What’s Up: January 25, 2012?

· OBAMA’S LOFTY INAUGURAL IDEALS RUN INTO REALITY

President Barack Obama’s lofty ideals from his inaugural address ran smack into reality Tuesday on the first working day of his second term.

Twenty-four hours after Obama pledged to tackle climate change and called for gays and lesbians to be treated equally under the law, the White House struggled to back up his sweeping rhetoric with specifics, raising questions about how much political muscle he’ll put behind both issues.

Republicans were already signaling their unhappiness with Obama’s agenda.

“The era of liberalism is back,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. “If the president pursues that kind of agenda, obviously it’s not designed to bring us together.”

Obama, standing before hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall, had vowed to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

But in the White House briefing room a day later, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said he couldn’t speculate about future actions. He said that while climate change was a priority for the president, “it is not a singular priority.”

On gay rights, the president had declared that the nation’s journey is “not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

But Carney said the president was speaking about his personal views and would not take federal action on same-sex marriage, which he continues to see as a state issue.

Even with his last election behind him, Obama has politics to weigh as he considers just how much effort he’ll put into pursuing climate change legislation and a gay rights agenda. Both issues are backed by the president’s liberal base but opposed by many Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Obama already is asking lawmakers for a lot as he starts his second term. He needs their votes to increase the nation’s borrowing limit and approve billions of dollars to keep the government running. And he has pledged to pursue stricter gun legislation and comprehensive immigration reform quickly this year, neither of which can pass Congress without some GOP votes.

For environmental groups and gay rights supporters, Obama’s inaugural address provided fresh hope for progress on issues that were stumbling blocks for Obama in his first term.

While the Congress passed legislation backed by Obama to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, his efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill failed on Capitol Hill due to bipartisan opposition. And despite Obama’s many actions to bolster gay rights in his first term – including repealing the military’s ban on openly gay service members – his reluctance to back gay marriage frustrated many of his liberal supporters until he ultimately voiced his support for same-sex unions last year.

Supporters of both issues say Obama will quickly have opportunities to demonstrate his commitment to their causes in his second term.

The Supreme Court will soon take up Proposition 8, a California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case that could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals.

Opponents of the ban have called on the Obama administration to file an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief to overturn the measure.

“We view the president’s filing of an amicus brief in this case as the next natural step to his inaugural remarks,” said Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights groups. “His call for equal justice under the law for gay and lesbian Americans including in their committed relationships is the centerpiece of the argument against Proposition 8.”

The White House has so far refused to take a position on the Supreme Court case.

For environmental groups, Obama’s next best chance to make good on his inaugural address is a looming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Obama blocked the pipeline last year, citing uncertainty over the project’s route through environmentally sensitive land in Nebraska. But on Tuesday, the state’s Republican governor, Dave Heineman, gave his approval to a revised route for the pipeline, a widely anticipated move that nonetheless added to the political pressure for the Obama administration to approve or reject the new route without delay.

“If we are going to get serious about climate change, opening the spigot to a pipeline that will export up to 830,000 barrels of the dirtiest oil on the planet to foreign markets stands as a bad idea,” said Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Republicans and many business groups say the pipeline project would help achieve energy independence.

The State Department, which has federal jurisdiction over the $7 billion pipeline because it begins in Canada, said Tuesday that it would not be able to conclude its review during the first quarter of the year.

White House officials sought to look beyond Keystone, with aides saying Tuesday that the president may also pursue executive actions to fulfill his pledge to tackle climate change. Story Continued:

· Jarrett: Obama Isn’t Going to Debate Government’s Role, ‘Progress Is Compelled by Action Right Now’

Compares Obama to Lincoln –

Valerie Jarrett, a close advisor to President Barack Obama, said yesterday on CNN that the president is not going to debate the role of government. Instead, she said, “progress is compelled by action right now.”

“The message that I think everyone heard during the campaign is one that he really embedded in his speech today. And he talked about it a lot, he talked about what he wanted to accomplish in his second term, what he thought was doable, where he wanted to push the envelope. And it was a very personal speech to him,” Jarrett said of Obama’s Second Inaugural Address. “You could feel the passion. He delivered it, I think, extremely well, because every single word was one that he just embraced completely. And I think part of what he said was, is that you can’t — progress isn’t compelled by solving those century-long debates about the role of government, progress is compelled by action right now. And he feels that sense of urgency that he felt four years ago. He’s so proud of his record, but he’s so humbled by the fact that the American people him reelected him for a second term and because this is his last term, this is the end of his political career, he wants to make sure that every single day counts, and that we think about equality and opportunity.”

