Barack Obama

10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2014

Obama's orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan.

Obama’s orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan | (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Week

President Obama expands U.S. role in Afghanistan, GOP-led committee concludes Benghazi investigation, and more

1. Obama quietly approves expanded U.S. role in Afghanistan
Over the past few weeks, President Barack Obama reportedly gave the go-ahead on new guidelinesfor U.S. missions in Afghanistan. The new orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops stationed in the country — total American forces in Afghanistan are expected to be lowered to 9,800 by the end of 2014 — but they will impact the scope of the remaining troops’ missions. Previous plans had limited troops to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida, but the new guidelines will allow U.S. forces to provide air support to Afghan operations and target Taliban members who “directly threaten the United States.” [The Associated Press]

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2. GOP-led panel finds no intelligence failure in Benghazi attacks
A Republican-led House Intelligence Committee concluded that both the CIA and U.S. military carried out appropriate responses to the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic quarters in Benghazi, Libya. While the committee did find that initial assessments on the motives behind the attack, along with the identity of the militants, resulted in “flawed” talking points by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, the overall findings agreed with the Obama administration’s description of events. [The Washington Post]

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3. Thailand’s justice minister: Martial law to continue ‘indefinitely’
Saying that martial law is “necessary” for the government and junta, Thai Justice Minister GeneralPaiboon Koomchaya said on Friday that Thailand will not lift it for the foreseeable future. The army imposed marital law nationwide following a military coup in May. All political protests are banned under the law, although some demonstrators have tested that. “We are not saying that martial law will stay in place for 50 years, no this is not it, we just ask that it remain in place for now, indefinitely,” Paiboon said. [Reuters]

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4. Rookie police officer fatally shoots unarmed Brooklyn man
A New York City police officer who had been on the force for less than 18 months fatally shot an unarmed Brooklyn man on Thursday night. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton called the shooting an accident during a press conference on Friday. Officer Peter Liang reportedly drew his flashlight and gun while patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York with his partner. The two were walking down an unlit stairwell when Akai Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, 27, entered the stairwell a floor below. Bratton says Liang’s weapon accidentally discharged at that time, and a single bullet struck Gurley in the chest. [The New York Times]

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5. Republicans officially file a lawsuit over ObamaCare
House Republicans filed a lawsuit against the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Treasury Departments on Friday. The suit accuses the Obama administration of “unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties.” The White House originally deferred the requirement until 2015, and then delayed it until 2016 for employers with 50 to 99 employees. [The New York Times]

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6. U.S. stock markets see fifth-straight week of gains
The U.S. stock market closed out its fifth week of positive performance — its best stretch since 2011— on Friday. The People’s Bank of China announced an interest rate cut on Friday that nudged international markets higher, while the European Central Bank’s president, Mario Draghi, made comments about the bank’s plans to double down on boosting the eurozone economy. “It’s short-term good news, but the really good news is going to take longer to play out,” Tom Kolefas, of TIAA-CREF, said. “What we really need is real economic growth (outside the U.S.).” [Fortune, The Wall Street Journal]

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7. Global study qualifies violence against women as ‘epidemic’
A five-part series of studies presented in medical journal The Lancet reports that violence against women is a “global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions.” Entitled “Violence Against Women and Girls,” the series reports that 100-140 million women have undergone female genital mutilation, 7 percent of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and 70 million girls are married before turning 18 years old. The study’s authors said one problem is that much of the research and education on violence against women takes place almost exclusively in high-income countries. [Time]

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8. Hackers attack websites supporting Hong Kong Occupy Central protests
Apple Daily and PopVote, two independent news sites which have been covering and supporting Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests, are being “bombarded by attacks of unprecedented size.” The cyberattacks are “larger than any attack we’ve ever seen,” Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudfare, a company that protects websites from distributed denial of service attacks, said. The identify of the hackers remains unclear, although it’s likely the individual or group is against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. [Forbes, The International Business Times]

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9. Aereo files for bankruptcy following Supreme Court ruling
Streaming serviced Aereo announced in a statement on Friday that it is filing for bankruptcy. The Supreme Court ruled in the summer with Fox and CBS networks, which said that by allowing subscribers to view TV stations via the internet, Aereo was violating their copyright. “The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo’s technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty,” Chet Kanojia, the company’s CEO, said. “Without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome.” [NPR]

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10. New study finds most heavy drinkers are not alcoholics
A survey of 138,100 adults in the United States found that nine out of 10 people who drink too much are not alcoholics, and they could imbibe less with some encouragement. For men, five or more drinks on one occasion, or 15 drinks or more in a week qualifies as excessive drinking; for women, four per sitting, or eight drinks or more in a week qualifies. While about 29 percent of the population does drink excessively, 90 percent of those individuals do not fit the definition of an alcoholic. “We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much,” Dr. Robert Brewer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. [The New York Times]

4 Things You Should Know About The Democrat Who Has Just Kicked Off The 2016 Elections

Barack Obama, Jim Webb | CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/STEVE HELBER, FILE)

Think Progress

Hillary Clinton has been crowned by many as the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016, but there are other Democratic hopefuls out there. On Thursday one of them became the first potential candidate to form an exploratory committee, the first step in the long run for the presidency.

