Illinois

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

(IslesPunkFan/Flickr)
Under President Obama, judicial vacancies—and “judicial emergencies”—have become a common feature of the federal bench. Vacant seats have gone unfilled for years, and as a result, district courts around the country have been unable to operate at full capacity. Liberals are quick to blame Republicans, and for good reason; from the moment Obama entered office, GOP senators were committed to an unprecedented campaign of obstruction. Legislation and nominees were held up for the most trivial of complaints, and sometimes, no reason at all. But the president bears responsibility as well; neither judicial nor executive branch nominations were ever a priority for his administration, and at this point— reports the Chicago Tribune —Obama is on track to have an incredibly ineffectual presidency when it comes to filling the federal bench: Barack Obama is close to becoming the first president in at least half a century to finish a full term without making an appointment to a U.S. appeals court,...

Gal Pals

On a day when Slate ’s David Weigel announced the birth of a “kinder, gentler” Rick Santorum—asserting that “his culture war talk is softer, more implied”—the former senator’s super PAC sugar daddy demonstrated that he definitely didn’t get the memo. On MSNBC, Foster Friess left host Andrea Mitchell dumbstruck after she asked whether Santorum’s “comments on social issues, contraception, about women in combat” would prove a problem in a general election. “This contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive,” replied the beaming, white-haired billionaire investor. “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” Obviously, candidates can’t be held responsible for what strange things their supporters say. But on the heels of Santorum’s controversial comments about women in combat, the dredging-up of his opinion that birth control is “harmful to women”—and with the candidate leading the rhetorical charge...

Obama's Fact-Checkers

(Flickr/The White House/Pete Souza)
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true." The new website is subdivided into three sections: AttackWatch, KeepingGOPHonest, and KeepingHisWord. The first blog item criticizes Romney's economic plan as one that "helps millionaires and hurts the middle class" (filed under KeepingGOPHonest), followed by a string of favorable Obama accomplishments, such as sanctions on...

High Fashion Backs Obama

Slideshow Obama Campaign Couture President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign is trying to duplicate the success of its 2008 Runway to Change designer collection with Runway to Win, a new apparel line making its debut February 7. All proceeds from the sales will go to the re-election effort. The Obama campaign is setting the presidential election contest ablaze with its second designer clothing collection. Runway to Win features 2012-themed apparel created by some of fashion’s heaviest hitters. The line launches February 7, with profits going toward the Obama re-election effort. This set of Obama-inspired attire is similar to the campaign’s first collection, Runway to Change, which included limited-edition inauguration duds from such designers as Zac Posen. Now, driven by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, a top-tier fundraising “bundler” for Obama’s 2012 campaign, other prominent designers—including Vera Wang, Beyoncé and Tina Knowles, Diane Von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang, Narciso Rodriguez, and...

Halftime in America

Not only was this Chrysler ad the best of last night, but—as I noted on Twitter during the Super Bowl—it was an excellent pitch for President Obama’s re-election bid: While it’s hard to make a bad advertisement with Clint Eastwood, this would be good even without “ The Man With No Name .” The basic message is straightforward— it’s “halftime in America.” Yes, the country suffered a major setback four years ago, but we have the strength and reserve to press forward on the current path and succeed. There are two things that make this a surrogate ad for the Obama campaign. First, is the idea that we shouldn’t give up now, where “give up” means “elect a Republican president.” Indeed, Obama used similar language in his pre-game interview with NBC News anchor Matt Lauer. “I deserve a second term, but we’re not done,” said Obama. “The key right now is to just make sure that we don’t start turning in a new direction that could throw that progress off.” The second thing, as befitting a car...

Because You Need To See Michelle Obama Dance With Ellen DeGeneres

Oh yes you do. 

It's just the first 40 seconds of the video. Check it: video platform video management video solutions video player

A Blockbuster Jobs Report

AP Photo/Madelyn Ruggiero
Earlier this morning, Nate Silver argued that 150,000 was President Obama’s “magic number” for job growth, in part, because 150,000 is the dividing line between a bad report—where the economy isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with population—and a decent one, where it is. If the economy could generate that many jobs on a monthly basis, then Obama is on OK footing for the election in November. Today’s report blows that magic number out of the water. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created a whopping 243,000 jobs in January, with upward movement in nearly every sector of the economy, other than the government (public-sector jobs fell, again, by 14,000). What’s more, job growth for the last two months was revised upward, from 100,000 to 157,000 for November, and from 200,000 to 203,000 for December. Unemployment has fallen to 8.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since February 2009. Indeed, for the first time in a long time, all of the indicators are in the right...

Balancing Faith and Contraceptives

Criticisms of President Obama's new birth control policy skip over the benefits for women's health.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne argues against the Obama administration's laudable decision to require employer-provided health-insurance packages to cover contraception. The new rule, according to Dionne, is a "breach of faith" that the "administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here." Dionne's argument is, however, extremely unconvincing. As an alternative to the Obama administration’s decision, Dionne touts what he calls a compromise. Under Dionne’s proposal, to get coverage for contraceptives, employees would have to pay more for a separate plan to obtain it, but "religious employers that decline to cover contraceptives must provide written notification to enrollees disclosing that fact." The requirement that employers provide written notice before denying people their federally guaranteed statutory rights is, to put it mildly, not an acceptable compromise if you place significant weight on the rights of women at all. Dionne mentions a...

