”
“He's already doing stellar work at CMS: saving taxpayer dollars by cracking down on fraud, and implementing delivery system reforms that will save billions in excess costs and save millions of lives. We won't be withdrawing the nomination,” the statement said.
President Obama, joined by Melinda Gates and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will visit TechBoston Academy in Dorchester when he comes to Boston on Tuesday.
A White House official said the visit will build on the president's State of the Union call for America to be better educated than the nation's competitors and "win the future."
The official said Obama "will discuss the shared responsibility that government, businesses, philanthropists, and communities have to promote innovative education strategies that will prepare American students to compete in a 21st century economy."
TechBoston Academy was founded in 2002 with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It offers its students in grades 6-12 a college preparatory curriculum. It has middle and high school campuses. The president will visit the upper campus, which is located in the former Dorchester High School and educates students in grades 10-12.
The White House noted the academy integrates technology into all its classes, and students there benefit from honors/AP classes, dual enrollment opportunities at local colleges, and an extended day program.
The school has numerous private-sector, non-profit, and higher-education partners including Apple, Cisco, Dell, Harvard University, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Tufts University, UMass-Boston and Year Up.
Obama will also be attending a Democratic fundraising dinner afterward at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Andrea Saul, a veteran of political campaigns in the western US, is joining Mitt Romney's political action committee as the Republican readies for a second presidential campaign.
In a statement today, Romney said Saul will serve as a communications adviser to the Free and Strong America PAC.
She most recently served as press secretary for Carly Fiorina’s unsuccessful US Senate campaign in California. Previously, Saul worked as the top communications aide to Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The statement said that during the 2008 election, Saul was director of media affairs for the McCain-Palin presidential campaign, responsible for organizing all television, radio, and surrogate activity. She held a similar job at the Republican National Committee, too.
In addition, Saul served briefly served as communications director for Florida Governor Charlie Crist as he ran for the US Senate. She quit when Crist decided to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent.
Much of Romney's communications work has been handled by his longtime spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, but he has been building his own political consulting firm after helping Republican Scott Brown win a US Senate special election last year.
In the upcoming election cycle, Fehrnstrom is planning to spend more time helping Romney develop his advertising strategy and television commercials.
Romney is speaking Saturday in both Florida and New Hampshire, and is expected to kickoff his campaign sometime during the next two months.
Hudak is back.
Bill Hudak, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate in the Sixth Congressional District who lost to incumbent Democrat John F. Tierney in the fall, is going make another run at the seat in 2012, he said today.
“After conversations with numerous advisors and campaign volunteers throughout the district, it is clear that my support remains widespread and deep,” Hudak said in a statement. “In fact, since last November I have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from supporters urging me to continue the fight.”
Hudak's decision was not a surprise. In a sense, he had never stopped running.
Just days after the November election in which he garnered 41.4 percent of the vote to 54.7 percent for Tierney, Hudak sent a fund-raising letter to supporters, seeking contributions so he can "continue to stand" because, while he "lost the battle," the "war of 2012 is not over."
He signed the missive, "Future Congressman, 6th MA District.”
Hudak, a Boxboro lawyer, campaigned as a self-described "Reagan Republican" committed to a traditional platform of lower taxes and less spending. He was endorsed by US Senator Scott Brown, former Governor Mitt Romney, and and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
But he struggled to overcome controversy dating to the presidential election of 2008, when he placed a sign in his lawn that compared Barack Obama to Osama Bin Laden. He also fought accusations that he was sympathetic to the so-called birther movement, after he urged a reporter to look into allegations that Obama was born in Kenya.
Tierney, who has not said whether he will seek a ninth term in 2012, also battled controversy during the campaign.
Just weeks before Election Day, Tierney’s wife, Patrice, pleaded guilty to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns for her brother, a federal fugitive who has been indicted on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Senator John Kerry today unveiled plans to offer financial assistance to promote democracy and reforms in the Arab world.
Although he did not put a dollar figure on the amount he is seeking, the Massachusetts Democrat called for "significant financial commitment" of new money to be earmarked for economists, election experts, and aid to people in the Arab world who are pushing for a historic transformation of their region.
“Events this powerful demand a response of equal power," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Our commitment now to the ordinary people who are risking their lives to win human rights and democracy will be remembered for generations in the Arab world. We have to get this moment right. We are working here in the Senate with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create a package of financial assistance to help turn the new Arab awakening into a lasting rebirth."
Kerry was speaking at a hearing about the State Department's budget at a time when Republicans have vowed to cut foreign aid funding. But he said the aid package has bipartisan support.
"We have not worked out the numbers or the details yet, but I am convinced a significant financial commitment by the US to assist in this monumental and uplifting transformation is key to its long-term outcome and our relationship to it," he said. “I understand that we face a budget crisis in our own country. But we can either pay now to help brave people build a better, democratic future for themselves or we will certainly pay later with increased threats to our own national security."
But Kerry did not say how the new fund would relate to programs that are already in the State Department budget for promoting democracy and reform in the Middle East, such as the Middle East Partnership Initiative and contributions to the National Endowment for Democracy.
It is unclear what impact US aid will have at this stage on people who have already toppled governments of Tunisia and Egypt, and appear to be on the verge of driving Libya's Muammar Qaddafi from power.
Kerry spoke before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the State Department's 2011 budget request.
Kerry also urged consideration of a no-fly zone over Libya, where Qaddafi has attacked protesters with militias backed by helicopters and warplanes.
WASHINGTON – President Obama is planning to visit a school in the Boston area next week during a visit to Massachusetts, the White House announced this afternoon.
Obama is planning to visit the school on March 8, to build on his call for a better education system that he outlined last month in his State of the Union address. Obama has also been pushing this year for an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind law, and the White House is planning a series of education-related events over the coming weeks.
“We have to stop tinkering around the margins,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said on a conference call this afternoon.
Jen Psaki, deputy White House communications director, said that the exact school that Obama will visit in the Boston area had not yet been finalized.
“We hope to have those details in the coming days,” she said.
The White House also announced that Obama would travel on Friday to Miami Central Senior High School in Florida. He will be joined at that event by former Governor Jeb Bush, who is the brother of Obama’s predecessor. The president on March 10 will host a conference at the White House on preventing bullying.
Obama is also planning to be in Boston on March 8 for a major fundraiser with top national Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday he now supports a plan by
Republican Senator Scott Brown that allows states to opt out of the health care overhaul’s key requirements early, a concession that positions the president as willing to compromise on his signature accomplishment.
Obama's shift was announced in an address to the nation’s governors, many of whom have sued the White House to prevent implementation of the health care law. While boosting the prospects of the Massachusetts senator’s bipartisan bill in the Senate, the new position is unlikely to placate the health care law’s detractors or gain approval in the GOP-controlled House. And such an endorsement will not win back support for Brown from Tea Party conservatives, who ferociously denounce the law as an overreach of federal power.
The senator has previously called for the repeal of the health care overhaul, but has shown a willingness to work within the existing rules to change the law for the benefit of Massachusetts residents.
Brown and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon filed the bill earlier this year. The legislation would enable states to request permission to withdraw from the law’s mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017. To receive the exemption, the states must demonstrate that they could find other ways to cover as many people as the original law would — something Massachusetts has already accomplished — and do so without adding costs. The earlier date is when many of the act’s central provisions take effect.
The legislation is unlikely to significantly affect Massachusetts, which already has implemented many of the core elements of the national plan, but it would allow other states to forge their own plans.
The president said such a change would allow states to tailor the law to their own needs.
"Alabama is not going to have exactly the same needs of Massachusetts or California or North Dakota," Obama said in making the announcement. "We believe in that flexibility."
Brown said that he was pleased with the president's support but reiterated his opposition to the overall law. "(Senator Brown) strongly opposes the federal health care law, and believes states should have the ability to implement their own plans that provide quality care for all their citizens," his office said in a statement.
Tom Miller, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said that the legislation probably won’t earn Brown any additional support from conservatives; rather, he’s trying to earn support from moderates.
"People who think this bill is fundamentally flawed and the approach is the wrong one to begin with should not take much solace in saying that if you can come up with a slightly different approach to the basic system," he said.
Politico reporter Jonathan Martin sat down with Governor Deval Patrick yesterday and asked him if he were positioning himself for a White House run with his recent travels and political meetings.
"I should say it loudly no, I am not," the governor replied, leaning into the tape recorder so his words were clearly heard.
Patrick said his only ambition is to serve out his second term.
That's not exactly true, though. His only ambition until 2015 is to serve out his second term.
Then, he's admitted, it's to return to the private sector and make money lots of it.
Patrick has been in Washington attending the National Governors Association annual winter meetings. Last night, he and his wife, Diane, joined their counterparts at the White House for dinner with President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Earlier, the governor sat down with Politico and other media organizations for a lightning round of interviews.
Governor Deval Patrick yesterday kicked off a two-year period in which he will both try to sell himself and President Obama to the American people, and his first true taste of the national stage was positive.
He was polite, as always, as he and three fellow governors held a roundtable discussion on ABC's "This Week." He sold Massachusetts, as the Democrat promised to do while responding to critics of his upcoming travels.
But he also found himself reticent by comparison with a rising Republican star, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, extending all the way to a trick-but-not-unfathomable question from segment host Jake Tapper.
He asked Patrick if Mitt Romney, his predecessor and a likely candidate for the presidency in 2012, did a good job during his four years as governor of Massachusetts.
"I think one of the best things he did was to be the co-author of our health care reform, which is model for national health care reform," said Patrick.
It was the political equivalent of a Bronx cheer for Romney, who is facing criticism from many Republicans, especially conservatives, for what they have come to dub "Romneycare" with endearment equal to that which they hold for "Obamacare."
Patrick added: “What these folks did in Massachusetts is, frankly, the same thing that the Congress did, which is take on access (to health insurance) first and come to cost control next. ... And just as we have, I think, shown the nation how to provide universal care through a public-private model, I think we can crack the code on health care costs.”
When Tapper asked again if Romney had done a good job, the governor again refused to go negative. Instead, he stuck with a kill-him-with-kindness approach that has already been employed by both Obama and his former press secretary, Robert Gibbs.
"On that one issue, I think he deserves a lot of credit,” said Patrick.
Haley had no qualms about taking the bait, which let her execute the surrogate playbook with aplomb.
It's easy to see why the 39-year-old Haley, who became the nation's youngest sitting governor when she was sworn in last month, is already being talked about as a potential vice presidential running mate.
The first rule as a surrogate is that it's not about you as much as it is the person or viewpoint you're supposed to promote.
When Tapper asked Haley if fellow Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin was right to propose eliminating the collective bargaining rights of most public workers to help balance his state's budget, she was decisive and clear.
"He is trying to trim his budget," said Haley. "He is trying to make the tough decisions that the people of Wisconsin wanted him to do. What I think is a shame is the fact that you got Democrat senators who represent the people of Wisconsin and are so cowardly that they left their own state. I think that’s an absolute slate of who should be thrown out of office as soon as they get back."
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat like Patrick, kept referring to his days in the restaurant industry as he preached understanding and urged management and labor and the senators who have fled to neighboring Ilinois to work collectively.
Patrick, too, was conciliatory, offering a mini-commercial for Massachusetts as he talked about his efforts to overhaul public pay and benefits, and to make fundamental changes such as consolidating the transportation system.
"All of this with labor at the table, so there’s another way to approach that," he said in reference to Walker's tactic.
When Tapper asked Patrick if it was "cowardly" for the Democrats to have fled, which they did to block the Republican Party from passing Walker's legislation, the governor showed the limits of his hubris.
“I try to make a practice of just governing Massachusetts and not trying to govern other states," he said.
Haley again was unambiguous in underscoring her party's view.
"Let's be clear," the leader of South Carolina said in discussing the developments in Wisconsin. "This was cowardly. This was irresponsible. They left their state when their state needed them the most because they don’t want to take a vote. Whether they are for it or against it, you come back and represent the people of your state."
Haley also proved deft after watching a clip of another potential 2012 candidate, Sarah Palin, wholeheartedly endorsing her gubernatorial candidacy last year. That prompted the question, would she return the favor should Palin run for the White House next year?
"I want all of the candidates to come to South Carolina," she said. "I want the people of South Carolina to get to see them the way I get to know them. I want them to campaign hard, and then when the right time comes, I will endorse. But there is no one that I feel like I owe at this time."
The exchanges contrasted compassionate and analytical with tart and visceral not unlike the 2008 campaign between Obama and GOP nominee John McCain.
Patrick has always cast himself as above the partisan fray, but his election campaigns have shown his willingness to get down and dirty as needed. He gave a reminder last week, when he said his travels would promote the state, while Romney's at the end of his gubernatorial term turned the state into a "laughingstock."
Right now, though, with his own re-election campaign just completed and Obama's still to begin, Patrick is in a more soulful period as he prepares to embark on a book tour to sell his memoir, "A Reason to Believe."
Some speculate the book is the requisite prelude to some other campaign, but Patrick has said no and decisively ruled out one race yesterday. When Tapper moved to the subject of the 2012 White House race, the governor cut him off to volunteer, in jest, "I am not running."
But Obama is, and Romney is likely to, and so yesterday was as much about raising Patrick's profile as he attempts to sell his book as it was about introducing him to a national audience as he prepares to become the president's pit bull.
Patrick brings much to the table, in that regard. Not only did he replace Romney as governor, but he implemented the health care law the former governor signed into law.
Republicans will surely dismiss Patrick's comments as partisan, but many undecided voters may find special credibility in his analysis of the similarities and differences between the state health care law Romney signed and the federal bill Obama enacted, much to the chagrin of Romney's fellow Republicans.
Patrick is also extremely comfortable in his own skin, something that always seems to be a challenge for Romney. Should Romney get his party's presidential nomination, Patrick will have already laid out for Obama the road map for attacking him. Obama should draw confidence from not only his fellow Democrat's words, but also his manner.
Patrick is beginning this journey with an aggressive schedule in Washington. Over the weekend, he attended to his official duties at the National Governors Association, while also promoting himself.
He held a fundraiser, and did a series of interviews with reporters from the National Journal, Politico, and other publications.
He also did his stint on "This Week," and a top adviser did little to conceal the endgame.
“It’s nice he's going on the Sunday-morning talk shows," communications director Brendan Ryan said. "And I think it will help him as he works as a surrogate for Obama the next two years.”
Governor Deval Patrick today praised his predecessor, Mitt Romney, for the health care legislation the former Republican governor crafted with the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts Legislature.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Patrick singled out health care as one issue Romney "deserves a lot of credit" for over his four years in office, linking his predecessor to the issue that, as a likely presidential candidate, Romney would probably prefer to avoid.
"One of the best things he did was to be the co-author of our health care reform, which has been a model for national health care reform" Patrick said.
Patrick also talked about state budgeting as a budget standoff continues in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights.
The governor said labor and government don't need to be at odds during tough fiscal time, saying that Massachusetts balanced its budget while funding education.
"We can do this with labor at the table," he said.
Governor Deval Patrick today defended his decision to travel more during his second term, saying it is far different from the extensive travel engaged in by Republican Governor Mitt Romney that prompted sharp criticism from Democrats.
Patrick, himself a Democrat, said, "I'm going out promoting the commonwealth, while he was out making us a laughingstock.”
The governor was referring to Romney's extensive travel in preparation for his 2008 presidential campaign. In but one example of his out-of-state comments, Romney once told South Carolinians "being a conservative Republican in Massachusetts is a bit like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention."
Patrick recently visited Washington and Chicago to prepare for an expected role as a surrogate speaker on behalf of President Obama during the Democrat's re-election campaign next year.
Next month, Patrick is also visiting Denver to address a Democratic dinner, before jetting off to Israel and the United Kingdom on a trade mission. In April, he will be participating in a multi-city tour promoting his memoir. He has also promised more trade missions.
“It’s not a bad thing for us to raise our profile" the governor said during his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM.
He said bragging about balanced budgets, an improved bond rating, and high student achievement scores is "a story we ought to be telling."
He then veered into the political, recalling a Globe story from 2006 that detailed how Romney had spent all or part of 212 days out of state that year.
"That’s a lot different from what I'm taking about, and I'm going out promoting the commonwealth, while he was out making us a laughingstock.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is heading north of the Mason-Dixon Line tonight to visit the liberal environs of Harvard University and outline a conservative economic vision.
In a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which will be webcast live at 6 p.m., the Virginia Republican will speak of a country he sees at an economic crossroads, confronting two alternate visions.
One echoes the image of protests that swept Europe last year and continue in some places today, as members of the public and government workers rebelled against cuts in pension and other entitlement programs.
The other is the image of town hall meetings that played out across America in 2009, propelling the anti-government Tea Party revolution and helping the GOP reclaim the House majority this past November.
Cantor said one view is of a future dependent on government financing; the other is rooted in personal entrepreneurship.
“If you think about it, these were very young people worried about their retirement benefits before they’ve worked their career," Cantor told the Globe in reference to some of the participants in Greece, France, and other European nations.
The town hall participants, by contrast, "choose a future based on individual actions, opportunity not created by the government but by the private sector," he said.
Cantor, the top deputy to House Speaker John Boehner, insists his is not a partisan analysis, only a philosophical one. But his comments echoed a partisan opinion piece he recently wrote for Politico, in which he criticized President Obama's budget proposal and said "kicking the can down the road is no substitute for real leadership. Just ask Greece."
In the same column, he urged action to avoid "a European-style debt crisis."
Cantor said an relying too heavily on government support forces increased spending. That triggers tax increases that, in turn, sap capital from the private marketplace. Reducing business taxes and reducing government regulation, he argues, will help keep capital in the private sector.
As to why he's taking his message to an Ivy League institution oft-derided by conservatives, Cantor said: "Harvard is one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world. We’ve been successful in America because we’ve been able to educate our population to think critically. It’s allowed America to become the crucible of innovation.’’
His deputy chief of staff, John Murray, said the visit is the leader's ongoing campaign to speak "beyond the base," including reaching out to young people, minorities, and university audiences.
Cantor has already spoken at William & Mary and had a speech at the University of Michigan snowed out. He's headed next for Stanford University.
The goal is to make "more of a vision statement than a political statement.”
Murray added: "We have a very systematic strategy to ensure that the work we are doing here inside the Beltway is being transmitted and translated in good venues," he said.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who filed a 2009 lawsuit that helped persuade a federal judge in Boston to declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in July, said she was “very pleased” with the president’s decision to no longer defend the law.
“Today’s decision…is another very important victory for the civil rights of same-couples and their families,” Coakley said at a press conference in her Boston office. “We think the reasoning, as expressed by General Holder is, in some ways, dependent on the extensive discovery and arguments that occurred in Massachusetts."
In a statement released by his office, Governor Deval Patrick threw his support behind the Obama administration.
“I am tremendously heartened today by President Obama’s decision to turn away from this divisive and unfair law,.'' he said. "In Massachusetts, we believe that every person ought to be able to marry whomever they love, and we believe the rest of the country is moving forward in that direction, too."
Coakley told reporters that the law has now been declared discriminatory and unconstitutional by the judge in Boston, Joseph L. Tauro, and by the Obama administration.
US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who decried violent political rhetoric after last month’s fatal shooting rampage in Tucson, said today he regrets urging union workers at a rally in Boston yesterday to “get a little bloody.”
"I strongly believe in standing up for worker rights and my passion for preserving those rights may have gotten the best of me yesterday in an unscripted speech,” the Somerville Democrat said in a statement. “I wish I had used different language to express my passion and I regret my choice of words."
Capuano was referring to remarks he made at a raucous rally of about 1,000 union workers who were outside the State House, protesting Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and his plan to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights.
"I'm proud to be with people who understand that it's more than just sending an e-mail that gets you going," Capuano had declared. "Every once in a while you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary."
The union crowd greeted Capuano's exhortation with cheers, whistles, and applause.
But his remark raised eyebrows elsewhere because Capuano was among the lawmakers who were calling for cooler political rhetoric after his Democratic colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the Tucson rampage that killed six other people last month.
At the time, Capuano had said the shooting was probably inevitable because of the nation's increasingly heated political rhetoric.
“Many of us were afraid for a long time that something like this would happen, with the level or the tone of the discourse over the last several years," Capuano told WGBH on Jan. 22. "It's gotten violent and personal.”
Capuano echoed that sentiment in a Jan. 9 interview with the Globe.
“Everybody knows the last couple of years there’s been an intentional increase in the degree of heat in political discourse,” he said. “If nothing else good comes out of this, I’m hoping it causes people to reconsider how they deal with things."
Capuano ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2009, and is considering a run against Republican Scott Brown in 2012.
South Dakota Senator John Thune released a statement today saying he will not seek the presidency in 2012.
"There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now. So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate,'' the Republican said in a statement.
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
WASHINGTON – President Obama is heading to Boston next month for a major fundraiser with top national Democrats.
Obama will be in the Hub for a dinner on March 8 to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“March 8th promises to be an unforgettable evening with President Obama and leading Democrats from across America,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote this morning in a fundraising letter. “I look forward to sharing it with you.”