That man is former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. You may remember him as the guy who served one term in Senate between 2007 and 2013, and chose not to seek re-election. Webb served in the Reagan administration as Secretary of the Navy but ran as a Democrat for senate in 2006. In his announcement video, Webb highlighted his bipartisan roots, his military history, and made a generally centrist argument as to why he is considering a run for the presidency. Here are a few more things you should know about Jim Webb, the guy who has officially kicked off the 2016 Presidential elections.

1. Webb is not a dove.

Webb opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. His stance on the issue has led to many people calling him a dove-ish democrat, but that characterization is not all that clear. Webb did not oppose the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, but rather because he believed it was a strategic error, arguing that the conflict would sap vital resources from military engagements in other parts of the world and strengthen Iran. “I am not against fighting when fighting is necessary,” he told Inside the Navy at the time. “What I am for is making sure you are fighting the right war.” A Vietnam veteran, Webb famously said in 2007 he still believed that the Vietnam War was a good idea, and partially blamed the “anti-war left” for the way things turned out. In his announcement video, he speaks vaguely of “ill-considered foreign ventures that have drained trillions from our economy and in some cases brought instability instead of deterrence,” but doesn’t name names. Webb was opposed to military intervention in Libya.

2. Webb only recently evolved to support marriage-equality.

Webb was against same-sex marriage during his time in the Senate, although he wasopposed to a Virginia constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Last month he told The Richmond Times that he was “comfortable with the evolution” the issue has seen over the past few years. “I think it has been a good thing for this country,” he said. Webb also voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell after having campaigned against it.

3. Webb didn’t want the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses.

Webb has been less than progressive on the issue of climate change. In 2011, he voted for a bill that would’ve halted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses. He is a proponent of the Keystone pipeline and even called on Obama to open Virginia’s coast to oil and natural gas exploration.

4.Webb is big on prison reform.

If Webb for President is a long shot, at least his candidacy can serve to bring the important yet rarely discussed issue of prison reform into the spotlight. Webb is outspoken on the issue and introduced legislation in the senate that would’ve created a commission to recommend widespread reforms to the criminal justice system. The bill hoped to remedy racial disparities within the system, address the fact that there are four times as many mentally ill people in prisons than in mental hospitals, and probe into the causes of the U.S.’s extremely high incarceration rate. The bill had unanimous Democratic support but was filibustered by Republicans and did not pass.

And there you have it. The 2016 elections have officially begun.

The Coolest Find Ever – Barack Obama On PBS’ ‘Check Please’ In 2001 (VIDEO)

Addicting Info

In 2001, few people had heard of Barack Obama. He was an Illinois state senator, from the Chicago South Side Hyde Park neighborhood.

In 2001, the the fresh-faced, ebony haired future President was so unknown that he was a guest reviewer on the PBS restaurant review show called Check Please.

If you aren’t familiar with the format of the show, there is a host and three guests, who are typically just regular people from the area. Each of the guests recommends a restaurant and each of the three people review their experience at that restaurant. Obama chose Hyde Park’s Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop.

Unfortunately, the Hyde Park location of Dixie Kitchen no longer exists, but they have a location in the north of the city suburb of Evanston and in Lansing, Il.

The host joked that Dixie Kitchen served “liberal portions.” Obama let that joke go but he did call the restaurant a value and agreed that the portion sizes were large. The restaurant could probably best be described as very American Southern cooking.

Like any good politician, Obama didn’t want to play favorites so he ordered the southern sampler, “because (he) couldn’t make up (his) mind.”

“It’s not gourmet cuisine,” said Obama (take that, those who call him “elitist.”) What he wants is “food that tastes good for a good price.”

He did play favorites with a dessert, though. He loved the restaurant’s peach cobbler.

For the most part, the rest of the panel agreed with his assessment and boy do they now have a story to tell.

Here’s the video:

Mitt Romney Warns Obama Not To Get Too Uppity (VIDEO)

The so-called “Party of inclusion” or tolerance or [fill in the blank]” is apparently exasperated with America’s first African American president side-stepping them and taking other measures to pass urgent legislation.  They’ve tried everything within their power to derail both elections.  They’ve tried to block any meaningful legislation the POTUS tries to send to Congress for a vote, thus forcing him in very rare circumstances, to use or threaten to use executive action to get certain actions which are vitally needed done…without the political theater.

