Browsing the archives for the Obama Administration tag.


The President’s Speech

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Health Care, Obama Administration

Live blog tonight. comment away.

Taegan Goddard has a partial transcript.

Notice the red, white and blue — Biden in blue, Pelosi in red, Obama in blue suit and red tie. Planned?

Well, you can sure tell where the Democrats are sitting in the audience.

“No one should be treated that way in the United States of America.” Amen.

Details:

1. No change for people who have insurance now. Repeat.
2. Insurance cannot be denied for preexisting condition.
3. Insurance companies cannot drop or reduce coverage people are paying for.
4. No annual or lifetime caps.
5. Limit on patients’ out of pocket expenses.
6. Checkups and preventive care will be covered.

Quality, affordable choice:

1. Insurance exchange. I’m not excited about the exchange. Tell me about the public option. Repubs are applauding the exchange.

2. Tax credits for low income insurance purchasers.

3. OK, I’m lost with the McCain thing. I’ll have to check that.

Oh, those risk-taking young folks who don’t buy insurance. Mandatory health insurance. I think that’s the only way any of this can work.

Key controversies. Death panels. Lie, plain and simple. Republicans not applauding. Look at those meatheads.

Who is yelling about the illegal immigrants?

Paying for abortion — under the bus. Sad.

PUBLIC OPTION. He finally mentions it.

Stress competition. Good point.

Not for profit public option. Must have. Less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up? Hmmm. Taxpayers not subsidizing. Option self-sufficient? Compare to public and private colleges. Good comparison.

Yeah, we’re open to other ideas, but the public option is a minimum.

“If Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice.”

“No government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat will get between you and the coverage you need.”

Not one dime to deficit. OK.

Waste, fraud, abuse. Talk to seniors. Demagoguery and distortion. History of Medicare.

“Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan.” I’m skeptical, but maybe it’s possible

“I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.” It isn’t, but even doctors believe it is. He’s throwing a bone to the Right.

Add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years – less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.

Let’s put that on a T-shirt.

Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent – but spent badly – in the existing health care system.

Exactly.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.

The NY Times has the full transcript. Ted Kennedy comin’ up.

Obama is pulling the guilt strings. All you Republicans knew Ted Kennedy. Heh.

And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

He’s getting emotional.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that’s not what the moment calls for. That’s not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard.

Standing applause.

OK, that was the speech. I still don’t know what the yelling was about with the immigrants.

Rachel Maddow thinks we liberals will be happy with the latter part of the speech.

Republican Response:

First impression: Charles Boustany is less of a dork than Bobby Jindal.

Summary: Lies, lies, lies, lies, lies.

No insurance across state lines. It’s a scam.

Olbermann: Dr. Boustany has been sued for malpractice three times.

The yeller was Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who yelled “You lie!” when the President said there would be no coverage for illegal aliens.

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Good Advice From the Right

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Bush Administration, Dick Cheney, Obama Administration

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Righties are leaping on the word of several people quoted in the article that the program was never “fully operational.” As far as they’re concerned, that means the whole thing is a non-issue. But of course, they lack the moral courage to face the issue.

The issue is that in the days after 9/11, the unidentified program was devised, and Cheney made the decision to conceal it from Congress, in violation of the law. Planning and training for the program began in 2001 and continued until this year, presumably when Panetta found out about it and shut it down. All we know about the program is that it did not involve domestic surveillance or interrogations. Even if the program was never fully operational, it was an ongoing activity that should have been reported at least to the “Gang of Eight” per the National Security Act of 1947, says Jonathan Turley.

Scott Shane continues,

In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration’s most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena. He went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the advisers to his task force on energy, and won.

A report released on Friday by the inspectors general of five agencies about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program makes clear that Mr. Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, had to approve personally every government official who was told about the program. The report said “the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program” frustrated F.B.I. agents who were assigned to follow up on tips it had turned up.

Etc.