Pelosi’s letter also announced a contest for those who donate at least $5, to win a trip to Boston that includes airfare, hotel, and a guest spot at a dinner with Obama and Pelosi.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
President Obama today defended his plan to cut by half the home energy assistance program, which tens of thousands of New Englanders rely on to help pay their home heating bills.
"On the LIHEAP program, the home heating assistance program, we doubled the home heating assistance program when I first came into office in part because there was a huge energy spike, and so folks, if we just kept it at the same level, folks would have been in real trouble,'' Obama said at a press conference, in response to a question about unpopular cuts in his newly released budget proposal. "Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same. So what we've said is let's go back to a more sustainable level.''
Funding for the program had been boosted to $5.1 billion for this fiscal year, but House Republicans are seeking immediate cuts, before all the money is disbursed. In the president's budget for the next fiscal year, the money allocated would be cut to $2.6 billion. Both efforts to pare the program have been denounced by Bay State legislators.
US Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat, has been the Democrats point person on GOP efforts to cut at least $400 million from the program this year. He is offering an amendment to restore proposed cuts.
“Cutting off funds for this program now means that millions of families could have their heating cut off,” said Markey last week. “These families would be forced to decide once again between heating and eating.”
Both Republican Scott Brown and Democrat John F. Kerry in the Senate have urged Obama to reconsider cuts next year.
At the press conference today, Obama said his administration would be open to adding money to the program as needed.
"If it turns out that, once again, you see a huge energy spike, then we can revisit it, but let's not just assume because it's at a $5 billion level that each year we're going to sustain it at a $5 billion level regardless of what's happening on the energy front," he said. "Now, that doesn't mean that, you know, these aren't still tough cuts. Because they're always more people who could use some help across the country than we have resources. And so it's still a tough decision, and I understand people's frustrations with some of these decisions."
Local Democrats and political insiders are holding a fundraiser for Governor Deval Patrick next month and seeking up to $5,500 per person despite the Democrat’s assertion he will not seek a third term in 2014 or challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
A spokesman said the event is to help retire campaign debts while simultaneously boosting the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
The first $500 of each donation would go to Patrick, the maximum allowable annual contribution for individuals under state law. The remainder of any contribution would go to the party, which can accept up to $5,000 annually from individuals.
The party spent over $2.5 million on Patrick’s behalf last year during his re-election campaign, primarily for mailings and television ads.
It spent another $712,000 on Patrick during the first three years he was in office. During his 2006 campaign, his first as a political candidate, the party spent $2.4 million helping Patrick get elected.
The party is led by John Walsh, who managed Patrick’s 2006 campaign.
The fundraiser is being organized by three members of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, a South Carolina law firm that has a Boston office and is active in government lobbying.
The invitation for the March 7 gathering at the office lists the co-hosts as Peter Haley, a partner specializing in commercial law; Robert Crowe, a Democratic fundraiser who is co-chairman of the firm’s Government Relations practice, and; Christopher Greeley, who is managing director of the firm’s public strategies group.
Greeley is a registered state lobbyist whose clients include the Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams ale, and Bristol Community College, a public entity. He was in the public spotlight when he managed Senator John Kerry’s 1996 epic re-election campaign against Republican William F. Weld.
Greeley said today: "Bob, Peter, and I are longtime supporters of Governor Patrick, both when he ran in his first term and when he ran for re-election, and are happy to continue our support."
Greeley acknowledged he lobbies state government, as disclosed in annual filings with the secretary of state. But he said he had no idea if Patrick had any aspirations beyond eliminating his campaign debt.
"That's a question for the governor," he said.
Patrick would have to establish a federal fundraising account to run for the Senate, but the state party could help him whether he ran for state or federal office.
Patrick has ruled out seeking re-election or filling the Democratic void in what has the potential to be a high-profile Senate race.
Brown shocked the party in a special election last year and claimed the seat held for nearly a half-century by a liberal party icon, Edward M. Kennedy. Many political strategists say only Patrick or Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, has the stature to knock him out of the Senate.
A Patrick spokesman said the governor has over $200,000 in debts he is trying to repay and the fundraiser is for that purpose. The governor’s year-end campaign finance report showed a cash balance of $20,000 and nearly $88,000 in debts, including $20,000 to Doug Rubin, Patrick’s chief political strategist.
Strategists often delay fully billing a campaign until after an election, to preserve donations for campaign work and to avoid disclosing their fee while it could be problematic for a candidate.
Patrick’s campaign “left the re-election committee with a small debt,’’ spokesman Steve Crawford said in a statement. “The Massachusetts Democratic Party needs additional resources to meet its goal of continuing the strong neighbor-to-neighbor effort it undertook in the last election."
Despite Patrick’s public assertions, he has only heightened interest in his political intentions with his recent activities and travels.
He went to Washington last week to have dinner with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. He is charged with recruiting surrogate speakers for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Patrick could be a particularly effective counter-puncher if his immediate predecessor as governor, Mitt Romney, wins the GOP’s presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Patrick made an overnight trip to Chicago to meet with political strategist David Axelrod, who previously served as a Patrick political adviser and left the Obama administration last month to prepare for a re-election role.
Patrick was slated to see Obama himself today during a ceremony at the White House, but he cancelled his trip after falling ill.
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
LAS VEGAS — Mitt Romney sought yesterday to distinguish himself from President Obama, his potential 2012 election opponent, by casting himself as a friend to the nation’s business community.
A week after Obama tried to repair relations with the US Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business target of the president and his fellow Democrats during last year’s midterm elections, Romney was the keynote speaker before thousands of attendees at the annual meeting of the International Franchise Association.
The former governor of Massachusetts was not subtle in his outreach to the small business owners who populate the group and fuel much of the nation’s economy, highlighting his past as a venture capitalist and aligning himself with their workplace values.
“I respect American business, and people who start businesses that are small and grow to be large are people that I salute,’’ he said.
“What scares me is that I’m worried that Washington, and politicians who don’t know butt kiss about the free-enterprise system and our economy, are slowly but surely doing things which smother the American spirit of enterprise and innovation and pioneering,” he added. “They don’t understand what it is that makes us work.”
Romney went on to focus on what he saw as differences between the public and private sectors, often referring to “they’’ in government and saying “I’m not really a politician yet. I have to get elected at least twice to be a politician.’’
Romney decided against seeking a second term in 2006 to make what turned out to be an unsuccessful presidential run in 2008. He is expected to launch a second White House campaign in the spring, although he told the franchisees in response to a question, “I’m not going to do something like that here.”
He lauded one coveted 2012 GOP supporter, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for attacking skyrocketing government pension costs, while also crediting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, for proposing massive government layoffs to cope with his state’s budget problems.
In response to another question, Romney distinguished the state universal health care law he signed in 2006 from the federal law signed by Obama last year. He said individual states, not the federal government, should decide what is best for themselves. “You learn from experiments,” he said. “Some parts worked well; some didn’t.”
Romney said private sector work is “far less forgiving’’ than government work, because when government makes a mistake, “we simply pass that cost on to the taxpayers, or we borrow more money and pass it on to the next generation.’’
Small business owners know, he said, that if “you make a mistake like that, you go out of business. You lose your job. You lose other people’s jobs. . . . That’s why the best and brightest are in your world, and not in the government world.’’
Business owners, Romney said, also analyze data. In government, however, “the policy makers, the politicians, they have their answers without benefit of the data.’’
And he said government leaders have no concept of the value of incentives.
“In government, they spend little time thinking about what impact what they do has on human behavior, because, frankly, they’ve lived so long in a realm where they can command what you do, they don’t think a lot about how to convince you or encourage you to do what they want you to do,’’ said Romney.
Two attendees said they liked what they heard.
"I think the people who are running our country have such an unrealistic non-grasp of the private sector and how it really works," said Leigh Harting of St. Petersburg, Fla., a business development manager for Modern Business Associates.
Michael Ridd of Salt Lake City, who works for Jiffy Lube, said: "He's got a strong magnetism. He had a leadership quality. He looks right. He sounds right. And he's doing the right things."
Aides refused to make the former governor available to the media after his speech. He did meet with some of his 2008 supporters, as well as a second group of businessmen and women to talk about jobs.
Romney is expected to meet this morning with potential campaign fund-raisers.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
President Obama's support in New Hampshire is less than granite solid.
In a WMUR Granite State Poll released today, Mitt Romney garnered 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for the president, who took the state in his 2008 win over Republican John McCain.
Any poll this early in the election season -- no prominent GOP candidate, including Romney, has even declared yet -- is nothing more than political hardtack for old political salts to chew upon. And most of the likely voters in the poll said they have not yet decided whom to back. Nonetheless, if the former Massachusetts governor is to be successful in a second quest for the White House, the path is likely to begin in New Hampshire.
Romney stumbled out of the gates in the 2008 GOP primaries, losing to McCain even though the state was in his political backyard. To prevent a rerun of that result, Romney has focused much of his early energies on the state, setting up a quasi operational base there at his summer home in the lakes region.
The poll shows Romney well out in front of potential GOP challengers, getting the nod from about 40 percent of likely voters in the Republican primary. The rest of the pack were huddled in the single digits, save former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had 10 percent of the votes. They were followed by 7 percent for former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, 7 percent for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 6 percent for former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, 6 percent for 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, 5 percent backing Representative Ron Paul, another 2008 candidate, and 3 percent for businessman Donald Trump.
Romney has consistently led potential Republican candidates since the UNH Survey Center began tracking the race two years ago. The center conducted the poll for WMUR.
"Romney is doing well in part because his brand of Republicanism fits with most New Hampshire Republicans, who can be characterized as 'Rockefeller Republicans,'" Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center, told WMUR. "New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the country, and social conservatives have difficulty winning here. Fiscal issues are much more potent in the Granite State."
President Obama fares better among all likely voters in a hypothetical matchup against Palin, winning 57 to 34 percent.
The survey polled 757 randomly selected adults -- including 357 likely Republican voters -- from Jan. 28 through Feb. 7. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Republican Senator Scott Brown has joined his Democratic counterpart John F. Kerry in opposing plans to cut by half home fuel aid to struggling Americans next winter.
In his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, President Obama is reportedly calling for a $2.5 billion cut in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which has helped nearly a quarter million households in Massachusetts this year.
Such a cut is unconscionable, Brown said.
"I can point to countless items in the president's budget that should be cut before LIHEAP funding. With Massachusetts residents getting pounded by brutal winter storms, cutting LIHEAP funding is a non-starter for me,"’ Brown said in a statement today to the Statehouse News Service.
Yesterday, Kerry wrote a letter to the president, calling on him to keep funding at its current level of $5.1 billion.
"I’ve always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens,"’ Kerry wrote.
Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Malden, called on the House Appropriations Committee to resist paring the program.
"Cutting funding for LIHEAP so dramatically would have a devastating impact on millions of American families already suffering from the economic downturn," he said in a letter today.
Markey has been battling House Republicans who are considering immediate cuts to the program this winter, as part of their effort to slice $100 billion from President Obama's spending requests.
"It takes a frigid heart for Republicans to continue to defend tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while putting heating fuel assistance for America’s neediest on the chopping block," Markey said.
President Obama is planning to request that funding for heating oil aid to the poor be cut in half in his upcoming budget proposal, according to several news reports.
The president would seek to reduce the Low Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Program from the current funding of $5.1 billion to $2.6 billion, the Associated Press said, citing a source familiar with the budget discussions. Obama is expected to release his overall budget proposal on Monday. It would cover the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Advocates for the poor consider the program a lifeline to struggling homeowners in the winter. So far this season, Massachusetts has received $173 million; the poorest households in the state would receive $1,050 to help pay their heating bills. About 200,000 Bay State households qualified for the aid last year.
Senator John F. Kerry wrote the president today to express his concern over possible cuts.
"I’ve always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens,'' the Massachusetts Democrat wrote.
"Families across Massachusetts, and the country, depend on these monies to heat their homes and survive the season,'' Kerry wrote. "It is estimated that over 3 million families that qualify for heating assistance would not receive it if the funding levels are not maintained."
Struggling homeowners are caught in a vortex of difficulties, with heating oil prices rising, temperatures tumbling, and the economy still stuttering. Before a recent dip in prices, crude oil had been trading near two-year highs. It closed today at about $87 a barrel in New York commodity markets.
President Obama and members of his administration have warned that cuts would be painful and would target programs he supports but are essential to slow the ballooning national debt.
Governor Deval Patrick woke up this morning in Washington after a dinner last night with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine.
Bostonians, meanwhile, awoke to a front-page story by the Globe's Michael Levenson outlining the contents of Patrick's upcoming autobiography, "A Reason to Believe," which he plans to publicize with a multi-city book tour.
The twin developments, coupled with Patrick's post-election promise to travel more in promotion of the state and its businesses, signal a new phase in the relationship between the people of Massachusetts and their Democratic governor.
Plainly put, the citizens of the state are going to see him less while the citizens of the nation and the world see him more. The first stops are Israel and Britain, where Patrick will lead a trade mission next month.
Patrick insists his outward gaze won't lead to anything else, but voters who just re-elected him over Republican Charles Baker don't need too much of a memory to feel jittery.
Patrick's election in 2006 broke a 16-year string of Republican rule that saw a somewhat unfocused period of leadership.
William F. Weld upset Democrat John Silber in the 1990 gubernatorial race, and then in 1994, beat Democrat Mark Roosevelt to claim a second term. By 1996, though, he was challenging Democratic Senator John Kerry in what turned out to be an epic election.
Weld lost but decided in 1997 the next best course was to resign and seek an appointment as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Then-Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican from North Carolina not particularly enamored with Weld's more liberal social views, snuffed out those ambitions.
Weld was replaced by his lieutenant governor, Paul Cellucci, who successfully ran for governor in his own right in 1998. Yet by 2000, he was campaigning to help Texas Governor George W. Bush become president, and when he won, Cellucci was awarded with an appointment as US ambassador to Canada.
His lieutenant governor, Jane Swift, stepped in as acting governor and fully intended to run for governor herself in 2002 when Mitt Romney returned to Massachusetts as an Olympics savior and elbowed her aside.
He barely assumed office before he started positioning himself for his 2008 presidential run. The most telling fact was that he worked to become chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2006, which gave him a prominent mid-term election platform but also required that he become the organization's vice chairman in 2005, since the No. 2 official customarily ascends to the No. 1 spot the following year.
That meant that Romney, who took office in January 2003, had to work in 2004 to secure a post in 2005 that would allow him to get a job in 2006 that would segue to a campaign launch in 2007 for a seat up for election in 2008.
The timeline is instructive in reflecting on Romney's statement two weeks ago as he emerged from a meeting with Massachusetts House Republicans amid speculation about a second presidential run, and prepared for a similar session with members of the New Hampshire Legislature that "I'm not doing any campaigning, thanks."
When Romney left as governor after just one term, and Patrick won an upset in the 2006 election as a political neophyte, the new governor had to bat down all manner of speculation about his commitment to the job.
Promise as he might to serve out his term, and pledge as he may to even run for re-election in 2008, Patrick had to repel, to the point of exasperation, questions about whether he was interested in serving in the Obama administration, the US Senate, or being nominated to the Supreme Court.
After winning re-election last fall, the governor was up front about saying he would not seek a third term. Patrick explained that after eight years in public office, it would be time to return to the private sector and seek its financial benefits. He also pledged to serve out his term, and went so far as to claim a distinction between himself and his GOP predecessors.
"We had had too many years of leadership more interested in having the job than doing the job," he said last month during his inaugural address.
Then Patrick headed to Washington one February evening, and announces plans to head overseas next month.
Patrick' staff wouldn't explain the dinner meeting with Kaine, but the governor has already expressed interest in campaigning on behalf of President Obama when he seeks re-election in 2012. Kaine is in charge of recruiting a squad of effective surrogate speakers, and Patrick surely qualifies.
In April, Patrick's book is being released. The cover itself promises readings not only in Boston, but Washington, Chicago, and New York.
While Patrick labors to distinguish the remainder of his tenure from that of his predecessors, his schedule has the potential to speak for itself.
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
The new chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party has chosen a woman with Boston connections to be his communications director.
Chairman Jack Kimball announced today the selection of Christine Baratta. She is a Lowell native and was a talk-radio producer in Boston for over 10 years.
Prior to joining the NH GOP, Baratta served as a communications consultant on state and federal campaigns in New England, and was communications director during Jim Bender's unsuccessful US Senate campaign in New Hampshire last year.
"With her media experience and communications skills working on political campaigns, I am confident she has the ability to effectively cultivate our message of strong Republican values,'' Kimball said in a statement.
Baratta said: "I look forward to an exciting year welcoming the Republican presidential candidates as we gear up for the first-in-the-nation primary. The people of the Granite State spoke loud and clear in last November’s election by sending the tax-and-spend crowd in Concord packing in a clear rejection of the Democrats' ill-conceived policies and reckless spending habits."
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Governor Deval Patrick is making a quick trip to Washington tomorrow night for dinner with Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy Kaine.
A spokesman would not detail the exact nature of the conversation but said Patrick was not attending any other events or fundraisers. There also was no meeting planned with his friend President Barack Obama.
The spokesman said Patrick would return to Massachusetts on Wednesday morning.
The chairman is the former governor of Virginia and attended Harvard Law School with Patrick. He now is charged with boosting the party in the aftermath of its mid-term election losses and in anticipation of Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.
Patrick and Obama, meanwhile, have shared the same political advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe and the governor has already said he expects to campaign on behalf of the president. Having successfully won re-election with much the same political biography and administration record, Patrick could be a prominent surrogate speaker, especially if former Governor Mitt Romney is the Republican presidential nominee.
As governor, Romney signed into law the nation's first universal health care law. Obama did the same for the country last year, but Romney has criticized the federal plan and tried to differentiate it from the state's plan. Patrick has had to enact the law created by Romney, which would give special potency to any Romney rebuttal he could offer.
Romney is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2012 GOP nomination this spring.
In addition to their profession and personal interaction, Kaine wrote a testimonial for Patrick's upcoming book.
"I met Deval Patrick in the spring of 1980 at Harvard Law School," said Kaine. "I realized quickly that he was a remarkable person confident, compassionate, and a wonderful listener. He combined a youthful energy with a sense of wisdom and balance that belied his youth."
Referring to the title of the book, he added: "'A Reason to Believe' describes the unique set of experiences both difficult and uplifting that have forged this important and historic public servant. Governor Patrick's book offers hope to anyone that adversity can be overcome and pain turned into perspective. It also provides a clear-eyed defense of idealism that is rooted in a basic value everyone has something important to offer the world and the responsibility to do so."
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Senator John Kerry spent a good deal of time over the weekend being diplomatic even as his staff played down his interest in being the country's top diplomat.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee delivered an Egyptian tour de force during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," amid some back-and-forth about his possible interest in serving as secretary of state in the future.
Globe columnist Joan Vennochi intensified the discussion last week with an op-ed piece headlined, "Kerry’s sharp eye on the secretary spot." Building off a column about the turmoil in Egypt that Kerry himself wrote last week for The New York Times, Vennochi said the Massachusetts Democrat "is running an unofficial campaign to become the next secretary of state. For once, he looks artful, as well as ambitious."
The column prompted ABC News to ask Kerry's staff whether, in fact, he was running a stealth campaign to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has confessed to being bone-weary amid the incessant travel that underpins the life of any secretary of state.
That query, in turn, prompted a 148-word statement from Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth.
"I don't know what else we can do to stop the parlor game speculation about who's coming and who's going," the statement said. “Lord knows we've knocked it down a thousand times over, and at a time of such challenge for American foreign policy, the punditry is especially unwelcome and unhelpful."
Then Seth added: "The one thing that hasn't changed one iota is that John Kerry loves his job as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and as the senior senator from Massachusetts. He worked a long time to get this job, and doing your job so well doesn't mean you're auditioning for another job.”
To further underscore the point, Seth continued: "So one last time: The only job John Kerry is contemplating, or considering, is the one job he already has, and he isn't looking elsewhere. Sometimes in politics, no really means no, and sometimes the best place to be really is the place you already are, end of story."
That said, Kerry's appearance on "Meet the Press" made clear he's certainly not some backbencher when it comes to the Obama administration's conduct of foreign policy.
The senator told host David Gregory he spoke on Saturday with Omar Suleiman, long the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate and now the country's vice president. He mentioned he also had spoken yesterday with Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League and a likely candidate for Egyptian president in elections promised for later this year.
Speaking on Super Bowl Sunday, Kerry quipped that the Germans, French, British, Turks, and others were also "flooding the zone" with diplomatic communications.
Perhaps most interestingly, Kerry spoke with authority as he distanced the administration from the recent comments of the US special envoy to Egypt, former Ambassador Frank Wisner.
While President Barack Obama told reporters last week that it was time for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down amid mass protests against his authoritarian regime, Wisner said over the weekend that Mubarak must stay in power "in order to steer those changes through."
Wisner added: "I therefore believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical. It's his opportunity to write his own legacy."
