Barack Obama

53 Historians Weigh In on Barack Obama’s Legacy

Barack - NY Mag

New York Magazine ~News & Politics

I suspect that President Obama’s race will ultimately seem akin to President Kennedy’s religion. Each will certainly be remembered for their pioneering role, but upon closer inspection it’s clear that neither of them wanted to be remembered primarily (or even partially) for the breakthrough he embodied. ~ Kevin Kruse

“It’s a fool’s errand you’re involved in,” warned Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood when approached recently by this magazine to predict Barack Obama’s historical legacy. “We live in a fog, and historians decades from now will tell their society what was happening in 2014. But we don’t know the future. No one in 1952, for example, could have predicted the reputation of Truman a half-century or so later.”

Wood is right, of course. Historians are experts on the past, not the future. But sometimes the wide-angle perspective they inhabit can be useful in understanding the present. And so, on the eve of Obama’s penultimate State of the Union address, we invited a broad range of historians — academic and popular — to play a game.

Over the past few weeks, New York asked more than 50 historians to respond to a broad questionnaire about how Obama and his administration will be viewed 20 years from now. After the day-to-day crises and flare-ups and legislative brinkmanship are forgotten, what will we remember? What, and who, will have mattered most? What small piece of legislation (or executive inaction) will be seen by future generations as more consequential than today’s dominant news stories? What did Obama miss about America? What did we (what will we) miss about him?

Almost every respondent wrote that the fact of his being the first black president will loom large in the historical narrative — though they disagreed in interesting ways. Many predict that what will last is the symbolism of a nonwhite First Family; others, the antagonism Obama’s blackness provoked; still others, the way his racial self-consciousness constrained him. A few suggested that we will care a great deal less about his race generations from now — just as John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism hardly matters to current students of history. Across the board, Obamacare was recognized as a historic triumph (though one historian predicted that, with its market exchanges, it may in retrospect be seen as illiberal and mark the beginning of the privatization of public health care). A surprising number of respondents argued that his rescue of the economy will be judged more significant than is presently acknowledged, however lackluster the recovery has felt. There was more attention paid to China than isis (Obama’s foreign policy received the most divergent assessments), and considerable credit was given to the absence of a major war or terrorist attack, along with a more negative assessment of its price — the expansion of the security state, drones and all. The contributors tilted liberal — that’s academia, no surprise — but we made an effort to create at least a little balance with conservative historians. Their responses often echoed those from the far left: that a president elected on a promise to unite the country instead extended the power of his office in alarming, unprecedented ways. Here, we have published a small fraction of the answers we found most thought-provoking, along with essays by Jonathan Chait, our national-affairs columnist, and Christopher Caldwell, whom we borrowed from The Weekly Standard. A full version of all the historians’ answers can be found here.

“Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter,” Obama told his Cabinet last month, shortly after his surprise announcement about restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. As it happens, this was exactly what a few of our respondents had nominated as the best remaining action Obama could take for his legacy. Before going to press, we let them revise their answers. There will certainly be more interesting stuff, of Obama’s design and not, before January 2017 that will date this project over and over. History is funny that way.

Continue reading the various bios here…

H/t: Don B

Laura Ingraham stupefied by Obama’s popularity: ‘In defeat… he’s setting the agenda’

Laura Ingraham speaks to Fox News (screen grab)

Best reader comment from TRS site:

The economy is getting slowly better IN SPITE OF Republican gridlock, not because of it. Of course Laura Ingraham’s troglodyte listeners wouldn’t be capable of understanding that.

The Raw Story

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Sunday reacted to President Barack Obama’s rising poll numbers by advising the Republican-controlled Congress that “gridlock” would help the country.

“In defeat, Obama looks like he’s setting the agenda,” Ingraham complained during a panel discussion on Fox News Sunday. “I mean, his poll numbers are up. He’s got a bounce in his step… He is rising in the polls as he comes off this near-historic defeat across the board.”

“The Republicans shouldn’t fall into the media trap of ‘We have to work with Obama! We have to work with Obama!’” she continued. “Obama is going off on his own. He’s going to sign an executive order, he’s going to close Gitmo, he’s draining Gitmo down.”

