Tag Archives: The Washington Post

The Obama-Beyoncé Affair Rumors, And Why The Stupidest Fake News Story Of The Week Still Matters

You guys! They touched!

You guys! They touched! | CREDIT: AP IMAGES/WIN MCNAMEE

Think Progress‘ ALYSSA ROSENBERG sets the record straight…

Think Progress

This morning, the French newspaper Le Figaro made some waves ahead of the upcoming state dinner to mark French President François Hollande’s visit to the U.S. by publishing a story in which the photographer Pascal Rostain alleged that the Washington Post was preparing to publish a story suggesting that President Obama and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter were having an affair, and that President Obama and his wife Michelle were preparing to divorce. The story has since been rolled back: the Post has vigorously denied having such a piece in development, and Rostain seems to have acknowledged that the rumor he spread was some sort of attempt at humor.

I’m loath to give stories like this attention, or to give attention to people who try to elude responsibility for eluding stupid sentiments or innuendo by declaring that they were “just joking,” as if humor is a genre that has no standards whatsoever. But the substance of this particular rumor strikes me as interesting and important. The idea that Obama must be having an affair with Knowles-Carter comes from a significant and damaging idea: that men and women can’t be friends.

I’m not really sure what evidence was supposed to exist to support the idea that the Obamas’ marriage was cooling, that President Obama was infatuated with Knowles-Carter, or that she in any way reciprocated his supposed affection. Was it that the couples have done some socializing, and that Knowles-Carter has performed as part of both of Obama’s inaugurations? That Obama and Knowles-Carter’s heads have been captured in the same news wire shots, because we all know how candid photos magically capture the deepest secrets of our souls, rather than simply recording our random facial expressions? That Knowles-Carter is to our present moment what Prince was to the 1980s, and we are all inexorably succumbing to her sexual thrall?

Mostly, I think the rumor comes from the idea that heterosexual men and women are on some genetic level incapable of being friends.  Never mind that Knowles-Carter’s latest album  is a raunchy celebration marital love and sex that brings in her husband on a guest verse to attest to how much fun they have together. Never mind that the Obamas seem perfectly happy together, and to enjoy the time they spend in each other’s company. It just seems impossible for some people to believe that President Obama could admire Knowles-Carter for her formidable talent while feeling no particular need to elbow her husband, Jay-Z, out of the picture. And according to this vision of gender relations, Knowles-Carter, presented with the leader of the free world, wouldn’t be able to resist getting her claws into him, no matter what her relationship to her husband has meant to her in the past.

It’s awful to think that relationships between men and women don’t involve any free will, or ability to grasp complexity, but instead are subject to biological and sexual determination. On a personal level, this sort of suspicion can curtail promising friendships between men and women, and risks poisoning marital and romantic relationships by making straight couples horribly anxious about each other’s opposite-gender friends. If all heterosexual women and all heterosexual men are constantly out to seduce each other, it’s hard to imagine double dating, or long-time couples building sustainable friendships with other couples.

And in mass media, it renders relationships between men and women awfully predictable, though in recent years, we’ve seen some valuable pushback in this area. One of the things that makes FX’s The Bridge stand out, despite other first season missteps, is the fact that it’s managed to build two friendships and partnerships between men and women. Though even that show’s lacked the confidence to do so without putting up obvious barriers to romances between the couples, rather than simply trusting them to sell the value their friendships and professional collaborations. Reporters Daniel Frye (Matthew Lillard) and Adriana Mendez (Emily Rios) aren’t a possible romantic pairing because she’s a lesbian, and Detectives Sonya Cross and Marco Ruiz seem unlikely to get together because of her presence somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Parks and Recreation has acted with more confidence in this space. It never made sense that overeager Parks Department employee Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her libertarian boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) would have romantic sparks because their views of the world are too fundamentally different (as distinct from the kind of manufactured clashes that so often drive pop cultural couples together). But their canny observations of each other’s strengths and weaknesses have made Leslie and Ron formidable allies to each other,particularly when they’re helping each other succeed in their romantic relationships. Ron, rather than a member of Leslie’s family, ends up giving her away at her wedding to Ben Watt. And Leslie is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect Ron from his ex-wives when he’s trying to begin a romance with a woman who might finally be a match for him.Parks and Recreation and Leslie and Ron’s relationship would both be poorer if the show had given in to men-and-women-can’t-be-friends determinism.

