By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, February 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
The U.S. president has chosen the architect of his controversial, covert war against terrorists
He doesn’t have the profile of John Kerry, President Obama’s new secretary of state, nor the affability of the outgoing defence secretary, Leon Panetta, who was played by James Gandolfini in the film Zero Dark Thirty. But James O. Brennan, nominated by Obama to head the Central Intelligence Agency, has already been playing one of the most controversial, behind-the-scenes roles in the administration.
As Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, Brennan, 57, oversees the targeted killing of terrorism suspects and the escalating use of armed, unmanned drones, which by some estimates have killed thousands of people, primarily in Pakistan.
Brennan leads the process by which national security officials decide who gets marked for assassination, how the evidence against them is weighed, and how legal principles are applied. He’s the one who takes the recommendations to the President. And he has been reportedly writing an internal counterterrorism playbook—guidelines for lethal strikes, whose use he has described as “ethical and just.” Continue…
By Emily Senger - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 8:36 AM - 0 Comments
President Barack Obama’s popularity is on the upswing, according to a new poll released…
President Barack Obama’s popularity is on the upswing, according to a new poll released by The Washington Post and ABC News Wednesday.
The poll found that 60 per cent of respondents had a favourable attitude towards the president. This is up from numbers in the mid to low 50s about a year ago. It is also the highest approval rating for the president in three years.
Notably, the poll also found that groups that were against Obama are starting to shift in the president’s direction. “Independents see him favorably by a 60-to-36 percent margin, compared with a 51-45 split a year ago. And 51 percent of those ages 65 and older now see Obama favorably, up 11 points from January 20,” writes The Washington Post.
The upswing in the president’s approval rating comes even as he tackles divisive issues, including immigration reform, gun control and rights for same-sex couples.
The poll was conducted between Jan. 23-27 and included 1,022 people.
By John Parisella - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
He’ll need more than vision and good intentions to succeed, writes John Parisella
When President Obama was elected in 2008, many believed American liberalism was about to make a comeback. The economy was in shambles, more than 40 million Americans had no healthcare coverage and the United States was involved in two unpopular wars. Barack Obama spoke of hope and change, as well as an activist government.
Throughout his first term, many on the American left were terribly disappointed that Obama failed to push the liberal agenda. Obamacare did not contain the public option; the stimulus purchase did not include public works programs; the Obama administration was increasing its involvement in Afghanistan.
By the November 6, 2012 election date, the American left made the only rational choice and voted to keep Obama in office instead of staying away from the polls. Many, realizing the systematic obstructionism of the Republicans, preferred to keep Obama in place rather than roll back many of the progressive policies created since the FDR years.
In his second Inaugural Address, President Obama laid out the most progressive agenda since FDR. Even John F. Kennedy did not go as far. The speech was philosophical in tone, militant in terms of priorities and delivered in a manner that many early Obama supporters would have wished. “We the people”, and the words ‘citizen’, ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ figured prominently. It was clear Obama was talking legacy, but he was elaborating on an agenda for a changing America, and an America whose thirst for more change will not end with his term in office.
Gun control, immigration reform, deficit and debt issues will dominate the first half of his second term. Foreign policy will also continue its shift to a greater emphasis on soft power, diplomacy and multilateral engagement. A close reading of this speech, and you can understand even better the coalition that gave Obama such a sweeping victory. He has chosen to seize the moment.
The U.S. is the longest-living democracy, and the most difficult one to govern. Even when one party controls the White House and Congress, the President is subject to an array of checks and balances. But Obama will need more than vision and good intentions to succeed. He will need skill.
In the first half of his first term, Obama had trouble finding his footing in the complex world of Washington. In the latter half of his first term, he seemed more assured and more willing to use the bully pulpit. Since his re-election, Obama has shown a more pro-active and combative style. This can serve him well, as second-term presidents soon face lame-duck status.
Is this progressive agenda laid out so eloquently just a mirage? The GOP, going through its post-election pains, will not react favourably to such a blatant progressive agenda. However, the President seems to have grown in his job and appears more determined as we saw in the Hagel nomination as Secretary of Defense and the December fiscal cliff debate. At the end of the day, his agenda may well depend more on his political skills than his ideas.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 5:11 AM - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – Environmental groups hailed President Barack Obama’s warning about climate change, but said…
WASHINGTON – Environmental groups hailed President Barack Obama’s warning about climate change, but said the president’s words will soon be tested as he decides whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
Obama pledged in his inaugural speech Monday to respond to what he called the threat of climate change, saying that “failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
By singling out climate change, Obama indicated a willingness to take on an issue that he acknowledges was often overlooked during his first term. He also was setting up a likely confrontation with congressional Republicans who have opposed legislative efforts to curb global warming.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called Obama’s comments on climate change “exactly right.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 7:13 PM - 0 Comments
1. Surprisingly strong emphasis on climate change
I spoke recently with a Canadian politician who remarked that the words “climate change” had not come up in the presidential campaign. I noted that Hurricane Sandy, which hit at the very end of the campaign, has since changed the context and the public conversation in the U.S.. Today, Obama devoted a surprising amount of attention to the issue:
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
What will that broad statement add up to in the context of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives? Regulations out of the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing emissions from power generating plants, especially coal-burning plants, are the most likely outcome. And the fiscal cliff negotiations preserved some tax breaks for renewable energy. Obama has also nominated a new Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has been an advocate for climate change policy and is expected to take a more aggressive role in international climate talks. What all this means for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline remains to be seen. In his first press conference after the campaign, Obama said he’d be doing more on climate change, but added, “If the message is we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that.”