Clinton subsequently said Wisner "is not speaking for the administration,'' but Kerry drove home the point on Sunday-morning television.
"I think that Mr. Wisner's comments just don't reflect where the administration has been from Day One," Kerry said. "And that was not the message that he was asked to deliver or did deliver there."
The senator went on to say that while the timing of the public eruption in Egypt was surprising, the forces propelling it were not. In fact, he noted that a year ago in Doha, Qatar, "I gave a speech in which I laid out much of what needed to be done in the region."
He added that just three weeks ago, also in Doha, Clinton made a similarly tough statement.
"It was a very dramatic statement," Kerry added in reference to Clinton's speech, moments after he appeared to suggest he had been ahead of the curve on the issue.
Despite his spokeswoman's protestations, Kerry has made no secret of his interest in serving in the Obama administration. He waged a none-to-subtle campaign to be secretary of state, even highlighting a meeting he had on Nantucket in May 2008 with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Obama ultimately tapped Clinton, his former rival for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Since then, Kerry has immersed himself in his Foreign Relations Committee work, even while steadily expanding his portfolio as an unofficial administration emissary. He has made missions to Pakistan amid concerns about terrorism and to the Sudan in an effort to stave off civil war.
And it was up to Kerry not Obama, Biden, or Clinton to spend hours dining and walking with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the fall of 2009 when it appeared he might not accept a new presidential election amid evidence of fraud in the first vote.
Any future nomination to serve as secretary of state may rest on Biden as much as Clinton or Obama. While Clinton would have to step aside to create a vacancy, and Obama would have to name any replacement, Biden has served as Obama's chief in-house foreign affairs adviser based, in large measure, on experience from his own tenure as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Biden may not be able to appoint Kerry to the post, but any opposition to Kerry assuming the role would be hard for the senator to overcome, given his stature in the West Wing.
Left unsaid, too, is the ripple effect for Massachusetts from any change.
Kerry isn't up for re-election until 2014 two years after the next presidential election, and what would be the halfway-point in an Obama administration were the president to win a second term. It would be a logical point for any Cabinet member to step down, including the secretary of state. Colin Powell did just that after serving as secretary of state for the first term of President George W. Bush's administration.
Were Kerry to become secretary of state then, it would be up to Governor Deval Patrick to pick his successor. And that possibility may determine who steps up to challenge Senator Scott Brown when the Republican himself seeks re-election next year.
One school of thought is that US Representative Michael Capuano, the only House member to take a shot at succeeding the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, might take another shot at joining the upper chamber of Congress in 2012.
Even if he were to fail, Patrick could reward his valiant effort on behalf of the party by appointing him to any Kerry vacancy.
The other school of thought is that potential Brown challengers such as Representative Edward J. Markey, the dean of the congressional delegation, or Vicki Kennedy, the late senator's widow, might skip a contentious campaign against the politically adept Brown for the safer route of a direct gubernatorial appointment.
Kennedy has repeatedly and recently ruled out a 2012 campaign; Markey has not.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Senator John Kerry will appear on ``Meet the Press'' this Sunday.
His staff said this afternoon the Massachusetts Democrat will discuss the latest developments in Egypt.
Earlier this week, Kerry wrote an op-ed column calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down following mass protests about his three decades of authoritarian rule. Things have only gotten worse, with violent confrontations between Mubarak's supporters and detractors.
Not only does Kerry serve as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he has been an unofficial Obama administration envoy to Central Asia, the Middle East and the Sudan.
``Meet the Press'' airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WHDH-TV, Channel 7.
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
WASHINGTON — In a ceremony at the White House today, President Obama signed the final ratification documents for the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. The United States and Russia are expected to exchange ratification documents this weekend, thereby bringing the treaty into force, according to Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry was Obama’s point man in winning Senate ratification for the treaty.
“The new treaty represents an important milestone in arms control agreements between the United States and Russia,” said Kerry, in a statement issued after the signing ceremony.
“Anytime we reduce the number of nuclear weapons deployed by these two countries, we make the world a safer place for everyone. The agreement signed today by President Obama, which was ratified in a bipartisan Senate vote in December, means that American inspectors will once again be visiting Russian nuclear installations and the number of nuclear weapons deployed by both countries will be reduced. When the treaty enters into force this weekend, it will signal to other nations that the United States and Russia are working together to reduce their arsenals and stop the spread of nuclear weapons technology to other countries.”
WASHINGTON -- President Obama challenged public high school students in Massachusetts and across the country today to book him as their graduation speaker.
The second annual Race-to-the-Top Commencement competition asks students to write essays and submit statistics that show their school is doing an extraordinary job of preparing them for life after high school. Obama will give the commencement address at the winning school.
“I’m looking for the school that’s doing the best job of preparing students for college and careers,” Obama said in a statement today. “The winning school will understand that their number one priority is making sure that our kids are learning what they need to succeed in this 21st century economy.”
East Boston High School, Somerville High and Lowell High were among more than 1,000 schools that competed in the challenge last year. The winner was Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Applications for this year's challenge must be submitted by February 25 at www.whitehouse.gov/commencement.
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – Former Governor Mitt Romney tonight blasted President Obama, going after him using a line of attack that opponents have utilized before: competency for the job.
“He’s trying awfully hard,” Romney said during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. “The problem is, he just doesn’t know what to do.”
Romney said that not only were President Obama’s policies misguided, but that he had been “cavalier” in dealing with the economic woes facing the nation.
“It’s sad to watch in some respects because obviously we care very deeply with what’s happening with the country, we want people to get back to work,” Romney said. “But he just doesn’t know what the right things are that he’s got to do to make that happen. He’s really put in place over the last two years about the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs regimen that we’ve seen probably in the past couple decades.”
It marked a sharp tone for Romney, and came the day after President Obama called for bipartisanship in his State of the Union address.
Romney, when asked whether repealing Obama’s signature health care plan should be the top priority, said, “Oh, sure. A new spending entitlement for the federal government is absolutely the wrong idea.”
Health care is thought to be a major hurdle for Romney in seeking the Republican presidential nomination because the national plan closely mirrors the one that Romney helped pass in Massachusetts.
Romney also criticized Obama’s call for a five-year freeze on discretionary spending, saying it wasn’t enough.
“His idea of running spending up to the highest level in American history, and then saying why don’t we freeze it there – it’s almost laughable, given the scale of the challenges we face,” Romney said, pointing to budget cuts he made as governor of the Bay State. “But you have to cry instead when you think of all the people that are suffering because of it.”
Romney is widely expected to announce that he will run for president, but was coy about that decision tonight.
“You know, no decision at this point,” he said. “We’ll give that some thought, obviously, and we’re doing the things we need to to keep in the public eye.”
The longtime businessman then said it was important for the field to have a businessman.
“I don’t know who all is going to get in the race, but I do believe that it would be helpful if at least one of the people who’s running in the Republican field had extensive experience in the private sector – in small business, in big business,” he said.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama has renominated Donald Berwick to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a pivotal position in implementing the president’s health care law.
The renomination was one of almost 40 made late today, including several nominees with Bay State ties.
Using a recess appointment, Obama had placed Berwick, a Harvard professor and Boston pediatrician noted for his work to improve health care without raising costs, into his position on July 7 after the Senate did not confirm him.
Some Republicans contended Berwick’s positions could lead to care rationing; others hinted they would vote against him in protest of the president’s health care overhaul.
The use of a recess appointment allows a president to fill a position without Senate confirmation when Congress isn’t in session. Because of the way he was appointed, however, Berwick’s term runs only to the end of this year, and he would need to win confirmation in order to carry out key changes to the health care system.
Since in office, Berwick has been developing a system of innovation sites across the nation to test ways to improve care and cut costs. The sites are the first step in changing the fundamental ways the government pays physicians and hospitals.
The renomination was one of several from the president yesterday:
-- Craig Becker, to the National Labor Relations Board. His appointment was blocked by Republicans, who thought his positions were overly pro-labor. Obama made a recess appointment for Becker in April.
-- Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., as ambassador to Turkey. The Boston native and Malden Catholic graduate had been blocked from his position by Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, who said he thought Ricciardone would not be committed to democratic reform in Turkey. Under Senate rules, a single senator can place a hold on a nomination, which would require 60 votes to lift. Ricciardone had served as ambassador to Egypt from 2005 to 2008, appointed by President George W. Bush. Obama had installed him in Ankara with a recess appointment last month.
-- Robert Stephen Ford, as ambassador to Syria. Ford, who had served as ambassador to Algeria, had been blocked by Republicans who believed installing a full ambassador in Damascus would reward Syria, which has had ties with terrorist groups. Obama had used a recess appointment last month to install Ford.
-- Scott C. Doney, as chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, has been holding up the nomination of Doney, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, to protest the slow pace of permits for offshore oil drilling following the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
WASHINGTON – Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean this morning said that while the Tea Party movement was fueled by economic concerns, it was also part of an undercurrent of discontent over a country that has grown more diverse and elected its first black president.
“I think it's the last gasp of the 55-year-old generation, and not the first gasp of the new generation," Dean told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "It’s a group of older folks who have seen their lives change dramatically...They don't know what to do. It's just a huge change. They never thought the day would really come ... Every morning when they see the president they’re reminded that things are totally different than they were when they were born. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
"I don’t believe this is a racist thing,” he added. “I see it as an evolutionary thing of getting used to something that’s new and different…It takes time for people to adjust to a major change, and this country made a major change.”
During the hour-long breakfast, Dean also sharply criticized top advisers to President Obama, saying they had “contempt” for other Democrats and had squandered the president’s ability to deliver on his promise to change politics.
“If you want to change Washington, you can’t have people who are of Washington,” said Dean, a former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate.
"The core issue is the contempt -- which not just the progressives were treated by but lots of people were treated by -- by senior advisers around the president who have been here for 20 years and thought they knew everything and we knew nothing,” Dean added. “That is a fundamental flaw in any kind of administration. As they say, 'Don't let the door hit you in the you-know-what on the way out.’”
The Obama administration has been going through a staff shakeup. Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, resigned three months ago to run for mayor of Chicago. Senior adviser David Axelrod is also planning to depart and return to Chicago. Press secretary Robert Gibbs, who once criticized “the professional left” for not recognizing big legislative accomplishments, announced this morning that he was resigning to become an outside adviser.
"There is a huge senior staff shakeup going on at the White House," Dean said. "I think that is a very good thing and I think that will help."
Dean, who has been a critic of Obama’s for some of his policies, said he would not challenge the president in the Democratic primary and would discourage anyone else from running.
"I think it's incredibly unlikely and I think it would be foolish," he said of an intra-party challenge to Obama’s reelection. "I certainly wouldn't entertain it and I hope nobody would."
He said Indiana and North Carolina would be difficult states for Obama to carry again, but said he expected the president to win in Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.
Dean also discussed health care, saying the individual mandate requirement that is being challenged in federal courts is “not necessary” and would not impact the core bill if it is eliminated. The individual mandate, which requires residents to purchase health insurance, is modeled after the health care reforms in Massachusetts.
Dean pointed to Massachusetts as a model for health care changes, saying that the state’s 2006 law is now spurring further reforms that the nation should heed. Bay State officials have been considering a fee-for-service approach that Dean and others argue will curb the soaring costs of health care.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – The House Democratic caucus this morning voted to reject President Obama’s tax compromise, a stinging rebuke of the president that throws into question whether his plan will pass.
By a voice vote, Democrats passed a resolution saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should not bring the negotiated package to the House floor, unless changes are made. The vote is nonbinding, but it demonstrates the growing rancor among House Democrats, and their desire to see key changes made to the package before they will vote on it.
“This is what’s called negotiations, and this is what many of us have been concerned about,” Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, said in an interview. “No one is trying to hurt or embarrass anybody. We’re just saying that we were independently elected and we have our own principles, and we don’t think many of those principles were met – or that a strong attempt was made at those principles.”
“It doesn’t assure victory,” he added, of the caucus vote. “But if I’m going down, I want to go down fighting. At least now I feel like I’d be going down fighting.”
The caucus did not vote on which changes should be made, but Democrats have been requesting several items, such as adding several billion dollars to extend renewable energy tax credits. Democrats have also opposed the proposed provision on the estate tax, contending that a rate of 35 percent is too low and the thresholds of protected assets — $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples — are too high.
Several senators have also requested that credits for the ethanol industry be extended as part of the package.
The White House predicted that the package would ultimately pass.
“At the end of the day, this will get done,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. He also said that there are elements of the plan that both parties don’t like – but will have to accept.
“If everybody took out what they didn’t like we would have nothing,” Gibbs said.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat and dean of the delegation, also voted today to reject the proposal.
“I have serious concerns about any package that continues tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires when they don't need them and we can't afford them,” he said in a statement. “I am also concerned that expiring tax credits for clean energy technologies are not being renewed, which could jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs in wind, solar and geothermal production.”
Markey also said he wanted to provide seniors with a one-time $250 Social Security payment.
“In its current form, I cannot support the proposal worked out with the Senate Republicans,” he said.
Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, has been circulating a letter saying that the plan is unwise. That letter has been signed by 53 House Democrats, including Representative Barney Frank, of Newton, and Representative Stephen Lynch, of South Boston.
If all 179 House Republicans vote in favor, they would still need 39 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill. That support would probably come from conservative Democrats who have not been as opposed to the package, but if Pelosi doesn’t even bring it to the floor for a vote, it would effectively kill the current plan.
The Senate, meanwhile, appeared to be moving toward debate on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may bring the issue to the floor as early as today, which would set up votes on the matter for Saturday.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, defended President Obama tonight from some of the intra-party fighting over the tentative agreement the president made with Republicans over extending the Bush-era tax cuts.
Kerry, who has been a top White House ally in that past, said that he did not agree with certain portions of the plan, but that it was a pragmatic realization of what is currently politically doable.
“It's a lot easier to deal in hypotheticals than it is to deal with the Senate as it is,” Kerry said. “We don't have 60 Senators who oppose the Bush tax policies the way I do, and the way Barack Obama and Joe Biden do, so how do you wrestle with that? Are you willing to say no to unemployment insurance if this is the only way to get it?”
“The truth is, the President got a lot of things here we've been fighting for that we haven't yet been able to win any other way,” Kerry added.
Kerry’s statement was distributed by the White House tonight as part of a daylong series of endorsements from various politicians, from Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a Republican.
Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, has so far not taken a firm position. His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, said yesterday that "He will review the compromise, and while the proposal may not be ideal, he wants to make sure that it is good for American families and a victory for taxpayers." Gitcho said tonight that his position had not changed.
Here is Kerry’s complete statement:
"It's no secret that I've opposed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I voted against them in 2001, 2003 and 2005, and I said I'd roll them back in 2004 if I was elected president. I take a backseat to no one when it comes to opposing George Bush's tax policy. They didn't create jobs and they dug an enormous deficit hole that was dumped on President Obama. President Obama knows that. He opposed the Bush policy every step of the way and as a Senator, Joe Biden was right here with me fighting against them.
But don't forget for a second that when it came down to the votes in the Senate, the President was dealt a very tough hand. All 42 Senate Republicans voted in lockstep to hold the middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance hostage, and our Democratic caucus wasn't unified.
The votes on Saturday were just the latest reminder when we lost a bunch of Democrats, and the math is clear our bargaining position was going to be even harder come January with all these new Republican Senators. So I think the President had a hard decision to make. He obviously decided that the best possible compromise was to get unemployment benefits, middle class tax cuts, and the Recovery Act provisions extended in exchange for these upper income tax extensions that he opposes, and he decided that in two years the fight over tax breaks for the wealthy will be rejoined.
This wasn't an easy call for him. It's a lot easier to deal in hypotheticals than it is to deal with the Senate as it is. We don't have 60 Senators who oppose the Bush tax policies the way I do, and the way Barack Obama and Joe Biden do, so how do you wrestle with that? Are you willing to say no to unemployment insurance if this is the only way to get it? That's what our caucus wrestled with today. Yes, it's a very steep price to pay for something the Senate should've done months ago as a matter of decency and common sense, but how do you cut off 52,000 people in Massachusetts who need those unemployment benefits? Are you really willing to walk away from these middle class benefits which we can't get otherwise when you know the tax cuts for the upper end are going to be extended come January anyways? The truth is, the President got a lot of things here we've been fighting for that we haven't yet been able to win any other way."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON — Failing to approve the tax compromise President Obama negotiated with Republican leaders would put America’s fragile economy at risk for a double-dip recession, Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council and one of the president’s top advisors, said today.
The economy, while slowly growing, has not yet reached “escape velocity” from the recent downturn, Summers said at a press conference at the White House. “Failure to pass this [compromise] bill in the next couple weeks would significantly increase the risk of a double dip,” he said.
Obama is facing heated opposition to the tax cut deal from Democrats, who oppose the extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and a proposed estate tax that is lower than many Democrats wanted. The president is touting other parts of the deal, such as an extension of tax cuts for middle class families, a 13 month extension of federal unemployment benefits, a cut in the payroll tax and other tax cuts for students and businesses. However, a number of prominent Democrats, including members of the Bay State delegation, have said they will oppose the compromise.
In response to the criticism, David Axelrod, a senior advisor to the president, said today that opponents should consider the potential results of refusing to compromise, and having a protracted fight over the tax cuts.
“What is the end game and what is the consequence of playing it? Do they have the sense of how that ends?” Axelrod said. A protracted fight, he said, could have resulted in higher taxes on the middle class. “We shouldn’t play Russian Roulette with people’s lives.”
Susan Retik Ger, of Needham, had a vital role in this evening’s White House Hanukkah celebration; she and her family lit the menorah for over 500 guests hosted by President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Festivities included a special performance by jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, son of African-American saxophonist Dewey Redman and Jewish-American dancer Renee Shedroff, and a musical tribute to Jewish-American composers by the U.S. Marine Chamber Orchestra.
Retik Ger was chosen for her work with Afghan widows through her organization Beyond the 11th, which she founded following the death of her husband in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. President Obama also honored Retik Ger in August with a 2010 Citizens Medal.
WASHINGTON — President Obama this morning offered the traditional presidential pardon to two Thanksgiving turkeys, wisecracking that it “feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November,” a reference to the election drubbing Democrats suffered in the mid-term elections.
This year’s national turkey is named Apple; its “understudy” is called Cider. They come from Foster Farms Wellsford Ranch near Modesto, California. A panel of judges selected the two turkeys to receive their presidential pardons.
“It’s kind of like a turkey version of Dancing With the Stars, except the stakes for the contestants was much higher,” Obama joked at the White House.
Turning serious for a moment, the president called Thanksgiving “a holiday that asks us to be thankful for what we have, and generous to those who have less…a time to spend with the ones we love, and a chance to show compassion and concern to people we’ve never met. It’s a tradition that’s brought us together as a community since before we were a nation, when the ground we’re standing on was nothing but wilderness.”
The president also thanked members of the US military who will spend the holiday far from home.
Now pardoned from the table, the birds will live out their lives at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
WASHINGTON — President Obama has a long to-do list and high expectations for this lame-duck session of Congress, before Democrats must yield control of the US House of Representatives to a newly elected Republican majority.
The president’s to-do list begins with tax issues, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a briefing with reporters today. The most pressing tax issue is the Bush-era income tax cut that expires at the end of the year. The president wants to allow the cuts to expire on family income over $250,000 and extend it for income below that amount; Republicans want Congress to extend the cuts to all income.
Other priorities the president wants to see Congress address include:
* Renewal of a program to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
* Ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, which is “critically important to our national security,” Gibbs said.
* Ending the “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy that forbids openly gay people from serving in the US military.
* And the so-called Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for certain young illegal aliens who go to college or serve in the military.
Mitt Romney and President Obama would tie in a presidential election held today, says Quinnipiac poll
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and President Obama would be neck-and-neck if a presidential election were held today, according to a Quinnipiac University poll that also shows 49 percent of the respondents believe the president does not deserve a second term.
About 45 percent of those surveyed preferred Romney, who is considering another run for the presidency after his candidacy in 2008, and 44 percent backed Obama. In another close match-up, the president edges former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, another GOP presidential candidate in 2008, by 46-to-44 percent. Both of those results are within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
The president fares better against a galvanizing force in GOP circles, Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor trails the president by 8 percentage points, 48-40, among respondents.
“At this point, former Alaska Gov. Palin runs the worst against President Obama,'' Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a report on the poll. "She is very unpopular among independents and although she recently said she thought she could defeat Obama, the data does not now necessarily support that assertion.”
When asked by Barbara Walters in an interview last week whether she could defeat the president, Palin replied: "I believe so."
The ABC interview is scheduled for broadcast Dec. 9.
Palin remains strong among the GOP base, the Quinnipiac poll shows, mirroring other recent nationwide surveys. Among GOP respondents, Palin garnered 19 percent of the vote, followed by Romney with 18 percent, Huckabee at 17 percent, and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at 15 percent.
Among Democrats, respondents overwhelmingly backed Obama, with 64 percent saying they do not want anyone to challenge him in the primaries, with only 27 percent backing a competitive race.