Jarrett went to agree with the CNN reporter’s description of Obama’s writing process — “he kind of turns around phrases like a musician, writing music in his head.”

And Obama’s advisor went on to compare the current president with Abraham Lincoln. “I think you can’t compare the Civil War to what we’re going through,” she said. “But we’ve been through a really tough time in our country. And seeing how Lincoln had to work so hard just to make the progress that he did, how he never gave up, and how resilient he was, and [how] he tried a whole range of different strategies. And I think obviously that resonated with the president. And so it kind of reaffirmed what he already knew, which is you have to be resilient. you have to be determined. And you can’t lose your focus, you can’t get distracted by short-term political interests.” Story Continued and to watch the video:

– This woman feels that Obama is a deity. It is obvious that she is a Democrat and not a Republican.

· Jill Kelley Says Paula Broadwell Tried to ‘Blackmail’ Her

The woman dragged into the Petraeus scandal tells Howard Kurtz that her life is now a nightmare. She says she didn’t press charges against Paula Broadwell and never exchanged 30,000 emails with a top general.

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Kelley says she was “terrified” late last summer when he told her about the email. In that note and the barrage that followed, “there was blackmail, extortion, threats,” Kelley told me in her first interview since the David Petraeus scandal erupted, breaking a silence of nearly three months.

These emails, as Kelley would later learn along with the rest of the world, were from Paula Broadwell, whose affair with Petraeus triggered his resignation as CIA director. But the writer was so ambiguous, says Kelley, that “I didn’t even know it was a female.”

Contradicting virtually every published account of the saga, Kelley indicates that the anonymous emails did not warn her to stay away from Petraeus, as is commonly assumed. And yet the press depicted the two of them as “romantic rivals. Think how bizarre that is,” Kelley says.

One person close to Kelley says the tone of the notes grew increasingly severe and, without being explicit, threatening. She declined to show me the emails, which another source described as fewer than 10 in number.

Did Kelley come to suspect that Broadwell was behind the dark messages?

“I never met Paula in my life,” Kelley says. At the time, Kelley says, she didn’t even know Broadwell had just published a glowing biography of Petraeus.

It seems evident that Broadwell had grown jealous about what she perceived as Kelley’s close relationship with Petraeus; at one awards ceremony, he kissed her on the cheek. But Kelley will not speculate about Broadwell’s motivation.

Kelley’s complaint to the FBI set in motion a chain of events that culminated days after the November election with Petraeus, the architect of U.S. war strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, acknowledging the affair with Broadwell and leaving the Obama administration.

‘As the scandal heightened, the media spun the affair as a ‘romantic rivalry’ between Kelley and Broadwell.’

Kelley, 37, would find herself the subject of fevered speculation that she was carrying on with Gen. John Allen, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, which she flatly denies. Allen also has denied wrongdoing.

Kelley bristles at those eye-catching media reports that she and Allen exchanged as many as 30,000 emails, calling the figure “outrageous.” While Kelley will not provide an estimate, she says she believes the emails totaled in the hundreds.

What has been lost in the lurid and sometimes mocking coverage is the toll the scandal has taken on Kelley, her husband, and their three young children.

The weekend after the story broke, Kelley was celebrating her daughter’s seventh birthday when she gazed out the window at the mess her life had become.

“It was devastating,” Kelley told me. “To have your privacy invaded is truly—there are no words to describe it. Instead of enjoying a family birthday party, I had paparazzi storming my front lawn, pushing down the door. There are no words to describe the panic and fear at that moment.”

But Kelley has many words to describe what happened to her, and they come pouring out in a torrent during a two-hour interview in Washington, her hands tightly clasped, her voice by turns angry and exasperated and confused by the enormity of her ordeal. Her dark eyes flashed when she was upset, and she paused occasionally to smooth her mane of shoulder-length black hair.

Federal prosecutors declined last month to file charges against Broadwell over the emails. What has not been reported is that the case was closed after Kelley was asked whether she wanted to press charges and declined. The final decision is always up to prosecutors, but Kelley would have been the chief witness.