For some of us the president has not been “uppity” enough…

Addicting Info

Mitt Romney, a.k.a. the guy who lost the last election to the current President, took to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday to issue a racially coded warning to Barack Obama: that he should remember that “he lost” the midterm elections and that he should back off and let the real men govern.

For some inexplicable reason, host Bob Schieffer first asked Romney about ISIS and despite the fact that Romney has exactly zero foreign policy experience, he answered that Obama was “inept.”

Romney, who seems to be getting his foreign policy advice from his losing predecessor, John McCain, argued that we should have kept troops in Iraq (even though it was Bush who agreed to the withdrawal).

He also argued that Obama should engage Syrian moderates. Again, I stress that Romney has ZERO foreign policy experience and if he had some, he might be aware that Syrian President Assad is anything but trustworthy and that “There is no organized insurgency in Syria. Rebels fight with rebels who fight with rebels. There was no possible course of action that would have allowed moderate rebels to fight ISIS.”

McCain Romney then argued that we should maybe probably send “boots on the ground,” but we shouldn’t let ISIS know we’re sending boots on the ground, or something like that.

Then Schieffer turned the subject to immigration, asking Romney what his advice might be to Republicans on the issue. Romney skipped right over the Republicans into telling Obama what he should do.

What Obama should do, Romney argues, is sit back and let the Republicans drive. He should passively wait till the Boehner and McConnell hand him a bill on immigration reform and just sign it.

Romney refers to any action Obama might take from the executive level as “poking Republicans with a stick in the eye.”

“The President has got to learn that he lost this last election round,” Romney said, despite the fact that the President wasn’t on the ballot and that the Democrats who lost were the Democrats that ran away from the President.

Here’s the video via YouTube:


This is far from the first time the country club former presidential candidate has used coded racism in referring to Obama. Of course, Romney is far too cultured to use the “n” word or other obvious racial slurs, but his racism was clear, even on the campaign trial.

You can watch the full Face the Nation exchange above.

Why the FBI’s Suicide Note to MLK Still Matters

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. |  Express Newspapers/Getty

I had actually forgotten about this for a while. I first learned of it in a Black Studies class in College then on  a television documentary…

The Daily Beast ~ Nick Gillespie

A reminder that Washington has been toying with and lying to Americans for a long, long time.

The more we learn about the government these days, the less we can trust it. Forget about the simple incompetence that used to fire up libertarian critics of an expansive government—that’s a complaint that seems almost quaint given recent and ongoing revelations about official fraud and deception. It’s looking more and more like the government tends toward evil and mean-spiritedness, and it’s going to take real change to reverse eroding faith among citizens.

Though it was sent 50 long years ago, the FBI’s so-called suicide letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. is very much of a piece with today’s America, where fear of and anger toward the government casts a shadow over everything from web-surfing to starting a business. Historian Beverly Gage and The New York Times have just published an unredacted version of the anonymous November, 1964 letter almost certainly sent by the FBI to Martin Luther King, Jr. a few weeks before the civil rights leader was set to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

The typo-laden note pretends to be from a black American repulsed by King’s “psychotic” sexuality and warns that he will be unmasked as a “filthy, abnormal animal” unless he kills himself. “King you are done,” reads the letter, drawing on surveillance and wiretaps approved by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and President Lyndon Johnson. “There is but one way out for you,” the note continues. “You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

In the 21st century, we worry less about the government ratting out our sex lives and more about it tapping our phones, reading our emails, secretly dispatching drones abroad, sending “desperate and dumb” mash notes to Iranian fascists, and generally lying about its true goals and actions. “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles” announced theTimes in 2012, clearly uncomfortable with the implications of its own expose (“Secret ‘Kill List’ Reveals Obama’s Principles” would have been more accurate).

So it’s fitting that the letter to King, one of the government’s most despicable acts of domestic surveillance, has only fully come to light in the age of Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and what Barack Obama promised was going to be the “most transparent administration” in U.S. history.

Alas, when it comes to openness, Barack Obama  neglected to mention that the most disturbing revelations would happen in spite of—not because of—his actions. We didn’t learn that  the president’s former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, former CIA director Keith Alexander, and current CIA director John Brennan all lied to Congress because the administration suddenly decided to come clean.