“The Democratic base remains squarely behind President Barack Obama when it comes to his reelection, but his weakness among independent voters at this point makes his 2012 election prospects uncertain,” Brown said.
Overall, 49 percent of American voters say Obama does not deserve reelection, compared to 43 percent who do, according to the national poll, which surveyed 2,424 registered voters a week after the midterm elections on Nov. 2.
WASHINGTON – President Obama announced this afternoon that former Celtics legend Bill Russell will be given the highest civilian honor.
Obama will name Russell as one of the recipients of a 2010 Medal of Freedom, according to a White House official. He joins a range of others, including former President George H. W. Bush, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, philanthropist Warren Buffett, poet Maya Angelou, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The medal is presented to individuals who have made contributions to the security or the national interests. It will be presented at a ceremony early next year.
Several other athletes have gotten the award, including Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali, but Russell appears to be the first professional basketball player to be honored. But he’s not the first familiar to Boston fans. Ted Williams was given the award in 1991.
Baseball legend Stan “The Man” Musial is also being recognized this year.
Here is the entry on Russell sent out this afternoon by the White House:
Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of eleven championships in thirteen years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA—indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States—Bill Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Former Governor Mitt Romney has kept a high profile throughout the midterm election season endorsing and fundraising for GOP candidates, an effort that some analysts say has established his position as frontrunner for Republican nomination in 2012. Romney hasn’t escaped President Obama’s attention – and in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview last night, Obama compared his health care plan to Romney’s and practically announced Romney’s candidacy.
Obama weighed the political costs of health care reform and said Republicans didn’t cooperate as much as he had hoped they would.
“We thought that if we shaped a bill that wasn’t that different from bills that had previously been introduced by Republicans, including a Republican Governor in Massachusetts who’s now running for President, that we would be able to find some common ground there,” said Obama. “And we just couldn’t.”
Romney’s status as the establishment candidate and his executive role implementing universal health care in Massachusetts may hurt him in Tea Party circles, the Globe reported last week. Romney, who hasn't said yet whether he will seek the presidency, has said his state plan differed from the president’s federal program.
Catch the full CBS interview, and watch for Obama’s remarks on Romney around 20:41.
WASHINGTON — After a day to reflect on the landslide election that gave Republicans control of the US House, President Obama pledged to take the message from voters to heart, and “focus on the economy and jobs and moving this country forward,” promising to work with Republicans in coming weeks to have a productive lame-duck session before the new Congress is sworn in.
The president offered short remarks this morning after meeting with his cabinet.
Obama said the Congress must act to extend an expiring tax cut to middle class families — though Republicans want the cuts extended to all income levels.
“We’ve got to provide businesses some certainty about what their tax landscape is going to look like, and we’ve got to provide families certainty,” the president said. “That’s critical to maintain our recovery.”
The president also announced that he has invited all newly elected governors to the White House on December 2.
“I think it’s a terrific opportunity to hear from them, folks who are working at the state and local levels, about what they’re seeing, what ideas they think Washington needs to be paying more attention to,” he said.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney called on President Obama to turn the humbling defeat of Democrats in the mid-term elections into an opportunity to wrangle and subdue government spending.
"Government is smothering the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit that propelled our economy past those of older, larger nations,'' Romney wrote in an op-ed column in today's Washington Post, one day after Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives and state houses across the nation. "Ever higher taxes on small and big business, layers of red tape, onerous labor regulations, and punitive bureaucrats and lawsuits are suffocating US economic vitality. So far, the president and his fellow travelers in Congress have made things worse: If Obama is serious about changing the way things are done in Washington, he must slay the job-killing beast Washington has become.''
Since voters perceive the president and Democrats as being most responsible for increased spending, Obama is in a unique position to fix the problem, Romney contended, likening his role to a "Nixon to China" opportunity. President Nixon, with his pedigree as an arch anti-communist, was able to neutralize opposition from the right wing of his party to his rapprochement to China. Romney calls on Obama to do the same with the Democrats' liberal wing.
Specifically, Romney pushed the president to take on the burgeoning entitlement programs by changing how cost-of-living increases are given to Social Security beneficiaries and how Medicaid funds are disbursed to the states. He also called for the president to extend all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for the richest Americans.
On his website, Romney, considered a likely candidate for the presidential race in 2012, released a statement that lauded the efforts of his supporters and his political action committee to help propel Republican candidates to victory across the nation on Tuesday. The PAC contributed about $1.1 million to more than 500 candidates and he campaigned for about 60 candidates in more than 30 states, the statement said.
WASHINGTON -- After campaigning this week on the West Coast, President Obama heads east on Monday for a planned trip to Rhode Island, according to the White House.
The president will visit the Ocean State community of Woonsocket, where he will tour American Cord & Webbing, a manufacturing company, and deliver remarks to workers.
Unlike a lot of places the president has campaigned this fall, Rhode Island doesn’t have a hotly contested US Senate race. However, Rhode Island Democrats desperately want to hold onto the US House seat being vacated by Patrick Kennedy, who is retiring at 43 after eight terms.
For Republicans, taking the seat associated with the youngest son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy would be a tremendous symbolic victory, though the race is an uphill climb in a district that typically leans toward Democrats.
Public polls suggest that the Democratic candidate, Providence Mayor David Cicilline, has a double-digit lead on Republican nominee John Loughlin, a state representative.
What may be interesting next week is how Obama addresses Rhode Island's race for governor. The Democratic candidate, Frank Caprio, is the party’s best chance to take the office Republicans have held for 16 years.
However, former Republican US Sen. Lincoln Chafee, now an independent, is running in a dead-heat with Caprio in a multi-candidate race. And it was Chafee who crossed party lines to endorse Obama before the 2008 Rhode Island Democratic primary. Chafee even appeared with the presidential hopeful at a campaign rally in Providence, back when Obama was locked in a nationwide battle for delegates with Hillary Clinton.
Caprio, however, endorsed Clinton in 2008.
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s fall campaign road show continues this week on the West Coast, where the president will try to rally Democrats in Seattle to support US Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington. Murray is trying to hold off a challenge from Republican Dino Rossi, a commercial real estate executive and a former state senator.
The president will fly to Seattle on Wednesday. On Thursday, Obama will meet with a local family for a discussion about women and the economy, before headlining a campaign event for Murray at the University Of Washington, according to the White House
Recent polls put Murray up by close to five points in the race, according to public polls aggregated by the web site Real Clear Politics. Republicans need to gain 10 seats next month to win a majority in the Senate, and the Washington race is a key target for the GOP.
Democrats are turning out the party heavyweights to help Murray. Former President Bill Clinton is expected to appear with Murray at an event today, and Vice President Joe Biden is on the schedule for tomorrow.
Two days ago, California federal judge Virginia A. Phillips ordered the Pentagon to end its policy of barring gay troops from serving openly in the military; today, the Justice Department has sought a delay in her injunction, placing the administration and President Obama in the position of defending a law it has called on Congress to strike down.
In a statement to the Globe this evening, Senator John Kerry said that Congressional partisanship forced the administration “into legal decisions that could have been avoided with adult leadership in Congress.”
Read his full statement below:
“The fact that this issue ended up in the courts at all is evidence that Congress didn’t do its job in the first place. We’ve had politicians who've said for years they’d end this policy when the military said that time had come. Well, Admiral Mullen, Secretary Gates, and a whole lot of generals and service members said that time was now. Even General Colin Powell who defended the policy 17 years ago said it’s outdated. We had hearings, we had debate, we had discussion. There never should’ve been a filibuster, period. The only reason is the worst partisan gridlock I’ve ever seen that defers tough decisions for the sake of an election, and now forces the Administration into legal decisions that could have been avoided with adult leadership in Congress. Without question, we should’ve had 60 votes to do what’s responsible and allow a vote to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
WASHINGTON – Sure, they had to miss a couple of classes. But it was worth it.
The Maynard family, from Chelmsford, Mass., traveled to Washington today for a presidential meeting in the Oval Office. They were greeted by President Obama, who was promoting a tax credit that has helped families send their children to college.
Obama also called on Congress to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent. The credit, which provides $2,500 annually, was part of the stimulus bill that Obama signed last year and has been included in his 2011 budget proposal that has not yet been acted upon.
“We’ve got to make sure that in good times or bad, our families can invest in their children’s future and in the future of our country,” Obama said in the Rose Garden, with the Maynards and two other families standing behind him.
More than 12 million people used the tax credit last year, according to the Treasury Department.
The Maynards were one of those families, who used the credit to help put their twin 21-year-old daughters – Elizabeth and Katherine – and their son, Greg, through college. The family was chosen because Greg had responded to messages through his employer, Public Interest Research Group, looking for families that benefited from the credit.
They flew into Washington today, and planned to head back to Massachusetts tonight. They had several minutes with Obama in the White House and emerged beaming.
“I had to miss two classes,” said Elizabeth, who attends UMass Amherst. “They said it was ok, though.”
“When do you get to do something like this?” said Phil, the father.
“That,” said Katherine, who goes to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, "was wicked cool."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
With one of the year's most compelling international stories evolving on the television today, President Obama prefaced his planned Rose Garden remarks on education with praise for the rescue efforts underway to save the Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days.
"This is obviously something that's captivated the world’s attention and this rescue is a tribute not only to the determination of the rescue workers and the Chilean government, but also the unity and resolve of the Chilean people who have inspired the world," the president said. "Let me also commend so many people of goodwill, not only in Chile, but also from the United States and around the world, who are lending a hand in this rescue effort -– from the NASA team that helped design the escape vehicle, to American companies that manufactured and delivered parts of the rescue drill, to the American engineer who flew in from Afghanistan to operate the drill.
"Last night, the whole world watched the scene at Camp Esperanza as the first miner was lifted out from under more than 2,000 feet of rock and then embraced by his young son and family. And the tears they shed -– after so much time apart -– expressed not only their own relief, not only their own joy, but the joy of people everywhere. So it was a thrilling moment and we're hopeful that those celebrations duplicate themselves throughout the rest of today."
WASHINGTON - President Obama today marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole by calling on Americans to remember the sacrifice of the 17 US sailors killed in the attack off the coast of Yemen.
“We pay tribute on this day to the courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives in this attack, and to their families,” the president said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our support for the brave men and women of our armed forces who continue to risk their lives around the world to defeat these terrorists and to keep our nation safe, and we stand with our military families who sacrifice so much to support them.
“I will never forget meeting with some of the families of the victims of this bombing in February 2009. I am deeply grateful to them for their sacrifice, and their efforts to keep the memory of this tragic event alive in our nation’s conscience. The families and loved ones of those we lost are in our hearts and prayers, and the American people stand with them on this solemn day of remembrance.
“Al-Qa'ida continues to use Yemen, as well as other places around the world, as platforms from which to pursue its murderous agenda, and we continue to work closely with our Yemeni and other global partners to counter the al-Qa’ida threat. As we do, we will always remember those we lost on the USS Cole, and we will honor their legacy of selfless service by advancing the values that they stood for throughout their lives. “
WASHINGTON – President Obama this afternoon signed legislation spearheaded by Representative Edward J. Markey that significantly expands the digital horizons of the disabled.
The bipartisan legislation increases access for the disabled to a panoply of high-tech devices and means of communications, from phones calls over the Internet to enhanced TV remotes and easier-to-use smartphones.
“The bill I’m signing today into law will better ensure full participation in our democracy and our economy for Americans with disabilities,” Obama said today in a ceremony at the White House attended by Markey and several other lawmakers.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act mandates that remote controls have buttons to easily access closed captioning on broadcast and pay television; requires telecommunications equipment that makes calls over the internet to be compatible with hearing aids; and makes television program guides and selection menus accessible to those with vision loss. It also requires captioning on new TV programs that are offered online and improves the web accessibility of smartphones.
“We’ve moved from Braille to broadband, from tracing words in palms to navigating a Palm Pilot,'' Markey, a Democrat of Malden who introduced the legislation in June 2009, said in a statement. "Americans with disabilities need access to the latest 21st century communications and video tools to compete in the job market and engage in daily activities that increasingly rely on the latest technologies.”
The new law also provides $10 million annually for low-income Americans who are both deaf and blind to use for purchasing accessible internet access.
At the ceremony, Obama recognized Markey and several other members of congress. He also paid tribute to another attendee: Stevie Wonder.
“I happen to be listening to him this morning when I woke up,” Obama said. “He’s what I work out to. He’s what I sweet-talk Michelle to.”
Earlier in the week, Obama signed a bill that removes the phrase “mentally retarded” from all federal health, education, and labor laws. It replaces the phrase with “intellectual disability.”
Today was stand-up comedy day at the White House, with President Obama and his outgoing chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, cracking up White House staff with one-liners at the morning press conference to announce that Emanuel is leaving his job. He is expected to run for mayor of Chicago.
The news had leaked long before the media event—Emanuel’s departure had been widely reported yesterday. And so the president began, “Good morning, everybody, and welcome to the least suspenseful announcement of all time.”
After lavishly praising Emanuel’s work in the White House, the president needled Emanuel for his reputation as an explosive personality known to use foul language.
“…When he was a kid [he] had lost part of his finger in an accident, and it was his middle finger, so it rendered him mute for a while.” It’s a joke Obama has used before.
Emanuel took the ribbing in stride. “I want to thank my colleagues for your patience the last two years,” he said. “I'm sure you’ve learned some words that you’ve never heard before—and in an assortment of combination of words.”
Emanuel said he was looking forward to getting back to Chicago. “These are unprecedented and great times in Chicago, Mr. President. The Chicago Bears are 3-0.”
“Unbelievable,” the president, a Bears fan, agreed.
WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry this morning defended President Obama while trying to skirt questions over whether the Massachusetts Democrat would have done a better job if he were sitting in the White House.
“You would have been a better president than President Obama turned out, wouldn’t you?” asked Don Imus, whose show airs on FOX Business Network.
“Uh, no,” Kerry said. “What are you asking me to do? Make a stupid comment?”
“I have confidence I would have been a good president,” Kerry added. “I back President Obama. And I think he’s done a terrific job under very difficult circumstances.”
Imus then asked, “You wouldn’t have done better?” and Kerry replied, “I would have tried to do better.”
“Just trying to walk you into that,” Imus said.
“I know you are,” Kerry said. “And I’m trying like hell to stay away from it.”
During the appearance, Kerry also said Obama “has made some of the toughest decisions of any president in 50 or 60 years.” But he also said that health care “hasn’t been sold as effectively as it should be” and, on the economy, “we’ve missed some opportunities, frankly, to turn it around.”
He also stood by his recent comments that voters don’t pay attention and are influenced by “a simple slogan.”
“I don’t blame people for not paying attention,” Kerry said. “I think people are turned off by it. That’s why they’re angry today. They don’t think we’re dealing with the real problems. And I think they’re tired of the consultants and the money and everything reducing their lives to these very simplistic, non-factually based sloganeering campaigns that don’t create jobs and that don’t solve problems and don’t reduce the deficit and don’t find the compromise. I think that’s why the electorate’s so angry. I think it’s an accurate thing that people are turned off of Washington, they’re turned off of the process.”
At the end of the segment, Imus again chided Kerry about his former presidential aspirations.
"It's always a pleasure to have you on," Imus said. "You're like trying to book the president, I would remind you, because you're not."
"Thank you, I needed the reminder," Kerry said with a laugh. "Thank you."
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON -- Former Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis, the failed 1988 presidential nominee, recently visited the White House and delivered his strategy for the midterm elections: pound key precincts across the country with the message that Republicans want to implement the same policies that led to the Great Recession.
Dukakis, who said in a telephone interview that he "popped in" to the White House while on a trip here several weeks ago, said he told aides to President Obama that Republicans "want to go back and do exactly what got us in this mess in the first place."
"It seems to me there has to be a single message coming from Democrats, from the president on down," Dukakis said. "We've got to pound that message as hard as can from now until November."
Asked if the White House aides were receptive, he said, "I think they certainly get it." He declined to name the aides he met at the White House.
Dukakis said that it was also important for Democrats to remind voters that former President George W. Bush left the country with an increasing deficit.
Urging Democrats to focus the message through grassroots efforts in key precincts, Dukakis concluded: "If we do that and deliver this message over and over again, we are going to be OK."
WASHINGTON – President Obama today is highlighting milestones in the new health care law, seeking to counter widespread criticism of the overhaul passed six months ago by featuring stories of real people who are already benefiting from some of its provisions.
The White House launched a new website with a link titled "50 States, 50 Stories.’’ He was hosting more than 30 state insurance officials at the White House (including Bay State insurance commissioner Joseph Murphy) and visiting a Virginia family to discuss the legislation.
The effort to show tangible benefits includes a White House-produced web video of a Keene, NH woman – Gail O’Brien – who has non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She lacked insurance when she was diagnosed and said she was denied coverage because she was already sick. But since the law’s passage she has been able to buy coverage through a new pre-existing condition insurance plan established under the law. Obama said she was the first NH resident to sign up for the pre-existing plan.
On the administration’s promotional video, O’Brien receives what the White House describes as a "surprise phone call’’ from the president, who is shown speaking to her from the Oval Office.
"If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,’’ O’Brien tells the president, from the dining room of her bungalow. The president replies: "You’re the poster child for why this is so necessary and why we’re so proud of the reforms we initiated.’’
A number of provisions of the law take effect today, including a requirement that children up to age 26 be permitted to remain on family plans and a ban on lifetime coverage limits. The main requirement, that virtually all Americans obtain coverage, does not kick in until 2014.
Polls show that only about a third of Americans favor the law, while 30 to 40 percent oppose it. The economy has eclipsed health care as the top priority for most voters. A recent poll conducted by The Associated Press found that few people understand how the bill will work.
The GOP is plotting ways to repeal sections of the law if it gains enough power in Congress in the mid-term elections. The Republican National Committee today listed a number of news clippings on its website today that it says shows many Democrats are running from the bill, "for their political lives.’’
WASHINGTON – For Elizabeth Warren, the suspense continues.
President Obama, asked at a White House press conference this morning whether he would pick the consumer champion to run a newly created consumer financial protection bureau, said he is still not ready to make an announcement.
Advocates have been pushing the White House to name the Harvard law professor to the agency, which was created as part of the financial regulatory overhaul passed by Congress this summer. The new bureau will have the power to create rules to help prevent credit card companies and mortgage brokers from burying borrowers with excessive debt.
Asked directly whether he would nominate Warren, Obama credited her with coming up with the idea for the agency but said only he "will have an announcement soon.’’
"The idea for this agency has been Elizabeth Warren’s. She is a dear friend of mine. I have been in conversations with her. She is a tremendous advocate for this idea,’’ Obama said.
But he added, "It has only been a couple of months. This is a big task standing up this agency.’’
Asked by a reporter if he worried that Warren could not win confirmation in the Senate, Obama did not answer directly but alluded to the intense partisan divides in the chamber that have resulted in long delays for his nominees.
"I am concerned about all Senate nominations these days,’’ he said. "I’ve got people who have been waiting six months to get confirmed.’’
WASHINGTON — Marking the beginning of a new school year, President Obama will address the country’s students in his second annual Back-to-School Speech on Tuesday, September 14.
Obama’s address to the country’s youth last year was preceded by waves of criticism by outraged conservatives, who said they feared the president would use the occasion to indoctrinate a captive audience of impressionable young brains with liberal political thoughts.
Instead, the president offered the pupils a pep-talk about trying hard, staying in school and doing their best.
“Every single one of you has something you’re good at,” the president told students last year. “Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.”
This year’s speech will be from Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School, according to the White House.
The president’s Back-to-School Speech will live-stream on WhiteHouse.gov.
WASHINGTON — Representatives from the Boston College Men’s Ice Hockey team will join student-athletes from dozens of schools at a reception at the White House on September 13, according to the Obama administration.
“The President will welcome student athletes from dozens of schools and various sports to congratulate them on their accomplishments in the classroom as well as on and off the playing field,” the White House said in a statement. In recognizing the sports teams, Obama is continuing a tradition started by President George W. Bush.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON -- President Obama will make two stops next week to key battleground states to deliver remarks about the nation's economy, the White House has announced.
On Monday, the President will attend the AFL-CIO's Laborfest event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a state in which Democratic incumbent Senator Russ Feingold is facing a serious challenge from the expected Republican nominee, businessman Ron Johnson.
Obama then travels to Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday, to speak again on the economy. In Ohio, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher are battling to replace retiring Senator George Voinovich, a Republican.
Then on Friday, the president will hold a press conference at the White House.
WASHINGTON -- Speaking today to American troops at Fort Bliss Army Base in Texas, President Obama said his speech to the nation tonight on Iraq won't be a "victory lap," and that a lot of work remains to be done in that country.
"The work that continues is absolutely critical: providing training and assistance to Iraqi security forces because there’s still violence in Iraq, and they’re still learning how to secure their country the way they need to," Obama said. "And they’ve made enormous strides thanks to the training that they’ve already received. But there’s still more work to do there.