Then, of course, there was the role played by that other guy in the Cheney Administration:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Reports are that President Obama doesn’t want to “look back” at the crimes of the Bush Administration, because this would distract from the enormous domestic agenda he is trying to push through. There are reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a prosecutor to investigate torture ordered by the Bush Administration. I hope so, but I’m not going to hold my breath until he does.

So what is the “good advice from the Right,” per the title? I give you Reliapundit from THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, a “global group blog” for people with damaged keyboards stuck in caps lock. Anyway, Mr. R says,

THIS ATTACK ON BUSH-CHENEY IS AN ATTEMPT BY THE LEFT TO DISTRACT THE PUBLIC – ESPECIALLY THE INDEPENDENTS – AND KEEP THEM FROM MOVING RIGHT AND TOWARD THE GOP ON FISCAL, SPENDING, REGULATORY AND TAX ISSUES.

THE LEFT DOESN’T WANT THE PUBLIC TO HONE IN ON THE ULTRA-LEFT CAP & TRADE AND OBAMACARE PROPOSALS.

What we’re really dealing with is a steady drip of disinformation from the far-right “think tanks,” astroturf organizations and the various wingnut mouthpieces, scattering scare stories and lies about “socialized medicine” to frighten Congress and the American people from doing what needs to be done. I want the American people to know the truth about President Obama’s health care and energy proposals, but since it’s just about impossible to get the truth out over the screams and lies of the Right, maybe we should go the other way — pull a Karl Rove, as it were — and use investigations of the crimes of the Bush Administration to keep the Right busy so that actual work can get done. Kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

Related: In an absoluely stunning display of cognitive dissonance, one rightie proclaims “Dems Leak Secrets To Cover Pelosi’s Lies.” You can’t make this up.

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The U.S. as a Failed State

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Congress, Obama Administration

The often-brilliant George Monbiot asks at The Guardian, “Why do we allow the US to act like a failed state on climate change?” Following a useful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Waxman-Markey climate bill, he says,

Even so, I would like to see the bill passed, as it at least provides a framework for future improvements. But why do we expect so little from the US? Why do we treat the world’s most powerful and innovative nation as if it were a failed state, rejoicing at even the faintest suggestion of common sense?

And then he says,

You have only to read the comments that follow this article to find out.

Bravo, Mr. Monbiot! He correctly anticipated that the comments would feature some prime American wingnut apologia.

Thanks to the lobbying work of the coal and oil companies, and the vast army of thinktanks, PR consultants and astroturfers they have sponsored, thanks too to the domination of the airwaves by loony right shock jocks, the debate over issues like this has become so mad that any progress at all is little short of a miracle. The ranking Republican on the House energy and commerce committee is Joe Barton, the man who in 2005 launched a congressional investigation of three US scientists whose work reveals the historical pattern of climate change. Like those of many of his peers, his political career is kept on life support by the fossil fuel and electricity companies. He returns the favour by vociferously denying that manmade climate change exists.

A combination of corporate money and an unregulated corporate media keeps America in the dark ages. This bill is the best we’re going to get for now because the corruption of public life in the United States has not been addressed. Whether he is seeking environmental reforms, health reforms or any other improvement in the life of the American people, this is Obama’s real challenge.

Also at The Guardian, Michael Tomasky writes,

You might wonder, as many American liberals wonder: OK, we’ve elected probably the most progressive president in decades, and Democrats have big majorities in both houses of Congress. In addition, the Republican party is at a historic low point. So why can’t the Democrats get more done? Why is Barack Obama so timid?

I’m not sure I agree with his answer:

The answer has less to do with Obama’s DNA than with our constitution’s. The GOP may be a laughing stock nationally, the last redoubt of high-profile mistress-shaggers and witless pit bulls with lipstick, but that has absolutely no bearing on its level of power in Washington. Congress was designed so that minorities can wield power well out of proportion to their number if they stick together.