And it’s not just unseemly cloak-and-dagger stuff in an age of terrorism that’s causing trust issues. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped create the Affordable Care Act, has rightfully come under fire for admitting that the “lack of transparency” in Obamacare was a political strategy designed to take advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter.” Nancy Pelosi, who was speaker of the House when Obamacare passed, has carried the deception further still, falsely saying that “I don’t know who [Gruber] is” and that “he didn’t help write our bill” —claims that were immediately revealed as false after about 10 seconds of Googling.

A new survey by The Atlantic of 50 “Silicon Valley Insiders”—“executives, innovators, and thinkers”–asks respondents to name “the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States.” The top three answers are “government regulation/bureaucracy” (20 percent), “immigration policies” (16 percent), and “education” (14 percent). Given the role it plays in setting immigration policy and controlling education at all levels through a mix of money and mandates, that means government takes the gold, silver, and bronze medals at making life harder.

It’s not just tech gazillionaires who feel this way. Gallup annually asks jes’ plain folks, “Which of the following do you think is the biggest threat to the country in the future—big business, big labor, or big government?” Last December, a record-high 72 percent chose big government. That’s more than double the figure Gallup recorded when the FBI was listening to Martin Luther King’s heavy-breathing sessions. These days, says Pew Research, just 2 percent (!) of us trust the government “to just about always” do the right thing.

Fifty years ago—again, right around the time that the FBI was about to become the subject of a hagiographic hit TV show and trying to goad Martin Luther King, Jr. into killing himself—Richard Hofstadter was denouncing the “paranoid style in American politics,”. He lamented that, “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”

But today’s lack of trust and confidence in the government doesn’t seem all that angry. It’s more like we’re resigned to the fact that our rulers think little of us—that is, when they think of us at all. In gaining new knowledge about how people in power almost always behave, we are wiser and sadder and, one hopes, much less likely to put up with bullshit from the left, right, or center.

There’s a real opportunity to the politicians, the parties, and the causes that dare to embrace real transparency —about how legislation is being crafted, about our surveillance programs at home and abroad—as a core value and something other than a throwaway slogan. But as an unbroken thread of mendacity and mischief binds the present to the past, a future in which government can be trusted seems farther off than ever.

10 things you need to know today: November 15, 2014

Pro-democracy student leaders leave the airport after Chinese officials barred them from a Beijing-bound flight.

Pro-democracy student leaders leave the airport after Chinese officials barred them from a Beijing-bound flight. | (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)

The Week

Second sign-up season begins for HealthCare.gov, Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders denied entry to Beijing, and more

1. Second sign-up season begins on HealthCare.gov website
A little more than a year after ObamaCare’s rocky rollout, the federal health insurance exchange website opened on Saturday for its second sign-up season. President Barack Obama used his weekly video address to urge Americans to get covered, or re-enroll if they had already used HealthCare.gov. “In part because this law is working, health care prices have grown at their slowest rate in nearly 50 years,” Obama said. [The Associated Press]

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2. Chinese officials deny Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders entry to Beijing
Hong Kong student leaders Alex Chow, Eason Chung, and Nathan Law planned to take their demands for free, local elections to the mainland on Saturday, but Chinese authorities instead revoked the men’s return-home cards, barring them from boarding a Beijing-bound flight. The trio represents the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which, along with several other groups, is protesting the Chinese Communist Party’s decision that all candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive position in 2017 must pass a vetting process. [Time]

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3. Defense Department to boost nuclear spending by nearly $10 billion
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Friday that the Defense Department will increase spending on nuclear forces by 10 percent per year for the next five years, which comes out to nearly $10 billion. Hagel ordered two reviews of the U.S. nuclear forces in February, one by Pentagon officials and one by outside experts following reports alleging lapses in leadership, morale, and safety. “The… reviews show that a consistent lack of investment and support for our nuclear forces over far too many years has left us with too little margin to cope with mounting stresses,” Hagel said. [The Associated Press]

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4. Vladimir Putin stations warships off Australia’s coast ahead of G-20 summit
Russian President Vladimir Putin directed four warships to be stationed off the northeastern coast of Australia, in advance of his scheduled attendance at a G-20 summit this weekend in Brisbane. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded by sending three warships of his own to monitor the Russia ones, which are technically in international waters. Abbott accused Putin of “trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism.” [The Associated Press]

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5. House passes bill approving Keystone pipeline construction
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday 252-161 allowing the federal government to go ahead with building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would move petroleum from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. But the Democrat-controlled Senate is not expected to give the 60 votes necessary on Tuesday, and even if the bill did reach President Barack Obama’s desk, he has indicated he’d likely veto the legislation. [The New York Times]

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6. USPS names first female Postmaster General
The United States Postal Service announced on Friday that Megan Brennan will take over for retiring Patrick Donahoe as Postmaster General in February. Brennan began working for USPS in 1986 as a letter carrier and rose to chief operating officer in 2010. Brennan will be tasked with leading an agency that suffered a $5.5 billion net loss this fiscal year. [Time]

