From NBC's Athena Jones
Saying fatherhood was a privilege and not an obligation, President Obama used the Friday before Father's Day to launch what he hopes will be a national conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility.
Both are issues that Obama, who grew up without his father, has spoken about often and today the White House hosted a town hall at which five men, from an activist to an athlete, spoke about their experiences as fathers and the importance of being involved in their children's lives and called on men who do not have children of their own to serve as mentors and role models.
Video: MSNBC's Richard Wolffe reacts to President Barack Obama's speech on fatherhood and family values.
"We all know the difference that a responsible, committed father like those five gentlemen can make in the life of a child," Obama told the East Room audience. "Fathers are our first teachers and coaches. They're our mentors. They're our role models. They set an example of success, and they push us to succeed, encourage us when we're struggling, and they love us even when we disappoint them, and they stand by us when nobody else will."
He also noted the damage absent fathers can do to a family, citing statistics that show children who grow up without fathers are more likely to drop out of school, end up in prison or have substance abuse problems. He told the audience he had promised that he would be a better father to his daughters than his own father was to him and he described the impact his father's absence had on him.
"That's something that leaves a hole in a child's heart that government can't fill," Obama said.
The issue of parental responsibility, came up frequently on the campaign trail. In a Father's Day speech last year at a black church on Chicago's South Side, Obama spoke of the family as a the rock upon which people build their lives.
"The family is that most important foundation," he said then. "And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation."
The president spent part of the day at the Arlington, Va., branch of Year Up, a non-profit organization that trains at risk 18-24 year olds who have high school diplomas or GEDs so that they can get full-time jobs or go to college. He told some 50 students at the center that the fact that they may have grown up without their fathers did not mean they could not be good father themselves.
After the town hall in the afternoon, Obama headed to the South Lawn for a barbecue where he wished "all the fathers out there" a Happy Fathers Day, got some pointers on grilling from Chef Bobby Flay and spent a few minutes visiting with teens.
The White House plans to hold a series of regional town hall forums throughout the summer and fall to discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood.
But this afternoon, they are cheering the draft of legislation that House Democrats have offered. Per the New Republic's Jon Cohen, the draft contains a strong public insurance option. To pay for it, House Democrats are proposing unspecified "system savings, employer contributions, and new revenues."
"I've contacted about a half-dozen friendly liberal wonks in the last 90 minutes, since the draft became public," Cohen writes. "Everybody seemed pleased. (One actually said 'Boffo!') It's possible that they are as desperate as I've been for encouraging news; maybe impressions will sour as a fuller picture of the House proposal emerges. But, for the moment, this seems like good news."
also warmly greeted the draft. "Today, the chairs of several committees in the House of Representatives unveiled their health care reform proposal. This proposal would improve the affordability, availability, and quality of health care and represents a major step toward the our goal of fixing what is broken about health care while building on what works."
Not surprisingly, though, Republicans aren't fans. Said House Minority Leader John Boehner
in a statement: "This plan is nothing less than a government takeover of health care, and families and small businesses who are already footing the bill for Washington's reckless spending binge will not support it... This plan will make health care more expensive, reduce the quality of care for millions of families and small businesses, cost American jobs, and force untold millions of Americans off their current plans and into a government-run nightmare operated by federal bureaucrats."
From NBC's Mark Murray
The House Republican campaign committee has fired off a memo with this warning to Democrats: Vote for the health-care bill they introduced today and risk losing your majority in Congress in 2010.
Drawing on the recent polls (including our NBC/WSJ survey) showing public concerns about the rising deficit and the government's takeover of GM, the memo says, "Democrats have made no secret about it. They want to do to the health-care industry what they have done for auto companies and the banking industry. Only this time, they want to finance it with 'secret' tax hikes that have been rumored to be coming at the expense of seniors and Medicare."
Video: While Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to trim billions out of their health care reform bill, the GOP is using the hefty estimate as another chance to slam their opposition for their "habit of spending in Washington." A political panel discusses the GOP's tactic and whether it will work.
The memo adds, "If the American public overwhelmingly disapproves of a government takeover of an auto company or bank, how do you think they will react to a government takeover of their health-care destiny that will raise their taxes, cost them more money and threaten their doctor-patient relationship?"