“Republicans have been successful and the economy has been improving with two things: gridlock and opposing Obama. The economy has been getting better!”

Watch the video below from Fox News Sunday, broadcast Jan. 4, 2015.

Everything Is Awesome!

ARLINGTON, VA – DECEMBER 24: Dressed as Santa Claus, Kerry Nistel (R) holds an American flag after water-skiing along the Potomac River near the Washington Monument December 24, 2003 in Arlington, Virginia. This is the 18th year Nistel has dressed as Santa and water-skied on Christmas Eve. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Politico Magazine ~ Michael Grunwald

Well, not everything. But America’s looking much better than you think

Good news! The U.S. economy grew at a rollicking 5 percent rate in the third quarter. Oh, and it added 320,000 jobs in November, the best of its unprecedented 57 straight months of private-sector employment growth. Just in time for Christmas, the Dow just hit an all-time high and the uninsured rate is approaching an all-time low. Consumer confidence is soaring, inflation is low, gas prices are plunging, and the budget deficit is shrinking. You no longer hear much about the Ebola crisis that dominated the headlines in the fall, much less the border crisis that dominated the headlines over the summer. As Fox News host Andrea Tantaros proclaimed earlier this month: “The United States is awesome! We are awesome!”

OK, she was talking about the Senate torture report, not the state of the union, but things in the U.S. do look rather awesome. Mitt Romney promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent in his first term; it’s already down to 5.8 percent, half the struggling eurozone’s rate. Newt Gingrich promised $2.50 gas; it’s down to $2.38. Crime, abortion, teen pregnancy and oil imports are also way down, while renewable power is way up and the American auto industry is booming again. You don’t have to give credit to President Barack Obama for “America’s resurgence,” as he has started calling it, but there’s overwhelming evidence the resurgence is real. The Chicken Littles who predicted a double-dip recession, runaway interest rates, Zimbabwe-style inflation, a Greece-style debt crisis, skyrocketing energy prices, health insurance “death spirals” and other horrors have been reliably wrong.

Come to think of it, the 62 percent of Americans who described the economy as “poor” in a CNN poll a week before the Republican landslide in the midterm elections were also wrong. I guess that sounds elitist. Second-guessing the wisdom of the public may be the last bastion of political correctness; if ordinary people don’t feel good about the economy, then the recovery isn’t supposed to be real. But aren’t the 11 million Americans who have landed new jobs since 2010 and the 10 million Americans who have gotten health insurance since 2013 ordinary Americans? It’s true that wage growth has remained slow, but the overall economic trends don’t jibe with the public’s lousy mood. And the public definitely does get stuff wrong. A Bloomberg poll this month found that 73 percent of Americans think the deficit is getting bigger, while 21 percent think it’s getting smaller and 6 percent aren’t sure. In fact, the deficit has dwindled from about $1.2 trillion in 2009 to less than $500 billion in 2014. My favorite part is the mere 6 percent who admitted ignorance; 73 percent are definitely sure the shrinking deficit is actually growing.

The point isn’t that the midterm election’s discontent was illegitimate. The point is that Americans should cheer up! Six years ago, the economy was contracting at an 8 percent annual rate and shedding 800,000 jobs a month. Those were Great Depression-type numbers. The government was pouring billions of dollars into busted banks, and experts like MIT’s Simon Johnson were predicting that the bailouts would cost taxpayers as much as $2 trillion. In reality, the bailouts not only quelled the worst financial panic since the Depression, they made money for taxpayers. Nevertheless, last week, after the government sold its stake in Ally Bank, its last major holding in a financial institution, Johnson complained to The New York Times about the “unfortunate and inappropriate message” being sent by people pointing out the bailouts were actually profitable. In this holiday season, can’t we be a little bit happy we didn’t have to waste the $2 trillion he thought we were going to waste?