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7. Top U.S. general arrives in Baghdad to review ISIS operations
General Martin Dempsey arrived in Iraq on Saturday, his first trip there since President Barack Obama approved U.S. troop deployments to the region. “I want to get a sense from our side about how our contribution is going,” Dempsey said, referring to the U.S. military operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. In addition to air strikes, U.S. forces are carrying out training for Iraqi troops. Obama authorized sending up to 1,500 more U.S. troops to the region, in addition to the roughly 1,500 that are already deployed. [Reuters]

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8. Four out of 10 new marriages involve remarriage
A new study from the Pew Research Center found that 42 million adults married in 2013 had been married before, almost double the number from 1980. Forty percent of all new marriages include at least one previously married spouse. The study credited the results to a rise in divorce rates, but also an aging population, “which not only increase the number of widows and widowers available to remarry, but means people quite simply have more years in which to make, dissolve, and remake unions.” [Pew Research Center]

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9. Extreme storms on Uranus baffling astronomers
A team at the University of California, Berkeley reported on Wednesday that eight storms over the course of two days in August unexpectedly took place on Uranus. One of the storms was the brightest ever captured on the planet, lighting the usually “boring blue dot” up. “Why we see these incredible storms now is beyond anybody’s guess,” Heidi Hammel of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, said. [UC Berkeley News Center]

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10. Conde Nast settles lawsuit with former interns for $5.8 million
Conde Nast agreed on Thursday to pay $5.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by thousands of former interns who say they were underpaid during their time at the company. Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib, the lead plaintiffs, could receive about $10,000 each, while about 7,500 former interns dating back to June 2007 could receive payments ranging from $700 to $1,900. The company canceled its internship program in June 2013 after the lawsuit was filed. [Reuters, Deadline]

Obama job rating flat after midterm losses, unlike Bush, Ike, Truman

Pew Research Center –  Fact Tank (News in Numbers)

The midterm elections that handed losses to many Democrats across the country haven’t resulted in much change for President Obama’s approval rating – it has barely moved in over a year and remains at 43%.

FT_two-term-president-ratingsIn fact, the share of Americans approving of Obama has wavered between 41% and 45% in 13 consecutive Pew Research surveys dating back to September 2013.

While Obama’s recent job approval isn’t high by historical standards, his second-term numbers overall have been more stable than those of his predecessors. Although many factors contribute to a president’s approval in the public’s eye, it often declines after an election when a president’s party loses.

George W. Bush’s rating, for instance, dropped consistently after his 2004 reelection, including five points after his second midterm election in 2006 (to 32%), when Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress. Ronald Reagan, who entered the 1986 elections with a 63% approval rating, dropped 16 points by December — largely due to the damage done by the Iran-Contra affair, which came to light in November 1986. Like Obama, Reagan’s party gave up the Senate and lost seats in the House.

FT_obama-approval-steadyDwight Eisenhower’s job approval rating fell 5 points (57%-52%) in November 1958, according to Gallup, after a disastrous midterm for the GOP. Harry Truman’s rating declined 8 points (41%-33%) post-election in 1950, when Democrats barely held control of both houses.

One president who fared well after his second midterm was Bill Clinton, whose approval rating hit 65% as his party gainedHouse seats in his second midterm election (the only time this occurred in the 20th century).

Over the entirety of a president’s second term, recent history shows that approval ratings vary widely. In the wake of the Iran-Contra affair, Reagan’s Gallup approval hovered around 50%, but he rebounded and left office with 63% support. Clinton dropped from a high of 71% around his early-1999 impeachment to 55%, but he left office with about six-in-ten approving of his job (61%). Bush continued to struggle in the homestretch of his presidency, finishing with the approval of about one-in-four Americans (24%).

Despite Obama’s flat approval trend recently, most of the public was skeptical in Pew Research’s post-election survey last weekend that the president can accomplish a great deal (6%) or some (33%) of what he would like to do in his final two years. About six-in-ten (59%) think he will accomplish not much or nothing of what he wants to get done, similar to the sentiment eight years ago as Bush faced his lame duck status.

The public is divided, though, about who should take the lead in solving the country’s problems: 40% say Obama and 41% choose Republican congressional leaders. By contrast, 51% wanted Democratic leaders in Congress to take the lead after the 2006 midterms and just 29% thought Bush should do so.

When Democrats are afraid to be Democrats

Alison Lundergan Grimes came off as a politician who couldn't trust voters to be adults.