We’ve been through times in the fading, distant past in which the federal government accomplished remarkable things done in spite of itself. Speaking as a history nerd, I don’t know when Washington has been more helplessly dysfunctional than it is now, except maybe for the stretch of years just before the Civil War. Not a cheerful thought.

As Tomasky says, the federal government was set up the way it was with the prevention of tyranny in mind.

Our founders were concerned first and foremost with the potential for authoritarian tyranny, since there was a lot of that afoot in those days. So they built a system of divided government, compulsively concerned with checks and balances so that few actions could be taken quickly.

True. But the terrible irony that you will never ever not in a million years get a conservative or libertarian to admit is that this very weakness now is allowing a different sort of tyranny to emerge. We, the People, no longer have anything to say about our own country. It’s all in the hands of corporations and lobbyists. The result is a loss of genuine political liberty, the loss of government by the consent of the governed, as surely as if Congress had been taken over by a military junta.

Tomasky concludes:

Today’s liberals need to give more thought and devote more energy to this problem than they do. When progressive legislation is weakened, as the emissions bill was last week, most people just reflexively chalk it up to a presidential failure of will. And sure, to some extent, Obama is perhaps too quick to seek compromise.

But the more pressing issue – and the hidden one that most big-time pundits don’t write about – is how messed up Congress has become. This is on the brink of becoming a disaster for this country. Reforming Congress, something we call a “process” reform rather than an actual matter of “substance”, is something most liberal interest groups don’t give much thought to. But today, process is substance – or is killing it. Obama and the advocacy groups that support his goals need to grasp this and do something about it, or the whole agenda will sink into the quicksand down the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

I think this is exactly right. Although I agree that President Obama is too quick to seek compromise, he’s not the real problem. The real problem is that the U.S. really is on the brink of being a new kind of failed state.

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What We’re Not Talking About

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Middle East, Obama Administration

This morning there’s endless speculation on the disappearance and alleged reappearance of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. I say “alleged” because I’m not sure he has actually reappeared yet, but aides insist they will be able to conjure him up today. The most recent report I found says the governor took a quickie, unannounced vacation to Buenos Aires to “unwind.” His wife didn’t know where he was. I say the governor has some ‘splainin’ to do.

So far there’s much less chatter about civilians killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan. A drone fired missiles into a funeral of a Taliban militant, killing at least 45 Taliban militants, reports say, but also a number of civilians. The New York Times reports that the attack may have been conducted by the Pakistani Air Force, but “local news reports uniformly attributed it to a United States drone.” This will have been the 23rd drone attack carried out in Pakistan this year.

Pierre Tristam says that most of the casualties of the 23 drones have been civilians. Tristam’s commentary is very much worth reading. I don’t criticize using force to stop the Taliban; it has to be done, and it’s probably true that there’s no other way to do it.

But what does it say about us that we go into a several-day mourning frenzy over one young woman killed in Tehran, but shrug our shoulders over civilians killed in Pakistan? And do we really want the people of Pakistan to associate the U.S. with robot killing machines? Whatever happened to sending CARE packages?

Regarding the protests in Tehran, Juan Cole makes a good point

The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, ‘protest zones’ were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated ‘protest zones’ would be illegal in New York City, apparently.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports,

Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

Back in 2002 and 2003 when the Bushies were stampeding us into the Iraq war, one heard over and over again that Saddam Hussein had to be taken out because he “supported terrorism.” And I don’t doubt he did, although not al Qaeda, and his support was minuscule compared to that of the Saudis. But back then, whenever one brought this up, one was shouted down. We weren’t allowed to talk about it.

What else are we not talking about?

Update: Oh, what the hell — via Betsy Phillips at Nashville Scene, here’s a tribute to Mark Sanford. Enjoy.

