With problems for the president in Afghanistan, health care and unemployment, some critics on both the left and right are asking: Is the president essentially "too nice" to make the important decisions?
The National Journal magazine asks in a just-out edition, "Is He Tough Enough?"
"Be decisive," says Tom Tradewell, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Even liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd says the president will have to "break some eggs" to cook up a more perfect union.
None of the people quoted assert the problem is Obama's affability. Rather, the difficulty is the extreme caution he exercises, many times so as to not offend interest groups.
You might think a major metropolitan newspaper that boasts "The Midwest's largest reporting team" on its front page would report on a suburban demonstration attracting thousands of people. In the case of the Chicago Tribune, you'd be wrong.
Today's Tribune print edition makes no mention of yesterday's Tea Party Express protest in New Lenox, Illinois, located only 36 miles from Chicago's Loop. The Southtown Star did cover the event on its Web site, noting:
About 6,000 people packed the hillside venue at The Commons Performing Arts Pavilion for the protest, part of a nationwide Tea Party Express tour that includes speeches, musical performances and updates from a traveling Fox News correspondent.
Monday's audience was the largest yet, organizers said.
Today's Tribune devotes two stories, six pictures, and two maps to Oprah Winfrey's "takeover of downtown Chicago Monday." And there are stories on disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's media blitz to hawk his new book, Chicago students getting free haircuts with which to start the new school year, and how more stores are now accepting food stamps.
In yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times, columnist Mary Mitchell lauds Fred Hampton, a Black Panther leader killed 40 years ago by police. In "Hampton's forgotten legacy: Today's youth can learn something from Black Panther leader's humanitarian deeds," Mitchell soft-pedals the Panthers' extensive history of violence and radical politics in favor of citing some of Hampton's alleged good works:
He stood up for disadvantaged People in Chicago are still so divided over Hampton that, a couple of years ago, efforts to erect a street sign in his honor caused an uproar. Hampton will always be remembered by some for advocating violence. But for many others -- those who benefitted from his courage -- he will always be remembered for giving hungry children a hot breakfast. Or for opening a free walk-in health clinic on the West Side. Or for trying to open a swimming pool, so poor black children could get relief from the heat. Or for being a bold advocate for justice.
The Panthers' breakfast program for children has long been applauded, even by some conservatives, as a worthwhile endeavor. Ignored are the severe problems associated with that program across the country. Chicago was hardly an exception.
On yesterday's The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger spoke with host Suzanne Malveaux about polling done on ObamaCare:
MALVEAUX: Gloria, I want to start off with you.
One thing that the polls were showing is that most Americans, they support this idea of this public option, but they also believe that the president wants the government to take over the health care system. Well, how does that -- how do you make sense of that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in fact, 53 percent believe that Obama wants to take over the health care system, and 42 percent say no. And I think what this shows is that the Republican PR about President Obama being big government, big deficit, big spender, has really taken hold over the congressional recess. People believe that he wants big government.
What Borger is missing here is that the principal reason Americans view Obama as a big government, big deficit, big spending liberal is because he is. "Republican PR" might emphasize that simple truth, but the facts speak for themselves and many Americans would have arrived at the same conclusion regardless.
Today on The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger discussed President Obama's rapidly declining approval ratings. A question was posed by host Suzanne Malveaux:
MALVEAUX: What does it mean, Gloria, for the president to be losing out on these Independents?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's a real possible for him. Remember that President Obama won the election with 52 percent of Independent voters. That number is down considerably to 43 percent, and Independents are the margin of difference here for him.
Now, the key to keeping those people is, right now, they are worried about the deficit. They see the president as a big spender. They see him aligned with so-called liberal leaders in the Democratic Congress. So, what he's got to do when -- after Labor Day is kind of show them that he is the kind of so-called post-partisan president that many of them thought they were electing.
The good news for President Obama in this is that they are not realigning themselves with the Republicans yet, because the Republican Party still has very high disapproval ratings.
Washington Post television critic Tom Shales conducts an online discussion on Tuesdays. Today's session featured this exchange:
Dunn Loring, Va.: Re your column disparaging Liz Cheney's style, what was the last column you wrote so harshly criticizing a liberal pundit?
Tom Shales: Ah yes, it's our dear old Dunn Loringite. Dunn Loringer. Whatever. You have an ideological axe to grind and it's awfully predictable. Where do you get the idea that if someone criticizes a conservative they must also criticize a liberal? Is there some kind of "equal time" law or "fairness doctrine" that applies to everybody who says anything that is broadcast or cablecast? That's absurd. CONSERVATIVES DOMINATE THE BROADCAST AND CABLE MEDIA IN THIS COUNTRY. They have very little to complain about in terms of access to an audience. When was the last time you criticized a conservative? It's a meaningless question whichever way it is asked.