Alison Lundergan Grimes came off as a politician who couldn’t trust voters to be adults. Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Compass via The Week

Open warfare has broken out in the Democratic Party over just how much President Obama’s low approval rating led to a midterm drubbing, and whether the White House did too much, too little, or didn’t care, to reduce his drag on the ticket.

Republicans did everything but obtain search warrants to find out how close their opponents were to President Obama. Some guilt-by-association was inevitable, but instead of accepting it and then pivoting, a bunch of Democratic candidates hemmed and hawed, temporized and made themselves look silly.

When Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Secretary of State running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), was asked by a newspaper editorial board whether she had voted for Obama, she said that because she was the state’s voting administrator, she wanted to uphold the principle of a secret ballot and didn’t want to set a bad example. Or something.

What she could have said was, Yeah. My party has a history of fighting for the middle class and I’m proud of that.”

As a self-professed Clinton Democrat, Grimes could then have talked about Republican obstructionism during the Clinton administration and how President Clinton ushered in record economic growth and prosperity.

Short, sweet, has the benefit of not mentioning the words “Obama” or “Democratic Party,” and answers the questions.

A week later, she flubbed the same question, a question she knew would be asked of her.

“I’m not going to compromise a constitution right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or (an)other side or the members of the media,” she answered.

Her discovery of an unrecognized constitutional right gave Mitch McConnell permission to suggest that Grimes was deceiving voters about her record. It allowed him to shine a spotlight on the very weakness that Grimes was trying to deflect.

At the debate, here’s what Grimes could have said:

Yeah. I did. And let’s talk about votes. Let’s talk about records. Let’s talk about who’s associated with gridlock, with Washington not working, with an economy that won’t get off the ground.

Whatever Mitch McConnell did for the state a while back, he’s had almost 30 years to fix Washington. What happened in Washington happened on his watch. He hasn’t been able to stand up to President Obama for six years. When I agree with the president, I’ll say so. When I disagree, he’s going to hear it, too. And yes, President Obama has made mistakes. And we’re gonna hold him accountable.

But Mitch McConnell was up there, a stone’s throw from the White House, when the government bailed out the big banks and left homeowners under water. Failed to pass a minimum wage? That’s Mitch McConnell’s Republican Party. Failed to deal with the immigration crisis? That’s not on Barack Obama. That’s on Mitch McConnell’s Republicans. Republicans, under Mitch McConnell, threatened to take the country off a fiscal cliff. Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, financed two wars on the nation’s credit card. Government has grown beyond our wildest imagination. New entitlements? Mitch McConnell was in the Senate leadership. Doesn’t matter whether the president was named Bush or named Obama.

You want to talk about votes? A vote for Mitch McConnell is a vote for everything we hate about Washington. It’s a vote for a guy who can’t cut it. He’s got a proven record of doing nothing. He’s the epitome of why we’re in trouble today.

McConnell could have chosen any number of responses to this, but he’d be defending his record, not attacking Grimes for an association she made.

It was McConnell’s best insight that voters would blame Washington gridlock on the president and his party even if the president and his party were not its primary cause. That connection — Obama’s in power and Washington seems chaotic and out of control — was really hard to break. But the polling swings, even allowing for a Democratic oversampling, showed that voters were willing to give Grimes a chance to break that connection and make her argument.

Instead, she tried to draw attention away from what everyone already knew, and came off as a politician who couldn’t trust voters to be adults.

Her association with Obama was a weakness in Kentucky. It was there from the moment she jumped into the race. It was a given. Her non-denial denial of an undeniable truth gave everyone who watched it a headache. And it made Mitch McConnell look like a genius.

Candidates of both parties should learn from her fumble.

For Next AG, Obama Picks a Quiet Fighter With a Heavy Punch

Joshua Lott | Reuters

More on President Obama’s Attorney General nominee…

The Daily Beast

Daughter of a librarian, sister to a SEAL. Why colleagues say America can’t ask for better than Loretta Lynch, the president’s pick to succeed Eric Holder.

The woman tapped to become the new attorney general is the younger sister of a Navy SEAL from those days before fame and book deals, when America’s foremost warriors were known only as anonymous “quiet professionals.”

Loretta Lynch has taken much the same quietly professional approach as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Her father can attest to that, having seen her in action in a Brooklyn courtroom. He speaks of her much as he might of his elder son, the SEAL.

“Low-key, soft voice, but hard-punching attorney,” says Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, a fourth-generation Baptist minister from North Carolina. “She was never a show person but boy she did hit hard.”

Her mother, Lorine Lynch, started life as a farmhand. Loretta Lynch recalled aloud at the swearing-in ceremony for her first stint as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999 that she once asked her mother why she had labored in the fields.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” her mother had told her.