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Zombies of the Twilight Zone

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Middle East, Obama Administration

On the same day we learn that Dan Froomkin was fired from the WashingtonPost.com, WaPo runs separate op eds by Paul WolfowitzPaul Wolfowitz, mind you — and Charles Krauthammer. They both argue that President Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing and should more forcefully and directly come out in support of the demonstrating Iranians.

Jonathan Chait:

President Obama has taken a cautious tone toward the demonstrators in Iran, with his stated reason being that more open support would discredit their cause. This strikes me as a sensible position. The revealed preferences of both sides suggest a mutual belief that an American embrace would hurt the protestors. The regime is trying (so far, without much success) to tie the demonstrators to the U.S., and the demonstrators are embracing the symbolism of the Iranian revolution (the color green, chants of “Alluah Akbar,” and so on) in order to demonstrate their patriotism and mainstream cultural status.

… What’s remarkable to me is that those on the other side refuses to rebut it. Today’s Washington Post op-ed page has two more columns lambasting Obama for failing to embrace the demonstrators. Today’s offerings are by Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz. Neither one of them even mentions, let alone answers, Obama’s argument for why embracing the demonstrators would be counterproductive.

What’s remarkable to me is that Wolfowitz and Krauthammer have the chutzpah to be seen in public, never mind offer opinions on foreign policy, never mind actually get those opinions published in a major newspaper. Taking foreign policy advice from the likes of these two is like hiring Napoleon as a consultant for your Russian land invasion. Worse, actually, since I suspect Napoleon was smart enough to learn from mistakes and might have had some useful ideas.

Gary Kamiya wrote this week,

Like Rasputin, the unhinged “Mad Monk” whom they sometimes seem to have adopted as an intellectual role model, the neoconservatives who brought us the Iraq war refuse to die. Although they have been figuratively stabbed, poisoned, shot, garroted and drowned, they somehow keep standing, still insisting that history will vindicate George W. Bush’s glorious crusade. In a world governed by the Victorian moral code conservatives claim to uphold, they would be shunned, shamed and forbidden to appear on television or write Op-Ed columns. But because Beltway decorum apparently requires that disgraced pundits be given a permanent platform to bray their discredited theories, the rest of us are condemned to listen to their ravings.

I would argue that they haven’t been “figuratively stabbed, poisoned, shot, garroted and drowned,” or at least, not nearly enough. Major media (e.g., the Washington Post) still treats these zombies with respect, as if their opinions had credibility. Amazing.

I also want to point out, as others have, that the same neocons and their followers who are cheering for the demonstrators now (and may I say I am cheering for them, also; they are a genuine inspiration) have been urging us to bomb the smithereens out of Iran lo these many years. Do they not now see that they were wrong? That sometimes it’s wiser to stand back and let events take their course than to force an outcome with death and destruction?

Probably not. In 2005 the neocons couldn’t say enough about the glorious Cedar Revolution and the brave people of Lebanon. In 2006 the Cedar Revolution was quickly forgotten when Israel decided to initiate a military adventure into Lebanon, an action that by some miracle killed only Hezbollah Supporters, according to the Right Blogosphere at the time.

Of course, as Kamiya suggests, the real purpose of neocon bleatings now is not to offer any real advice on foreign policy. It is to undermine the Obama Administration. Period.

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Life as a Preexisting Condition

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Congress, Health Care, Obama Administration

The must-read new story today is by Lisa Girion of the Los Angeles Times. In “Health insurers refuse to limit rescission of coverage,” we find the clearest case yet why the private health care industry will never, ever, not in a million years, come even close to solving the health care crisis.

In a nutshell — yesterday three big insurance company executives — WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. — told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that their business models depended on being able to cancel the health insurance policies of customers who cost them too much money. An investigation by the Committee had found that over a five-year period, these companies had canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people in order to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims.

One of the execs claimed the rescissions — industry jargon for canceling coverage — were necessary to protect the companies from fraud. People lie about preexisting conditions on their applications, he said, and this drove up the cost of insurance for everyone else. I’ll come back to this point in a moment.