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
Being really, really close to the platform at the Capitol as President Barack Obama was sworn in was certainly a moving event. It’s also quite familiar to someone who follows the royal family closely. As I tweeted, “It’s really the U.S. version of the Diamond Jubilee service: pomp, military precision, stirring music, good sermon and it’s over in an hour.”
Going head-of-state to head-of-state, how do the big ceremonies compare?
Pomp: The Marines are impressive, the venue in Washington is spectacular, but when it comes to making a spectacle (in a good way), no one does it better than the British. The entire four-day weekend was organized to an inch of its life, and pulled off superbly. The Household Calvary riding down the Mall in London is a sight nearly impossible to beat. Winner: The Queen
Timing: Both the main swearing in ceremony in Washington and the service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral took just over an hour each. Never drag out blockbusters, a maxim that Steven Spielberg would do well to remember. Winner: Tie
By Mika Rekai - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 3:50 PM - 0 Comments
Mika Rekai reports on the spirit of the crowd furthest away from the Capitol building
In 2009, Washington D.C. prepared for hundreds of thousands of people to descend on the nation’s capital to celebrate Obama’s first inauguration. When over two million arrived, pouring into every corner of the National Mall, the mood was often described as “electric”. After an unprecedented campaign, hope and change had arrived in the United States, and people were holding their breath to see what this new president could do.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 1:21 PM - 0 Comments
Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco read “One Today” at the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony of President…
Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco read “One Today” at the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Here is the full text of the poem:
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness may be self-evident, but ‘they’ve never been self-executing’
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
By Mika Rekai - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM - 0 Comments
Mika Rekai on the allure of Joe Biden
Before being picked as Barack Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden was best known by American for commuting by train between Washington and Delaware and for his many, cringe-inducing verbal gaffes.
Despite being one of the longest serving members of the U.S. Senate, in 2008, Biden captured less than one per cent of popular support in the Democratic primary, and dropped out after the Iowa caucus.
When he joined the Obama ticket, his age and years of government service were intended to appeal to voters concerned about Obama’s lack of experience. Biden, they seemed to think, had the gravitas to balance out Obama’s youthful celebrity.
By Emily Senger - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
Photos and style notes from Inauguration Day
By now you know that Michelle Obama wore Jason Wu to ball after ball on Monday night.
Not just any Jason Wu. The official lowdown from a White House official reveals the First Lady was wearing “a custom Jason Wu ruby colored chiffon and velvet gown with a handmade diamond embellished ring by jewelry designer Kimberly McDonald.” Shoes by Jimmy Choo.
Earlier in the day, the always-fashionable Michelle Obama mixed higher-end labels with J. Crew accessories for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
A photo gallery of the First Lady’s fashions
First lady Michelle Obama, flanked by Sasha, left, and Malia, at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2013 for the Kids Inaugural Concert. (Brian Cassella/Getty)
By Paul Wells - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:25 AM - 0 Comments
As you will have heard, rapper Lupe Fiasco got kicked off the stage last night at one of the endless rounds of tedious pre-inaugural events that have clustered around today’s second Obama inauguration like barnacles.
He was in the middle (or perhaps near the end, or maybe the beginning; we can only speculate) of an extended jam in which he was saying various disrespectful things about Barack Obama, when a bunch of really big guys came onto the stage and encouraged him to take it somewhere else.
When reading the statement from the organizers of the event, who protest that they “are staunch supporters of free speech, and free political speech,” it’s worth noting that Fiasco was the evening’s headliner and that his name was the largest design element in posters advertising the party. A lot of people attending it would not have known or cared that they were “honouring innovative visionaries;” they thought they were at a Lupe Fiasco concert. Which helps explain why it’s really hard to hear anyone “vocally dissatisfied” in the video of the “bizarrely repetitive, jarring performance.” Continue…
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 5:26 AM - 0 Comments
It’s inauguration day and here’s a list of what to watch and when (all…
It’s inauguration day and here’s a list of what to watch and when (all times approximate):
1. The swearing in
Mandated to be in January by the Constitution, it’s really happening twice.
a) Sunday, Jan. 20 at noon: President Obama took the oath of office using the family bible of his wife’s family.