Shales disparages the questioner for having an ideological axe to grind, something he no doubt has never been accused of himself . Later, there's a follow up question:
AARP the Magazine boasts a circulation that's seven times greater than that of Time. For the first half of this year, AARP the Magazine's circulation averaged more than 24 million copies.
AARP claims it's a "nonpartisan organization," an assertion increasingly challenged by senior citizens. The magazine's September-October issue may give members more evidence for that conclusion. It carries a cover story on rocker Bruce Springsteen, prominent in the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and John Kerry. The piece is adulatory, noting that Springsteen at his upcoming concerts "will play several roles - hero, leader, preacher, rebel - the performances unfolding like a novel."
The magazine devotes several pages to observations from his friends. One is liberal activist Bonnie Raitt:
It was an incredible boost when Bruce committed to joining the No Nukes concerts. From the groundbreaking Amnesty International tour, to helping stop Contra aid in the '80s, to a steady stream of benefits, I don't know if any American artist has made as profound a difference.
On CNN's American Morning today, business correspondent Christine Romans explained to anchor Kiran Chetry why there are new estimates showing the Federal deficit to be much worse than originally projected by the Obama administration:
ROMANS: Why? OK, this is really -- it's a complicated problem with a very simple analysis. It's how much money the government is taking in and how much money is going out.
Let's look at how much is going out. Government spending has skyrocketed as you all know over the past couple of years, up 21 percent in the first ten months of this year. Unemployment benefits, health care, bailout programs. We are spending more money than we take in. We are spending gobs of money constantly on lots of different programs to try to get this economy out of the mess it's in. At the same time, revenue is plunging.
The money that's coming in to the Treasury Department is plunging down 17 months in the first ten months, or 17 percent, rather, in the first ten months, declining income and peril taxes. People are out of work. We're not making as much money.
ROMANS: That's going down. Non-wage income. All other kinds of income people have down sharply. And then that stimulus tax credit -- that has to come from somewhere. Right? Everyone is getting this big tax break, that means less money going in.
On Saturday's CNN Newsroom, anchor Don Lemon played a clip of his interview with Allen Hardage, identified as the director of America's Town Hall:
LEMON: Where was the outrage five years ago, ten years ago, 15 years ago? Why all of a sudden this outrage now? At least the president is trying to reform health care, so where did the outrage suddenly come from?
ALLEN HARDAGE, DIRECTOR, AMERICA'S TOWN HALL: Don, this is the second town hall he's done in the last week that I actually saw real Americans get up and ask questions. It wasn't a pre-selected group or a --
LEMON: But hang on, before you do that. Real Americans, that's another term that really sets people off.
HARDAGE: Well, let me tell you what I mean by that.
In today's article titled "White House appears ready to drop 'public option,'" the Associated Press reports the Obama administration is signaling it's prepared to drop the option of government-run insurance as a component of ObamaCare. The piece states in part:
Obama had sought the government to run a health insurance organization to help cover the nation's almost 50 million uninsured, but he never made it a deal breaker in a broad set of ideas that has Republicans unified in opposition.
(A)ny plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans - including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest - and choose what's best for your family.
On The Situation Room today, CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar reported on "almost a love-fest" for Arkansas Democratic Congressman Mike Ross:
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, compared to some of the other town hall meetings that we've seen, some very contentious town hall meetings, this one was almost a love-fest.
It started with a standing ovation as soon as Congressman Mike Ross was introduced. He, of course, is a prominent Blue Dog Democrat, a fiscally conservative Democrat. He and some other Blue Dogs forced House Democratic leaders to postpone a vote on their health care reform proposal until after Congress comes back in September.
That said, he also support many of the things in this health care reform push. But talking with some of the constituents, those who are for this health care reform push, those who are against it, they say that they think Congressman Mike Ross is really doing right by them.
There's about 700 people at this event. We were able to speak with about a dozen of them going into the meeting.
Barack Obama's many failings are increasingly apparent. Consequently, even the mainstream media are finding it difficult to keep up the facade. So difficult, in fact, that USA Today now deems newsworthy the findings of a 12-person focus group conducted by a longtime Democratic operative.
TOWSON, Md. — President Obama has seen his approval ratings slide, but a dozen independent voters who gathered here for a roundtable discussion about politics were still inclined to give him a break.