"We’re going to have to protect our civilians, our aid workers and our diplomats who are over there, who are still trying to expand and help what’s going to be a long road ahead for the Iraqi people in terms of rebuilding their country.
"We’re still going to be going after terrorists in those areas. And so our counterterrorism operations are still going to be conducted jointly. But the bottom line is, is that our combat phase is now over. We are in transition. And that could not have been accomplished had it not been for the men and women here at Fort Bliss and across the country."
The president thanked the troops and their families for their sacrifices, and said that America has "the finest fighting force in the history of the world."
After speaking for about 10 minutes, the president made the rounds and shook hands with some 170 troops, asking many of them their names and how long they had served, according to pool reports.
EDGARTOWN -- After a six mile bike ride with his famliy this morning, President Obama is back on the links at Vineyard Golf Club. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is playing with the president today. White House staff said the two leaders discussed the economy before heading to the first tee.
WEST TISBURY- With their 10-day Martha's Vineyard vacation winding to a close, the First Family got out for a bike ride today on a paved path through a state forest in the center of the island.
The entire First Family was wearing helmets this year, unlike last year's vacation when the president took some grief for riding without one and exposing the First Noggin.
President Obama will travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, to meet with U.S. troops on Tuesday, and then will deliver a highly anticipated speech on Iraq from the Oval Office at 8 p.m., the White House has announced.
President Obama and his family are currently on Martha’s Vineyard for a 10 day vacation that ends Sunday.
OAK BLUFFS -- On the third rainy day in a row on Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama went out for lunch today at Nancy’s, a harborfront restaurant in Oak Bluffs.
More than halfway through their 10-day Vineyard vacation, the First Family has been riding out recent rainstorms by reading books and playing board games at the 28-acre estate they are renting in Chilmark.
The president and his wife also went out to dinner last night at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury with friends Valerie Jarrett, Eric and Cheryl Whitaker and Vernon and Ann Jordan. They stayed for more than two hours. As the First Couple left the restaurant, the president told damp pool reporters who had been waiting in a light drizzle: "I'm having a great time -- doing a lot of reading," then ducked into his waiting SUV.
The President this morning held a conference call on the state of the economy with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christy Romer and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers. They spoke about recent data reports, global markets and economic growth, according to the White House.FULL ENTRY
President Obama will deliver a major speech August 31 to mark the reduction of US troops in Iraq to below 50,000, and the shifting mission of US forces from combat to support of Iraqi forces, White House staff said this morning.
The president will talk about the progress US forces have made in Iraq, about America's policy going forward, and the bravery and sacrifice of the U.S. troops that have served in the war since the U.S. invasion in 2003, said White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, in a briefing to media on Martha's Vineyard.
Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan said that continued attacks from extremists in Iraq have failed to spark widespread sectarian violence, and that the United States is "reducing our footprint in Iraq on our terms."
"Since the president took office we have removed some 94,000 troops from Iraq," said Brennan.
The time and location for the president's speech have not been finalized, Burton said. President Obama and his family are vacationing on Martha's Vineyard this week, and are due to leave on Sunday.
After a quiet morning at the estate the First Family is renting on Martha's Vineyard, President Obama is spending a stormy, windy afternoon playing basketball inside Oak Bluffs Elementary School, according to pool reports. The White House has not yet disclosed the names of the people playing with the president, who is a well-known basketball enthusiast.
VINEYARD HAVEN -- The president may be on vacation on Martha's Vineyard, but his communication staff is still working to drive home the president's message that his policies pulled the economy back from the brink of collapse. At a press briefing on the island this afternoon, the president's deputy press secretary, Bill Burton, was asked if there was any difference between Obama's stay on the Vineyard last year, and this year's vacation.
Burton immediately responded: "I would say the difference between last year’s vacation and this year's is that since his vacation, the auto industry is back on its feet, health reform care has passed and the economy is starting to move in a different direction than it was moving before.”
President Obama and his daughters Malia and Sasha ventured off the First Family's vacation estate on Martha's Vineyard for some shopping this morning at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, according to pool reports.
Main Street was blocked off for the presidential visit. Pool reports say that hundred of people stood behind yellow police tape to get a peek of the president, who left the store with two brown shopping bags to the cheers of the crowd.
MARTHA’S VINEYARD -- President Obama arrived on Martha’s Vineyard this afternoon to begin a 10-day vacation with his family, after using a quick White House appearance to fire one last, departing shot at Republicans for delaying jobs legislation.
Obama will be resting after spending several days stumping for Democratic candidates around the country, seeking to drum up support for his economic initiatives, and seeking to shore up support for the healthcare overhaul.
Continued stagnation in the economy is giving Republicans high hopes for the mid-term elections.
In a brief statement before he left the White House, Obama said a small-business bill he is championing should not fall victim to partisan politics. He accused a "partisan minority" in the Senate is refusing to allow the bill to move forward -- calling their actions "obstruction that defies common sense."
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele hit back by calling the administration's attempts at financial recovery an "epic failure."
"It is way past time for the White House to be straight with the American people and admit that $862 billion stimulus did not do what was promised," Steele said in a statement. "It is clear that the Democrats’ strategy of reckless spending, ballooning deficits, and higher taxes are not the answer and that we need to pursue Republican pro-growth solutions to get our economy back on track.”
First Lady Michelle Obama and the couple’s children, Malia and Sasha, traveled separately, arriving unannounced on the island about three hours before the president.
This is the First Family's second trip to the Massachusetts resort island. The Obamas plan a low-key family vacation, with no public events scheduled. The president will try not to make any news during his stay, his staff says.
At 2:40 p.m. motorcade started rolling from the Vineyard airport to the president's rental home, Blue Heron Farm. Some well wishers appeared here and there along the roadside. A couple of them had small American flags. One woman in a floppy yellow hat flashed a double thumbs down.
Shortly before he lifted off on Marine One for some family time at Martha's Vineyard, Obama made a last-minute attack on Republicans for blocking a bill aimed at helping small businesses hire more people. In a brief statement, Obama said the bill should not fall victim to partisan politics. He accused a "partisan minority" in the Senate is refusing to allow the bill to move forward -- calling their actions "obstruction that defies common sense."
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele hit back by calling the administration's attempts at financial recovery an "epic failure."
"It is way past time for the White House to be straight with the American people and admit that $862 billion stimulus did not do what was promised," Steele said in a statement. "It is clear that the Democrats’ strategy of reckless spending, ballooning deficits, and higher taxes are not the answer and that we need to pursue Republican pro-growth solutions to get our economy back on track.”
President Obama is expected to land on Martha's Vineyard today for the start of a 10-day vacation. Michelle Obama and the first couple's children are already on the island, having arrived slightly ahead of the president, who is expected between 2 and 3 p.m.
OAK BLUFFS — During last year’s Obama family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, part-time island resident Tom Murro and his daughter, Lauren, got to meet the president at Farm Neck Golf Club.
This year, Murro and his daughter are coming back to the Vineyard, to try to complete a long effort to present the president with a gift, to thank him for making the time to pose with them for photographs last year.
“Gifting Obama isn’t easy” said Murro, who doesn’t want to chance damaging the gift—a photograph—by mailing it, and can’t figure out how to get it to the president.
The gift is a photograph of Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers sliding safe into home plate in the 1955 World Series, ahead of the tag from New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Murro had the picture autographed by Berra, who wrote: “Dear Mr. President. He was out.”
Murro, of New Jersey, is arriving on the island with the photo on Sunday, and is hoping to raise some attention to his plight so that some intermediary will volunteer to get the picture to the president.
The president is scheduled to arrive on Martha's Vineyard with his family this afternoon and plans to stay for 10 days. The trip marks the second year in a row the first family has vacationed on the island retreat.
Former Governor Mitt Romney takes aim at President Obama and the Democrats on the economy with an op-ed in the Globe today, blaming them for deepening and lengthening the recession. “The policies of the president and congressional Democrats are job killers,” he said.
For Romney, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who is widely considered a potential contender in 2012, this op-ed is the latest in a series that criticize Obama’s performance and positions: In June, he wrote about the oil spill in USA Today. In July, it was the arms reduction treaty in the Washington Post. This month, it’s the economy. Read “Grow jobs and shrink government” here.
OAK BLUFFS — Should President Obama want to meet some year-round local residents when he arrives on Martha’s Vineyard tomorrow, he might consider a stop at the Oak Bluffs landfill, one of the few places the tourists generally don’t tread on this picturesque island.
In keeping with New England tradition, the local landfill is also a dumping ground for town news and gossip, and a place where opinions are easy to come by.
“The president should go someplace else,” said June Ferreira, a Highway Department employee who oversees trash and recycling drop-off by residents. “They block off our streets when he wants to go somewhere. What good does that do us?
“I think he’s got other pressing things he should be doing. Other people don’t have jobs—take care of that first.”
Ferreira is 60, deeply tanned, and has a loud, raspy laugh. She was born and raised on the island, descending from a family that has been here for a century or so. She used to have a job driving a school bus on the mainland, but gave it up when her father, now 88, developed dementia, because she doesn’t want to be far from him, she said.
Now she rarely goes off-island, except sometimes for groceries. “It’s just too expensive to buy them here,” she said.
A steady flow of year-round island residents visit the dump.
Brian Hughes, 57, an island composer and musician, is glad that Obama is reviving the Vineyard’s tradition as the “Summer White House,” as it was referred to after President Bill Clinton’s many trips here.
“He’s the president—when he comes to Martha’s Vineyard, I think that’s great,” said Hughes, who performed in a singing group for the Clintons in one of their first presidential retreats to the island, in the early 1990s.
Hughes disagrees with critics that say the president sends a bad message by vacationing when unemployment is high.
“When the president is vacationing, he’s working,” said Hughes. “He doesn’t get a vacation, he gets a change of venue.”
WASHINGTON – Continuing to tout the economic stimulus that Democrats passed last year, President Obama is in Wisconsin today to deliver a speech on the economy to workers at a high-tech battery factory.
The president will speak at ZBB Energy Corporation, which used a $1.3 million loan from the stimulus to help pay to expand production capacity, according to the White House.
With the fall elections less than three months away, Obama will continue to pound the theme that the country must not go back to Republican economic policies, according to a preview of his remarks released by the White House.
Elected officials expected to be on hand for the president’s remarks include U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. Polls suggest Feingold has a tough fight for reelection this fall.
Reporters in Wisconsin asked Feingold this morning if he was reluctant to stand with the president, due to Obama’s lagging poll numbers, especially on his handling of the economy.
"Absolutely none,” said Feingold, according to pool reports. “I'm pleased to stand with this president anytime and anywhere and defend what we've done and what we're doing."
But Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, predicted that Obama’s visit “will ultimately be an anchor around Russ Feingold’s neck.”
“Barack Obama represents everything that people around here are sick of—runaway spending, debt, and a tin ear in Washington,” he said in an interview.
WASHINGTON – In brief remarks from the Rose Garden today, President Obama urged the U.S. House to approve a $26 billion package of aid to states that would bring $655 million to Massachusetts.
The money, "will help states avoid laying off police officers, firefighters, nurses and first responders," the president said. "This proposal is fully paid for, in part by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas. So it will not add to our deficit. And the money will only go toward saving the jobs of teachers and other essential professionals.”
The U.S. Senate approved the aid package last week, overcoming a Republican filibuster. Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown opposed the package, saying there were better ways to pay for it than by increasing taxes on multinational corporations. Other Republican senators decried the bill last week as a payoff for teachers’ unions.
The House is expected to vote on the package this afternoon.
"It should not be a partisan issue,” said Obama.
The Obamas will travel to the Gulf region for the weekend of August 14, the White House has announced. No other details have been released.
The announcement follows rumbling from critics that the president should take his traditional August vacation in the Gulf, to bring publicity and help the area recover from the economic damage caused by the spill. Indicators are strong, however, that the first family intends to return to Martha's Vineyard for vacation in August.
A family getaway to the Gulf could help inoculate the president from charges that he abandoned the struggling region in favor of the pristine sands of the Massachusetts resort island.
WASHINGTON -- Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who played a vital role in passage of legislation to overhaul financial regulation, did not attend today's elaborate bill-signing ceremony -- but did get a shout-out from President Obama.
Brown joined with the two Maine Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, as well as 57 Democrats, to provide the needed 60 votes to break a filibuster and approve the bill.
Yesterday, Obama told an audience of more than 400 people that while a "partisan minority" opposed the bill, he wanted to "thank the three Republican senators who put partisanship aside, judged this bill on the merits, and voted for reform. We’re grateful to them." He did not name the Republicans but their names had been well-publicized.
The audience, which included a host of Democratic leaders, applauded loudly.
Brown spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said that Brown did receive an invitation to the event, held at a federal conference center a short ride down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol. She said he did not show up in part because he had a "packed schedule." But, she said, "more than that he believes that it's time to move on and finally turn the focus to creating jobs and fixing the economy."
Some of most sustained applause at the event went to House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank of Newton and Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, who shepherded the legislation through their respective chambers of Congress.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama tapped a former staffer to Bay state lawmakers Tuesday to the Office of Management and Budget, naming veteran budgeteer Jacob "Jack'' Lew to run the agency.
Lew, who worked for both Representative Joseph Moakley and former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip'' O'Neill in the 1970s and 1980s, has a long record of public service, serving as both deputy director and director of OMB during the Clinton administration.
The 54-year-old Lew is currently a top aide to another Clinton -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- and would replace outgoing OMB director Peter Orszag if Lew is conformed.
"I was actually worried that Hillary would not let him go,'' Obama said in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House yesterday, introducing Lew. "I had to trade a number of number-one draft picks to get Jack back at OMB. ''
Lew might not have quite so much fun in this go-round. When he worked for former president Clinton, Lew presided over a fat budget surplus. If he goes back to his old job, Lew will be forced to wrangle with the biggest budget deficit in history, forcing him to look for more cuts and revenues to reach the president's ultimate goal of a reduced deficit.
"Jack’s challenge over the next few years is to use his extraordinary skill and experience to cut down that deficit and put our nation back on a fiscally responsible path. And I have the utmost faith in his ability to achieve this goal as a central member of our economic team,'' Obama said.
Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, called Lew "a superb choice'' and a person of "the highest integrity.''
"He knows how to make the tough choices. And he knows how to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions,'' Conrad said.
President Obama and the first family are planning a short vacation in Maine this weekend, traveling Down East on Friday for three days on Mt. Desert Island, the home of Acadia National Park, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, Democrat of Maine.
The Obamas will arrive Friday and stay through Sunday, Pingree said in a statement.
“What an honor that the Obama family has chosen Maine for vacation when they could have gone anywhere in the country," said Pingree. "Those of us lucky enough to live here know it’s the most beautiful place in the world and I’m glad we can share it with the first family.”
The Obamas have no public appearances scheduled during their weekend.
Mt. Desert Island, about a six-hour drive from Boston, includes the upscale seaside vacation town of Bar Harbor, not far from the foot of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in Acadia National Park. The 30,000-acre park is crisscrossed with hiking trails and "carriage roads" paved with crushed stone, built by the philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr.
President Obama named Boston hospitality executive Richard Friedman to the President’s Export Council today, part of an initiative Obama created to fulfill his State of the Union promise to double US exports, which would support several million jobs, in five years.
“I’m honored to be selected by the President to serve and have made it my personal goal to try to help our country’s tourism, hospitality, air transit industries,” Friedman said in a statement.
The only New Englander appointee, Friedman will serve with many prominent business leaders associated with UPS, Dow Corning, MetLife, and the Walt Disney Company, among others. Boeing Chairman, President, and CEO Jim McNerney and Xerox Corporation Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns head the council as chair and vice chair, respectively.
Friedman is CEO of Carpenter & Company, Inc., and served as director of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board. Former President Bill Clinton appointed him as chair of the National Capital Planning Commission, a federal urban planning agency, in 2000.
WASHINGTON — President Obama will use the congressional recess to bypass the Senate and appoint Harvard Professor Donald Berwick tomorrow to oversee Medicare and Medicaid, a White House official said tonight.
Berwick, a pediatrician and president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a not-for-profit organization in Cambridge, is widely respected by many veteran policy officials, but Republicans, calling him an advocate of “rationing’’ health care, had been expected to grill him on his views during his confirmation hearing. GOP leaders had also intimated they would use the hearings as a forum to reopen the battle on President Obama’s health care law.
Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, revealed the decision, known as a recess appointment, on the White House website. Lawmakers are on their annual Fourth of July break.
In vowing to fight his nomination, GOP lawmakers have cited Berwick’s support for controlling costs and his statements praising aspects of the United Kingdom’s national health system. They contend his positions show that he would seek to transform US health care into a tightly controlled system, reducing patient choices and delaying treatments.
In a speech before the Senate in May, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky accused Berwick of being an “expert on rationing.’’
By lauding the United Kingdom’s National Health System, McConnell said, Berwick “is applauding a system where care is delayed, denied, or rationed.’’
Last night, Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming issued a prompt response to the White House move:
“This recess appointment is an insult to the American people. Dr. Berwick is a self professed supporter of rationing health care and he won’t even have to explain his views to the American people in a hearing. Once again, President Obama has made a mockery of his pledge to be accountable and transparent.’’
As head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Berwick would administer an agency with 4,500 employees and an annual budget of $780 billion. The agency oversees the government health insurance programs for the elderly, the poor, and the disabled and will be a critical player in the health care overhaul law, which includes a massive expansion of Medicaid for low-income people and about $400 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next 10 years.
A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, the 63-year-old Berwick, who lives in Cambridge, is a professor at both Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. In addition to his job running the 111-employee Institute for Healthcare Policy Improvement, he is a consultant in pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The Obama Administration today moved to plug holes on the front lines of health care, spending $250 million with the intent to create more primary care doctors, nurse-practioners, and nurses in the United States. The money is half of $500 million that will be spent to boost the supply of primary providers. Shortages are chronic in the health system, which leads to inadequate preventive care and needless hospitalizations because problems were not treated early. Here is how the money will be spent, according to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services:
- Creating additional primary care residency slots: $168 million for training more than 500 new primary care physicians by 2015;
- Supporting physician assistant training in primary care: $32 million for supporting the development of more than 600 new physician assistants, who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physician, and can be trained in a shorter period of time compared to physicians;
- Encouraging students to pursue full-time nursing careers: $30 million for encouraging over 600 nursing students to attend school full-time so that they have better odds of completing their education;
- Establishing new nurse practitioner-led clinics: $15 million for the operation of 10 nurse-managed health clinics which assist in the training of nurse practitioners. These clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners, which provide comprehensive primary health care services to populations living in medically underserved communities.
- Encouraging states to plan for and address health professional workforce needs: $5 million for states to plan and implement innovative strategies to expand their primary care workforce by 10 to 25 percent over ten years to meet increased demand for primary care services.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown tomorrow is planning to meet with President Obama in the oval office, his first formal meeting with the president since the Massachusetts Republican won his surprising election in January.
It is unclear what the two will discuss, although a Brown aide confirmed that they will meet and that Obama called the meeting.
A White House official said there was not one set topic for the meeting, and it would involve "a variety of issues of mutual interest." But Brown today has been critical of Obama’s response to the oil spill during a series of television interviews.
"Up to this point, I think there has been a lack of leadership on this issue," Brown said on NECN. "I think the time for the blame and finger-pointing is over, and I hope tonight will be a turning point."
He also indirectly criticized Representative Edward J. Markey, the Malden Democrat who today chaired a much-anticipated hearing with five major oil company executives.
"We want answers, but to hammer the entire industry just to get a photo opportunity I don't think is appropriate,” Brown said, when asked about Markey's hearing. “We need to work together to solve the problem and stop the name-calling and finger-pointing."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
The White House press secretary said he'll take to the Twittersphere after President Obama's speech to the nation tonight.
Robert Gibbs made the announcement of a direct-to-the-people, post-presidential-speech Q&A via Twitter and also via this YouTube video.
"Haven't been on Twitter in a bit but back today - I will answer your questions live after the POTUS speaks tonight @ 8,'' Gibbs wrote in a Twitter message. He linked to his video message, in which he said people can send him questions now at www.youtube.com/whitehouse.
Obama is expected to focus on the oil spill in tonight's speech. Gibbs's last message on his official Twitter site, @PressSec, was on May 28, during a visit to the Gulf spill area in Louisiana. Most of his 221 Tweets have been work-related, but he also has recounted weekend bike rides, his NCAA March Madness brackets, and that he is following the Twitter feed of TV chef Bobby Flay.
Gibbs' Twitter messages are followed by more than 65,000 Twitter accounts.
WASHINGTON – In an indication that Democrats could renew their push for climate change legislation this year, President Obama this afternoon said he would attempt to round up votes for legislation filed by Senator John Kerry.
Obama, speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, urged the US Senate to take action on a bill that aims to reduce reliance on foreign oil while putting a price on carbon emissions. It was the fourth time in 12 days that Obama urged the Senate to act, comments that come in the wake of a massive oil spill in the Gulf Coast.
