First Thoughts: Obama's promises kept and promises broken
President Barack Obama speaks during his final news conference of his first term at the East Room of the White House Jan. 14, 2013.
Obama’s promises kept… And promises broken… President pins the debt-ceiling responsibility on Congress… Executive recommendations on guns… Keeping track of the cabinet shuffle… Boxer backs Hagel… And a deeper look at Hagel’s “openly aggressive gay” comment.
*** Promises kept… : With President Obama’s second inaugural address now less than a week away, we took a look at his biggest three speeches over the past five years -- the 2007 presidential announcement speech in Springfield, IL, the 2008 convention acceptance speech in Denver, and the 2009 inaugural -- to checklist what he promised. And, by and large, he accomplished many of his big objectives. Or he mostly accomplished them. He promised ending the war in Iraq. (“America, it's time to start bringing our troops home,” he said in his ’07 announcement speech.) He promised health care reform. (“Let's be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president's first term,” he said in that same ’07 address.) And he promised quick action in dealing with the financial collapse of 2008. (“The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth,” he said in his ’09 inaugural.) Of course, there is still debate about whether his fixes will work, but the point is: He made a promise and got his vision of a fix.
*** … and promises broken: But he also didn’t accomplish some of his other goals -- like changing the country’s politics, a huge recurring theme in all three speeches. (“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics,” he said in his ’09 inaugural.) Or recruiting more teachers when it turns out that about 212,000 teacher jobs have been cut between 2009 and 2011. (“Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability,” he said in that ’07 speech.) And then there are the issues that barely got mentioned in those three big speeches, issues that ironically will make up the bulk of Obama’s second term agenda. Guns only received one mention. (“Don't tell me we can't uphold the 2nd Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” he said in ’08 acceptance speech.) Ditto immigration. (“Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.”) And if you believe the increased burden on the government for natural disaster cleanup is related to climate change and global warming, you’ll also be disappointed. Looking back at those most important Obama speeches from ’07, ’08 and ’09, the issue BARELY got a mention. Indeed, it’s remarkable what was in those speeches and what wasn’t.
*** Pinning the debt-ceiling responsibility on Congress: It appears that the chief goal of Obama’s press conference yesterday was to pin the responsibility -- and potential blame -- on Congress for raising (or not raising) the debt ceiling. “There's one way to get around this. There's one way to deal with it. And that is for Congress to authorize me to pay for those items of spending that they have already authorized,” Obama said. And there’s also a reason why the White House decided to abandon the idea of any Plan B (like the $1 trillion platinum coin or the 14th Amendment): They will own part of the chaos if they pursue a Plan B. But by having no Plan B, the Obama White House is trying to ensure that raising the debt ceiling is all on Congress. What’s more, Obama seemed to accept that a government shutdown -- and not the debt ceiling -- is the better place to have a fiscal fight. “Well, ultimately, Congress makes the decisions about whether or not we spend money and whether or not we keep this government open… I think [a government shutdown] would be a mistake. I think it would be profoundly damaging to our economy… But they’re elected representatives, and folks put them into those positions and they’re going to have to make a decision about that.”
*** Executive recommendations on guns: Per NBC’s Frank Thorp, House Democrats were told yesterday that Vice President Joe Biden and his task force have developed 19 areas where President Obama could use executive orders to institute new gun control policy. The New York Times has more: “Actions the president could take on his own are likely to include imposing new limits on guns imported from overseas, compelling federal agencies to improve sharing of mental health records and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence, according to those briefed on the effort.”
*** The cabinet shuffle: Yesterday, we learned that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will remain in their jobs during President Obama's second term. So to recap, here are the cabinet secretaries who are remaining:
Shinseki (Veterans Affairs)
And here are the cabinet members leaving, plus their nominated replacements if applicable:
Clinton at State (John Kerry nominated)
Panetta at Defense (Chuck Hagel nominated)
Geithner at Treasury (Jack Lew nominated)
Solis at Labor
Jackson at EPA
*** Boxer backs Hagel: Yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer -- who is Jewish -- came out in support of Hagel. “After speaking extensively with Sen. Hagel by phone last week and after receiving a detailed written response to my questions late today, I will support Senator Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense,” Boxer said. “First and foremost, he has pledged without reservation to support President Obama’s polices – policies that I believe have made our world safer and our alliances stronger.” More: “I asked him about a number of issues – including America’s special relationship with Israel, the threats posed by Iran to the world and the treatment of women and gay and lesbian members of our military – and his answers were reassuring and show a sensitivity and understanding of these issues. In addition, Sen. Hagel has pledged to meet with me once he has been confirmed for a more detailed discussion about the Defense Department’s efforts to combat sexual assault in the military.”
*** “Openly aggressive gay”: Yesterday, we took an in-depth look at Chuck Hagel’s controversial “Jewish lobby” remark. Today, we examine his nearly 15-year-old description of James Hormel, nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg, as an “openly aggressive gay.” Explaining his opposition to Hormel in a 1998 interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Hagel said: “They are representing America. They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay -- openly aggressive gay like Mr. Hormel -- to do an effective job.” Later, the Omaha World-Herald noted that Hagel said “he has seen another video clip that showed Hormel at what Hagel called an anti-Catholic event in San Francisco, featuring the ‘Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,’ a group of male drag queens.” Luxembourg is mostly Catholic.
*** Apology accepted -- but not by all: Hagel has apologized for the 1998 remarks on Hormel. "They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” Hormel accepted the apology, and so did the Human Rights Campaign. "Sen. Hagel's apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues,” the organization said. But the Log Cabin Republicans took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post hitting Hagel’s record on gay rights. “Chuck Hagel’s Apology: Too Little, Too Late,” the ad said.
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