The area residents expressed deep worry about the country's direction and a sobering view of the problems ahead. There was also a reservoir of good feeling for a president several referred to familiarly as "Barack."
Asked what he would like to say to Obama, Scott Wood, 35, who has been looking for a job since February, advised: "Don't give up yet; we haven't."
On CNN Newsroom today, anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele on the topic of President Obama's healthcare push. Part of the interview:
PHILLIPS: But whether government-run or private, I mean, no one's going to demand that you go one way or another. You're still going to have a choice.
STEELE: We don't -- maybe we do. I don't know. We haven't had that debate. I mean, you're talking about -- you're talking about the possibility of reorienting one-sixth of our economy with legislators who haven't even read the legislation. I mean, are they going to do to health care what they did with cap and trade? Are we going to get amendments at 4 a.m. in the morning and no one reads them? And then only after the Health and Human Services Department has to begin to implement this craziness, we're going to find out exactly what's in the bill?
Steele was exactly correct, of course. No one knows what Obama's healthcare program will ultimately mandate. That's because, like the economic stimulus, Obama left it in the hands of his Democratic comrades in Congress to put something together. There are currently three versions in the House and another two in the Senate.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Sunday that ideological conservatives, particularly radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, have gained a hold over the Republican Party that risks driving the GOP into an extended exile from power.
Powell cast his warnings in unusually personal terms as he answered recent charges from two champions of the Republican right -- Limbaugh and former Vice President Dick Cheney -- that he was no longer a Republican.
"Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed," said Powell, whose resume includes work as military adviser to President Ronald Reagan, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush's Cabinet. "I am still a Republican."
Obviously, the "far right voices" referenced in the piece's headline are those of Limbaugh and Cheney.
If Rush Limbaugh is on the far right, surely MSNBC's Rachel Maddow qualifies to be characterized as far left. Yet only last month, the Tribune carried an article from the Los Angeles Times (another Tribune newspaper) that asked this burning question about Maddow:
Weeks ago, Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the "CBS Evening News," claimed that "Everybody, including Republicans, would have to say that (Obama's) first 100 days have been great." This week, Kaplan perpetuated a myth concerning Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Kaplan, Couric's executive producer at Evening News ("Beauty and the Beast," chided Donaldson) was first up. "Roasting your anchor... can be really dangerous," he opened. "We did have to edit out a couple of comments that Katie made during the interview, for instance, when Governor Palin said I can see Russia from my house, Katie actually said, well I can see Jersey from mine but that doesn't mean I know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried."
On today's CNN Newsroom segment at 1:00 PM (ET), anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed White House senior advisor David Axelrod. Phillips asked about the Senate's rejection of an $80 million request from President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba:
PHILLIPS: All right. Let's push forward, then, and talk about Gitmo. You know, your party voted overwhelmingly not to give the president the money for Gitmo. I mean, 90-6. Is it the bad economy, or is there truly a huge divide in convictions on this?
AXELROD: No, I think that members of the Senate were asking for a plan. We'll give them a plan as to how we're going to move forward. I think the president offered a framework for that today, and we're going to work with the Congress on whatever path that we take here.
As has been documented repeatedly, celebrities just don't find much material for humor with Barack Obama. He's just so thoughtful, so articulate, so bright, so. . . Fill in the blank, as long as it's sufficiently worshipful.
With former President George W. Bush, it's just the opposite. Show biz types can't get enough of poking fun at him. This is true even at the National Geographic Bee. Yes, the National Geographic Bee. The Associated Press's story "Trebek Makes Bush Joke as Texas Teen Wins Geography Bee" details the latest:
The nation's top geography whiz breezed through questions about mountain ranges, rivers and world capitals Wednesday, but he was stumped when National Geographic Bee host Alex Trebek asked him to name one of his weaknesses.
"Um ..." said Eric Yang, 13, pausing. The Texas teen had just revealed to the "Jeopardy!" host how he crafts his own chess strategies and plays the piano.
"That's OK," Trebek replied. "You remind me of a former president, but we won't get into that."
Yesterday fundraiser Norman Hsu was convicted of of illegally funneling tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The Wall Street Journal reported:
On Tuesday, a jury convicted Mr. Hsu of four counts of campaign-finance fraud after about 2½ hours of deliberations. Each count carries up to five years in prison.
The latest example of political corruption was met by much of the mainstream media with a collective yawn. CNN mentioned it only twice. The Situation Room featured CNN anchor T.J. Holmes briefly touching on the story:
Also, a name you might remember making some news again. He gave money to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And he was already found guilty for mail and wire fraud. Well, today, Norman Hsu was convicted of violating campaign finance laws. He was accused of getting donations from people, including from celebrities, who funneled money that exceeded campaign finance rules to Democratic campaigns. His sentencing is scheduled for August.