“Pittsburgh, I want you to know, the votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months,” Obama said. “I will make the case for a clean energy future wherever I can, and I will work with anyone to get this done, and we will get it done. The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century. We are not going to move backwards, we are going to move forward.”
The comments immediately won plaudits from Kerry and Senator Joe Lieberman, who together filed energy and climate change legislation last month. The legislation has faced several hurdles, including no Republican support and a busy calendar ahead over the next two months before Congress leaves. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is planning to decide soon on whether to bring the climate change legislation to the floor this year, or if he will push for a smaller package. He has also pledged to take up an immigration overhaul this year.
“President Obama is clearly putting his shoulder to the wheel to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year,” Lieberman and Kerry said in a joint statement. “Nothing could be more definitive than his explicit commitment today to find the remaining votes needed to pass this vital legislation.”
While critics have suggested that the oil spill has only added to the political uncertainty of passing the legislation this year, Kerry has argued that it makes the case more strong that alternative sources of energy should be promoted. President Obama also seemed to make that case this afternoon.
“Without a major change in our energy policy, our dependence on oil means that we will continue to send billions of dollars of our hard-earned wealth to other countries every month – including countries in dangerous and unstable regions,” Obama said. “In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security. It will smother our planet. And it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON -- There are days when being president of the United States is pure glory and pride. Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, for example. Or standing in the East Room, surrounded by well-wishers and battle-weary colleagues, signing a health care law previous presidents had tried and failed for decades to accomplish. Or even the day before Thanksgiving, when the president gets to pardon a turkey and put the whole country in a festive mood.
And then there are days like Monday, when the president -- and avowed Chisox fan -- had to host the New York Yankees and congratulate them on winning the 2009 World Series.
"This is a team that goes down to spring training every year expecting to win it all -- and more often than not, you guys get pretty close," President Obama told the ballplayers in the East Room. "My White Sox would get close every year.
"That attitude, that success, has always made the Yankees easy to love -- and, let’s face it, easy to hate as well," the president added, drawing some chuckles from the audience.
Wall Street is getting hammered at the White House and on Capitol Hill, but Obama, following tradition, gave a hero's welcome to the other well-paid New Yorkers in pinstripes.
"For the millions of Yankees fans in New York and around the world who bleed blue, nothing beats that Yankee tradition," Obama said, lauding the team for its many wins over the years.
The assembled group -- including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, whom Obama called "Yankees fans" -- were congratulatory at the political star-studded event. But away from the cameras, not everyone is quite so gracious.
When White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced the Yankees event as he ticked off the president's schedule to reporters last week, he was greeted by a low and derisive hiss.
And last November, when the House of Representatives voted, as is customary, to approve a resolution honoring the World Series winners, a number of representatives balked.
Typically, lawmakers engage in some good-natured ribbing on the floor, then vote unanimously to congratulate the winning World Series or Super Bowl team. But last fall -- partly, a few lawmakers said at the time, because Representative Jose Serrano of the Bronx was walking around in a Yankees cap, trying to get New Englanders to actually cosponsor the resolution -- tradition was tossed.
Seventeen lawmakers -- including Quincy Democrat Bill Delahunt -- voted no. Another 11 -- including New England Democratic Representatives Niki Tsongas and John Olver of Massachusetts, Peter Welch of Vermont, and Paul Hodes of New Hampshire -- voted "present," an in-your-face way of saying, "I won't try to kill this resolution, but I sure as heck am not going on record congratulating the Yankees." Another 19, including Worcester Democratic Representative Jim McGovern, didn't vote.
There's always October.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama called Senator Scott Brown this afternoon to discuss immigration and financial regulatory reform.
Obama made the call from Air Force One, as the president was on his way back to Washington from a fundraising trip to California.
Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters this afternoon that Obama called to talk about the two issues, but did not elaborate. Brown is opposed to the current financial reform proposal that Democrats have been pushing, and has said he would join a Republican filibuster against it.
Immigration could come up later this year, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying that it would be a focus.
"The senator spoke with the president today regarding immigration," said Gail Gitcho, Brown's communications director. "Senator Brown told the president that he would review any legislation if it came before the Senate, but he believes that the immediate focus should be on fixing the economy and creating jobs."
Brown has opposed driver's licenses and in-state tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, although he has said that reforms should be made to help make the process easier for those seeking citizenship.
As a state senator in 2006, he co-sponsored an amendment aimed at barring companies that hired illegal immigrants from doing business with the state of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, before he won the US Senate special election, he filed legislation that would require the state attorney general to document proof of citizenship when prosecuting wage enforcement cases.
"I welcome legal immigration to this country," Brown said in a press release last year, in response to a state-commissioned report that urged Governor Deval Patrick to push for driver's licenses and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. "However, we are also a nation of laws and government should not adopt policies that encourage illegal immigration. Providing driver’s licenses and in-state tuition to illegal immigrant families will act as a magnet in drawing more people here in violation of the law and it will impose new costs on taxpayers. Government should strictly enforce the law, not ignore it with a wink and a nod or, even worse, pass laws that condone illegal behavior.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON -- Harvard Medical School professor Donald Berwick's nomination to run the nation's Medicare and Medicaid programs is now official.
President Obama, whose staff several weeks ago floated Berwick's name to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, made the formal announcement Monday afternoon. Berwick, the president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, now must convince a US Senate still bitterly divided over the health care overhaul law to confirm him to the job.
Berwick's fans credit him with what they call innovative ideas to lower health care costs while maintaining quality care. That approach, supporters say, is critical in the next decade, when Medicare funding is set to be shrunk by $400 billion while Medicaid, the program for the poor and disabled, will undergo its biggest expansion in history.
"Dr. Berwick has dedicated his career to improving outcomes for patients and providing better care at lower cost," Obama said in a statement. "That’s one of the core missions facing our next CMS Administrator, and I’m confident that Don will be an outstanding leader for the agency and the millions of Americans it serves."
The American Medical Association also welcomed Berwick's nomination, calling the Harvard professor and pediatrician "widely known and well-respected for his visionary leadership efforts that focus on optimizing the quality and safety of patient care in hospitals and across health care settings."
The AARP, a powerful seniors' lobby, also hailed the pick.
"Dr. Berwick’s expertise on health care innovation and his dedication to quality improvement and patient safety would benefit the millions of low-income and older Americans served by Medicare and Medicaid," said John Rother, the group's executive vice president.
However, Berwick could face a tough nomination fight. His cost-cutting ideas could be seen as rationing, leading the Senate to revisit discredited claims that the health care law will include "death panels" assigned to deciding who lives and who dies. Republican aides are also scouring Berwick's writings, looking for controversial rhetoric.
Even if Berwick himself does not draw partisan attacks, his nomination hearings provide the Senate with another platform to fight about health care overhaul, an issue Republicans believe will be key to depleting Democratic majorities in Congress in this November's elections.
Berwick declined to comment pending his nomination hearings. His spokesman, Jesse duPont, said Berwick "is honored to be nominated and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is gratified that a leader in health care quality improvement has been recognized by the Obama administration as a strong candidate to head up CMS."
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown is meeting today with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, an indication that the Obama administration sees the Massachusetts Republican as someone who could be convinced to vote for the bill.
Brown yesterday said he would vote against the financial overhaul bill that Democrats are currently pushing as a way to curb the practices that contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown.
And while he left open the possibility that he could sign onto a compromise, he had pointed criticism for the administration.
Geithner coming to meet with Brown is also an indication of the administration’s push on the issue. Other likely targets are several New England Republicans, including Judd Gregg, of New Hampshire, and Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, both of Maine.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PORTLAND -- Any visit by President Obama is bound to attract angry protesters, yelling loudly about “government takeovers” and talking about the nation’s descent into communism and heckling defiant Democrats.
Mainers, it seems, didn’t get the memo.
Sure, there is angst here among some health industry officials and business owners that the law could end up costing them a lot of money. But they use words like “concern,” not phrases like “Armageddon.” And yes, a smattering of anti-health care overhaul protestors showed up to mark Obama’s visit. But they didn’t yell; they only rang a bell for attention. And when pro-Obama voters walked through the opposing crowd, carrying their “Thank You” signs for the president, the anti-overhaul group graciously moved aside so their political foes could pass.
“I’m for sticking up for the constitution,” said Kandi-Lee Hoy, 48, reveling in the sunny weather as she awaited Obama’s arrival. Hoy said she felt the federal bank and auto industry bailouts, combined with the health care package, represented too much government control. But she had no unkind words for the thousands who were standing in line across the street to deliver the opposite message.
“They don’t want confrontation. They just want to get their message out,” said Chris Cinquemani, spokesman for the Maine Heritage Policy Center, which opposes the bill. Cinquemani himself had been walking up to strangers in the crowd, offering a handshake and introductions.
The pro-health care overhaul crowd was equally sanguine, laughing and waving as they waited, without complaint, for hours to get into the Expo Center. Even when directly facing their opponents, they avoided a war of words. “Some people say we’re really Canadian,” said one woman, referring to the notoriously good manners of their northern neighbors. She quickly added that she was proud to be a Mainer.
And while other states have already begun legal challenges to the health care law, Maine’s legislature moved quickly to adapt, establishing a bipartisan panel to figure out how the federal law will synch with the state’s own health care plan.
“We just have that kind of attitude,” said Democratic state legislator Sharon Treat. “It tends to prevail over negativity.”
Obama, too, shrugged off a negative review in Portland, where the president said he was greeted by a derisive “eh” by a man watching the presidential motorcade go by.
“Ultimately that’s what makes our country so great ... everybody is able to voice their opinions; everybody is able to get out there and organize. And you’re free to call your President an idiot,” Obama said.
Mitt Romney took a moment his book tour to lambaste the new health care law, calling for a repeal and characterizing President Obama as an abuser of power and purveyor of fraudulent claims.
"President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation — rather than bringing us together, ushering in a new kind of politics, and rising above raw partisanship, he has succumbed to the lowest denominator of incumbent power: justifying the means by extolling the ends. He promised better; we deserved better,'' Romney wrote in a statement on the website of his political action committee, Free and Strong America.
The former Massachusetts governor has been criss-crossing the country and doing a series of interviews on his recently released book, "No Apology,'' which premiered Sunday atop The New York Times' best-seller list for non-fiction books. Romney had actively supported and signed the 2006 bill that greatly expanded availability of health care in the Bay State. Many analysts have pointed to the Massachusetts plan as a model for Obama's and the Democrats' national package.
"His health care bill is unhealthy for America. It raises taxes, slashes the more private side of Medicare, installs price controls, and puts a new federal bureaucracy in charge of health care. It will create a new entitlement even as the ones we already have are bankrupt. For these reasons and more, the act should be repealed. That campaign begins today.''
Romney, who ran for the GOP nomination for president in 2008 and is considered a possible candidate in 2012, did not specify if he would play a role in any repeal campaign. His PAC has been a top fund-raiser for Republican candidates across the nation and he could use his influence to back candidates that support a repeal.
President Obama's "great-great-great-great-great" Irish grandfather imparted the gift of gab, so he opened the Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Capitol today with the traditional blarney.
"Today is a day we speak with pride of being Irish-American -- whether we actually are or not," Obama said, to laughter. "I am pleased to say that I can actually get away with it, and I've got the Taoiseach here to vouch for me."
Obama can trace his Irish lineage through his mother's family to County Offaly, the same county, coincidentally, that Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who was in attendance, was born. Obama learned of his Irish ancestry during the presidential campaign.
As in his remarks at last year's event, Obama jokingly asked why no one discovered his Irish heritage while he ran for office in Chicago, which he suggested might have helped his political career.
President Obama also took a moment to honor the late Senator Ted Kennedy; he thanked his widow, Vicki Kennedy, and son, Representative Patrick Kennedy, for their presence at the event.
"We all feel the heavy absence of one of our greatest Irish-Americans; a man who loved this day so much; a man who I believe is still watching this body closely, particularly this week -- and that is our beloved Ted Kennedy," he said.
Obama related a favorite memory of Senator Kennedy, who once joked, on St. Patrick's Day, that the votes he managed to gather from both sides of the aisle for a particular bill were owed to "the luck of the Irish."
"It's also nice when the luck of the Irish can bring us all together, Republicans and Democrats," Obama said.
Read the full transcript below.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan health summit between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders began this morning with sharp disagreements, and that's how it ended. The meeting lasted six-and-a-half hours and at the end, there was no grand compromise, and seemingly no changed minds.
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander started the session by calling on Obama and Democratic leaders to renounce the use of reconciliation – a budget procedure that would allow Democrats to pass a comprehensive health care bill with just 51 votes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly refused. "Reconciliation isn’t something that’s never been done before," he said, citing Republican use of reconciliation to pass Bush tax cuts. And at the end of the day, Obama, Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed resolve to act on a measure with or without Republican support.
Beyond the intense fight over strategy, the rare and engaging debate also highlighted the deep philosophical differences that remain -- a year after the health care debate began -- over how aggressively the federal government should intervene to expand insurance coverage and fix an insurance system that everyone at the historic meeting agreed is in need of repairs.
As expected, the summit did not live up to its billing as a forum for compromise. But it certainly proved to be riveting political theater, a radical and refreshing departure from business as usual in the capital. Instead of talking to empty legislative chambers on C-SPAN or through carefully crafted media sound bites, the nation’s elected leaders sat eyeball-to-eyeball and held a frank debate over their differences.
Meeting at Blair House, a historic building across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, Obama sat at the head of a square conference table, flanked by Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Alexander, Senator John McCain and other Republican senators sat to Obama’s left.
Obama called on participants to focus on areas of overlap in their proposals. But the divide over substance and process immediately dominated.
Alexander called on Democrats to scrap their comprehensive proposals and work with Republicans to pass smaller, less ambitious changes to health insurance markets using a “clean sheet of paper.”
The GOP accused Democrats of disingenuous posturing at the summit because they continued to seek a massive overhaul that Republicans have already rejected. Alexander likened the summit to the “Detroit Auto Show” where Democrats pushed “the same model we saw last year.”
“This is a car that can’t be recalled and fixed and we would like to start over,” Alexander said.
McCain, who is facing a primary challenge from a conservative Republican in his home state of Arizona, launched into an attack on a variety of special political deals packed into in the bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve, including the so-called “Louisiana Purchase” and Nebraska's “Cornhusker Kickback” – which were generous Medicaid benefits designed to gain support of moderate Democrats from those states.
He also cited a deal Obama’s administration negotiated with the prescription drug industry behind closed doors. Under terms of the deal, which were reported last spring, the White House got an $80 billion commitment from drug companies over 10 years to reduce drug costs for seniors on Medicare. In exchange, the White House agreed to drop efforts to bargain for lower drug prices the government pays under Medicare. It also agreed not to seek importation of lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada.
“People are angry. We promised them change in Washington,” said McCain, who was Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 presidential election. Democrats, he said, have treated the public instead to “unsavory dealmaking.”
“John, we’re not campaigning any more. The election is over,” Obama told McCain, urging him to focus on policy, not political talking points that are better suited for split-screen debates on Fox or MSNBC. “My hope is we can focus on the issue of how we get a bill done … We can have a debate about process, or we can have a debate over how we’re going to help the American people.”
Republicans around the table said that Democratic proposals to insure about 30 million Americans who lack coverage require expensive subsidies and too many coverage mandates that drive up premium costs. They said the taxes and Medicare cuts that would be required to pay for $1 trillion overhaul sought by Democrats would hurt many of the middle-class people the program is supposed to help.
Obama responded, however, that minimum coverage requirements are needed to sufficiently protect consumers. And, he said, the assembled politicians in the room benefit from such provisions.
“The federal health insurance program has a minimum benefit that we all take advantage of,” he said.
Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and a doctor, ticked off a litany of his top priorities, including preventing and managing chronic illness.
Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan, outlined a litany of disagreements Republicans have with the Democratic bills’ approach to dealing with rising health care costs. First, he said, Republicans don’t want a bill that provides large subsidies to help the uninsured afford coverage.
“A lot of Americans say to me, ‘If you are really interested in controlling costs, maybe you shouldn’t be spending $1 trillion on (expanding) health care benefits,” he said.
Camp said a key element to cost control that is missing from the House and Senate bills is medical malpractice reform -- discouraging people from filing frivolous lawsuits against doctors, which encourage physicians to practice “defensive” medicine by prescribing tests that are probably unnecessary just to protect themselves from liability.
Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, insisted the parties weren’t so far apart. He noted that setting up exchanges -- like the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority -- was a Republican idea.
But Republicans responded that the problem is with the way Democrats have constructed the exchanges -- the rules, they say, are too strict, requiring insurers to cover more than the basics, forcing premiums to go up. Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, said the GOP would rather let business associations pool members independently -- with government leaving it up to them to find the best products for their members.
“We don’t think the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this,” he said.
But Obama said Democrats want to set national ground rules for what insurance policies should cover. He outlined the Democratic objection to Republicans’ call to let insurance carriers sell insurance across state lines. The fear, he said, is that insurers will go to the least restrictive, least regulated state and race to cherry-pick the healthiest people from all the states with offers of cheap coverage, leaving sick people in ever more costly plans.
“If you set a baseline, you can have interstate competition, but it’s not a race to the bottom,” the president said.
Christopher Rowland can be reached at email@example.com
WASHINGTON -- It was a protest cry that could only be shouted in Washington, DC.
“Stop reconciliation now!” yelled a man outside of Blair House today, railing against a legislative process and concept generally not discussed -- let alone protested -- outside the wonky walls of the US Capitol.
The man, carrying a sign that said, “Jesus Loves All Babies,” was referring to the possibility that a health care package will be added to a budget reconciliation bill. Budget bills require just a majority vote to be approved, and cannot be filibustered, as Republicans are threatening to do if the health bill is brought back to the Senate floor.
Other played to historical fears, with signs depicting President Obama with a Hitler-esque mustache. A half-dozen others went with the office-poster look of a photograph of an actual pig in makeup. “You Can Put Lipstick on a Pig -- It's still a Pig. Barack Obama, 9-9-08,” the signs said.
The protesters -- who came out more than an hour before Obama and lawmakers were scheduled to show up for their day-long health care huddle -- said they wanted to urge the president and members of Congress to scrap the measure that's been developed over the past year and start all over again.
“We're not against reform. We're protesting what is really a charade, not a summit,” said Nancy Pfotenhauer, 46, of Virginia and a member of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group. Americans “want a clean slate. They do not like the massive government takeover option,” Pfotenhauer said.
Police moved the demonstrators across the street mid-morning, and they were quickly met by counter-protestors who demanded universal health care. A fierce verbal confrontation ensued on the narrow sidewalk, but no physical battles occurred. “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” a smattering of protestors yelled, seeking to drown out their counterparts.
The pro-health care overhaul team, meanwhile, argued for a single payer system, expanding Medicare to cover all people. “Why the Summit Stall? Medicare for All!” their signs read.
Estrella Chaules of Sudbury, Mass., said she was disappointed that Obama hadn't been stronger in pushing a single-payer system. [Obama promised in his campaign a health care overhaul to provide near-universal coverage, but said a single-payer system would be politically impossible and too disruptive.]
“I think we need health care for all, and I'm just sorry that president Obama has forgotten or reneged on his promise to give universal health care for all,” said Chaules, who is 67 and retired. Chaules said her sister lives in Canada and received “great” health care there.
“Why can't we do the same? Why shouldn't we even be better? There are people who need health care who can't get it any other way.” she said.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama's health care proposal, released this morning in advance of his bipartisan health care summit on Thursday, would attempt to protect consumers against large health insurance premium increases by allowing government regulators to review rate hikes and block any they deem unwarranted, administration officials said this morning.
The plan, which a spokesman called the president's "best shot" at working out a compromise between the House and Senate bills, is designed to provide a pathway for Congressional Democrats to pass a health care bill without any Republican votes, if necessary, using a process called "reconciliation" that allows the Senate to pass bills by a simple majority rather than the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster by the minority party. The House would pass the Senate's health care bill and then both chambers would pass the White House's proposed fixes under reconciliation.
"The president believes the American people deserve an up-or-down vote on health reform," said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a conference call with reporters this morning. "Our proposal is designed to achieve that if the Republican Party decides to filibuster.... That was certainly a factor in how we put the proposal together."
The White House proposal underscores that the president sees the summit as a chance to make the Democratic case for health reform to the American people and to argue that vision represents a stronger and more comprehensive solution than the ideas the GOP is offering. It also shows the president does not see bipartisanship as more important than passing a comprehensive health care bill.
Since Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy in January, Democrats have been unable to pass a compromise version of the health care bills the House and Senate approved last year because they are one vote short of the 60 needed to prevent a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
The White House is trying to offer a way around that problem. Its plan is essentially a series of adjustments to the health care bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve, meant to appeal to House Democrats who have balked at passing the Senate bill without any changes. Assuming no Republicans sign on, House Democrats could pass the Senate's health care bill, and then both chambers could adopt the White House's additional changes using reconciliation.