The mother had left the fields to become a librarian and her love of literature passed on to her three children. Neighbors in Durham would marvel at the stacks of books little Loretta and her brothers would carry from the public library just down the street.

“Your books are taller than you are!” the father remembers people exclaiming.

Loretta’s uncommon brightness led to an early encounter with what some took to be racism when she took a standardized test at her largely white public school.

“She scored so high they said, ‘This is wrong, you have to retake it,’” the father recalls. “She retook it and scored higher the second time.”

When Loretta was not yet in high school, the family took a trip to Boston and her parents pointed across the Charles River to Harvard University. The father recalls, “She said, ‘That’s where I want to go to college.’”

Another encounter with apparent racism came when she finished at the very top of her class at Durham high school. The authorities suddenly decided there had to be three valedictorians, which resulted in one of them being white. She did indeed go to Harvard, where she majored in English and delighted in reading Chaucer in Old English. She proceeded on to Harvard Law School.

From there, she joined a big Wall Street law firm and earned a six-figure salary. Her father figured that she was set, even if she more than once arrived to conduct a disposition only for the opposing lawyers to assume she must be the court stenographer.

Then she announced she was taking a 75 percent pay cut to become an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn. She thereby declared herself less interested in making money than in making a difference.

The father came up from North Carolina to see her prosecute a Chinese gang. He returned when she took on the Abner Louima case, which was as momentous in 1999 as the Michael Brown case in Ferguson is now. Louima was a Haitian immigrant who was sodomized by a cop with a wood stick in a precinct bathroom. Four other cops were also arrested in connection with the incident

“Don’t let these defendants push us back to the day when police officers could beat people with impunity, and arrest people for no reason and lie about it to cover it up,” Lynch told the jury during her closing argument that day in 1999.

The courtroom was completely silent when she was done.

“You could hear a pin drop,” the father recalls. “It was remarkable.”

He adds, “I wouldn’t want her prosecuting me.”

Soon afterward, President Clinton appointed her the U.S. attorney for the district, including Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island. She was replaced by President Bush in mid-2001 and she returned to private practice.

In 2010, President Obama then brought her back for a second stint. She continually impressed her staff with her ability to quickly grasp the essentials of a case as her office wrangled multibillion-dollar settlements from various errant banks while prosecuting a wide range of terrorists, gangsters, and cybercriminals.

In recent weeks, she has overseen cases involving a dual Kazakh-Israeli citizen charged with money laundering, a man arrested for sexually abusing three girls at an Army base, an attorney convicted of a $5 million fraud, mobsters nabbed for a decade-old murder, a banker who faked his own death, a union delegate sentenced for extorting Christmastime tribute, a doctor collared for illegal distribution of Oxycodone, a scamster who engineered an Alaskan gold-mine investment scheme, another scamster charged with facilitating a $6 million food-stamp fraud, five 7-Eleven franchisees who victimized immigrant employees, a fugitive who got in a shootout with U.S. Marshals, a pharmacist charged with smuggling counterfeit medicines via a Costa Rican Internet distributor, a drug dealer convicted of two contract murders, six corporate executives indicted for orchestrating a $500 million offshore fraud, a man convicted of using stolen Social Security numbers to file thousands of false tax returns, and a civil dispute over a dinosaur fossil

She has also pressed ahead with the prosecution of Rep. Michael Grimm, who was reelected this week despite being under indictment for lying under oath and allegedly cooking the books of a now-shuttered health-food restaurant. Grimm is a Republican and he charged during the campaign that the prosecution was politically motivated. That suggestion turns absurd when you consider the long list of corrupt Democrat politicians Lynch has sent to prison.

And nobody can rightly say that she seeks headlines in the way of too many other prosecutors. Her single and singular goal in every case is to pursue justice as determined by the law.

“I think we should want an attorney general who doesn’t seek the limelight, but seeks justice,” says Ken Thompson, who prosecuted the Louima case with her and has gone on to become the Brooklyn district attorney.

Thompson knows her life story and goes on to say, “What she represents is the American dream.”

He believes she would serve as an inspiration and a role model to young people who are beginning their own struggle toward that dream. He described her as a super-smart, fiercely focused, unshakably honest, and supremely fair-minded champion who would make an outstanding attorney general.

“We can’t as a country ask for more than Loretta Lynch,” Thompson says.

According to numerous reports, the departing attorney general, Eric Holder, agreed. He had already named her the head of his advisory council. And he was said to be urging Obama to appoint her as his successor.

On Friday, her 82-year-old father was down in North Carolina, remembering that his daughter sneezed in his face when he was carrying her home from the hospital after she was born. She had since been only a delight.

“Highly inquisitive, highly playful, always cheerful,” he recalls. “She would play with anything. She would make a toy out of anything.”