This bah-humbug brand of moral superiority has flourished since the crisis: How dare you celebrate this or that piece of economic data when so many Americans are still hurting? It’s awkward to argue with that view, since many Americans are indeed still hurting. But the economic data keep showing that fewer Americans are hurting every month. No one is satisfied with 5.8 percent unemployment, but it’s way better than the 10 percent we had in 2010 or the 11 percent Europe has today. Declining child poverty and household debt and personal bankruptcies are also worth celebrating. Better is better than worse. Whether or not you think Obamacare had anything to do with the slowdown in medical cost growth, it’s a good thing that Medicare’s finances have improved dramatically, extending the solvency of its trust fund by an estimated 13 years. It’s a good thing that U.S. wind power has tripled and solar power has increased tenfold in five years. And while it’s true that the meteoric rise of the stock market since 2009 has produced windfalls for Wall Street, it has also replenished state pension funds and 401(k) retirement plans and labor union coffers. It definitely beats the alternative.

Let’s face it: The press has a problem reporting good news. Two Americans died of Ebola and cable TV flipped out; now we’re Ebola-free and no one seems to care. The same thing happened with the flood of migrant children across the Mexican border, which was a horrific crisis until it suddenly wasn’t. Nobody’s going to win a Pulitzer Prize for recognizing that we’re smoking less, driving less, wasting less electricity and committing less crime. Police are killing fewer civilians, and fewer police are getting killed, but understandably, after the tragedies in Ferguson and Brooklyn, nobody’s thinking about that these days. The media keep us in a perpetual state of panic about spectacular threats to our safety — Ebola, sharks, terrorism — but we’re much likelier to die in a car accident. Although, it ought to be said, much less likely than we used to be; highway fatalities are down 25 percent in a decade.

The other problem in acknowledging good news, not just for the press but for the public, is that it has come to feel partisan, like an endorsement of whoever occupies the White House. Republican leaders have exacerbated this problem by describing everything Obama has done — his 2009 stimulus package, his 2010 Wall Street reforms, his 2013 tax hikes on high earners, his various anti-pollution regulations aimed at coal-fired power plants, and most of all Obamacare — as “job-killing” catastrophes that would obliterate the economy. It’s hard to point out that the economy is humming along nicely without making those doom-and-gloom predictions sound ill-advised and over-the-top. Because they were. Liberals who predicted disaster when Obama refused to nationalize the banking system during the financial crisis and when Republicans insisted on the harsh budget cuts in the 2013 “sequester” were wrong, too. Disaster hasn’t happened.

As ideologically inconvenient as that may be for chronic complainers on the left and right — and for pundit types invested in their bad-year-for-Obama narrative — it’s wonderful for the country. You don’t have to endorse Obama’s economic philosophy to realize that it hasn’t wreaked short-term havoc, just as you don’t have to endorse the Obama or George W. Bush anti-terror philosophies to acknowledge that America hasn’t endured a rash of terror attacks since 2001. Last week, polls finally found a majority of Americans recognizing that the economy is improving, which is to say a majority of Americans are recognizing reality. It’s probably time for politicians to discover a new Ebola to scream about.

There is no shortage of candidates in this less-than-perfect union. The U.S. is still plagued by inadequate public schools, crumbling infrastructure, soaring college tuition costs, stark inequality. Many Americans want accountability for reckless bankers, torturers and fatal choke-holders. Washington is still almost as dysfunctional as everyone says it is. Congress this session really was the second least productive ever. And even though Obama is winding down the U.S. involvement in overseas wars, the world remains a scary place. There’s still plenty to worry about.

But for now be merry! And may the new year be as awesome as this year.

H/t: Don Babets

Conservatives use N.Y. shooting to bash Obama

The Washington Post – Plum Line

The horrifying shooting of two police officers in Brooklyn on Saturday has brought out the worst in some people. But it also gives us an opportunity to consider how we talk about the way we talk and whether we might do it in a more enlightening fashion. We regularly argue over not just the substance of issues but the way those issues are being discussed; both liberals and conservatives are convinced that their side presents its arguments in reasonable and logical ways, while the other side is prone to inflammatory, dishonest and demagogic rhetoric. When something like this shooting happens, the accusation that it occurred because of the words someone else spoke is almost inevitable. But it’s also almost always wrong.