Well, on that last question, the NBC/WSJ poll shows that a whopping 76% support having the choice of a public/government alternative to private health insurance. (But it also shows that 47% of people who have private health insurance believe that their employer will drop their plan if there is a public option.)
As what happened in 1993-94, health care could very imperil the Democrats' majority in the House (although the GOP picking up some 40 seats to take back control in 2010 will be a TOUGH task). But this question could also be turned around: What happens if health care passes (with few or no House GOP votes) and the economy begins to pick up steam come the summer of 2010? Who's imperiled then?
From NBC's Chuck Todd
Multiple sources tell us (and our own eyes indicate) that a group of Democratic talking heads and outside opinion leaders are on their way to the White House this afternoon for a briefing by White House senior adviser David Axelrod on health care.
From NBC's Libby Leist
Cheryl D. Mills, counselor and chief of staff to Secretary of State Clinton released this statement:
At 7:30am this morning, Secretary Clinton underwent a two hour surgery to successfully repair her fractured right elbow. Her doctors at The George Washington University Hospital have advised her that they expect her to make a full recovery without lasting damage to her arm. After the surgery she returned to her home in Washington where she will remain with her family through the weekend.
Decisions about her schedule and travel will be made and announced in the days to come.
She, President Clinton, and Chelsea are grateful for the many prayers and messages of good will they have received these past few days, and are so very thankful for the excellent care provided by the doctors, nurses and the staff of The George Washington University Hospital.
*** UPDATE *** State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said this afternoon Secretary Clinton is in a cast after surgery to repair her elbow this morning. She went under general anaesthesia for the procedure. Kelly cited "privacy concerns" as the reason her scheduled surgery was not made public before it happened.
From NBC's Mike Viqueira and Mark Murray
By a 405-1 vote, the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the violence in Iran and expressing support for the dissidents there.
The measure has no teeth, but these types of things tend to gain attention overseas.
Video: Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., discusses whether Democrats will continue to support President Barack Obama's cautious stance on Iran
The sole nay vote: Ron Paul (R-TX). Two voted present: Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) and Dave Loebsack (I-IA).
Here's the resolution:
Expressing support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law, and for other purposes.
Resolved, That the House of Representatives-
(1) expresses its support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law;
(2) condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and
(3) affirms the universality of individual rights and the importance of democratic and fair elections.
From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
The Republican National Committee announced it raised $5.7 million in May, bringing the national committee to a total of $21.5 million cash on hand -- with no debt.
"I am pleased that the Republican National Committee continues to show solid fundraising numbers, and we are grateful to the countless Americans who have contributed to our Party," RNC Chairman Michael Steele said in a press release statement. "We have important and competitive elections this fall and next year. With another month of strong fundraising numbers, we are confident and well positioned to win."
Just askin', but did Steele intentionally leave out the first half of the real statement?
"I am pleased that it appears I will be able to keep my job at the Republican National Committee, as it continues to show solid fundraising numbers, and I/we are grateful to the countless Americans who have contributed to our Party," said Chairman Michael Steele.
The Democratic National Committee apparently had an even better month, per Hotline's On Call, raising $8.37 million (with the help of the president). But that accounts for 69% of the DNC's total cash on hand of $12.1 million, which significantly trails the GOP.
From NBC's Mark Murray
Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the liberal-leaning group that's pushing for reforming the nation's health system, is spending $1.1 million on a new TV ad touting a public/government option to compete against private health insurance.
The ad -- which comes as the Senate Finance Committee released the outline of a plan that doesn't include a public/government option -- will run in 10 states represented by senators who could be key votes: Arkansas (Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor), Delaware (Tom Carper), Florida (Bill Nelson), Iowa (Chuck Grassley), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), Maine (Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe), New Mexico (Tom Udall), North Carolina (Kay Hagan), Oregon (Ron Wyden), and Washington (Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray).
What if we stripped away the 13 billion dollar insurance company profits?
The 119 million dollar CEO bonuses?
The endless denials.
The soaring co-pays and premiums?
You'd have health care between you and your doctor – that's the President's plan. Keep the coverage you have now.