Kelley says she was concerned about the impact of a potential criminal case on her friends and their families. “I just wanted to let them move on with their lives and not have to relive it,” she says.

Dee Dee Myers, Broadwell’s spokeswoman, says “the Justice Department thoroughly looked at this and declined to prosecute.” That decision, says Myers, “makes a pretty bold statement about the content of the emails…People can make their own judgments based on that.”

Concerned about journalists near her house last November, Jill Kelley called the police and invoked her ‘diplomatic’ status.

It is obvious from Kelley’s tone and her body language that she is furious with Broadwell. While she will not discuss the details of the Broadwell emails, Kelley doesn’t miss a beat in declaring: “I knew I was being stalked.” In alerting an acquaintance at the FBI, she says, “I did what anybody else would have done when they were feeling threatened, to go seek protection from somebody I could trust.” (The story soared on the titillation index with reports that the agent, Fred Humphries, had sent Kelley a shirtless photo. But she says it was a joke—Humphries is posing with two dummies—and was sent to many people, including his wife.)

Kelley adamantly refuses to characterize her feelings toward Broadwell, an academic and former Army officer. But she does not discourage a comparison of her plight to that of Nancy Kerrigan, the figure skater who had to withdraw from a national championship in 1994 after being clubbed in the knee with a tire iron. That, of course, would put Broadwell in the role of Tonya Harding, who helped cover up the attack.

Part of Kelley’s ire is directed at the media for reporting what she says are lies and half-truths about her. She made it clear in her emotional interview that she fervently wants to erase her public image as, to use the phrase that has dogged her, the Other Other Woman.

“As much as I appreciate that they want to be the first one to come out with a headline, regardless of whether they did any fact-checking, they have to consider the impact they have on our life and our children’s lives,” she says. “Just because it’s repeated doesn’t make it true. It was living a nightmare.”

People she never met, including a hairdresser who claimed her as a customer, were quoted as friends of hers, Kelley says.

She sounds naïve at times about the way the modern media machine functions, baffled as to why she is deemed newsworthy at all. She is frustrated that even her Wikipedia page has had basic errors of fact, such as her date of birth.

But while some news organizations rushed to paint an unflattering portrait of Kelley, her long silence—on the advice of a previous publicist—left journalists with little access to firsthand information. Her new spokesman, Gene Grabowski of the Washington firm Levick, has a different approach.

Kelley has a natural ease and a certain exotic flair. She was born in Lebanon, which her parents fled when she and her twin sister, Natalie Khawam, were 1-year olds.

In recent years, Kelley has become a kind of social ambassador in the military community in Tampa, where the U.S. Central Command is based. She threw lavish parties and hobnobbed with top officials at nearby MacDill Air Force Base.

When Petraeus moved to Tampa to head CentCom in 2010, Kelley threw a dinner for him at her home, including such guests as Charlie Crist, then Florida’s governor. She and Petraeus became “family friends,” says Kelley, and she developed a friendly relationship with Petraeus’s wife, Holly.

Kelley says she met John Allen when she and Petraeus hosted a surprise birthday party for Holly, and Allen, who served as Petraeus’s deputy, was on the invite list.

Asked to describe her relationship with Allen, Kelley says: “We’re friends, good friends. His wife and me are good friends. Our children are friends.”

That friendship continued by email when Allen was sent to Kabul. The general’s promotion to be commander of NATO forces is on hold while investigators examine the email traffic between him and Kelley.

These emails have been described by some unnamed government officials as flirtatious and potentially inappropriate. But Kelley told me they were so innocent that they were sent and received under an account she shares with her husband because she lacks her own email address. She also says Allen’s wife was often copied on the notes.

“It was pretty straightforward,” Kelley says.

‘Howard Kurtz talks to CNN’s Soledad O’Brien about his exclusive Jill Kelley interview.’

She does not find it unusual that both Allen and Petraeus wrote letters to the court on behalf of her sister Natalie in a case in which her twin is trying to regain custody of a child from her estranged husband. Natalie moved in with her family after the split, says Kelley, and developed her own friendship with the generals.

The spotlight also has fallen on Kelley’s financial difficulties. She says that when the family faced litigation over credit-card debts, it stemmed from a decision to let an investment property go into foreclosure in a down market after they evicted the tenant.