In practice, this means insurers target people with high-cost conditions such as breast cancer and lymphoma and direct employees to examine patients’ paperwork for any pretense to cancel coverage. People with innocent mistakes and inadvertent omissions; people who were unaware of a preexisting condition at the time they filled out the application because the symptoms hadn’t developed yet; people whose preexisting conditions were minor and had nothing whatsoever to do with the disease costing the insurer money — such people found themselves dumped out of the health care system at their time of greatest need.

A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.

Karen Tumulty at Time presents several other heart-breaking, and outrageous, examples.

Of course, you might remember that Michael Moore documented this practice quite nicely in Sicko. We all knew this was going on. Members of the House Committee feigned surprise.

But I want to go back to the part about rejecting people with preexisting conditions. Who above the age of 40 does not have a preexisting condition? For that matter, what percentage of young adults freshly cut loose from their parents’ policies find they cannot obtain insurance because they failed to get through childhood without a preexisting condition?

The insurance companies are saying they can’t make a profit unless they deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions. How is this not an admission the private health insurance industry is a big, fat FAIL?

Righties just love to tell us that the reason health insurance is so expensive in some states, like New York, is that those states have (Cue: “Fortuna, Imperatrix Mundi (O Fortuna)”) regulations. And what are those regulations? Chief among them are provisions that limit the insurers’ abilities to deny coverage to people with preexisting condtions.

So, in many states, a middle-aged person with no serious health problems who was once prescribed Lipitor for high cholesterol would be unable to obtain health insurance at any price. In New York, this person can get insurance. Yes, it’s so expensive most people can’t afford it, but it’s obtainable for those who can pay for it.

What this says to me is that relying on a private insurance industry to pay for health care costs is unworkable. A private insurance industry simply cannot do the job of paying for health care, because the only way a private company can make a profit is to deny coverage to people who are actually sick so that they don’t have to pay those bills.

My next question is, how obvious does this have to get before people see it?

I’m sure some people do lie on their insurance applications in order to obtain coverage. But in most industrialized democracies, this wouldn’t even be an issue. You’re a citizen, you get health care. Whether you once had acne treatments or took Lipitor or had a gallstone or even had a life-threatening disease, you get health care. Because the purpose of the health care system in most countries is delivering health care, not making a profit.

And for those worried about the cost to government of providing health care to sick people, let me present this handy chart:

healthcarecostsbycountry

This chart was adapted from a Canadian site calling for health care reform in Canada. The Canadian system has its problems, but I suspect seeing the mess we’re in persuades many Canadians to leave well enough alone. At least Canadians can get health care.

I believe the only way we’ve got a shot at lowering per-capita cost while delivering health care to everyone is to kick the insurance companies out of the picture altogether and going to a purely public system. At least a public health insurance plan would be a step in that direction.

Regarding the recently released CBO estimate of $100 trillion over ten years — see Extra Klein for why the CBO estimate is deeply flawed. See also “The Bright Side of the CBO Snafu.”

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More Manufactured Outrage

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Health Care, News Media, Obama Administration

I don’t know what’s more amazing: that the powers that be on the Right would even think up a stunt like this, or that so many righties are such sheep — nasty blood-sucking sheep, but sheep nonetheless — that they unthinkingly go along with it.

Here’s the basic story — Wednesday next week ABC News will devote much of its program to the Obama Administration’s proposed health care policy. On that day, “Good Morning America” will originate from the South Lawn of the White House and will include an interview by Diane Sawyer with President Obama. That evening, President Obama will take part in a moderated discussion in front of a live audience on ABC. The moderators will be Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, and questions will come from the audience, according to ABC News.

One might say, Good for ABC! Unless, of course, you are a Republican.

The GOP officially complained that “opposing voices” will be left out, namely that they won’t be able to plant one of its usual trained goons next to the President to interrupt incessantly with absurd talking points so that no one can have a sensible discussion. ABC promises that people with diverse opinions will ask questions from the audience. One also hopes that Sawyer and Gibson will ask substantive and challenging questions.