So let’s root for Barack and Michelle Obama and Shawn Carter and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to stay friends. I suppose it’ll move magazine covers to suggest that both couples say in trouble. But it’s a lot more fun to imagine a world where the first couples of politics and popular music get to hang out, where Barack and Michelle get to give Jay-Z and Beyoncé parenting tips, where Malia and Sasha baby-sit Blue Ivy while all the adults hang out, where Barack asks Bey what he should do for Michelle on Valentine’s Day, and Jay-Z talks Michelle through what she might do when the Obamas leave the White House.

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Those Media Hysterics Who Said Obama’s Presidency Was Dead Were Wrong. Again.

New Republic

It’s been a pretty good week for the Obama administration. The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.

All of these developments are tenuous. The Web site’s back-end troubles could still pose big problems (though word is they are rapidly improving, too) and the delay in getting the site up working leaves little time to meet enrollment goals. Job growth could easily stutter out again. The Iran deal could founder amid resistance from Congress or our allies.

Still, it seems safe to say that the Obama presidency is not, in fact, over and done with. What, you say, was there any question of that? Well, yes, there was – less than a month ago. On November 14, the New York Times raised the “K” word in a front-page headline:

President Obama is now threatened by a similar toxic mix. The disastrous rollout of his health care law not only threatens the rest of his agenda but also raises questions about his competence in the same way that the Bush administration’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina undermined any semblance of Republican efficiency.

A day later, Dana Milbank gave an even blunter declaration of doom in the Washington Post:

There may well be enough time to salvage Obamacare.

But on the broader question of whether Obama can rebuild an effective presidency after this debacle, it’s starting to look as if it may be game over.

And Ron Fournier, the same week, explained in National Journal that things were so grim for Obama because his presidency had reached a kind of metaphysical breaking point:

Americans told President Obama in 2012, “If you like your popularity, you can keep it.”

We lied.

Well, at least we didn’t tell him the whole truth. What we meant to say was thatObama could keep the support of a majority of Americans unless he broke our trust. Throughout his first term, even as his job-approval rating cycled up and down, one thing remained constant: Polls showed that most Americans trustedObama.

As they say in Washington, that is no longer operable.

Granted, finding overwrought punditry in Washington is about as difficult as hunting for game at one of Dick Cheney’s favorite preserves. Making grand declarations based on the vibrations of the moment is part of the pundit’s job description, and every political writer with any gumption is going to find himself or herself out on the wrong limb every once in a while. That said, this has been an especially inglorious stretch for Beltway hyperventilators. First came the government shutdown and the ensuing declamations about the crack-up of the Republican Party. Then, with whiplash force, came the obituaries for the Obama presidency. The Washington press corps has been reduced to the state of the tennis-watching kittens in this video, with the generic congressional ballot surveys playing the part of the ball flitting back and forth.

What explains for this even-worse-than-usual excitability? Much of it has to do with the age-old who’s-up-who’s down, permanent-campaign tendencies of the political media, exacerbated by a profusion of polling, daily tipsheets and Twitter. Overlaid on this is our obsession with the presidency, which leads us both to inflate the aura of the office and to view periods of tribulation as some sort of existential collapse. Add in the tendencies of even more serious reporters to get into a chew-toy mode with tales of scandal or policy dysfunction, as happened with the healthcare.gov debacle – the media has been so busy hyping every last aspect of the rollout’s woes that it did indeed start to seem inconceivable that things might get better soon.

But things did get better, as one should have been able to anticipate, given the resources and pressure that were belatedly brought to bear on the challenge. The fiasco took a real toll on the law and on the liberal project, for which Barack Obama bears real responsibility. But the end of a presidency? Take a deep breath, folks.

The sad thing about this spectacle isn’t even the predictable display of presentism. It’s the evident ignorance of the constitution and the basics of American politics. For the next three years, Obama will occupy the presidency, a position that comes with remarkable legal powers, especially now that he’s been partly liberated from the filibuster’s constraints. Washington columnists—the folks who presumably get paid to disseminate this kind of wisdom to the rubes beyond the Beltway—ought to know this better than anyone else, yet even as they fixate so much on the office’s aura, they are awfully quick to declare an administration defunct. News happens, and in the Oval Office, or the House majority, you always the ability to influence it, even when you don’t deserve it. Kind of like certain well-known writers I could name.