The press “made it look like I’m throwing parties yet I’m broke, made it look like we’re deadbeats,” Kelley says. “It’s offensive.”

She is similarly perturbed over reports that roughly half of the $160,000 raised for her cancer research charity went to meals, entertaining, and other expenses. Kelley says no outside money was raised and that she and her husband were the sole donors.

Another embarrassment surfaced when New York businessman Adam Victor was quoted as saying that Kelley had asked for an $80 million commission if she used her influence to help him obtain a massive energy contract with South Korea. She “tried to sell herself as something she was not,” Victor told CNN. Kelley, who met Victor at last summer’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, held the honorary title of “special consul” to the South Korean foreign ministry.

Kelley says Victor approached her, that they had two meetings, and that she discontinued the talks. A 2 percent fee was discussed but nothing more specific, as Kelley recalls it.

She invoked her title in calls to 911 when mobs of reporters and photographers staked out her home. “I am an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability,” Kelley told a 911 dispatcher in one call. “They should not be able to cross my property. I don’t know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well?”

South Korea stripped Kelley of the honorary title and its $2,500 stipend after the Victor episode became public.

As with many ordinary people pushed into the media vortex, Kelley is a bit disoriented as she tries to reclaim her old life. She even seems to have lost control of her photographic image, as most stories and television segments use shots of her in a form-fitting cocktail dress walking to her car. Kelley never released any family pictures, until now.

She is worried about the impact of the harsh coverage on her husband: “It’s obviously been very difficult for him. He’s an honorable guy.” (I had briefly met Scott Kelley, a cancer surgeon with a reserved manner, but he did not want to join the interview.)

What does she want people to know about Jill Kelley? “I’m a dedicated mother, a loving wife. We have a very happy, close family. I support the troops. I take pride in feeding the homeless in our community.” She pauses.

“This whole situation is just very sad.” Story Continued:

· Clinton appears before Congress over Benghazi attack

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testifying Wednesday in a Senate hearing that was politically charged and at times emotional, defended the Obama administration’s response to last year’s deadly assault on a diplomatic post in Libya and challenged Republican lawmakers to focus on meaningful ways to make diplomats safe instead of engaging in partisan attacks.

Four months after the assault, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made clear that they hold Clinton personally responsible for the attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, at a diplomatic outpost and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi. Clinton said she took responsibility, but she argued that the exact trigger for the terrorist attack — be it a protest that boiled over, as the administration wrongly suggested at first, or “guys out for a walk one night” — no longer matters.

The Pentagon has cleared the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan of wrongdoing after an investigation.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton asked during a testy exchange with one Republican. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

Clinton’s long-awaited testimony, her last on Capitol Hill as America’s top diplomat, reflected the enduring divide over the administration’s response to the Sept. 11-12 attacks in Benghazi, and over whether more could have been done to prevent them.

For Clinton, still widely seen as a contender for the Democratic nomination for president, the appearance also carried both personal and political weight. The Benghazi attacks have posed one of the most difficult challenges she has faced in her four years as secretary of state.

At one point Wednesday, Clinton’s voice broke as she described receiving the caskets of the slain Americans at Joint Base Andrews a few days after the attacks.

“For me, this is not just a matter of policy. It’s personal,” she told the Senate committee, choking up. “I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters, and the wives left alone to raise their children.”

It was an uncharacteristic display of emotion for Clinton, who is usually collected and reserved in public.

In one of her last duties as America’s top diplomat, Clinton went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before committees of both houses of Congress and answer questions about the Benghazi attacks, which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans and exposed lapses in judgment and security at the State Department.

After testifying for about 2 1/2 hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the morning, Clinton appeared in the afternoon before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House panel, noted that questions have arisen about funding for State Department security — appropriations that must be approved by Congress. In an opening statement, he asked whether more money would have made a difference in Libya, given what he said were “systemic failures” by the State Department. Story Continued:

· Joe Biden ‘intoxicated’ by 2016 run

Joe Biden summoned more than 200 Democratic insiders to the vice presidential residence Sunday night to chat about the 2012 triumph — but many walked away convinced his rising 2016 ambitions were the real intent of the long, intimate night.