But it remains to be seen whether Congressional Democrats have the political stomach to pass a health care bill that polls show remains unpopular with the public. Some Senate Democrats are nervous about seeming to ram through major legislation -- even though Republicans have used the procedure to adopt sweeping tax and budget proposals in years past -- and House members wanted more concessions from the Senate.
Though the president has said he is interested in hearing Republicans' ideas for health reform and working with them on a bill, he has refused to agree to GOP demands that Democrats "start from scratch," which would probably mean no bill could pass this year. Most observers of the debate believe the parties are ideologically too far apart and appear politically unwilling to cooperate on a true compromise. Democrats want a bill that can cover 30 million or more of the 50 million uninsured, and Republicans say that's too expensive to do that right now.
Dan Pfeiffer characterized the president's proposal as an "opening bid" for the health care summit on Thursday and said the White House would be happy to post a Republican plan alongside it on the White House website.
Pfeiffer said the president's proposal contained many of the agreements House and Senate leaders made in January, before Brown was elected, when they met extensively with the president to negotiate a final compromise.
The underlying Senate bill in many ways mirrors the system Massachusetts enacted in 2006, setting up state-based "exchanges" -- like the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority -- to help the uninsured purchase insurance. It provides federally subsidized assistance to people earning less than 400 percent of poverty, or $88,000 a year for a family of four, to help purchase insurance. And it prohibits insurers from dropping or denying coverage based on preexisting conditions or gender.
The White House plan tries to find a middle ground on some of the most controversial differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. It requires individuals to obtain insurance or face a fine, unless they can't find a plan that costs less than 8 percent of income, in which case they would be allowed to purchase a basic catastrophic insurance plan. It requires employers with more than 50 employees to help offset the cost to the government if their uninsured workers apply for federally subsidized insurance.
It contains no provision to establish a government-run insurance plan.
Because parliamentary rules strictly limit the content of reconciliation bills to provisions affecting revenue, the White House plan includes no changes to the Senate bill's rules on abortion coverage or to the state-based exchanges it would set up. The abortion issue in particular could be a sticking point, since a contingent of House Democrats say they will not vote for a bill that does not contain the House's more restrictive abortion language.
Instead of a special Medicaid deal for Nebraska only, the White House proposal would provide even more help to states to expand Medicaid. It also contains additional money for states like Massachusetts that already have generous Medicaid programs and so would not otherwise qualify for expansion help.
White House officials said today the new plan costs about $75 billion more than the Senate bill; the total cost would be $950 billion over 10 years. But they said that cost would be more than offset by a combination of reductions in Medicare spending, cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, industry fees, taxes on high-cost health insurance and penalties for individuals who do not purchase insurance and employers whose uninsured employees enroll in government-subsidized insurance programs.
The tougher regulatory powers contained in the legislation are designed to add a new populist appeal at a time when Anthem Blue Cross of California has said it is raising rates by 39 percent.
Read the full proposal here.
NASHUA -- Promising jobs and asking for patience, President Obama pitched his economic plan to a receptive New Hampshire audience, defending his plan to cut deficits and ease unemployment even as lawmakers back in Washington picked apart his budget blueprint.
“Because there’s no magic wand that will make economic problems that were years in the making disappear overnight, it’s easy for politicians to exploit the anger and anguish folks are feeling right now,'' Obama told a crowd of about 1,600 at a Nashua high school, acknowledging that “folks here in New Hampshire have been tested by the last two years.''
But things could have been much worse, Obama said, if his administration had not gone ahead with the financial bailouts and $787 billion stimulus program so reviled by his Republican opponents. “Because of the steps we took, the markets have stabilized. No one’s worrying about another Great Depression like they were a year ago. The worst of the storm has passed,'' Obama said.FULL ENTRY
By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff
Indications so far are that President Obama is not going to map out a detailed strategy for passing the health care bill in his State of the Union address tonight.
But with the president's erstwhile top domestic priority foundering since Massachusetts voters elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate last week, denying Democrats the 60th vote they need to pass a final compromise, health care advocates and liberal groups are using the hours before Obama's speech to demand action.
"While many of the provisions of the House bill are preferable to those in the Senate version, we believe that the House of Representatives should step forward and pass the Senate bill," said Mary G. Wilson, president of the League of Women Voters, in a statement issued this afternoon.
The American Cancer Society said cancer patients would gather around the country to watch the State of the Union address: "Cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones are calling on the President to continue to make meaningful health care reform a top national priority," the group said in a release.
The Main Street Alliance, a group of business owners who support the health care legislation, wrote in a letter to the president and Congressional leaders: "This is no time to consider scaling back a reform bill that must make health insurance affordable for businesses and our employees, share the responsibility of improving coverage fairly among individuals, employers, and the government, and reform the health insurance market to keep insurance companies honest."
The liberal activist group MoveOn Political Action, meanwhile, said a survey of its members found that three-quarters won't donate to Democratic candidates in this year's midterm elections if Democrats fail to pass comprehensive health care reform. The group says its members contributed $125 million to Democratic candidates in 2008.
"These surveys are consistent with sentiment we saw coming out of Massachusetts last week—that people are looking for Democrats to fight for real change," said executive director Justin Ruben in a statement. "Right now, that starts with comprehensive health care reform. We’re at a crossroads and if Democrats want to maintain the enthusiasm among donors and volunteers they need to win in 2010, they need to get health care done."
Congressional leaders have been floundering over the last week for a strategy on health care. Every day it seems the message changes -- yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared that there was "no rush," today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress should not retreat from the issue.
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON _ While most political observers are anxious to hear what President Obama will say Wednesday night about health care reform and the economy, Washington is also abuzz today about what the State of the Union address might contain about gays in the military.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, set off the guessing game Monday when he told reporters that the White House asked him to postone an announcement about an upcoming hearing on the so-called 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy because the president plans to address the issue.
The Michigan Democrat said he didn't know what Obama plans to say, but speculation is mounting that he will call on Congress to repeal the 1993 law that established the policy that bars gays from serving openly in the ranks -- either by proposing his own legislation or backing a draft bill in the House sponsored by Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War veteran who represents suburban Philadelphia.
Such a move is bound to be controversial but could also be an effort by Democrats to bait Republicans into a debate over a social issue -- one that polling shows has the support of many independent voters -- while couching it in national security terms.
Obama, who made repeal of the ban a campaign pledge, has long said that in a time of war the military can't afford to lose a single qualified soldier.
Returning to domestic concerns, President Obama focuses on health care today after talking about jobs on Friday.
In his weekly Internet and radio address, the president says that as the economy recovers, his administration will build a new strong foundation for economic growth.
And besides education reform and investments in clean energy, a key element is fixing the nation's health care system, Obama says. Democrats in Congress are pushing to agree on a final bill that can go to Obama's desk before he delivers his first State of the Union speech next month.
"After a long and thorough debate, we are on the verge of passing health insurance reform that will finally offer Americans the security of knowing they’ll have quality, affordable health care whether they lose their job, change jobs, move, or get sick. The worst practices of the insurance industry will be banned forever. And costs will finally come down for families, businesses, and our government.
He addresses critics who point out that while some higher taxes and fees would start almost immediately after the bill becomes law while many benefits would not. "It’ll take a few years to fully implement these reforms in a responsible way. But what every American should know is that once I sign health insurance reform into law, there are dozens of protections and benefits that will take effect this year," Obama declares.
He goes on to list some of them: no more discrimination against uninsured Americans with a pre-existing illness or condition, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policy until they’re 26 or 27 years old, small business owners will get tax credits to help cover their employees, and seniors hit by the so-called donut hole in coverage will receive discounts on their prescriptions.
"In short," Obama says, "once I sign health insurance reform into law, doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions, and insurance company bureaucrats will have less. All told, these changes represent the most sweeping reforms and toughest restrictions on insurance companies that this country has ever known. That’s how we’ll make 2010 a healthier and more secure year for every American – for those who have health insurance, and those who don’t."
His full address is below and can be viewed here.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani offered praise of a sort to President Obama today, saying that by forcefully declaring that "we are at war," the president had "turned the corner" on tackling terrorism.
But in the interview broadcast this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," the 2008 GOP presidential candidate said Obama still must do better.
He said the administration should treat terrorism suspects as enemy combatants and not try them in the civilian criminal courts, as it is doing for the alleged attempted bomber on the Detroit-bound Christmas flight. Giuliani also questioned how government prosecutors have handled the investigation of that case.
"Why in God's name would you stop questioning a terrorist?" he asked. "Why would you put an artificial time limit on how much time you would spend questioning a terrorist."
But it's another comment he made that is raising some eyebrows: "We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama."
Bush was president and Giuliani was mayor when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, as well as for shoe-bomber Richard Reid in late 2001.
UPDATE: Asked about the omission this afternoon, Giuliani called the controversy "silly," but acknowledged that he misspoke.
"I usually say we had no domestic attacks, no major domestic attack under President Bush since September 11th. And the reason I say it is on September 11th and the days after September 11th, I received many briefings, many warnings, as the mayor of New York, that we were going to be attacked again, that we were going to be attacked frequently," he said on CNN's "Situation Room."
"I did omit the words 'since September 11th.' I apologize for that. I should have put it in. I do remember September 11th. In fact, Wolf, I remember it every single day and usually frequently during the day."
In the aftermath of the nearly successful bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, the Obama administration has focused on beefing up the screening of airline passengers and stopping suspected terrorists from getting on board.
But Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts reminded President Obama today that there's a deadline in August to screen all air cargo on passenger aircraft as well.
Markey, who authored a mandate to carry through the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission on cargo, sent a letter to Obama, urging him to intensify efforts to screen all inbound air cargo.
“As we have seen all too clearly with the attempted Christmas Day attack, dangerous holes remain in our security system that a terrorist can exploit,” Markey said in a statement. “While President Obama is working quickly to close these gaps, we must focus not only on the safety of passengers in airline seats, but of the cargo just beneath their feet. We must fully implement the 100 percent air cargo screening mandate and we must do it quickly.”
The Transportation Security Administration has indicated that it expects to meet the August deadline for screening all domestic air cargo carried on passenger planes, but agency officials have told Congress that they will not meet the deadline for inbound air cargo coming from overseas, and only plans to screen so-called "high-risk" cargo from overseas.
“The Christmas Day attempt is the must recent example of the shortcomings of this approach,” said Markey. “Just as international passengers entering the U.S. from abroad will be screened more thoroughly under the new guidelines, so too should the air cargo from overseas.”
President Obama hoped to put the Christmas Day terror scare behind him -- at least temporarily -- by saying Thursday that the "buck stops with me" and setting in motion a streamlining of intelligence efforts and a ramping up of passenger screening.Today, he returned his focus to jobs after the latest unemployment report showed the jobless rate stuck in double digits.
The Labor Department reported this morning that employers cut 85,000 jobs last month, more than most analysts expected. For all of 2009, employers slashed 4.2 million jobs, and the jobless rate averaged 9.3 percent -- compared to an average of 5.8 percent in 2008 and 4.6 percent in 2007. The economy has lost more than 8 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.
Obama has warned repeatedly that job growth will lag the economic recovery, in part because many companies have figured out how to get by with fewer employees, often by making workers do more.
UPDATE: "The jobs numbers that were released by the Labor Department this morning are a reminder that the road to recovery is never straight and that we have to continue to work every single day to get our economy moving again," Obama said this afternoon.
"For most Americans, and for me, that means jobs. It means whether we are putting people back to work. Job losses for the last quarter of 2009 were one-tenth of what we were experiencing in the first quarter. In fact, in November we saw the first gain in jobs in nearly two years.
"Last month, however, we slipped back, losing more jobs than we gained, though the overall trend of job loss is still pointing in the right direction. What this underscores, though, is that we have to continue to explore every avenue to accelerate the return to hiring, which brings me to my announcement today." (His full remarks are below.)
He announced that the administration is awarding $2.3 billion in Recovery Act tax credits, for 183 "clean energy manufacturing projects" in 43 states that are supposed to create tens of thousands of jobs in areas including solar, wind, and efficiency and energy management technologies.
“Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future,” Obama said in a statement. “The Recovery Act awards I am announcing today will help close the clean energy gap that has grown between America and other nations while creating good jobs, reducing our carbon emissions and increasing our energy security.”
In advance of Obama's remarks, the White House sent out a statement from the chairwoman of his Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, that reinforced his message that the recovery will not "be a straight line" and that cautioned against reading too much into any monthly unemployment report.
"Today’s employment report, though a setback from November, is consistent with the gradual labor market stabilization we have been seeing over the last several months," she said.
"Payroll employment declined 85,000 in December. To put this number in perspective, employment declined 139,000 in September and 127,000 in October. So, in a broad sense the trend toward moderating job loss is continuing. This trend is particularly obvious in the quarterly pattern: average monthly job loss was 691,000 in the first quarter of 2009, 428,000 in the second quarter, 199,000 in the third quarter, and 69,000 in the fourth quarter.
"Revised data now show that employment increased 4,000 in November. This is obviously welcome news and the first employment increase in 23 months. Compared with the unexpectedly good report for November, December’s job loss is a slight setback. Two industries where employment declined significantly were construction (-53,000) and wholesale and retail trade (-28,400). One continuing sign of labor market healing was that temporary help services, which is often a leading indicator of labor demand, added 46,500 jobs in December. Both the work week and aggregate hours remained stable, maintaining the significant improvement that occurred in November.
"The unemployment rate remained at 10.0 percent in December. This level reflected a proportional decline in the number of people unemployed and the number of people in the labor force. The unemployment rate remains unacceptably high, which underscores the need for responsible actions to jumpstart private-sector job creation.
"As the President has said for a year, the road to recovery will not be a straight line. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and replace job losses with robust job gains."
But the Republican National Committee got in the first shot.
“For close to a full year the American people have been forced to watch and in many cases bear the burden of our ever increasing national unemployment rate which unfortunately remained in the double digits throughout the month of December," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement.
"More than 85,000 Americans lost their jobs in the month of December, meaning more than 2.8 million Americans have lost their jobs since the stimulus passed, and the national unemployment rate remains at 10 percent. The American economy is a powerful and amazingly resilient system that will always naturally return to balance because of the determination and unique ingenuity of the American worker," Steele added. "But President Obama’s singular focus on enacting his government-run liberal policies are single handily preventing this return. It’s time for President Obama to heed the recent words of Democrat Senator Ben Nelson and finally do what he should have been doing over the past year – put his full and undivided attention on fixing our economy.”
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio piled on, warning of a "jobless recovery."
"Today’s disappointing report paints a picture of an economy in which employers and workers are stuck in the muck of higher taxes, job-killing policies and wasteful Washington spending. Republicans have repeatedly presented President Obama with better solutions to help small businesses create jobs, only to be rebuffed in favor of more of the same ‘stimulus’ programs that just grow government and pile debt on our kids and grandkids," Boehner said in a statement.
"A jobless recovery is a far cry from what the American people were promised last winter when Washington Democrats jammed through a trillion-dollar ‘stimulus’ that they said would create jobs ‘immediately.’ Instead, roughly three million Americans have lost their jobs since then, and joblessness remains in the double-digits.
“Instead of wildly pivoting from one issue to the next, the Obama Administration needs to listen to American families asking ‘where are the jobs?’ and employers calling on Washington to scrap these policies that are already costing jobs, starting with a government takeover of health care. The hard work and entrepreneurship of the American people will ultimately get us out of this mess, but unless Washington gets out of the way, that day will be longer in coming.”
Read into it what you will, but President Obama has pushed back his report today to the American people on the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing so that he can squeeze in two more one-on-one meetings.
The original schedule had his remarks at 1 p.m. EST, but the White House just said that Obama is now set to speak at 3 p.m.
UPDATE: Obama's remarks on the attempted bombing have been delayed a second time. The new schedule: 4:30 p.m.
Instead at 1 p.m., he will meet with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, then at 1:30 with former President Bill Clinton -- their first alone time in the Oval Office since Obama became president.
Obama is to detail what has been discovered so far about what went wrong that allowed a Nigerian man with suspected terrorist ties to board a Detroit-bound plane with explosives secreted on his body. Only a defective device and quick-acting passengers apparently foiled the attack.
While the Northwest flight was in the air, the suspect had been flagged for further screening once the airliner landed in Detroit, the Associated Press is reporting.
A declassified version of the preliminary report will be released today. Girding Americans, national security adviser General James Jones told USA Today that "the man on the street" will feel "a certain shock" that the connections weren't made to prevent the attack.
President Obama declared this afternoon that "the bottom line" is that the government had enough information to stop the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a US airliner, but failed to connect the dots.
"We have to do better and we will do better," he said at the White House, after meeting with 20 top national security officials he summoned to the situation room for a detailed briefing on the investigation and the status of the reviews he ordered on terrorist watch lists and on passenger screening.
Obama said he wants recommendations this week on how to improve both and wants them implemented immediately. "We face a challenge of the utmost urgency," he added.
Since he took office, Obama said, US forces have "taken the fight to Al Qaeda," disrupting plots and protecting Americans.
But, he conceded, when a suspected terrorist is able to board a US bound plane and nearly ignite an explosive, the "system has failed in a potentially disastrous way."
He also announced that the administration will stop repatriating detainees to Yemen from the prison at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, saying that the situation in Yemen was too unsettled.
An Al Qaeda affiliate based Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for US-supported airstrikes on its hideouts. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian who claims ties to Al Qaeda, has also reportedly said he received instruction from operatives in Yemen.
The Guantanamo decision drew immediate fire from civil rights groups pushing Obama to close Guantanamo, as he pledged to do by this month -- a deadline he almost certainly will not meet. About half the remaining 198 detainees at Guantanamo are from Yemen, after six were sent there just before the plane incident.
"Dozens of men from Yemen who have been cleared for release after extensive scrutiny by the government?s Guantànamo Review Task Force are about to be left in limbo once more due to politics, not facts. Many are about to begin their ninth year in indefinite detention," the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. "Halting the repatriation of Yemeni men cleared by the Task Force after months of careful review is unconscionable. It will also effectively prevent any meaningful progress towards closing Guantánamo, which President Obama has repeatedly argued will make our nation safer."
On the other side, Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said Obama should completely abandon his plans to close the Guantanamo facility.
"Unless the administration abandons its ill-conceived and politically motivated plans to close Gitmo, most Americans won't find much solace in transferring detainees that would have gone to Yemen and housing them on American soil," Issa said in a statement. "Hopefully, recent events will have awakened the President to the reality that our national and homeland security must supersede the politics of the moment."
But Obama rejected that advice. "Make no mistake," he said, "we will close Guantanamo prison," which he repeated has become a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.
In his brief remarks, the president confirmed that hundreds of names have been added to terrorist watch and no-fly lists.
Obama also confirmed the Monday directive from the Transportation Security Administration to airlines to give full-body, pat-down searches to US-bound travelers from Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and 11 other countries with suspected terrorist ties.
Republicans, meanwhile, are all over Obama for his administration's reported plans to try the bombing suspect in civilian court, saying he is an "enemy combatant" who should go before a military tribunal.
"The administration?s treatment could afford a murderous terrorist the opportunity to negotiate a plea bargain and a lesser punishment -- and that is not acceptable," the second-ranking House Republican, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, said in a statement.
"Terrorists who come to our country to kill men, women, and children should not be given options when they fail. These murderers are war-time combatants, and are not equivalent to drug dealers, or thieves whom the government can choose to negotiate with for additional information on other criminals," Cantor added. "Instead, we should develop a no-nonsense policy that the United States will not presume that foreign nationals caught attempting to execute or carry out terrorist acts on U.S. soil are automatically entitled to a trial in civilian courts. For 10 months, the administration and many on Capitol Hill have been unwilling to call a terrorist a terrorist. Instead of blame games, we need to strengthen what works in our system, fix what does not, and do what makes sense to ensure that we are always steps ahead of terrorists trying to kill Americans."
Democrats' apparent decision to come up with a final health care bill not only behind closed doors but within a very select group of negotiators is drawing criticism not only from expected quarters, but from the media.
Both C-SPAN and House Republicans are reminding President Obama that he once pledged to have the health care negotiations carried on the gavel-to-gavel cable network.
"As your respective chambers work to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate health care bills, C-SPAN requests that you open all important negotiations, including any conference committee meetings, to electronic media coverage," C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb wrote in a letter to Obama and congressional leaders that the network released this morning.
"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation’s editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation’s health care system. Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the Chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of every single American," Lamb added in the Dec. 30 letter.
"We hope you will give serious consideration to this request. We are most willing to employ the latest digital technology to make the cameras, lights and microphones as unobtrusive as possible."
The plan is not to appoint a conference committee of key members of the House and Senate, but to have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, top White House officials, and a few others try to craft a compromise. That would be a more expeditious route, in hopes of getting a bill to Obama's desk before his first State of the Union speech.
The first of those private meetings is scheduled later today in the Oval Office as Obama huddles with Democratic leaders.
UPDATE: Asked this afternoon about the C-SPAN criticism, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he had not seen the letter. He didn't answer further.
President Obama's grassroots group is taking the pulse of its members to decide its priorities for the new year.