Or choose from a range of plans
Including a public health insurance option to lower costs and keep insurance companies honest
Tell your Senators – It's your health. It should be your choice.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The week that was: Let's be honest: This has been a pretty tough week for an Obama White House that so far has seen more good days than bad ones. Republicans and conservatives -- including now Paul Wolfowitz! -- are criticizing the administration for not speaking out more forcefully about what's happening in Iran (even though many experts side with the White House's wait-and-see approach). New polls, including the latest NBC/WSJ survey, showed the public's concern about the rising deficit and the government's intervention into GM. Gay-rights advocates remain disappointed at the White House. And last, but certainly not least, congressional Democrats and liberals are now beginning to panic about their chances of passing health-care reform this year. As a result, Republicans are feeling more emboldened than ever to go after the president.
*** A turning point or an over-hyped blip? Of course, we've been here before, right? During the presidential election, the media continually asked, "Why isn't Obama leading by more in the polls?" and he went on to win by the widest margin for a Democrat since 1964. Also during the campaign, there was the thought that disappointed Hillary supporters wouldn't vote for him, which didn't turn out to be true in November. And earlier this year, Democrats worried about the fate of Obama's stimulus, which ultimately passed. So the current round of doubts hasn't fazed the White House. "These days happen once every couple of months," a senior administration official told the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder. "They are almost like clockwork." That said, now five months into office, Team Obama has now entered a new -- and more difficult -- phase in which the glow from the campaign and the inauguration is gone. As NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D) says, "There is no more smooth sailing for the administration. They are going to have to navigate in pretty choppy waters." The campaign was easier for Obama to recover from a rough patch because there was an opponent. But who is the opponent now?
*** Well, we guess that's settled then: In Iran today, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a gathering at the Tehran University that the presidential election was fair and transparent and that all four candidates stand firmly behind the Islamic Republic, NBC's Ali Arouzi reports. The supreme leader said the candidates' arguments were only on policy, and he said enemies of the state are trying to break people's trust in the system and are doing this with the help of the foreign media. Khamenei went on to say that the election was free and transparent and absolutely free of any fraud whatsoever. And he issued this warning: The protesters are acting illegal and will be dealt with if they continue. What's more, Arouzi notes, the thousands of people in the crowd were ardent supporters of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, and they were shouting death to America and death to the United Kingdom after the supreme leader blamed outside forces for fueling the protests.
Video: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defends his country's recent presidential election and blames Western countries for trying to stir up chaos in Iran. NBC's Richard Engel joins the Morning Joe gang to discuss the latest developments.
*** The administration's pushback: Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Mike Pence (R-IN) have introduced a bipartisan resolution expressing support for the Iranian dissidents and condemning the violence there. The House will vote on the resolution today. More congressional Republicans, in fact, appear comfortable criticizing the administration's position here. Of course, events over the next few days could determine whether we see the president ramp up his rhetoric. But the White House is privately pushing back on the growing perception that the president's isn't speaking out enough, and it reminds us they talked plenty about democracy in the Middle East (see the Cairo speech). Yet what's happening in Iran, the administration says, is organic democracy. But the United States intervening in Iran -- even rhetorically -- undermines that organic democracy, it says. Any association to the U.S. opens up the dissidents to charges that they are pawns of the United States.
Video: Sen. John Kerry, D-Ma., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., discuss the tone President Barack Obama should take with regard to events in Iran.
*** If you wish upon a Starr: Now that Ken Starr is now supporting Sonia Sotomayor, is there anyone in America who thinks she won't get confirmed? Per NBC's Pete Williams, Starr, the conservative lawyer who led the Whitewater prosecution against Bill Clinton, confirmed news reports that he backed Sotomayor during a question-and-answer session in California. "I stated that I supported the nomination," he said in an email to Williams. "I also indicated that a variety of issues needed to be explored at the confirmation hearings including her comments about policy making and her -- now famous -- 2001 speech at UC Berkeley." That speech, of course, was when Sotomayor said a wise Latina woman would more often then not reach a better conclusion in judging then a white male.
*** Pelosi's poor poll numbers: Here's a final thought for the weekend: Lost in the news about Obama's job rating and the concern about deficit were the abysmal NBC/WSJ numbers for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She and Rush Limbaugh now share similar negative personal ratings. That's fine for a talk radio personality (maybe even helpful), but it's a disaster for a speaker of the House. Simply put, this is not sustainable for her politically. Sure, the White House and others will say, "Relax, she's taking the arrows for the president." And there's lots of truth to that, but she's also letting a lot of these attacks stick. And she isn't fighting back publicly. And one wonders if that lack of public pushback is allowing this negative perception to gel. Her margin of error, politically, continues to shrink. Washington isn't a loyal town and when the going gets tough, the unpopular baggage gets tossed under the bus -- something the speaker may know. But so far, she's seems content to let these negatives rise without pushing back. Does that need to change or is it in the best interest of the president's agenda?
