As President Barack Obama’s opponents pile on in the aftermath of multiple recent controversies–notably his reaction to the Benghazi attacks, revelations that the Internal Revenue Service focused on conservative-aligned nonprofits and the Justice Department’s unprecedented snooping on press communications–one local congressman wants it to be known that he is also not pleased.
To wit, Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island and southern Brooklyn, released a lengthy statement this afternoon blasting Mr. Obama for “bringing Chicago-style politics to the White House.” This style of underhanded rule, Mr. Grimm said, has resulted in a presidency that is “the most secretive, deceptive, and divisive we’ve seen in modern times.”
A Series of Unfortunate Events
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to a plea from a group of sixth graders who had their tour of the presidential residence canceled due to the so-called “sequester” cuts in a press briefing this afternoon. Mr. Carney described the situation as “extremely unfortunate,” but unavoidable due to the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1 after lawmwakers were unable to reach a deficit reduction deal.
“The President and the First Lady have throughout the time that they’ve been here made extraordinary efforts to make this the people’s house, and it is extremely unfortunate that we have a situation like the sequester that compels the kinds of tradeoffs and decisions that this represents,” Mr. Carney said. “The fact is the Secret Service, like other agencies of government, is affected by the sequester. And the Secret Service presented options that ranged from canceling tours to potential furloughs and cuts in overtime. And in order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours.”
A group of sixth graders from St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa has turned to the internet to save their school trip to the White House. The children were scheduled to tour the White House on March 16, but their visit was cancelled yesterday along with all other tours of the presidential residence due to “staffing reductions” caused by the so-called “sequester” budget cuts that took effect last Friday after lawmakers failed to make a deficit reduction deal. In an effort to muster support and salvage their trip, the school posted a brief video on Facebook featuring a plea from the children.
“The White House is our house, please let us visit!” the sixth graders say in the clip.
Earlier this afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden attended a gun violence conference a few miles from the location of last year’s infamous Newtown school shooting massacre. And Mr. Biden, who has led the White House’s push for stricter policies on guns in the shooting’s wake, passionately argued that gun control is no longer the untouchable “third rail” in our political system. Indeed, Mr. Biden took his contention in the opposite direction and said politicians are now compelled to engage the issue.
“Our understanding assumption is–in American politics today–[is] that this is kind of a third rail of politics,” Mr. Biden declared. “That if you take this on, somehow there will be a severe political price to pay for doing it because that’s what happened in the past. That’s what happened in the past. People say–and you read, and people write about–the political risk and why they’re unacceptable to take on. I say it’s unacceptable to not take these on. It’s simply unacceptable.”
In his State of the Union address this evening, President Barack Obama addressed several hot-button political issues including climate change, immigration reform and gun control. Overall, the president’s speech struck a populist tone, but when bringing up his proposals to address some of these more controversial issues, he characterized them as making good business sense.
The Fourth Estate
Beyoncé Knowles may or may not have sung the “Star Spangled Banner” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, but the country’s executive branch seems disinclined to find out.
Ever since reports first accused Ms. Knowles of lip-syncing the patriotic anthem, inaugural news coverage has sharply focused on the issue, including front-page treatment from New York City’s two tabloid dailies. Yet asked about the ongoing controversy during today’s media briefing, Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, had no significant comment on the matter.
Since last Friday’s massacre at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, President Barack Obama has used vague phrases like “meaningful action” to express his administration’s response to the slaying, while avoiding delving too far into specific plans. At a media briefing earlier today, however, White House press secretary Jay Carney listed some of the gun control measures Mr. Obama would actually support.
“He is actively supportive of, for example, Senator Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban,” Mr. Carney said. “He supports and would support legislation that addresses the problem of the so-called ‘gun show loophole,’ and there are other elements of gun legislation that he could support. People have talked about [restricting] high capacity ammunition clips, for example. That is certainly something he would be interested in looking at. My point is that it goes beyond that.”
Earlier this morning, Speaker John Boehner and the U.S. House Republican leadership held a press conference to announce a new proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy and avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” or the steep set of spending cuts and tax increases that will arrive by the end of the year if a deficit deal is not reached. Specifically, Mr. Boehner’s plan would extend the current tax rates on everyone making less than $1 million a year, a sharp jump from President Barack Obama’s own counteroffer yesterday, which conceded a $400,000 ceiling. Mr. Obama had previously stood firm on allowing the tax cuts to expire for everyone making more than $250,000, a number that GOP lawmakers apparently found unacceptable.
“Our hope continues to be to reach an agreement with the president on a balanced approach that averts the fiscal cliff. What we’ve offered meets the definition of balance, but the President is not there yet,” Mr. Boehner began. “What the White House offered yesterday was essentially $1.3 million in new revenues, for only $850 billion in net spending reductions. That’s not balanced in my opinion. So, at the same time that we’re going to talk to the President, we’re going to also move ‘plan B.’”
War & Peace
This afternoon, the White House Press Office released a report sent from President Barack Obama to the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate notifying them “about deployments of U.S. Armed Forces equipped for combat.” In his report, the president said he “will direct additional measures against al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and associated forces,” but said, “it is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of U.S. Armed forces to counter this terrorist threat to the United States.”
In the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that, as of this writing, left at least 27 people dead including the alleged gunman and 18 children, Congressman Jerry Nadler issued an impassioned statement calling for stricter gun control legislation.
“I am absolutely horrified by news of the cold-blooded shooting of dozens of children in Newtown, Connecticut. Yet another unstable person has gotten access to firearms and committed an unspeakable crime against innocent children,” Mr. Nadler said. “We cannot simply accept this as a routine product of modern American life. If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is. How many more Columbines and Newtowns must we live through? I am challenging President Obama, the Congress, and the American public to act on our outrage and, finally, do something about this.”