The venom directed at de Blasio from police union leaders was particularly vivid. “There’s blood on many hands tonight,” said Patrick Lynch, the head of the New York police union. “Those that incited violence on the street in the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it shouldn’t be tolerated. That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.” Here’s a tweet from former New York governor George Pataki:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed to want to say that public officials were not responsible for the murders, but yeah, they’re kind of responsible: “the tone they’re setting around the rhetoric regarding the cops incites crazy people, but I blame the shooter.” And then there’s Rudy Giuliani, who was much more explicit: “We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” he said in an appearance on Fox News.

It’s hard to find words to describe what a despicable lie this is. But here’s the truth: Every single time Barack Obama has spoken about these issues, he has stressed that violence of any kind, even when people are protesting over legitimate grievances, is utterly wrong and unacceptable. He makes sure, in all his public statements, to include praise of police officers. If he had ever said anything like “everybody should hate the police,” it would have been rather dramatic, to say the least. But he never said anything even remotely resembling that. For instance, here’s what Obama said after the grand jury’s decision was announced in the Ferguson case:

“I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day.  They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence – distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact.”

Wow, that is some horrifying anti-cop rhetoric. And what about de Blasio? Here’s part of the explanation for why some in the NYPD seem to hate him so much:

There have been a number flash points between de Blasio and police, including one earlier this month, when the mayor spoke to George Stephanopoulos of ABC News about his fears for his biracial son.

“It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality in this country,” de Blasio said. “And with Dante, very early on with my son, we said, look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do, don’t move suddenly, don’t reach for your cellphone, because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”

I get that police officers might not like to hear that, but is there a single sane human being who can say it’s bad advice to give to a black teenager? Or that anyone could take it as encouragement to commit murder?

It’s perfectly fine to call people out on their rhetoric. Everyone fortunate enough to have a prominent voice in public debate should be accountable for the things he or she says. But when someone tosses off the accusation that an act of violence committed by one deranged person was a consequence of words someone else spoke, he or she should immediately be met with a couple of questions, the most important of which is: What,exactly, are you referring to?

So when Rudy Giuliani accuses Barack Obama of saying “everybody should hate the police,” the response should be, “Mr. Giuliani, can you tell us what quote you’re referring to? When did President Obama actually say ‘everybody should hate the police’?” And when Giuliani has no answer, then he ought to be asked whether he’d like to retract the accusation. When Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) says, “it’s really time for our national leaders, the president, it’s time for the mayor of New York, and really for many in the media to stop the cop bashing, to stop this anti-police rhetoric,” he should be asked what exactly the president said that constitutes “cop-bashing.”

To be clear, this isn’t about shutting down anyone’s right to say what they want, even to toss off unsupported accusations. People regularly react to criticism of the things they say with cries of “censorship,” as though the First Amendment not only gives you a right to speak but also removes anyone else’s right to tell you that you’re being a jerk. But if you’re going to say that someone else’s words led to violence, you’d better have a case to make, and that case has to include the specific words that supposedly pushed the violent person over the edge.

Liberals like me certainly spend our fair share of time examining and criticizing the rhetoric of conservative politicians. But when any of us do it, we should follow a simple rule: The more serious the accusation you’re making, the more responsibility you have to support it with clear, specific evidence. If we all followed that rule, we could have a debate about events like this shooting that actually brought some greater understanding.

Or we could just see how angry we could make people, and whether we could use the tragedy to stir up hatred at our political opponents.

Obama Only Takes Female Reporters’ Questions In Last Press Conference Of The Year

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama | Credit: AP

Think Progress

In his annual end-of the-year press conference on Friday, Obama took questions from eight women and no men— a move that did not go unnoticed by journalists and others listening to his remarks.

The president started the conference by joking that White House Press Secretary “Josh [Earnest] gave me the list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice,” and then proceeded to call on eight women from various news organizations. CBS News’ White House correspondent Mark Knoller said on Twitter that TV reporters were advised in advance that Earnest wanted “other reporters not regularly called on to get to question the [president].” The strategy resulted in the likely unprecedented female question sweep in addition to leaving out the major news networks.

On Fox News, White House correspondent Ed Henry joked that he was “outraged for men everywhere” but then admitted seriously that he was not pleased with the questions the women asked.