*** Obama's day: At 9:30 am ET, the president delivers remarks at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. Later, he visits a non-profit organization (at 1:00 pm ET) and then delivers remarks at the White House (at 3:15 pm) to promote and discuss fatherhood and mentorship. Among the folks participating with Obama are professional athletes DeWyane Wade, Antwan Randle El, and Etan Thomas. (Of course, we have to ask -- who is vetting these guys? Wade has separated from his wife, who has accused him of infidelity and abandonment of their children.) Obama also has penned an essay in Parade magazine on Father's Day. Finally tonight, Obama addresses the Radio and TV Correspondents Dinner.
Countdown to Election Day 2009: 137 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 501 days
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Mister -- er, President -- Roboto? At the DSCC, DCCC fundraiser last night, President Obama "blasted Republicans who have criticized his administration's efforts on healthcare reform, stimulus spending and financial regulatory reforms," The Hill reports. "The president dismissed those who say he is not changing the way Washington works, laughing at critics who question whether or not change is possible. 'Can't do it. System overload. Circuits breaking down,' Obama said, mimicking a robot. 'It's so predictable. So this is exactly the moment when we need to fight the hardest. This is the moment when we need to band together."
Roll Call has more: "President Barack Obama praised Congressional Democrats on Thursday evening for their 'tenacity and fierce urgency' in helping him bring about sweeping change during his first six months in office. But, he said, much more remains to be done… 'We can see some light along the horizon but we've got a much longer journey to travel,' he said, according to pool reports. 'And this is when it gets hard. Ironically, in part because the economy has stabilized somewhat.'"
Video: GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander tells MSNBC the emphasis needs to be on getting individuals private health coverage.
Pegged to last night's fundraiser, the New York Times notes that while Obama doesn't accept lobbyist contributions, the DSCC and DCCC accept them -- so long as Obama isn't in the room. "The practicality of Mr. Obama's pledge to change the ways of Washington is colliding once more with the reality of how money, influence and governance interact here. He repeatedly declared while campaigning last year that he would "not take a dime" from lobbyists or political action committees. So to follow through with that promise, Mr. Obama is simply leaving the room."
Meanwhile, there are several reports noting the concerns about passing health-care reform. The Washington Post: "President Obama's hopes for quick action on comprehensive health-care reform ran headlong this week into the realities of Congress, as lawmakers searching for the money to pay for a broad expansion of coverage discovered that it wasn't easy to find and descended into partisan -- and intraparty -- bickering."
"The high cost of securing health insurance for all Americans, the top domestic priority of President Obama, has Congressional Democrats scrambling to scale back their proposals or find ways to trim tens of billions of dollars a year from existing health programs."
Politico: "President Obama's campaign for health care reform by this fall, once considered highly likely to succeed, suddenly appears in real jeopardy."
The Obama administration didn't get everything it wanted out of the supplemental. "[I]t provides no money for closing the Guantanamo detainee prison and sets tough restrictions on the transfer of its inmates. The $106 billion emergency war bill is not all for war fighting. It includes many unrelated items, including a 'cash for clunkers' incentive to swap gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient vehicles; and funds for UN peacekeeping, air service to rural communities, Gulf Coast housing for hurricane victims and the response to a flu pandemic."
The Cash for Clunkers initiative passed in the supplemental. The plan would provide up to $4,500 for people to turn in non fuel-efficient cars for more green ones.
"The House will vote [today] on a bipartisan resolution expressing support for Iranian protesters who have been subject to violence in the days following that country's presidential election," Roll Call reports. "House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) introduced a resolution on Thursday condemning the violence against the protesters, the suppression of independent electronic communication -- like cell phones -- within the country, and affirming "the universality of individual rights."
Video: MSNBC's Richard Wolffe talks about why Congressional leaders are split in their opinion on how President Barack Obama should deal with the situation in Iran.
"House Democrats say they are on track to release a working draft of their health care overhaul on Friday, although a bipartisan group of lawmakers said Thursday that they are worried about the process getting bogged down," Roll Call writes.
Video: Details and cost may be to blame for the delay on Capitol Hill while attempting to meet President Obama's August deadline for an American health care reform bill. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.