Righties are screaming about an “ethical firestorm” because news will be “anchored” from inside the White House. A sampler of reactions:

This is the stuff of apparatchiks and Politburos, not a healthy, ethical free press. ABC will become the Obama network to sell his health care plan for an entire day. … [link]

Dr. Goebbels would be so proud… [link]

As far as I am aware this has never happened before in any administration – Democrat or Republican.

A free and independent press is one of the legs on which all representative governments rest. If we have lost it, The American Experiment’s remaining time is short indeed. [link]

One must ask, in what universe would news reporting from inside the White House, or a President taking questions from a live audience whose members he did not personally choose, be considered subversive of democracy? Beside Bizarro World, of course?

And the answer is, a world of people who think of the place from within the White House as enemy territory that must not be allowed legitimacy.

Update: See Bob Cesca at Crooks and Liars.

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DOMA Fury

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Civil Rights, Obama Administration

[UPDATE BELOW.]

I have to echo PZ Myers: Obama screws up, very, very badly.

The basic facts, as I understand them: The Justice Department moved to dismiss the first gay marriage case filed in federal court. The case was brought by a couple married in California, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer. Smelt and Hammer brought a constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which says that the federal government and states without same-sex marriage don’t have to recognize the marital status of same-sex couples lawfully married in a state that provides for same-sex marriage. Smelt and Hammer argue that DOMA is in violation of the Constitution on several grounds, such as the Full Faith and Credit part.

The Justice Department argued (as I understand it; I admit this doesn’t make sense to me) that Smelt and Hammer had no legal standing to sue because the status of their marriage in California is not in question and punted the constitutional question. If anyone can explain this, please feel free to do so. I’m baffled.

Most of the Left Blogosphere is outraged, and the GLBT community feels betrayed. I’ll let Pam Spalding explain this POV.

There are a few defending the Obama Administration on the grounds that, while we may wish the law to be otherwise, the law is the law; see Sully. However, even Sully admits there is language in the DoJ’s brief that is outrageous and homophobic and inexcusable.

My understanding is that the DoJ is still largely infested with Bush appointees. While this is not an excuse, it might be an explanation. President Obama’s Attorney General should answer for this.

Update: Andy Sullivan writes that the DOMA brief was written by a Bush Administration holdover, which confirms my suspicion. “The harsh rhetoric, the gratuitous attacks on our relationships … they were written by someone who was given an award by Alberto Gonzales for his defense of the Partial Birth Abortion Act.” As I thought, but that doesn’t excuse the Justice Department for signing off on it.

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“Us” Versus “Peace”

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Middle East, Obama Administration

Petra Marquardt-Bigman makes a good point:

Anyone in Israel who is unhappy with Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo will have a hard time to come up with a good reason. Indeed, the quick and completely undignified reaction of the settler movement only served to underline the fact that beyond racist ranting about “Hussein Obama”, there wasn’t really much to object to. Inadvertently, the settler movement’s reaction also illustrated what Obama had accomplished with the speech: he had set up a litmus test that greatly improved on his predecessor’s formula “you are either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” In the Obama era, the choice is a different one – you are either for or against peaceful co-existence – and the consequences of the choice are clear: “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace”.

With the Bush Administration, everything always was about them. I dimly remember a news story (if you can find this and link to it, I’d be grateful) in which Condi Rice was in the Mideast, meeting with representatives of several Mideastern countries. She dictated to them what the United States expected from them, adding something to the effect of “this is what we want for you.” Someone spoke up and countered, “What about what we want for ourselves?”

At Salon, Gary Kamiya provides a good analysis of the Cairo speech. And not everyone on the Right absolutely hated it. Captain Ed had some good things to say. Max Boot also found some points to admire in the speech, which must have killed him.