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Health insurance plans owe $1.1 billion in rebates

The Washington Post

Millions of consumers and businesses will receive $1.1 billion in rebates this summer from health insurance plans that failed to meet a requirement of the new health-care law, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

That Affordable Care Act rule requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of subscriber premiums on health-care claims and quality improvement initiatives. The other 20 percent is left for administrative costs and profits.

Health insurance plans that don’t hit that threshold will send a rebate to consumers to cover the difference.

There could, however, be one big hitch. If the Supreme Court overturns the health-care law — a decision that could come as early as Thursday morning — experts say those checks are unlikely to hit Americans’ mailboxes.

“If [the Supreme Court] says the law is unconstitutional, insurers couldn’t be forced to pay rebates based on unconstitutional laws,” said Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.

In a new report, the Obama administration found that 12.8 million Americans will receive rebates this year, with an average value of $151 per household.

Continue reading here…

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Cantor: No Hurricane Emergency Funding W/O Spending Cuts – Democratic Underground

Think Progress

Despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene this weekend, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) today stood by his call that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere. The Washington Post reported this morning that FEMA will need more money than it currently has to deal with the storm’s aftermath and is already diverting funds from other recent disasters to deal with the hurricane, but Cantor’s comments suggest Republicans won’t authorize more funds without a fight.

Cantor took the position following the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Missouri and elsewhere in the spring and summer, and after last week’s earthquake, the epicenter for which was in his district, but the hurricane’s level of destruction is far beyond that of those disasters. Still, Cantor told Fox News that while “we’re going to find the money,” “we’re just going to need to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to do so.”

Cantor referred a bill the Republican-controlled House passed that approves $1 billion in disaster relief, which was financed by a $1.5 billion cut from loan program to encourage the production of fuel-efficient vehicles. But the need in the wake of the hurricane will likelygreatly surpass $1 billion, and that spending package was supposed to be used for tornado recovery efforts, for which several hundred million dollars has already been outlayed.

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Report: Bachmann Aides Shove ABC’s Brian Ross

This is only July 2011.  At this rate how in the world will Bachmann’s campaign survive  to November 2012?

Think Progress 

Michele Bachmann’s relationship with the press has always been tense at best, but it spilled over into open conflict on Tuesday as aides to the Congresswoman allegedly shoved ABC reporter Brian Ross.

Ross was chasing after Bachmann after an event to ask about a Daily Caller story on her migraine condition. According to TIME’s Swampland blog, things went downhill from there:

“That’s when things got interesting. Ross dashed after Bachmann, repeatedly asking whether she had ever missed a House vote due to a migraine. She ignored him. Ross pursued her into a parking area behind the stage. Her aides grew alarmed. When Ross made a beeline for the white SUV waiting to carry Bachmann away, two Bachmann men pounced on him, grabbing and pushing him multiple times with what looked to me like unusual force. In fact, I have never seen a reporter treated so roughly at a campaign event, especially not a presidential one. Ross was finally able to break away and lob his question at Bachmann one more time, but she ignored him again.Afterward, I asked Ross-a hard-nosed pro who nevertheless seemed slightly shaken-whether he’d ever been treated so roughly. “A few times,” he told me. “Mostly by mafia people.”

TPM reached out to Bachmann’s camp for comment and will post their response.

Update: ABC Vice President Jeffery Schneider condemned Bachmann’s behavior in an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. He added that ABC has footage of the incident and will likely post it on their website soon.

“He was certainly shoved around and pushed,” Schneider said. “It’s unfortunate when physicality is involved. He was just doing his job.”

Second Update: The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake posted a response from Bachmann’s campaign on Twitter: “We didn’t have time for any questions and we made it clear … he disregarded repeated requests to stay back.”

 

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Quoted: Piper Palin speaks out

The Washington Post

“Thanks for ruining our vacation.”

 — Piper Palin, 10, to a Time photographer, part of the media scrum following Sarah Palin’s is-it-an-exploratory-campaign-or-what PAC-financed bus touralong the East Coast.

 They grow up so fast! Read earlier: Reliable Source 2008 People of the Year: Piper Palin and Sasha Obama, 12/24/08

 

America Blog

Someone needs to explain to the Palin kids that they come in a distant second to mommy’s ego (even when they’re hours away from being born).

 

 

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Haunting New Giffords Photo

The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet

49 Charges in Giffords Case

Staffers of wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords released a never-before-seen photo on Giffords’ Facebook page today depicting her just moments before being shot in the head. The photo shows Giffords doing what “she loves to do; talk to her constituents,” her staff said. In the picture, the Representative—who has lately shown rapid signs of a rapid recovery, including walking and talking, but still has a long way to go, doctors say—is talking to Jim and Doris Tucker outside the Tucson Safeway where she was attacked. On the same day, her alleged shooter Jared Loughner was indicted on 49 new counts by a federal grand jury.