A top fund-raiser for the Democrats, Norman Hsu, today, convicted of corruption. A New York jury found Hsu guilty of breaking laws that restrict the amount of money an individual or group can donate to a political party. Hsu raised more than $800,000 for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, money that she later returned.
A former U.S. Democratic Party fundraiser whose 2007 arrest prompted Hillary Clinton to return $850,000 in campaign contributions was found guilty on Tuesday of breaking federal campaign laws.
Businessman Norman Hsu, 58, was convicted by a jury in federal court in New York of violating election laws by making donations to political campaigns in other people's names. Hsu also pleaded guilty on May 7 to charges of mail fraud and wire fraud in running a Ponzi scheme of up to $60 million.
Jurors convicted Hsu of violating four counts of federal election law between 2004 and 2007. During the trial, prosecutors said Hsu pressured some of the investors involved in his Ponzi scheme to make thousands of dollars in contributions to political candidates on his behalf.
The story runs nine paragraphs, but only one reference to Barack Obama is made:
Clinton lost her bid for her party's presidential nomination last year to Barack Obama. She now serves as a prominent member of her former rival's Cabinet.
This morning's remarks by Barack Obama on the latest unemployment figures included the usual self congratulations we've come to expect from The One. CBS News quotes him as saying:
Such hard-working Americans are why I ran for President. They're the reason we've been working swiftly and aggressively across all fronts to turn this economy around; to jumpstart spending and hiring and create jobs where we can with steps like the Recovery Act. Because of this plan, cops are still on the beat and teachers are still in the classroom; shovels are breaking ground and cranes dot the sky; and new life has been breathed into private companies like Sharon Arnold's.
The woman to whom Obama referred appeared with him this morning and POLITICO describes her as "Sharon Arnold, a small biz owner from Illinois."
In a brief presentation viewable at C-SPAN's Web site, Arnold explained she owns a small landscaping business that has benefited from government contracts. Last year, however, she "had to lay everyone off, including myself." All of her employees went on unemployment. But now, things are just so much better. Under Obama, stimulus money is flowing back to Illinois and she's been able to hire back 90 percent of her employees.
On Wednesday's CNN Newsroom, anchor Rick Sanchez focused on enhanced interrogation methods, a favorite topic of his. He spoke with Jane Mayer, author of "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals." The title itself suggests where Mayer stands, so it didn't take long for Detective Sanchez to uncover the true malefactor:
SANCHEZ: You know, I would bet you if you -- if you and I went around right now and we did some kind of random sample all over the country and just asked average Americans who do you think was the person who was really behind all of this, I know this doesn't get talked a lot about in the media, but I bet you most Americans would say Dick Cheney.
Would they be right?
MAYER: Well, you know, as you said, I have written a book about it. It's called "The Dark Side." And it's out in paperback now, and it tells the story of who really was behind this.
And I have to say, there are certain mysteries still. There are many more documents to come out. But it's incredible how many fingerprints lead off into the vice president's office.
As President Barack Obama passed his 100th day in office last week, two studies judged that the news media has given him more coverage, and more positive coverage, than his two predecessors at the same point in their terms.
Paragraphs later comes one explanation of the fawning mainstream media coverage:
The newscasts reflect reality, said Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the "CBS Evening News." He said he believed that the president has done extraordinarily well. "Everybody, including Republicans, would have to say that his first 100 days have been great," he said.
Melissa Harris Lacewell penned "Why blacks are more optimistic about race" for Friday's Philadelphia Inquirer. As might be expected, the associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University and author of the breathlessly anticipated "Sister Citizen: A Text for Colored Girls Who've Considered Politics When Being Strong Isn't Enough," is very, very happy with Barack Obama. But readers may be at least mildly surprised at what she considers the highlight of his inauguration:
But the best part of Jan. 20 was that Barack and Michelle got out of the bulletproof black Cadillac and walked the streets -- and no one shot at them. I know we are not allowed to say it, but one reason black people believe race relations have improved in America is because Obama lived through the primaries, the election, the inauguration, and now through 100 days.
She claims "we are not allowed to say it," yet then does exactly that. She goes on to cite various Obama acts that she deems accomplishments. Closing Guantanamo, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, capping executive pay, and performing a "deft move of racial defiance by proxy" through attorney general Eric Holder's terming the U.S. a nation of cowards are some of the highlights. Others came when he "dapped up" Hugo Chavez, "hung out" in Canada, "fired the head of General Motors, something most people didn't even know an American president could do," and "established serious street cred."