On the other hand, this is just sickening. Be sure to read the commentary that goes with the video. The far Right of Israel has launched an anti-Obama campaign. At the Weekly Standard, Caroline B. Glick explains why allowing Israeli settlers to build whatever they want on the West Bank is essential to peace with the Palestinians. Next: The Fiji Mermaid!

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Obama Derangement Syndrome

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Bush Administration, Obama Administration

The President and Mrs. Obama went to New York City for a “date night,” dinner and a Broadway show. And the wingnuts are having a fit about it.

The Republican National Committee slammed the outing in an “RNC Research Piece”: “As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills. … Have a great Saturday evening – even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense. … PUTTING ON A SHOW: Obamas Wing Into The City For An Evening Out While Another Iconic American Company Prepares For Bankruptcy.”

Tbogg has a survey of Right Blogosphere reaction. My favorite is this one:

Obama also promised a middle class tax cut and healthcare reform, but obviously those can wait.

It wasn’t even an overnight trip, mind you. They flew back to Washington (which is a half hour trip, by air) after the show. They didn’t take Air Force One but instead flew in a smaller jet.

Let’s review:

George W. Bush took more vacations than any other President in U.S. history.

That’s 487 days at Camp David and 77 trips to Crawford, Texas, where he spent all or part of 490 days. I calculate that to be about two years and eight months.

I don’t know what the travel time is from the White House to Camp David — I assume just a few minutes — but I figure Crawford must be at least three hours one way by air, and I assume there’s no Crawford International Airport, so there’s motorcade time to figure in, also. Assuming a 6 hour two-way trip, times 77 trips, equals 462 hours, or more than 19 days days spent just flying back and forth to Crawford.

Bush was in Crawford when he blew off the memo “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.” as being too trivial for his attention. As I remember it, he was in Crawford during the great electricity blackout of 2003, and it was several hours before he addressed it. He was in Crawford while two wars were going on in the Mideast.

And need I say … Hurricane Katrina?

For a collection of outraged snark at the Endless Vacation that was the Bush Administration, see Source Watch. I think the only reason there wasn’t more outrage is that Bush was such a bad POTUS, most of the time it didn’t matter whether he was on vacation or not.

Even when he wasn’t officially on vacation, Bush wasn’t famous for staying put in the White House. Especially in his first term, when the War on Terror was still new and sparkly, as I remember he spent about half of his not-vacation time traveling to Republican Party fundraisers. The pattern was to schedule some “official” event like a ribbon-cutting or a speech in a particular city, where by some coincidence there happened to be a GOP fund-raider going on that very evening, so he could take Air Force One on Republican Party business without reimbursing taxpayers. (See, for example, “Taxpayer Mugging for Political Fundraising.”)

But that was not a problem, because, you know, IOKIYAR — It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

Update: A blogger who claims not to be a “sheeple” — I beg to differ — writes (emphasis original),

With the problems we’re facing with the recession and North Korea testing nuclear missiles you would think he would keep it a little on the down low and I don’t want to hear a peep from the loony left that Ron and Nancy Reagan were extravagant. Not a peep!

This blogger was pissed because yesterday the White House couldn’t yet provide expense account of the trip to New York. I don’t believe the Bush Administration ever presented an accounting of all the political trips George and Dick took at taxpayers’ expense. I could be wrong about that, but I googled for it and couldn’t find it. In the first Bush term they were not providing that information, and the Veep’s travel itinerary was something of a state secret at times. We don’t even know how much Dick traveled, never mind the cost.

Update:
You’ll like this one — the Broadway show the first couple saw was “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” It’s a play about African-American life. So this blogger writes,

By the way, note that the Obamas went to a ‘black’ show.

When does he ever pay homage to his white side?

I swear, it’s something like a moth-and-flame thing; they can’t help themselves.

Update: Steve Benen

Rumor has it, Obama occasionally eats and sleeps, too. The nerve. Doesn’t the president realize he has things to do?

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