Breaking: Mitt Romney Loves America

In the good old days—I think this lasted until September 11, 2001, but I could be mistaken—political events of all sorts didn't begin with a series of opportunities for both speakers and attendees to make sure everyone understood that they are, in fact, in favor of America. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy didn't start their debates with the Pledge of Allegiance. Candidates didn't feel the need to stand with hand on heart for the Star Spangled Banner at all 12 campaign events they do every day. And we were spared horror shows like this: The best part is how at the end, just in case anyone missed the point, Romney says, "I love this country." Nothing forced or pandering about that. My question is, where does he stand on Little League and Thanksgiving dinner? What about puppies—is he pro-puppy, or not? America needs to know. You might remember that in Iowa, Romney would recite the words to "America the Beautiful," but I guess now he's feeling confident enough to just let the tunes fly...

Pop Goes Obama

The competition is stiff, but there may be no more abused word in political discourse than “populism.” (“pop·u·lism. A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.”) It came in for a special flogging today, as pundits groped for ways to describe President Obama’s eloquent-but-mishmashy State of the Union address. Even The Hollywood Gossip was asking , “Will Populist Message Help Obama?” The answer is that it certainly could—if he had one. While Obama nodded toward populist themes last night—chiding the irresponsible financial sector, lashing out at the do-nothing Congress, pledging to make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes—you’re hardly on Huey Long terrain when you frame a speech around the military virtues of everyone being in it together, or make a point of quoting Abraham Lincoln saying that “government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” Certainly, this re-...

Yes We Can ... Watch Something Else

Obama gave his 2012 State of the Union address last night, and all the eyes in the media and political world were tuned in. During the address, 766,681 SOTU-centric tweets were fired off , with 548 coming from inside the chamber. Despite the frenzy that takes over news rooms and congressional offices, the rest of the nation was more likely watching The Real Housewives of Atlanta or Wizards of Waverly Place . Ever since cable started competing with the networks for the hearts of the American public, ratings for primetime presidential addresses have plummeted, as shown by research conducted by Matthew A. Baum and Samuel Kernel of Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, respectively. Richard Nixon—not known for the most stirring rhetoric outside of defending questionable pet gifts—had 59 percent of households with televisions watch a routine press conference he gave in 1969. In 2010, Obama only had 41 percent of households watch him give the most important presidential...

The Case for Overconfidence

As we watch the Republican primary come down to a contest between (to caricature for a moment) a fight between the flip-flopping, wooden, private equity gazillionaire and the repellent, philandering, pompous influence-peddler, Democrats can't quite figure out who they want to win this race. On one hand, the path to Barack Obama beating Mitt Romney is absolutely clear: he's the candidate of the 1 percent whose lust for power will lead him to say anything to anyone. On the other hand, it's harder to tell what an anti-Newt Gingrich campaign would be like, since there are so many awful things about him to attack. But this makes me wonder: Is this how Republicans felt four years ago? As you'll recall, the 2008 Democratic primaries were pretty hard-fought. And I'm guessing that at least some Republicans looked on and said to themselves, we can't believe our luck. Either we'll face Hillary Clinton, whom we know everyone hates, or we'll face this neophyte black guy from Chicago whose middle...

Politifact Gives Up on Actual Fact-Checking

I’ve written before about Politifact’s approach to fact-checking, which seems to swing between actual consideration of the facts and embarrassing attempts to curry favor with conservatives and establish “credibility.” Last night’s “ fact-check ” of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union falls into the former category. Here’s the line in question from last night’s speech: “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.” Considering the depth of the recession, three million jobs isn’t good enough for a robust recovery, but there’s no doubt that this is a true statement. That, however, didn’t stop Politifact from labeling it “half-true.” Say what? In his remarks, Obama described the damage to the economy, including losing millions of jobs “before our policies were in full effect.” Then he describes the subsequent job increases, essentially taking credit for the job growth. But labor economists tell us...

Insourced

Today's Balance Sheet: Obama tries to bring manufacturing jobs back home. 

As part of an effort to push "insourcing," President Obama is proposing tax incentives for companies that move manufacturing jobs back to the United States. “I don’t want America to be a nation that’s primarily known for financial speculation, and racking up debt and buying stuff from other nations,” Obama said during an announcement yesterday. “I want us to be known for making and selling products all over the world stamped with three proud words, ‘Made in America.’” The U.S. economy added manufacturing jobs for the first time in over a decade the past two years, so the president hopes the incentives will help deepen that trend. The proposal—which would also curtail tax breaks for those who continue to search for cheaper labor abroad—gives a hint of the populist economic message Obama plans to use in his State of the Union address and the general-election campaign. Reviving American manufacturing is a compelling narrative, especially on the campaign trail, but the truth is it's still...

Obama Announces New Chief of Staff

Budget Director Jack Lew will take over for Bill Daley.

President Barack Obama announced Monday that Bill Daley, who has served as his administration's chief of staff for one year, is stepping down. In a statement to the press at the White House, President Obama said that Daley's resignation letter last week took him by surprise and that he initially refused to accept it. "But in the end, the pull of the hometown we both love—a city that's been synonymous with the Daley family for generations—was too great," Obama said, referring to Chicago, where the two men first met. Daley took over as Obama's chief of staff in 2011 after Rahm Emanuel left office to make a successful bid for the Chicago mayor's office. During his year-long tenure, Daley oversaw bitter fights over the American Jobs Act and the budget. Jack Lew, a D.C. veteran who previously served as budget director for President Bill Clinton and deputy director for the Department of State under Hillary Clinton, was recommended by Daley to succeed him at the post. Most recently, Lew...

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