Chief Justice John Roberts led the President through the oath without a hint of the linguistic mangling that occurred four years ago. After Michelle congratulated her husband, Barack responds, “Thank you, sweetie.” Malia said, “I’m so happy, yay!,” while Sasha tells him, “Good job, Dad.” He responded, “I did it” to which she retorted. “You didn’t mess up.”
b) Monday, Jan. 21 at 11:55 a.m. EST: Oath of office No. 2. This time outside with all the usual spectacles. He’ll use two bibles–one from Abraham Lincoln and one from Martin Luther King Jr. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 10:18 PM - 0 Comments
Noted in space via Twitter
NASA also shared another image from the space station that shows the Potomac River and the National Mall:
By The Associated Press - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:05 PM - 0 Comments
Obama takes oath of office in intimate White House ceremony
President Barack Obama took the oath of office Sunday in an intimate White House ceremony, with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia at his side. Other guests who bore witness to Obama’s swearing-in:
- Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s sister, along with her husband, Konrad, and daughters Savita and Suhaila
- Marian Robinson, Mrs. Obama’s mother
- Craig Robinson, Mrs. Obama’s brother, along with his son, Avery, and daughter, Leslie
- Auma Obama, President Obama’s sister, along with her daughter, Akinyi Manners
- Eleanor Kaye Wilson, godmother to Sasha and Malia Obama, along with her husband, Wellington Wilson
- Jane Roberts, wife of Chief Justice John Roberts
The White House pool reporter in the room noted that after the oath, Obama and his family kidded around — remarks that came through on the broadcast mic:
Obama to Michelle: ”Thank you, sweetie” after she congratulates him.
To Malia, he said: “Hey!”
Malia appears to say “I’m so happy, yay!”
Sasha to Obama: “Good job, dad.”
“I did it,” he said.
“You didn’t mess up,” she replied.
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama…
Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama when he’s sworn into office? Surely becoming PM is worth a Mountie escorted carriage ride through Ottawa so he can wave to Canadians lining the procession route. At the very least he should get high school marching bands from all 10 provinces and three territories.
Oh right. Stephen Harper heads the government, not the nation. That’s the job of Queen Elizabeth II and her representative in Canada, Governor General David Johnston. Harper gets the power, but not the pomp–that modestly comes when a new GG is picked and then on a grand scale for the coronation of a new monarch, something that hasn’t happened in 60 years. Drat. Indeed, this is what the Governor General’s website says about the swearing in:
By Patricia Treble - Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Photo gallery: Planners of the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States have left nothing to chance
Walking around the tourist, and government, parts of Washington is increasingly difficult these days. Roads are suddenly blocked off and incredibly tall sturdy security fencing is being erected everywhere President Barack Obama is going to be passing. When planning a huge event like the 57th inauguration of the President of the United States, nothing is left to chance. So four days before the big day, there are already hundreds of portable toilets lined up in perfect rows, waiting for their own big day in the sun.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 8:37 AM - 0 Comments
The second inauguration of Barack Obama lacks the historical drama of four years ago when he became the first African American to take the presidential oath. But to the hundreds of thousands of Americans descending on Washington, DC, it is still a piece of history they want to see with their own eyes.
Renee Walker-Richard, a 50-year-old realtor from Houston, Texas, explains: “We will not be getting another black president any time soon.”
Walker-Richard, who is African American, has shelled out several thousand dollars on the inauguration. That includes roughly $1,000 on tickets to several black-tie balls — including the Texas State Society’s “Black Tie and Boots Ball,” one of the official events the Obamas will attend. On top of the tickets, there was airfare, car rental fees and a hard-to-find and over-priced hotel room. Since arriving in Washington, she’s stood in lines, and more lines, only to be sent to other lines, to collect various tickets.
It’s worth the hassle, she says.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
The president begins his second term with political capital to spend, but plenty of barriers in his way
There will be two Bibles (Abraham Lincoln’s and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s), dozens of balls, thousands of musicians and marchers on parade, and more than a half million people expected to descend on Washington to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office for his second term on Jan. 21. The President will arrive at his inauguration more popular than at any time since his first year in office—with an approval rating of 53 per cent—and determined to push a new agenda through a Republican-controlled House of Representatives whose popularity is a fraction of the President’s.
In his high-minded inaugural address in 2009, Obama declared, “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” Unfortunately, the last four years proved the cynics right. If anything, partisanship has grown more intense, and Congress more averse to compromise. In the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner cannot control a significant number of conservative hard-liners in his own caucus.
Obama comes to his second term reinvigorated and combative with a policy agenda that looks hastily ripped from recent headlines: a post-Newtown attempt at gun control, a post-hurricane Sandy renewed interest in climate change, and a return to the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of an election in which he won 71 per cent of the Latino vote. But while he embarked upon his first term in the midst of an economic crisis, his second term unfolds amid a made-in-Washington fiscal crisis and partisan stalemate. Continue…