“I took a look at who was there,” said longtime New Hampshire State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, “and said to myself, ‘There’s no question he’s thinking about the future.’ ”

He’s right. Biden, according to a number of advisers and Democrats who have spoken to him in recent months, wants to run, or at least be well positioned to run, if and when he decides to pull the trigger. Biden has expressed a clear sense of urgency, convinced the Democratic field will be defined quickly — and that it might very well come down to a private chat with Hillary Clinton about who should finish what Barack Obama started.

“He’s intoxicated by the idea, and it’s impossible not to be intoxicated by the idea,” said a Democrat close to the White House. And the intoxication is hardly new. Officials working on the Obama-Biden campaign last year were struck by how the vice president always seemed to have one eye on a run, including aggressively courting the president’s donors. Obama aides at times had to actively steer Biden to places where he was needed — like Pennsylvania — because he kept asking to be deployed to Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states.

“He wasn’t just doing fundraising the campaign assigned to him,” said a campaign adviser. “He was inviting people to the mansion to hang out and have dinner.” Biden was way more into the donors than Obama was. “He embraced it with a tirelessness and a gusto that even the president didn’t,” another campaign official said.

There are a number of reasons Biden might take a pass. To be blunt, he’s old. Biden is 70 now and would be 74 if he ran and won. He’s also old news in politics. The guy has been in Washington for almost two generations and hardly signals freshness or political vitality. He’s also run for president twice before and didn’t miss by inches either time; he bombed.

(More importantly, Joe Biden is not Hillary. She is a rock star with higher favorable ratings and the capacity to clear the field if she goes all-in. She is also a she — and Democrats are eager to elect the first women after electing the first African-American. Story Continued:

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· Obama’s Fourth Year in Office Ties as Most Polarized Ever

· Seventy-six-point gap in party ratings of Obama ties Bush in 2004-2005

PRINCETON, NJ — During his fourth year in office, an average of 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approved of the job Barack Obama did as president. That 76-percentage-point gap ties George W. Bush’s fourth year as the most polarized years in Gallup records.

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The list of most polarized years makes it clear that Obama’s highly polarized ratings may be as much a reflection of the era in which he is governing as on Obama himself. The last nine presidential years — the final five for Bush and Obama’s first four — all rank in the top 10. Thus, it appears that highly polarized ratings are becoming the norm, as Americans aligned with both parties are apparently not looking much beyond the president’s party affiliation to evaluate the job he is doing.

Obama’s record polarization last year also is owing to the electoral cycle. For most elected presidents, their fourth year in office — the year all sought re-election — was the most polarized year of their presidency. The election year likely causes Americans to view the president in more partisan terms, given his involvement in campaigning that year as well as the presence of an active opponent from the other party who is trying to defeat him. The lone exception to the pattern is Dwight Eisenhower, whose sixth year in office was his most polarized.

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Obama on Pace to Be Most Polarizing President Yet

The average party gap in ratings of President Obama during the four years of his presidency is 70 percentage points. If that average holds, it would surpass Bush’s record 61-point average polarization during his eight-year presidency by a considerable margin. Bush also finished his presidency with a significantly larger party gap in job approval ratings than the previous leader, Bill Clinton (55 points).

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The trend toward increasingly partisan evaluations of presidents over time is also evident in the fact that no president before Ronald Reagan had more than a 41-point party gap in approval ratings, but four of the last five presidents (the exception is George H.W. Bush) have had better-than 50-point divisions in approval ratings by party.

Implications

Both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, have made overtures toward bringing Americans together. The reality is that under both of their presidencies, Americans have been more politically divided than ever before. It is not clear how much of that is due to their governing styles and how much is just a reflection on how Americans approach politics and the presidency these days.

Regardless of the causes, the more polarized political environment certainly creates challenges for governing, as the president’s ability to use the bully pulpit may be limited if a substantial minority of the population will ostensibly not support him almost regardless of what he proposes.

Given divided control of government, it may be especially important for the president and other government leaders to inspire Americans to pressure their representatives in Congress to act. And to move forward with legislation to address the nation’s biggest issues, Americans and their elected representatives must be willing to both listen to the proposals of those in the other party and to accept compromise. Story Continued:

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Filed under Left - Off Base, Politics from Just Right of Center - I want Balance!, Right - too Religous for me

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