"Senior members of Congress, promising a sweeping, eco-friendly overhaul of the nation's highways and mass transit systems, released their blueprint for transportation spending… -- setting up a clash with the White House, which has asked legislators to defer a new transportation bill for now," The Boston Globe writes. "The proposal would spend about $500 billion on roads, bridges, mass transit and high-speed rail over the next six years. To pay for the plan, lawmakers left the door open to raising the 18.3-cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which has been unchanged since 1993." The administration opposes such a tax increase.
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) mischievously lampooned the request by a fellow senator that an Army brigadier general refer to her as 'Senator' rather than "Ma'am.' 'Thank you for calling me 'Senator' and not 'sir,' McCain said with a mischievous grin as he began an interview Thursday night on Sean Hannity's 'Hannity' show on the Fox News Channel."
"Interns for embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) are apparently jumping ship in the wake of his acknowledgment that he had an affair with a former staffer. In an e-mail sent to intern coordinators in Senate offices on Thursday afternoon, Ensign's coordinator Jessica Walton said she is looking to place an unspecified number of the Nevada Republican's interns in other offices."
Video: Air America national correspondent Ana Marie Cox joins Rachel Maddow to talk about the aftershocks going in the Republican Party since Sen. John Ensign, R-NV, revealed he had an extra-marital affair.
Plame-gate still in the news? "A federal judge said Thursday that he wants to look at notes from the FBI's interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney during the investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA operative," the AP writes. "U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's decision to review the documents followed arguments by Obama administration lawyers that sounded much like the reasons the Bush administration provided for keeping Cheney's interview from the public."
"The National Republican Congressional Committee collected $3.24 million in the month of May, allowing the cash-strapped committee to continue to cut down its debt. The NRCC spent about $3.2 million in May and ended the month with $3.7 million cash on hand. The committee also knocked down its debt to $4 million -- $1 million less than at the end of April."
NEW JERSEY: Politico jumps into the NJ governor's race: "The election is still five months away, but one thing is already clear about the race between New Jersey Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican challenger Chris Christie: It's going to be ugly."
NEW YORK: Chaos in Albany: "State senators made a bold move Thursday to end their paralyzing stalemate: They packed up and went home. After yet another fruitless negotiating session -- which almost came to blows -- the battling pols got out of Dodge to enjoy their long weekend. But not before making sure they got paid."
From NBC's Katelin Schartz
Standing together -- at one point grasping a shovel -- House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN)
and ranking member John Mica (R-FL)
today unveiled their plan for a mammoth six-year, $450 billion surface transportation bill, setting up a clash with an Obama administration that opposes legislation of that size.
The Transportation Committee bill is nearly twice the size of the legislation that was passed into law in 2005 and expires in September 2009. The 80-page blueprint the committee released highlights key aspects of the legislation, such as the consolidation and termination of 75 federal transportation programs and the creation of new programs to design, finance, and create light-rail projects -- all of which aim to maximize returns on transportation investments.
The big question: How do you finance the $450 billion? Oberstar won't talk about where that money will come from, although one possibility is raising the federal gasoline tax -- which could be a tough sell in this economic climate. Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Oberstar said, "You can't talk investments and dollar amounts until you have something to show the public." Questions on funding will begin to be answered as the House Ways and Means Committee starts work on the legislation in July.
The Obama Transportation Department has instead proposed a smaller 18-month reauthorization, and opposes any hike in the gasoline tax. "I recognize that there will be concerns raised about this approach," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement released yesterday. "However, with the reality of our fiscal environment and the critical demand to address our infrastructure investments in a smarter, more focused approach, we should not rush legislation."
He concluded, "We should work together on a full reauthorization that best meets the demands of the country. The first step is making sure that the Highway Trust Fund is solvent. The next step is addressing our transportation priorities over the long term."
From NBC's Alex Beinstein
Per ESPN, the new status symbol in D.C. these days is playing ball with the president.
Among friends and colleagues alike, there is a strong demand to get in on the action. ESPN notes:
"The invites to play with the Baller-in-Chief have been scarce. 'Mostly friends and staff -- the old Chicago crew. 'he only thing that's changed is we're playing at Camp David,' cracks Duncan, who has known the president for years. The secretary and some staff at Interior got a run, as did some old buddies of Love's. Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner got an invitation, as did at least one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The mayor of Washington got a run. Everyone else is angling. Love apparently keeps a list of names in case he needs extras."