“Frankly some of the questions just didn’t press him,” he said. “There’s so much going on right now and the questions were trailing off. The president was almost like, let me remember what you asked because it was so unmemorable.”

Watch it:

The eight female journalists asked Obama about Sony’s decision to pull The Interviewfollowing threats by North Korea, the deal to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, the state of race relations in the country and the Keystone XL pipeline, which incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell said will be the first matter up for a vote when the new Congress returns from the recess. Notably missing were any questions about the CIA torture report released last week.

While Obama only formally called on women, two men were able to yell out their own questions during the conference. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” one asked, while a reporter called after Obama as he left the room. “Will you smoke a cigar Mr. President?”

Big Jobs Number Could Shake Up Political Storyline Again

Image: National Unemployment Rate Drops To 5.8 Percent

National Unemployment Rate Drops To 5.8 Percent | Getty Images


In the biggest number since early 2012, the latest data from the Labor Department shows a surge in job creation, with a way-bigger-than-expected 321,000 new positions. From “Job creation surged in November, with the U.S. economy adding a dazzling 321,000 positions, though the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. Economists were expecting 230,000 new nonfarm payrolls jobs for November. The dramatic move was well above the previous average of 222,000 a month over the past year.” What’s more, per Bloomberg, the average hourly earnings are up too – a good data point as both parties grapple over how to address the electorate’s concern about wages. With the caveat we always offer – that these monthly numbers don’t move public opinion nearly as much as real savings in real wallets (like falling gas prices) – this could potentially be a big deal in the country’s economic storyline.

The White House seizes the moment on policing reform

President Barack Obama’s 2008 election as the first black president was hailed at the time as offering an unambiguous message on race in America: That it scrubbed, once and for all, the perception that the sky somehow wasn’t the limit for young African-Americans. But in the wake of the Ferguson and Staten Island cases, the renewed notion that there are systematic hurdles to success for young black people, particularly young black men, is in danger of re-sowing the kind of cynicism that Obama wanted his legacy to disprove. That’s particularly true in the wake of the Eric Garner case, which has been remarkable for the united and reasoned bipartisan outcry for investigation and reform it’s prompted. (Check out, for example, this thoughtful piece from John Podhoretz on how the “broken-windows” philosophy of crime prevention may have to be revisited.) What’s motivating Obama and his administration’s response right now (see: Eric Holder’s strong remarks yesterday on “excessive force” in by police in Cleveland) is trying to quash that cynicism and distrust before it metastasizes into hopelessness.

This is far from an Acela corridor story

Plenty of political storiesget think-tank musings and policy prescriptions that barely register with the general public, but the current debate over policing reforms ain’t one of them. This story is playing out in its own way in communities around the country. Case in point: Officials in Columbia, South Carolina, announced plans for body cameras on all police as well as taped interrogations. Body camera legislation is being mulled in Florida, North Carolina and Mississippi, and pilot programs are gaining traction in Boston, New York City and Chicago. This is a local story as well as a national debate, which creates even more motivation for the D.C. crowd to get the response right. One thing worth noting here: Boehner’s openness to congressional hearings into the Brown and Garner deaths. “I think the American people want to understand more of what the facts were. There are a lot of unanswered questions that Americans have and, frankly, I have,” he said yesterday.

Did Obama win Round One of the immigration action fight?

Two weeks after announcing a sweeping executive order to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, the White House has significant reasons to feel pretty good about how it’s played out so far. Per Gallup, the president’s approval rating among Latinos got a turbocharge, jumping 14 points since the announcement to a year-high of 68 percent. Another poll from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while the overall public is divided about the way Obama implemented the changes, seven in ten Americans support the underlying policy. And after the midterm walloping, Obama still managed to maintain his relevance in domestic affairs – though it’s unclear whether how much steam he’ll have behind him after the new Congress comes in. And so far, he’s only gotten a slap on the wrist from congressional Republicans in return for the executive action (more on that later). With the current trajectory on the Hill – and the just-launched 17-state lawsuit challenging the policy – this fight is sure to stretch well into next year. With both sides firing up their base, that seems to suit Republicans and Democrats alike just fine.

