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April 30, 2009

The Obamas Have Shed Their Campaign Vulnerabilities

Missing in the tsunami of coverage of the First 100 Days—if it’s possible that anything has been left unwritten or unsaid—is that both President and Michelle Obama have largely shed what appeared to be their greatest vulnerabilities in the final months of the campaign.

For the would-be president, it was his lack of experience. Exasperated Republicans tried their damnedest to sound the alarms. He’s never actually done anything, the argument went. Do you really want him in the Oval Office when crisis strikes? Nervous Democrats fretted, mostly in private, and wondered if maybe John McCain wasn’t better suited to the job.

For the potential First Lady, her alleged Achilles’ heel was her “anger.” Her “for the first time in my adult life I’m proud of my country” moment became a catch-all for the country’s unresolved feelings about working moms, opinionated political spouses, and African Americans romping on the lawn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How can this possibly work? people wondered.

Fast-forward just three months past Inauguration Day, and those concerns have all but disappeared.

To be sure, the critics make other arguments, especially about him. He’s doing too much. (Or he’s not doing enough.) He’s moving too fast. (Or he’s not moving fast enough.) His misguided policies will bankrupt the country. He’s arrogant, an apologist, a socialist. But what they aren’t saying is that he’s unprepared, in over his head, or not up to the job. Already, he’s faced at least two crises, one foreign and one domestic, in addition to the ongoing economic disaster and the daily demands of the job: the hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates and the outbreak of the swine flu, a potential global pandemic. In the first, the president calmly ordered American snipers to take out the ragtag pirates if the ship captain’s life appeared to be in danger. It was—and they did. And praise for the president’s steady hand was virtually universal. The second crisis is still unfolding, but again, the president’s response has been swift and steady, as he and his team have worked to calm and inform a worried public.  

People have responded by showing confidence in the president’s leadership. His job approval numbers are in the mid-to-high 60s, his personal approval numbers are higher yet, and a sizable majority see him as a strong leader and able commander in chief. John who?

As for Michelle Obama, her reversal of fortune has been so swift and so complete that the only criticism she’s faced, if you can call it that, has been answered in the same breath it was uttered. She touched the Queen! But the Queen touched her first! Or She wears too many sleeveless dresses! But her arms look great! Meanwhile, she hosted a reception for women’s-rights icon Lily Ledbetter after her husband signed the Fair Pay Act; began her outreach to military families; oversaw the planting of an organic garden on the White House grounds; became a fashion icon; engineered the adoption of a new dog; and helped her two unspeakably cute daughters adjust to their new circumstances (where they set their alarm clocks, get themselves ready for school, and make their beds every day). Gone is the stereotypical angry black woman. Front and center is an accomplished American mom, the center of gravity in her admirable American family.

How did our impressions of these two change so quickly? Mostly, it seems, because of the exceptional personal qualities of both Obamas. Ideology aside, they are honest, hard-working, disciplined—the kind of “family values” folks that have always loomed large in America’s image of itself. Perhaps those qualities were harder to see when we knew the Obamas less well. Perhaps they were a bit obscured by well-worn stereotypes of ambitious politicians, career women, and African Americans. And maybe, when all is said and done, those early vulnerabilities will in fact loom larger than they do right now.

But at least for the moment, Barack and Michelle Obama have filled out their own portraits, making them more complete, more complex, and more appealing than they were a hundred days ago. Even if the milestone is as fabricated as the Easter eggs on the White House lawn, that’s an impressive accomplishment.

This absolutely great article was written by Dee Dee Myers, a Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2009/04/100-days-obamas-shed-campaign-vulnerability.html?printable=true&currentPage=all

 

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April 29, 2009

President Barack Obama: Strong First 100 Days!

 When President Bill Clinton was sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States on January 20, 1993 he went straight to work.  On January 22, 1993 he signed orders overturning Reagan and Bush era restrictions on abortions. On February 5, 1993 he signed his first law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which still allows workers at large companies to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to family concerns.  On April 19, 1993 his Attorney General, Janet Reno, authorized a federal raid to end a standoff at a compound of a Waco, Texas, cult, resulting in a fire and dozens of deaths.

Bill Clinton was working hard but his transition period and the first few weeks of his Administration in the White House White was not as successful as it could have been because it was full of all sorts of personal and White House drama plus many Washington insiders did not like Bill and Hill.

Sometimes there was a particular kind of drama at the White House and one night there was a fight in the wee hours between Bill and Hillary Clinton. The fight got nasty and Hillary threw a lamp at the President.  Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story and confirmed that this story was not a rumor; it was true and had been “totally confirmed by two high-level White House aides.”  He even said that he was “very confident in his sources.”

The drama at the White House was made more complicated because Hillary Rodham Clinton was not a traditional First Lady – she was the Chairwoman of the National Health Care Task Force, she was directly involved in selecting Administration staff members and directly involved in advising the President on nearly every aspect of social policy.  Hillary Clinton wasn’t just First Lady, she was co-President and Washington, DC didn’t like it and didn’t like her so there wasn’t much good will extended to the Clintons by Washington insiders and they only received the obligatory social invitations.