Some other notable attendees include Sen. Bob Casey, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (who is something of a basketball gatekeeper), Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Rep. Heath Shuler.
These games have taken place at many different locations, including Camp David, the Interior Department, Sidwell Friends and The Lab School.
And "by Executive fiat, the White House tennis court is being retrofitted for basketball."
Start working on those games.
From NBC's Mark Murray
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor
has fired off another tough statement criticizing President Obama's measured response to the protests and violence after Iran's disputed presidential election.
The human tragedy continues in Iran. Around the world, people are inspired by the courage of the Iranian people fighting for free elections, using new media tools like Twitter to ensure their voices are heard by all of us. America has a moral responsibility to stand up for these brave people, to defend human rights, and to condemn the violence and abuses by the regime in Tehran.
The Administration's position that what's going on in Iran is a "vigorous debate" is absurd. People are being brutalized and murdered by the regime in Tehran. We have no idea exactly how many have died or have been seriously injured, since the regime has restricted journalists. In no way do these actions constitute a "vigorous debate."
In fact, Obama has spoken out about the violence in Iran, albeit carefully. As he told CNBC's John Harwood earlier this week, "When you've got 100,000 people who are out on the streets peacefully protesting, and they're having to be scattered through violence and gunshots, what that tells me is the Iranian people are not convinced of the legitimacy of the election. And my hope is that the regime responds not with violence, but with recognition that the universal principles of peaceful expression and democracy are ones that should be affirmed."
From NBC's Mike Viqueira
Anybody out there in the market for cheap metaphors or metaphysical omens, let it be known that for the first time since 2000, Democrats defeated Republicans in the annual Roll Call baseball game last night.
The score was 15-10. This afternoon on the House floor, the manager for the victorious Democrats, Rep. Mike Doyle, brandished the sizable trophy.
"They played like Republicans," said a good-natured Rep. Joe Barton, who was at the helm of the losing Republican squad.
There was much hooting and mirth.
The game was played down the street at Nationals Park (only a slight drop off in the usual quality of play to be found there), and benefited the Washington area Boys and Girls Clubs and the Washington Literacy Council.
One other thing, the Republican staff ace in recent years has been Sen. John Ensign. He did not play last night.
NBC's Katelin Schartz was there and had this game recap:
The Dems took an early lead in the bottom of the third, scoring six runs. But the Republicans quickly countered back with six runs of their own in the top half of the fourth.
The Dems tacked on nine more runs in the next half and held the lead -- despite a few more runs put up by the Republicans.
There were several missed catches and some short-ended throws, but there wasn't much else that happened outside of those two innings.
The players kept it civil and were good sports, but partisanship reigned in the crowd and was distinctly divided. Dems were along the third baseline (the left – if you will), and Republicans were along the first baseline (the right).
From NBC's Libby Leist
President Obama called Secretary of State Clinton last night -- he was one of first to call -- after she fractured her elbow, according to the State Department.
She fell in the basement of State Department on her way to her car around 5 p.m. She was with Af/Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke, and they were heading to the White House for a meeting.
They went back to her office to get examined, and then went to the hospital after that. It appears a simple fracture, and she is working from home.
No decision has been made on whether she will travel next week. She is supposed to go to Greece and Italy at end of next week. But she is scheduled for surgery next week.
Also, Bill and Chelsea Clinton are in D.C. now with her -- they came in last night.
From NBC's James Rankin
The health-care debate remains at the forefront here in Washington, and it's pretty clear that the public is beginning to take sides. In addition to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll yesterday, Gallup released a poll also gauging opinion on health care.
It measured how much trust Americans place in their government, doctors and private insurers to reform health-care.
A couple of points from the poll: Almost three-quarters (73%) of Americans trust doctors to make the right decisions regarding reform. The Obama administration seems to understand this, given the president's outreach to the American Medical Association. A majority -- 58% -- trust Obama to make those decisions.
But Congress seems to have its work cut out for it, especially the GOP. More Americans trust pharmaceutical (40%) and insurance (35%) companies to reform the health-care system than congressional Republicans (34%).
Congressional Democrats get somewhat better numbers (42%), but certainly nothing to brag about.