Conservatives get their immigration vote …

NBC’s Luke Russert reports that the House leadership plan to keep the government funded gained steam last night after the House passed a resolution by Tea Party conservative Ted Yoho (R-FL) called the “Executive Amnesty Prevention Act of 2014.” The protest vote – which received an unsurprising veto threat from the White House yesterday and won’t be taken up by the Senate before the new Congress – let conservatives voice some ire about the president’s executive actions on immigration before next week’s expected spending votes. The vote on the Yoho resolution was 291-197, with seven Republicans (mostly immigration moderates from districts with high Latino populations) voting no and three Tea Party backers voting present. Here’s the full breakdown, via NBC’s Alex Moe.


  • Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
  • Valadao (CA)
  • Diaz-Balart (FL)
  • Denham (CA)
  • Coffman (CO)
  • Gohmert (TX)
  • Stutzman (IN)


  • King (IA)
  • Gosar (AZ)
  • Labrador (ID)

DEMOCRATS who voted FOR the bill:

  • Barrow (GA)
  • Peterson (MN)
  • McIntyre (NC)

Worth noting: Colorado’s Cory Gardner, who’s headed for the United States Senate next year after defeating Democrat Mark Udall, voted FOR the Yoho bill. Gardner’s win in the state, which has a large Latino population, had been partly attributed to his moderation of some of his immigration positions during his campaign.

… And a spending deal looks promising

Per Russert, the so-called “CRomnibus” funding bill, which passes 11 of 12 appropriations bills, is likely to get enough Democratic support to push it over the finish line, even if House Speaker John Boehner loses votes on his right flank. Despite some complaints from Dems who don’t like the short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security, this is a pretty good deal for the party: Democrats get to put their imprint on government funding through the rest of the fiscal year despite the big midterm loss, and the vast majority of the appropriators’ work actually sees the light of day. Of course, this is Congress and there’s always a chance of a monkey wrench (especially with the conservative radio crowd still calling for opponents to “melt the phones”). But most lawmakers are also eager not to extend a lame-duck fight into the holiday season, especially when both sides get to start the next round fresh in January.

Ashton Carter is Obama’s pick for Secretary of Defense

The president will announce today what’s been known in D.C. for days – that former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is his nominee to replace outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel. Carter, who has served under 11 SecDefs and has won plenty of praise from both sides of the aisle, looks right now to be facing a smooth-sailing path to confirmation. Some big GOP names have endorsed him as a steady, competent leader (look for backing from one of his Republican predecessors today, too). The challenge is steep for Carter; he’s walking into a situation where two of three predecessors have put their gripes about the Obama administration IN PRINT, and the third – Hagel – was pretty unceremoniously ousted. But the White House is playing up the idea that he’s going to be unafraid to be confrontational with the national security team. More on Carter’s background -from one of us(!) ishere, by the way.

Republicans on verge of getting to 54 Senate seats

Tomorrow is the Senate runoff in Louisiana between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and GOP challenger Bill Cassidy. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball sets the scene. “Mary Landrieu is dead, and everyone knows it but Mary Landrieu.” But we repeat our question from earlier this week: Did national Democrats abandoning her create a self-fulfilling prophecy here? Consider this from the Center for Public Integrity: Dems groups aired just 100 TV ads after the Nov. 4 primary, while GOP groups ran about 6,000. Another way to look at this, per the AP: “In all, 97 cents of every dollar not spent directly by the two campaigns since Nov. 5 has been to help Cassidy.” Wow. Then again, national Democrats probably made the calculation that if they spent millions on Landrieu — in a race that she probably wasn’t going to win — that would be millions they couldn’t spend on the next cycle in places like Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin.

H/t: DB

10 things you need to know today: December 6, 2014

Luke Somers had been held hostage since September 2013.