 

APTOPIX  Democratic Convention  In vast contrast President and Michelle Obama are the toast of Washington.  It shows that being likeable is an important asset for leaders even for our President and First lady. 

Obama 100 Days First Lady  Everyone wants to invite the Obamas somewhere or wants to be invited by them to the White House — even Malia and Sasha are now celebrities in their own right; so is Bo. 

obamas-gardening-kenilworth-aquatic-gardens-4-21-09  Where ever our President goes, if announced, he still draws a campaign like crowd — so does Michelle.

A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday, confirms that President Obama is liked by 81% of all Americans and 51% of all Americans like his policies and only 12% of Americans (most likely Republicans) say they don’t like our President. 

Historically, we would have to go back to 1953 when our 34th President — Dwight Eisenhower — and 1961 when our 35th President — John F. Kennedy — were Presidents to find a Commander-in-Chief with such high approval ratings after 100 days on the job.

Americans trust President Obama and he is his own best political weapon.  Simply by being himself and working hard for the people, President Barack Obama makes Americans feel more optimistic and good about where America is headed.

white-house-fireworks  Today marks our President’s 100th day in office and our President has been working hard and has had to deal with things expected and unexpected things like pirates, pigs and plane fly-overs and he always has the right demeanor and is always appropriate.

President Obama took office with our country in the middle of an extreme financial crisis and acted quickly to restore confidence and stability to our economy and he has taken the steps necessary for building a new foundation for America’s prosperity so that we never go back to the system that led us to this awful crisis in the first place.

In just one hundred days President Obama and his Administration have made crucial investments to create jobs and improve education, energy, and health care. All of this is a down payment for a new economic vision. A vision where skilled Americans will be gainfully employed and their employment will fuel our economy; a vision where American leadership on clean energy will fuel 21st century innovation; and a vision where families and businesses are no longer weighed down by crushing health care costs.

View some of President Obama first 100 day accomplishments at:
http://my.barackobama.com/100days

Explore this interactive map to learn about the progress we’ve made in the last 100 days and the stories of real Americans whose lives have already been touched. Then spread the word by passing it along to your friends and family.

Let us continue to support our President so we can make the United States better for all Americans!

Stay connected to your government, visit www.whitehouse.gov

Peace and Hope!

April 28, 2009

Day 99: GOP Senator Arlen Specter To Switch Parties And Run As Democrat in 2010!

In the past several weeks Ed Rendell has said that he has spoken with Republican Senator Arlen Specter and tried to convince him to switch parties to no avail.  Specter is one of the most senior GOP members and has been an elected Republican since 1966 and would have been up for a really tough re-election in 2010.

“We’ve tried,” said Rendell. “Myself, Senator Casey, Vice President Biden have tried to talk him into it, but he’s bound and determined to stay a Republican.”

Today, Arlen Specter has announced his decision to switch parties and run as a Democrat from Pennsylvania in 2010.  Specter has said recently that he feels the Republican Party has left him by going too far right.

It seems that the Democrats will get 60 votes in the Senate once Al Franken is certified and if Specter wins in 2010.

Will other GOP Senators defect from the Republican Party?  Will Olympia Snow (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) defect from the GOP? 

Is this a confirmation that President Obama is reaching out to Republicans and realigning politics in DC just like Reagan did in the 1980s?

Watch Rendell’s March interview:

 

 

“TRUTH” Comes To Washington, DC!

sojourner-truth-abe-lincoln  Today, First Lady Michelle Obama will help unveil a bronze bust of Sojourner Truth, a former slave and women’s rights activist.  This will be the first sculpture of a black woman in the U.S. Capitol. The ceremony will take place in Emancipation Hall at the newly opened Capitol Visitor Center at 11am EST.

Makayla Gray McLiechey, a 10-year-old from Grand Rapids, Michigan is a descendant of Sojourner Truth. When interviewed she said, “When anyone comes to me and says, ‘Aren’t you Sojourner Truth’s eighth-generation grandchild?’ That just tickles me,” McLiechey said. “… I feel so happy inside that I am a part of history and the making of Sojourner Truth history.”

McLiechey is one of eight Truth descendants from Battle Creek and Grand Rapids who left for Washington D.C. on Saturday night where they will take part in an unveiling ceremony of a bust of Truth at Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol building today.

“This is something we probably never dreamed would happen. We couldn’t be any prouder,” said Burl McLiechey, a sixth-generation Truth descendant.

The $3.2 million bust will make history as the first memorial bust of a black woman to be placed in the Capitol. The project was spearheaded by the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. and took nearly 10 years to complete.

Dorothy Height helped raise $4,000 to contribute to the bust through the Dollars for Truth Campaign, which began two years ago.

Height also arranged for the local descendants of Truth to attend the ceremony. In a tribute to history, they are bringing a Bible signed by themselves and more than 300 Battle Creek residents to present to President Barack Obama. Thomas McLiechey said the gesture is reminiscent of when Truth presented Abraham Lincoln with a bible during his Presidency.