The father had known tragedy with the death of his son, the former SEAL, when he was just 51. The father now seemed about to know triumph with the nomination of the family’s other quiet professional, 55-year-old Loretta Lynch, as the new attorney general.

In this age of selfies, the president had chosen someone who never seeks the spotlight and lets her work speak for itself. The father said Friday night that he would wait until he actually sees it happen at the official ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Saturday.

“I would be proud, but my late mother said, ‘Don’t count your eggs, son, until they hatch,” he said. “When I see Mr. Obama and my daughter standing beside him, I’ll say something is about to happen.”

H/t: DB

10 things you need to know today: November 8, 2014

President Obama will officially announce Loretta Lynch's nomination today at the White House.

President Obama will officially announce Loretta Lynch’s nomination today at the White House. | (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Week

The White House announces nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General, U.S. unemployment rate drops, and more

1. White House to nominate Loretta Lynch for Attorney General
The White House officially announced late on Friday that President Barack Obama will nominate Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, to be the next Attorney General. Obama will officially introduce Lynch’s nomination today at the White House, a statement from the administration said, joined by both Lynch and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. If she is confirmed by the Senate, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to serve as Attorney General. [The Washington Post]

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2. U.S. unemployment rate drops to 5.8 percent
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that U.S. employers added 214,000 jobs in October, while the unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent in September to 5.8 percent. While the jobs number was slightly below expectations, the number of Americans filing for unemployment fell to 278,000 last week, marking the lowest average for jobless claims in 14 years and suggesting the U.S. job market is improving. [The Wall Street Journal]

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3. European, U.S. authorities arrest 17 in Darknet site raids
European and U.S. officials announced on Friday that they have arrested 17 people across 16 European countries and the U.S. in coordinated raids on underground, online markets. The Darknet sites are used to sell drugs and weapons, and officials seized at least $1 million in Bitcoin, along with hundreds of thousands of Euros, and drugs, gold, and silver. [NPR]

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4. Federal judge approves Detroit plan to exit bankruptcy
Just 16 months after Detroit declared bankruptcy, a federal judge on Friday approved the city’s blueprint for exiting bankruptcy. The plan would allow Detroit to cut its $18 billion debt by $7 billion, and invests nearly $2 billion over the next nine years in city services such as computer systems, fire trucks, and ambulances. “The big hurdle is whether or not they can get the services and infrastructure in place to build the city back up,” John J. Ramirez, a restructuring lawyer, said. [The Washington Post]

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5. Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to Affordable Care Act
The Supreme Court justices announced on Friday that they will rule on whether the Affordable Care Act “authorizes subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their health insurance premiums.” Opponents of the law argue that such subsidies are illegal. [The Associated Press]

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6. South Korea to disband coast guard following ferry disaster
South Korea’s National Assembly announced on Friday that it will disband its coast guard, following criticism for the guard’s failure to save hundreds of passengers from April’s Sewol ferry disaster. That ferry’s sinking killed more than 300 people, and South Korean officials said “swifter, more aggressive action” from the coast guard could have saved more passengers. The guard’s duties will now be handled by the country’s National Police Agency. [The Associated Press]

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7. Dallas Ebola monitoring period comes to an end
Twenty-one days after a final person had contact with one of Dallas’ three Ebola patients, state health officials announced that the city’s monitoring period had ended on Friday evening. No new cases of Ebola have been reported in Texas, and the two nurses who treated Thomas Eric Duncan last month and became infected with Ebola have recovered and been declared virus-free. The total number of people monitored was 177 — those individuals had either handled medical waste or come into contact with one of the state’s three Ebola patients. [KERA News]

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8. VA used counterfeit, unauthorized medical equipment
Internal Department of Veterans Affairs emails obtained through a FOIA request show that some veterans who received care at VA hospitals were treated with counterfeit, possibly dangerous medical supplies. The VA purchased the equipment from Johnson & Johnson, which had purchased the supplies from “gray market” companies. [The Washington Times]

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9. Poll: 6 in 10 Americans believe homes with guns are safer
A new Gallup report shows a 30 percent increase since 2000 in the number of Americans who believe having a gun in the home makes them safer. While 60 percent of Americans said guns in the home made them safer, just 42 percent actually keep a gun for safety reasons. And, the poll responses were divided along political and geographical lines. [Time]

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10. Lionsgate announces upcoming The Hunger Games stage play
Lionsgate announced on Friday that it will mount a Hunger Games “theatrical experience” in London, opening sometime in 2016. The company promised “world-class production values and state-of-the-art technology,” and noted that a new theater will be purpose-built next to London’s Wembley Stadium for the show. [Variety]