Luke Somers had been held hostage since September 2013 | (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

The Week

A U.S. hostage was killed in a failed rescue attempt, Rolling Stone apologizes for its UVA rape story, and more

1. American hostage Luke Somers killed by al Qaeda in failed rescue attempt
American photojournalist Luke Somers, 33, was killed during a failed U.S.-led rescue attempt in Yemen, officials said on Saturday. South African hostage Pierre Korkie, who an aid group said was due to be released just one day later, on Sunday, was also killed. Al Qaeda militants had released an online video threatening to kill Somers, who was kidnapped in September 2013. That led President Barack Obama to authorize a rescue attempt for Somers, along with any other hostages being held at the same location. But a Yemeni official said the two men were shot either before or during the raid. [The Associated Press]


2. Rolling Stone apologizes for ‘discrepancies’ in UVA rape story
Will Dana, the managing editor of Rolling Stone, wrote an open letter on Friday saying the magazine may have “misplaced” its trust in the source of an article entitled “A rape on campus,” which described the brutal gang rape of University of Virginia student Jackie at a fraternity house. A new report in The Washington Post claims that there are a number of discrepancies in the details of Jackie’s rape account, such as whether Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity in question, held a party on Sept. 28, 2012, as the Rolling Stone article stated. [The Washington Post, Rolling Stone]


3. Obama officially nominates Ashton Carter for defense secretary
President Barack Obama officially nominated former Pentagon official Ashton Carter for defense secretary on Friday. Carter, who would replace Chuck Hagel, has a degree in physics from Yale and has served in a number of roles at the Defense Department, focusing on areas such as budget and military acquisitions. Carter called the nomination an “honor and a privilege.” [NPR]


4. France will pay reparations to American Holocaust survivors
Following a year’s worth of negotiations with the Obama administration, France has agreed to compensate American Holocaust survivors who were deported to Nazi death camps via French trains. The agreement will be signed on Monday. A $60 million lump sum payment will be distributed across survivors deemed eligible, or their heirs. Officials estimate that survivors who apply for compensation “could receive payment well over $100,000.” [The Washington Post]


5. Chinese officials arrest former security chief for leaking secrets
Chinese officials have arrested ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang for crimes ranging from corruption to leaking state secrets, a national news agency reported around midnight on Friday. Zhou was expelled from the ruling Communist Party, and it is unclear whether he has a lawyer or will receive an open trial. One of China’s most powerful politicians of the past decade, Zhou is the latest in a string of high-profile figures charged in what President Xi Jingping says is a crackdown on corruption. [Reuters]


6. United States adds 321,000 jobs in November
The U.S. economy added far more jobs than expected in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Non-farming payroll jobs increased by 321,000, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5.8 percent. Economists polled by Reuters had estimated there would be just an additional 230,000 jobs added. And, the BLS noted that the job gains were “widespread,” across various fields, including growth in “professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.” [NBC News, Reuters]


7. More than 20 people blind following cataract surgery in India
At least 24 people were blinded by cataract surgeries performed at a free medical clinic in India’s Punjab state last month, Indian authorities report. Officials have launched an investigation into the clinic, and they have already arrested at least one doctor. The clinic performed at least 130 cataract operations on patients in November, and the investigation comes just a month after 13 women died following sterilization surgeries in Chhattisgarh state. [The Associated Press]


8. NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully finishes test flight
Flying faster and farther than any spacecraft meant for human passengers since the Apollo moon program, NASA’s Orion spacecraft successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Friday. The capsule traveled twice around Earth in four-and-a-half hours, reaching a zenith of 3,604 miles. Intended to fly astronauts into space beginning as early as 2021, this journey was uncrewed, but NASA’s mission control commentator Rob Navias said it was “the most perfect flight you could ever imagine…There’s your new spacecraft, America.” [The Associated Press]


9. Study finds obesity can decrease life expectancy by 8 years
A study from McGill University found that obesity can shorten a person’s life expectancy by as many as eight years. Young people who are obese are at the highest risk; the sooner a person becomes obese, the more health risks he or she has. The study, published on Thursday in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, found obesity linked to an increased risk of heart disease, as well as type 2 diabetes. Both reduce life expectancy and cause chronic illness. [Time]


10. Beyonce becomes most Grammy-nominated woman
Slipping past Dolly Parton with just one more Grammy nomination, Beyonce is now the most-nominated woman in the award show’s 57-year history. Dolly Parton’s record was 46 Grammy nominations, which Beyonce surpassed on Friday thanks to her nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album for her eponymous disc. [Billboard]

Ted Cruz Wants To Fight Obama Over Immigration, But He Forgot About One Thing

The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — 11-23-14 – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is calling for congressional Republicans to fight back against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, saying they should refuse to confirm the president’s nominees until he reverses course.