Organizing for America, Obama's presidential campaign vehicle now housed within the Democratic National Committee, sent out an online survey today.
David Plouffe, Obama's former campaign manager, told supporters part of the agenda is set, including the crucial mid-term congressional elections in November: "2010 will be a year of new, exciting challenges. We'll be working hard with President Obama to finish the fight for health insurance reform, put more Americans back to work, and get our economy running strong. We'll fight to protect consumers and our economy from Wall Street abuses, improve transparency in Washington to elevate the voices of the American people, and create a vibrant, clean energy economy. And we'll stand up for the President's allies at the ballot box."
The survey, itself, asks how interested people are in health care, jobs, clean energy, financial regulation, and education. It also asks about immigration reform -- an issue that Obama put on the back burner during 2009 but has promised Latino and other groups he will tackle in 2010.
On the first workday of the new year, a liberal-labor group notes that by lunchtime, the average CEO has already made what a minimum-wage worker will earn in all of 2010.
The average total compensation for a CEO in the Standard & Poor's 500 index was $10.9 million in 2008, which translates to about $5,240 an hour, compared to the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, says Americans United for Change, which is pushing for labor-friendly policies as well as the health care overhaul.
While President Obama has railed against exorbitant executive pay and those firms receiving federal bailouts were under some limits, many of those companies paid back the government so they could pay top executives what they wanted, arguing that they were at a disadvantage for brainpower against companies that didn't need federal aid.
“At a time when hourly workers -- those who are still lucky enough to be employed -- are barely scraping by and having their hours cut back, CEOs continue to make millions across every industry," Tom McMahon, the group's acting executive director said in a statement.
"These same CEOs are, meanwhile, using their cash and influence to fight real change for working families. The bankers who crashed our economy and put us out of work are fight any attempts to reign in their influence. The health insurance companies who bankrupt millions are trying to block any change. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has dug in its feet to protect their pay and their posh way of life. We wish for many things in 2010 but first and foremost we’re hoping that the average worker will have a better shot of a fair deal this year.”
President Obama has brought more of the same -- not change you can believe in.
At least according to the Libertarian Party, which said this evening that its "top 10 disasters" of the Obama administration's first year have a striking similarity to the Bush administration.
"Republicans and Democrats keep expanding government and creating more and more problems. We're encouraging as many Libertarians as possible to run for Congress in 2010," Wes Benedict, the Libertarian Party executive director, said in a statement.
He said that in Texas, the state with the earliest candidate filing deadline, Libertarians have already filed for 31 of 32 congressional seats.
In no particular order, the Libertarians said, the 10 "disasters" of Obama's watch:
1. Cash for clunkers
2. War escalation in Afghanistan
3. Giant government health care expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus package
6. Expansion of "state secrets" doctrine
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. "Bailout" [Tim] Geithner as treasury secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
0. Huge federal deficits
The top 10 disasters of the Bush administration:
1. Cash for car companies
2. War in Iraq
3. Giant Medicare expansion bill
4. Post office loses money hand over fist
5. Stimulus "rebate" checks
6. Patriot Act
7. Big increase in unemployment
8. "Bailout" [Henry] Paulson as Treasury Secretary
9. Skyrocketing federal spending
10. Huge federal deficits
President Obama has little to say publicly today about the preliminary reviews he ordered of what went wrong to allow the near bombing of a US airliner on Christmas Day.
He said this week that a "systemic failure" occurred, as well as human error, and told his administration to look at how terrorist watch lists are compiled and shared and at screening of pasengers.
Obama offered little in the way of conclusions or recommendations, but said he'll meet with key agency heads on Tuesday when he's back in Washington.
His full statement:
"This morning, I spoke with John Brennan about preliminary assessments from the ongoing consultations I have ordered into the human and systemic failures that occurred leading up to the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas Day and about our government-wide efforts at continued vigilance on homeland security and counterterrorism efforts. In a separate call, I spoke with Sec. Napolitano to receive an update on both the Department of Homeland Security review of detection capabilities and the enhanced security measures in place since the Christmas Day incident.
"I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations."
President Obama today sent his own message to CIA staffers after the spy agency's director confirmed that seven employees were killed and six others wounded in a suicide bombing at a base in Afghanistan..
It's unusual for official confirmation to come so quickly, but it was one of the bloodiest incidents in CIA history.
In his message, Obama called the fallen part of a "long line of patriots" and said that the CIA had been tested like never before since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "Because of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved, and our allies and partners have been more secure," he said.
His full message:
To the men and women of the CIA:
I write to mark a sad occasion in the history of the CIA and our country. Yesterday, seven Americans in Afghanistan gave their lives in service to their country. Michelle and I have their families, friends and colleagues in our thoughts and prayers.
These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life. The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA. You have helped us understand the world as it is, and taken great risks to protect our country. You have served in the shadows, and your sacrifices have sometimes been unknown to your fellow citizens, your friends, and even your families.
In recent years, the CIA has been tested as never before. Since our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, you have served on the frontlines in directly confronting the dangers of the 21st century. Because of your service, plots have been disrupted, American lives have been saved, and our Allies and partners have been more secure. Your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow Americans, but your service is deeply appreciated. Indeed, I know firsthand the excellent quality of your work because I rely on it every day.
The men and women who gave their lives in Afghanistan did their duty with courage, honor and excellence, and we must draw strength from the example of their sacrifice. They will take their place on the Memorial Wall at Langley alongside so many other heroes who gave their lives on behalf of their country. And they will live on in the hearts of those who loved them, and in the freedom that they gave their lives to defend.
May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God bless the United States of America.
President Barack Obama
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is blasting President Obama again -- this time on his response to the nearly catastrophic attempted bombing of a US airliner on Christmas Eve.
Obama did not make his first public comments until Monday and they were rather muted. On Tuesday, the president acknowledged there had been a "systemic failure" of the security system that nearly allowed a Nigerian man with apparent ties with Al Qaeda to board a commercial jetliner and to try to detonate an explosive device just before it landed in Detroit.
Cheney accused Obama of pretending the US is not at war and that "makes us less safe."
"As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war," the former vice president said in a statement to Politico that was posted early this morning.
"He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war," Cheney continued. "He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."
Cheney has been one of Obama's harshest critics during the president's first year. He and the president faced off on how the US should combat terrorism in a remarkable set of back-to-back speeches in May. Cheney then accused Obama of "dithering" and putting US troops in danger by taking several months to carefully review his options before announcing that he would send more troops to Afghanistan.
UPDATE: This afternoon, the White House responded directly to Cheney, via a posting on its website from communications director Dan Pfeiffer.
He accused Cheney of making "untrue" allegations against Obama and asserted that the Bush-Cheney administration allowed Al Qaeda to thrive while it diverted attention to Iraq. An Al Qaeda offshoot based in Yemen has claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing, saying it was retaliating for US-assisted strikes against its hideouts.
"Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from Al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country,” Pfeiffer wrote. “And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the president.”
While Obama has avoided using the phrase “war on terror,” Pfeiffer also argued that the president has repeatedly said the nation is at war with Al Qaeda, even if he “doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it.”
House Republican leader John Boehner jumped into the fray this afternoon, faulting Obama for supposedly treating the incident as a "law enforcement matter." Boehner, like Cheney, sought to tie the president's response to his approach to terrorism in general.
“The terrorist plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 exposed a near-catastrophic failure at every level of our government. News reports suggest our government had intelligence in hand that this attack was coming, yet did not piece together all the information and take the necessary actions to prevent it. The system clearly did not work, and I’m glad the President finally acknowledged that yesterday," Boehner said in a statement.
“Just as troubling is the Administration’s treatment of this matter as a mere law enforcement issue. We’re fighting a war on terror, and this was a terrorist act. Our first priority should be gaining intelligence to help prevent the next attack. The threat we face is real, and we don't need to downplay it. We need to do a better job of connecting the dots and putting in place a homeland security and intelligence plan that helps prevent future attacks before they ever get off the ground. We know al Qaeda is plotting more attacks, and our security depends on gaining critical intelligence and connecting those dots," the Ohio Republican added.
“The Administration’s response following this attempted attack is consistent with its dangerous decision to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay and bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists to trial in the United States through civilian courts, rather than the military commissions already in place. We know the decision to close this prison has not stopped al Qaeda from plotting attacks on Americans, turning these terrorists over to other countries is not working, and we shouldn’t import them into the United States. It’s time for the President to halt terrorist transfers to other countries, including Yemen, and to reevaluate his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo.
“All year long, Republicans have asked the question: what is this Administration’s overarching strategy to confront the terrorist threat and keep America safe? The American people deserve answers to this question, and Republicans will push for the type of aggressive oversight to give them confidence that their government is doing everything it can to detect and stop future attacks, rather than just responding to them after they happen.”
President Obama late today announced he had signed an executive order to expand access to classified government documents.
"I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the government’s legitimate interests," Obama said in a statement.
The order expands public access to declassified records and limits the ability of government officials to classify information "Top Secret" or "Confidential." The full order is below.
The Justice Department on Sept. 23 announced steps to make it more difficult for the government to claim it must withhold state secrets to protect national security.
Despite the order, Obama will still keep under wraps millions of pages of military and intelligence documents that were scheduled to be declassified by the end of the year until the end of 2013.
As the Globe reported in late November: "The missed deadline spells trouble for the White House’s promises to introduce an era of government openness, say advocates, who believe that releasing historical information enforces a key check on government behavior. They cite as an example the abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War, including domestic spying and assassinations of foreign officials, that were publicly outlined in a set of agency documents known as the 'family jewels.'
"The documents in question -- all more than 25 years old - were scheduled to be declassified on Dec. 31 under an order originally signed by President Bill Clinton and amended by President George W. Bush. But now Obama finds himself in the awkward position of extending the secrecy, despite his repeated pledges of greater transparency, because his administration has been unable to prod spy agencies into conformance."
The running battle between Big Labor and congressional Republicans now has a new front -- the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day.
That's because President Obama's nominee to lead the Transportation Security Agency -- which is in charge of airline safety -- has been put on hold by Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, who is concerned that the nominee would allow TSA screeners join a union.
DeMint's spokesman, Wes Denton, told Politico that the agency is better off without a permanent leader than with unions running the nation’s airports.
“This is an important debate because many Americans don't want someone running the TSA who stands ready to give union bosses the power to veto or delay future security measures at our airports,” Denton said.
That brought this reaction from Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation:
"Now that this issue has been brought to the forefront the past few days you're going to hear a lot more of this slime and slander from DeMint against hard working Americans who are fighting every day to keep our country safe.... DeMint has no legitimate security concerns, he only cares about advancing a political and ideological agenda -- no matter what the risk or cost to our country."
Part of the delay is Obama's own fault -- it took him eight months to nominate former FBI agent and police detective Erroll Southers. But the hold means that an interim director is in charge of TSA as it takes part in the sweeping review of security policies Obama has ordered.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now tells CNN that he will seek to force a confirmation vote when the Senate returns in January. It would take 60 votes to cut off debate, which Reid hopes to have with 58 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with Democrats.
UPDATE: DeMint hit back today at Democratic critics accusing him of obstructionism.
"The president has downplayed the threat of terror since he took office, and he waited eight months to even nominate Mr. Southers for this position. And then he wanted him approved in secret with no debate and no recorded vote in the Senate," DeMint said on Fox News Channel.
"And this is all in the context of the president promising the unions that he will submit our airport security to collective bargaining with union bosses. This is the last thing we need to do right now. Our airport security needs to have massive flexibility, the ability to move people around and change protocols. And it makes absolutely no sense to submit the security of our airports and the passengers here in this country to collective bargaining with unions."
In his second statement in two days on the Christmas Day terrorism scare, President Obama said today that he wants preliminary findings from reviews of terrorist watch lists and passenger screening by Thursday, and said that it's clear that the current security system is "not sufficiently up to date."
"A systemic failure has occurred and I consider that completely unacceptable," he told reporters who are with him in Hawaii for his family holiday.
The president said early findings have already made clear that there are "deficiencies" in the security system built since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that could have led to a "catastrophic" incident.
Specifically, Obama said the suspect's father warned US officials of his son's radical tendencies, but that information was "not effectively distributed" so that he would be barred from boarding the plane.
"It's essential that we diagnose the problems quickly," he said. (His full remarks are below.)
After a weekend of relative silence on the incident, Obama on Monday vowed to track down all who were involved in plotting the attempted bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner, and announced he had ordered reviews of airline security to keep travelers safe.
Critics have raised questions of why the 23-year-old Nigerian suspect was not flagged for the no-fly list, and how the man was able to board the plane with explosives sewn into his underwear.
The device did not detonate properly, and passengers and crew subdued the suspect, who has reportedly told officials that he was trained and equipped by an Al Qaeda group based in Yemen. That group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for US-assisted air strikes on Al Qaeda hideouts in Yemen.
After three days of virtual silence on the Christmas Day terrorist scare, President Obama emerged in public today, seeking to reassure Americans that his administration is doing all it can to prevent an attack and to learn lessons from the attempted downing of the airliner.
"We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable," said Obama, who is on holiday in Hawaii with his family.
While the incident was a "serious reminder" of terrorism's dangers and could have led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians, the American people should rest assured that the federal government is "doing all in our power" to keep the travelers safe during the busy holiday season, he said. He was dressed in a serious suit and spoke from behind an official lectern in front of a presidential blue curtain, instead of less formal setting.
The Obama administration has ordered far stricter and more intrusive screening of airline passengers, especially those on international flights headed to the US. It has also ordered investigations into how travelers are placed on watch lists and how passengers are screened.
Obama said he has talked to top administration officials, who are monitoring the situation and informing members of Congress and the American public.
The president said he has instructed his national security team to keep up the pressure on terrorist groups targeting the US and vowed to "use every element of our national power" to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terrorist networks -- whether they are based in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, or elsewhere. (His full statement is below.)
He spoke just after Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a collection of militants based in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing. In a statement posted on the Internet, the group said it was retaliating against recent US-coordinated strikes against it in Yemen.
The 23-year-old Nigerian suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, coordinated with Al Qadea members and used explosives they manufactured, the group said.
As the Globe reported earlier this month, as the US steps up the hunt for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, some of the terrorist network’s veteran operatives are flocking to Yemen, where an escalating civil war is turning the nearly lawless Arab nation into an attractive alternative base. Last week, Yemeni forces, backed by the US, launched attacks on suspected Al Qaeda hideouts, including a meeting of top leaders that might have included a Yemeni-American cleric linked to the suspect in the Fort Hood massacre.
The White House lodged its objection today to Israel's announcement that it plans to build nearly 700 new apartments in east Jerusalem.
"The United States opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved by the parties through negotiations and supported by the international community," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
"Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations. Rather, both parties should return to negotiations without preconditions as soon as possible. The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world."
Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, strongly denounced the move. Israel, however, considers east Jerusalem as its traditional capital. It is home to Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy sites.
The issue of expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank has also been a point of contention between the US and Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a slowdown in West Bank settlement construction several weeks ago, but the order did not cover east Jerusalem,
In his first Christmas message as commander in chief, President Obama pays tribute to the men and women fighting two wars, all those serving overseas, those wounded in battle, and the loved ones of those who fell on the battlefield.
"To all our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief. I've been awed by your selfless spirit, your eagerness to serve -- at the Naval Academy and West Point. I've been energized by your dedication to duty -- from Baghdad to the Korean Peninsula. Michelle and I have been moved by your determination -- wounded warriors at Walter Reed and Bethesda, fighting to recover, to get back to your units," he said in his weekly Internet and radio address, released by the White House this evening.
"And I've been humbled, profoundly, by patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. In flag-draped caskets coming home at Dover. In the quiet solitude of Arlington. And after years of multiple tours of duty, as you carry on with our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, your service, your readiness to make that same sacrifice, is an inspiration to us and to every American," said Obama, who also called selected service members from the White House before he left for Hawaii for the holidays.
In a rare feature of the weekly address, First Lady Michelle Obama joins in. She has made helping military families one of her primary causes as first lady, and she and the president ask all Americans to find a way to assist them.
"I've met military spouses doing the parenting of two -- keeping the household together, juggling play dates and soccer games, helping with homework, doing everything they can to make the kids feel OK even as they try to hide their own fears and worries," she says. "I've met kids who wonder when mom or dad is coming home; grandparents and relatives who step in to care for our wounded warriors; and folks trying to carry on after losing the person they loved most in the world.
"And through it all, these families somehow still find the time and energy to serve their communities as well -- coaching Little League, running the PTA, raising money to help those less fortunate than they are, and more. But even these strong military families can use a hand, especially during the holidays. If you live near a military base, you can reach out through your workplaces, your schools, your churches. There are so many ways to help -- with child care, with errands, or by just bringing over a home-cooked meal. Even if you don't know a military family nearby, your family can still help by donating or volunteering at organizations that support military families."
The full address is below and can be viewed here.
In the weekly Republican address, Representative Duncan Hunter of California also urges Americans to think about service members.
"Thoughts of home remind us of why we serve: because we're proud to be Americans, because we want to pass on to our children the blessings of liberty that we inherited from our forefathers, and because nothing matters more to us than protecting our homes and our families," said Hunter, a combat veteran.
He also noted this country's 10 percent unemployment rate. "I hope we also take a moment this year to reflect on those suffering here at home," he said. "For too many families, this will be a difficult Christmas."
His full statement, delivered at the White House:
"Good morning, everybody. In a historic vote that took place this morning members of the Senate joined their colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a landmark health insurance reform package -- legislation that brings us toward the end of a nearly century-long struggle to reform America’s health care system.
"Ever since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform in 1912, seven Presidents -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- have taken up the cause of reform. Time and time again, such efforts have been blocked by special interest lobbyists who’ve perpetuated a status quo that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people. But with passage of reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we are now finally poised to deliver on the promise of real, meaningful health insurance reform that will bring additional security and stability to the American people.
"The reform bill that passed the Senate this morning, like the House bill, includes the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage on the basis of a preexisting condition. They will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get sick. No longer will you have to pay unlimited amounts out of your own pocket for the treatments you need. And you’ll be able to appeal unfair decisions by insurance companies to an independent party.
"If this legislation becomes law, workers won’t have to worry about losing coverage if they lose or change jobs. Families will save on their premiums. Businesses that would see their costs rise if we do not act will save money now, and they will save money in the future. This bill will strengthen Medicare, and extend the life of the program. It will make coverage affordable for over 30 million Americans who do not have it -- 30 million Americans. And because it is paid for and curbs the waste and inefficiency in our health care system, this bill will help reduce our deficit by as much as $1.3 trillion in the coming decades, making it the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade.
"As I’ve said before, these are not small reforms; these are big reforms. If passed, this will be the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s. And what makes it so important is not just its cost savings or its deficit reductions. It’s the impact reform will have on Americans who no longer have to go without a checkup or prescriptions that they need because they can’t afford them; on families who no longer have to worry that a single illness will send them into financial ruin; and on businesses that will no longer face exorbitant insurance rates that hamper their competitiveness. It’s the difference reform will make in the lives of the American people.
"I want to commend Senator Harry Reid, extraordinary work that he did; Speaker Pelosi for her extraordinary leadership and dedication. Having passed reform bills in both the House and the Senate, we now have to take up the last and most important step and reach an agreement on a final reform bill that I can sign into law. And I look forward to working with members of Congress in both chambers over the coming weeks to do exactly that.
"With today’s vote, we are now incredibly close to making health insurance reform a reality in this country. Our challenge, then, is to finish the job. We can't doom another generation of Americans to soaring costs and eroding coverage and exploding deficits. Instead we need to do what we were sent here to do and improve the lives of the people we serve. For the sake of our citizens, our economy, and our future, let’s make 2010 the year we finally reform health care in the United States of America.
"Everybody, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year."
UPDATE: Obama also called Vicki Kennedy, the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, after the bill's passage, the White House said.
He also called key senators and David Turner of Little Rock, Ark. Turner, who had his health insurance rescinded in January 2008, was the First Lady’s guest at Obama's health care address to the joint session of Congress in September.
"The president told Mr. Turner that stories like his motivate him every day to keep working on health insurance reform, and he assured Mr. Turner that he will continue to work to pass health legislation to ban rescission and other abusive practices," the White House said.
UPDATE: Obama also sent a message this afternoon to share "some exciting news" to his grassroots army, now under Organizing for America at the Democratic National Committee. He also asked for their help getting the bill over the finish line.
"Although it's Christmas Eve, I wanted to share some exciting news: The Senate just passed a historic health reform bill," he said in an email.
"In all the back and forth, it's easy to lose sight of what this incredible breakthrough really means. But consider this: This Christmas, there are millions of Americans without health insurance who risk losing everything if they get sick. There are mothers and fathers who wonder how they'll provide for their children because an illness has wiped out their savings. There are small business owners who worry that they'll have to lay off a long-time employee because the cost of insurance is rapidly rising.
"If we finish the job, all this can change. We will have beaten back the special interests who have for so long perpetuated the status quo. We will have enacted the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important health ref