In the 1950s, as then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R., Wis.) and his House Committee on Un-American Activities investigated liberal and progressive artists in search of Communist-oriented dissidents, Hellman and Bernstein collaborated on what would become one of several major works fomented by government activities: the play and film Cradle Will Rock, and Arthur Miller’s play and opera The Crucible are others.
Sometimes, readers must wonder if newspaper correspondents ever passed a class in basic civics. If journalists had, they’d know that Congress consists of two bodies, the House and the Senate. A member of one body doesn’t chair a committee from the other. No Senator – not even Joe McCarthy – could run a House committee. A clue might have been that his title was senator rather than congressman or representative, but perhaps that's expecting too much.
During his first 100 days as president of the United States, Barack Obama revealed how different he is from all the white men who preceded him in the Oval Office, and the differences run deeper — in substance and style — than the color of his skin.
Barack Hussein Obama is the nation’s first hip president.
This, of course, is subject to debate. But watch him walk. Listen to him talk. See the body language, the expressions, the clothes. He’s got attitude, rhythm, a sense of humor, contemporary tastes.
To buttress his assertion of Obama's hipness, the author quotes John Leland of The New York Times, longtime Democratic operative Roger Wilkins, and Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics. Wilkins and Tannen are themselves apparently hip, both having contributed money to Obama's campaign. That hip fact didn't merit reporting.
In other words, this image that's being projected of Sebelius as some radical defender of the abortion industry is very much overstated. She's a pragmatic executive and it's ludicrous that her confirmation process has become so politicized.
Sebelius is, of course, Barack Obama's health secretary nominee. In that capacity, she'll wield considerable influence over governmental policies concerning abortion. Shelly argues:
I'll say this again: Sebelius is a moderate governor in a state that happens to be home to one of the few doctors willing to perform late-term abortions. Just like many other Kansans, that doctor, George Tiller, has exercised his constitutional right to contribute to political campaigns. Some of his money went to Sebelius.
Shelly doesn't detail how much of Tiller's money went to Sebelius. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that the nominee "got nearly three times as much political money" from the abortionist than she had reported to the Senate Finance Committee.
Update at end: NBC5's Bob Sirott responds to this post
Persuading Americans that Barack Obama is an effective president won't be easy. So local news outlets are lending a hand when they can. This was obvious last night on Chicago's NBC5 News at 10. Anchor Bob Sirott reported:
And now to a sign the president's economic stimulus is working. Bank of American today announced a $2.8 billion profit for the first quarter. That report was much better than expected and followed positive results from other banks. It also comes after a loss of more than $2 billion for the last three months of 2008. Bank of America received $45 billion as part of the financial rescue package.
Sirott's positive assessment of Obama's plan isn't justified. The big profits he touted are largely illusionary. Andrew Ross Sorkin explained why in "Bank Profits Appear Out of Thin Air," which appeared in yesterday's New York Times:
The tween girls of the Washington area have transcended differences of race, class and wealth to reach a single, resounding conclusion: They really, really, really, really want to be friends with Malia and Sasha Obama.
They lap up every shred of information about the first daughters, dream about meeting them and strategize ways to make it happen. Minivan rides and dinner table conversations are dominated by questions about the girls: What's their favorite food? What kind of dog did they get? Where can I get a coat like Malia's?
"Sometimes I go up to my room and I just think, 'I want to meet them, I want to meet them, I want to meet them,' " says a desperate Sophie Metee, a fourth-grader at Wood Acres Elementary in Bethesda.
Later we learn that fascination with the young ladies "may also have a great deal to do with President Obama's popularity in the country and the region -- he won an overwhelming majority of Washington area votes and enjoys significant approval ratings."
He's the director of the National Security Project of the Progressive Policy Institute.
You guys check on these things...
JIM ARKEDIS, PROGRESSIVE POLICY INSTITUTE: We do.
SANCHEZ: ...to make sure the figures are right. So because you're down now in the middle, I'm going to ask you the question -- is Senator James Inhofe correct to say that President Obama is "gutting the U.S. military budget?"
Barack Obama promised to elevate the level of political discourse. Some of his apparent admirers didn't get the memo.
Take, for example, this user comment on the Washington Post's 44: The Obama Presidency blog today:
Considering how many people donated small amounts to his campaign, I imagine it would be difficult to find people who couldn't be considered "backers" in some way. I mean one of these guys donated a whopping $250. Yay Matt Drudge! Yay Rush Limbaugh! Way to be more retarded than Palin's down syndrome baby.