 
 
Gaddafi’s Most Brutal Attack Yet

Is Libya locked in a bloody stalemate? Leader Muammar Gaddafi launched one of his most brutal attacks yet on Friday, attempting to maintain his grip on Tripoli and surrounding areas in what some rebels called a “bloodbath.” Meanwhile, the country’s Internet was completely shut down yesterday, new reports show. In the U.S., President Obama is receiving three briefings per day on the situation, the White House said, and is “appalled” at what he hears.   At least 37 people died on Friday night’s fighting alone and rebels say the number is closer to 50.

Read it at The Washington Post 

Wisconsin Democrat Tackled While Trying To Enter Capitol

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker upped the ante in his state’s tense union standoff on Friday night, issuing layoff warning notices to 13 unions. The notices “may be able to be rescinded,” Walker said, if the state’s Senate Democrats, who fled Wisconsin in protest, return. Meanwhile, a Democratic Assembly member was tackled by Capitol police Thursday night when he tried to enter the building, which had been closed to the public after weeks of protests. The Assembly member, Nick Milroy, called the situation at the Capitol an “armed-palace environment,” and said the guard knocked him to the ground before he was able to produce his identification card. Police closed the building Thursday night after a judge banned protesters from staying past business hours. 

  

 

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Federal judicial vacancies reaching crisis point

The trial run of Open for Questions in the Whi...

Image via Wikipedia

The Washington Post

Federal judges have been retiring at a rate of one per week this year, driving up vacancies that have nearly doubled since President Obama took office. The departures are increasing workloads dramatically and delaying trials in some of the nation’s federal courts.

The crisis is most acute along the southwestern border, where immigration and drug cases have overwhelmed court officials. Arizona recently declared a judicial emergency, extending the deadline to put defendants on trial. The three judges in Tucson, the site of last month’s shooting rampage, are handling about 1,200 criminal cases apiece.

“It’s a dire situation,” said Roslyn O. Silver, the state’s chief judge.

In central Illinois, three of the four judgeships remain vacant after two of President Obama’s nominees did not get a vote on the Senate floor.

Chief Judge Michael McCuskey said he is commuting 90 miles between Urbana and Springfield and relying on two 81-year-old “senior” judges to fill the gap. “I had a heart attack six years ago, and my cardiologist told me recently, ‘You need to reduce your stress,’ ” he said. “I told him only the U.S. Senate can reduce my stress.”

Since Obama took office, federal judicial vacancies have risen steadily as dozens of judges have left without being replaced by the president’s nominees. Experts blame Republican delaying tactics, slow White House nominations and a dysfunctional Senate confirmation system. Six judges have retired in the past six weeks alone.

Senate Republicans and the White House are vowing to work together to set aside the divisions that have slowed confirmations, and the Senate on Monday approved Obama nominees for judgeships in Arkansas, Oregon and Texas. Eight more nominees are expected to receive votes in the coming weeks.   More…    See Graphic here…

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Beware the GOP Coronation

Clockwise from top left: Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Meg Whitman and Rick Perry (Photos: Getty Images)
 

As Walter Cronkite would say at the end of his CBS Evening News program…“and so it goes…”

The Daily Beast

Republicans will win big, and the press coverage will be glowing. But don’t forget: At the 100-days mark in his presidency, Obama walked on water. Howard Kurtz on the media’s mood swings.

Less than two years after taking office on a wave of hope, Barack Obama is on the verge of being slapped down by the electorate.

The president is so battered, politically speaking, that some members of his own party are sprinting away from him while Republicans whack him like a piñata.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The media assured us that the guy was headed for greatness. The nation’s journalists watched him in action, and in the last days of April 2009, delivered their collective verdict.

MSNBC’s Howard Fineman said Obama was “born” to live “calmly and confidently on a global stage with the hottest lights and biggest audience…. He doesn’t seem needy, aloof or afraid. We used to call that ‘cool.’ ”

Carl Cannon, writing at Politics Daily, said this: “He is as velvety smooth as a cold glass of Guinness, this new president of ours… not to mention the good looks of a Kennedy, the even keel of a Roosevelt, the understated swagger of an Eisenhower.”  Continue reading…

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