“If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee — executive or judicial — outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists,” Cruz wrote in a recent Politico Magazine op-ed.

There is obviously some political risk in Republicans pursuing such a strategy, given the presidential election in two years and a Senate landscape that looks more favorable for Democrats to regain control in that election.

But during an interview with Cruz on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pointed out another potential downside to blocking Obama’s nominations: Attorney General Eric Holder, a constant source of irritation for Republicans, would get to stay in his job longer. Holder announced in late September that he planned to retire, and earlier this month, Obama nominated Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, to take his place. Holder has stated that he will remain in his position until his successor’s nomination is confirmed by Congress.

“Are you saying that the Senate should refuse to confirm Loretta Lynch, the president’s new nominee for attorney general, and thereby leave Eric Holder, who you don’t like very much, in that position even longer?” asked Wallace.

Cruz largely avoided Wallace’s question, simply saying that Republicans “should use the constitutional checks and balances we have to rein in the executive.”

Wallace, however, persisted, and asked the question again. This time, Cruz still did not state directly that the Senate should block Lynch, but implied as much by saying that only positions of “vital national security” should get to the floor for a vote.

“In my view, the majority leader should decline to bring to the floor of the Senate any nomination other than vital national security positions,” the senator said. “Now, that is a serious and major step.”

In a prime-time address Thursday night, Obama announced that because Congress had failed to pass immigration reform, he would use his executive authority to bring deportation relief to 4 million or more undocumented immigrants.

The president’s executive action will protect undocumented parents whose children are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, as well as immigrants who came to America as children and others with long-standing ties to the country, from being deported.

Obama defended his actions in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” that aired Sunday morning. “The history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a long shot,” he said. “The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans.”

“But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained, and I’ve been very restrained with respect to immigration,” Obama added. “I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that’s my preference.”

Sunday Talk: ¡Ay, dios mio!

Daily Kos

Thursday night, in a nationally televised (sólo en español) address, President Obama totally #Grubered any chance of bipartisanship in our time, using only his bare hands.Contra the claims of his loyalist subjects, Obama’s so-called “executiveactions are without precedent in Real American history—which is not to say that they’re entirely unprecedented.

If not for the fact that Obama already shredded the Constitution, we’d probably just find ourselves in a constitutional crisis right now; but, instead, we’re faced with the prospect of widespread rioting and/or ethnic cleansing.

No me gusta.

Morning lineup:

Meet The Press: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (9/11); Lawyer for Michael Brown’s Family Anthony Gray; Georgetown University Prof. Michael Eric Dyson; Former CEO of Shell Oil John Hofmeister; Author Daniel Yergin; Roundtable: Joe Scarborough (MSNBC), Jose Diaz-Balart (Telemundo), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report) and Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).Face The Nation: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL); Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID); Roundtable: Michael Gerson (Washington Post), David Ignatius(Washington Post), Susan Page (USA Today), Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune) andMark Leibovich (New York Times Magazine).

This Week: President Barack Obama; Roundtable: “Brain Surgeon” Dr. Ben Carson, Democratic Strategist James Carville, Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd andKatrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation).

Fox News Sunday: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Texas Gov.-Elect Greg Abbott (R); Roundtable: George Will (Washington Post), Julie Pace(Associated Press), Kimberly Strassel (Wall Street Journal) and Ron Fournier (National Journal).

State of the Union: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); Roundtable: Princeton University Prof. Cornel West,Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP), Jim Wallis (Sojourners) and LZ Granderson (ESPN)..

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report on the critical condition of America’s infrastructure and why the problem persists (preview); a report on the current state of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (preview); and, a report on the use of modern technology to locate the remains of airmen missing in action in the waters off Palau, the site of costly World War II battles in the South Pacific (preview).

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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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]


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