The campaign to memorialize Truth in the nation’s Capitol began more than a decade ago. A self-educated abolitionist who changed her name from Isabella Baumfree, Truth played a large role in the women’s suffrage movement and in 1851 delivered the famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at a women’s rights convention in Ohio.

Truth, who died in 1883, encompassed all aspects of a truly free woman. She personified women’s rights, equal rights, struggling and understanding.

E. Faye Williams, chairwoman of the nonprofit National Congress of Black Women, which commissioned the work, said many believed that Truth should stand alongside women’s rights figures Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in a portrait monument that was placed in the Capitol Rotunda in 1997. 

However Congressional legislation to include Truth in that group failed but Congress approved a bill in 2006 to memorialize the black suffragist in a stand-alone sculpture.

E. Faye Williams said that Artis Lane was the first choice to produce the work.

Frank Sinatra’s family purchased her portrait of President Kennedy, Rosa Parks asked her to design her congressional Gold Medal, President Clinton bought her painting of Hillary and Artis Lane’s sculptures and paintings are in the private collections of Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela. She has also created works for Michael Jordan, Quincy Jones and Armand Hammer. (more…)

Bank of American and Citibank — More Capital Please!

The Federal Reserve conducted stress tests on 19 of the nation’s biggest banks, their aim was to determine which banks are healthy enough to survive another financial shock and which may need additional government support.

Based on the results of the stress tests government regulators have told Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc that they need to get their capital reserves together! The capital shortfall at BoA is believed to be in the BILLIONS.

It sounds to me as if executives at BoA and Citi are still in denial and don’t believe that the stress tests are correct since they have objected to the findings and are planning to respond with “detailed rebuttals” that will show that they do not need to have more capital if they have  another financial meltdown. 

Government officials did say that even though BoA and Citi are being told to raise more capital — they shouldn’t be viewed as insolvent — they just need to shore up their assets and make sure that they are in excellent financial order — not just mediocre financial order.

The additional capital is intended to cushion the banks against potential future losses should economic conditions worsen.  Federal officials have also reiterated in the report that they won’t allow any of the top 19 banks to fail.

It is also believed that regional banks with large commercial real estate loan portfolios such as Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bancorp and Regions Financial Corp may have also performed poorly on the stress tests and are likely to need additional capital as well.

(more…)

April 24, 2009

Should Credit Card Rates Freeze?

credit-cards  While President Obama met with executives from the leading credit card companies yesterday two senators have called on the Federal Reserve to immediately implement an emergency freeze on interest rates tied to existing balances on credit cards.

The Federal Reserve plans to put a new set of rules in effect for credit card lending beginning July 2010 but that’s an entire year from now.

In the meantime Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators saying that companies are increasing interest rates now before the new rules go into effect so Americans need help now.

“Consumers describe situations to our offices in which the interest rates on their accounts have doubled or tripled overnight, without any misconduct on their part,” the letter says. “This kind of practice clearly violates the spirit and intention of the rules, even if the delayed implementation date has the effect of making such behavior legal.”

Congress is currently developing legislation that will rearrange and organize the Fed’s new rules but they still have a way to go.

After meeting with 14 executives from companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Visa, President Obama said that his administration would work with Congress to evaluate proposals for reform.

“We’re at a time where issues of credit and how businesses and families are able to finance everything from a car loan to a student loan to just paying their bills every day is on a lot of people’s minds,” President Obama said. “We want to preserve the credit card market, but we also want to do so in a way that eliminates some of the abuses and some of the problems that a lot of people are familiar with.”

The card executives at agreed to work with the Obama administration to address the President’s concerns according to the American Bankers Association, and are currently working to implement the Federal Reserves’ new rules.

(more…)

April 23, 2009

Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney Irrevocably Linked To Water-boarding

waterboarding  A Senate Intelligence Committee document has revealed that when Condoleezza Rice was Bush’s National Security Adviser she personally verbally approved the CIA’s request to use water-boarding to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to water-boarding in July 2002.  This is the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to approve use of water-boarding. 

The report gives a detailed timeline of how the CIA’s violent “enhanced interrogation” techniques was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.  The timeline also shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

While there have long been suspicions that the White House was involved in the decision, the actions have until now been blamed on the CIA and unnamed officials at the Pentagon.

The report describes a meeting between Dick Cheney, then-CIA Director George Tenet and Dr. Rice in July 2002. The Secretary of State “advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation” of alleged al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubaydah, the report said.

In 2003, the CIA briefed Dr. Rice, Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft — the then Attorney General — on the use of water-boarding and other methods including week-long sleep deprivation, forced nudity and the use of stress positions. The Senate report says that officials “reaffirmed that the CIA program was lawful and reflected administration policy”.

CIA memos released by President Obama’s administration last week revealed that Mr. Zubaydah was water-boarded at least 83 times in the course of one month and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who claimed to have planned the September 11 attacks was water-boarded183 times in one month.

Experts have said that water-boarding is so horrific that even the most hardened terrorists have not been able to stand it for more than a minute without begging to talk.

(more…)

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