From NBC's Pete Williams
The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to find a constitutional right of access to DNA evidence for convicted prisoners. And the court refused to make it easier for older Americans to sue for job discrimination.
DNA testing has freed 232 wrongly convicted prisoners nationwide -- 17 of them sentenced to death. Though most states allow prisoners to get some DNA testing, defense lawyers say those laws don't go far enough.
In the case ruled on today, an Alaska man, William Osborne, sued to get access to crime scene DNA so he could get a more accurate test performed than was available 15 years ago, when he was convicted of rape. But by a 5-4 vote, the court said Alaska gives inmates a reasonable shot at DNA. What's more, the decision said, there's no need for the federal courts to jump in and make a sweeping declaration of a constitutional right of access to DNA, given that 46 states and the federal government already allow some kind of access to DNA evidence.
In the age discrimination case, the court -- again by a 5-4 vote -- said that lawsuits claiming that an employee was fired because of age must show that age was the reason for the firing, not simply that it was one of several other factors. The court has allowed the "several factor" analysis in claims for race discrimination. But the court said today that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is worded differently and does not allow lawsuits for such "mixed motive" cases.
Ten cases now remain to be decided. We'll next get decisions on Monday, June 22.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** The return of Ross Perot? Ross Perot has now become a political afterthought -- especially after his two presidential defeats and his disastrous NAFTA debate performance against Al Gore -- but the cause that he once championed seems to be making a comeback: balancing the budget.
In our new NBC/WSJ poll, nearly six in 10 respondents say the government should worry more about keeping the deficit down, even if that means the economy recovers more slowly. The latest New York Times/CBS poll has a similar result, with 60% believing the Obama administration doesn't have a plan to deal with deficit. What's more, self-identified independents, the same people Perot once appealed to, aren't as supportive of Obama. In our NBC/WSJ survey, 46% of independents approve of Obama's job, which is down from 60% in April, and that's the primary reason why the president's overall job rating has declined five points to 56%. The deficit, however, isn't the only problematic issue for Obama. Almost seven in 10 have serious reservations about the government's ownership of GM, and 52% oppose closing Gitmo. As one of us said on NBC's Nightly News last night, Obama is now dealing with a public that's judging him more for his actions than the promises he has made.
*** Blaming the GOP: But that's the bad news for Obama and the Democrats. The good news, according to our poll, is that the president is still personally popular: his fav/unfav is 60%-29%, and three-quarters like him, including 27% who don't agree with his policies. In addition, the public doesn't blame Obama for the deficit or the economy -- that honor instead goes to the previous Republican administration. Asked who is more responsible for the size of the deficit, 46% cited Bush, 21% said the Democrats in Congress, 7% said the Republicans in Congress, and just 6% said Obama. Moreover, 72% believe the current state of the economy is something the president inherited. Indeed, the Republican Party finds itself at all-time lows in our poll (25% positive rating) and in the NYT/CBS one (28%). And that brings up this question: If the public is really serious about the deficit, does it turn to a Perot-like figure instead of the GOP?
Video: Former DNC chairman Howard Dean and author P.J. O'Rourke discuss the future of both the Democrat and Republican Parties.
*** Good news and bad news on health care: On the subject of health care, there's good news for both Democrats and Republicans in our poll. More than three-quarters believe it's important for Americans to have a choice between a public/government insurance plan and a private one. But if a government-run option is established, 47% of those who hold private insurance say it's "very" or "somewhat" likely their employer would drop their plans. As Bill McInturff, the GOP half our NBC/WSJ poll, puts it: "It's hard to change the status quo when you have people who have been well served by the status quo." What is clear is that Americans aren't big fans of having their health-care benefits taxed: 59% oppose taxing those with generous health benefits, while 70% oppose taxing everyone's health benefits. Over to you, Max Baucus…
*** USA! USA! USA! Here's perhaps the most striking finding in the entire poll: There's a growing sense of American patriotism, at least as it relates to the U.S. auto industry. According to the survey, 54% say they've considered buying an American car in the past few years, and of those people, 40% say they are more likely to buy an American car due to the problems the U.S. industry is facing. By comparison, only 14% say they are less likely to buy an American car. Also, people are feeling more optimistic about the economy: 46% say the economy will get better in the next 12 months, which is up eight points since April and is the highest number on that question since Jan. 2004.
*** Odds and ends: Among the other poll findings we thought were interesting: Sonia Sotomayor's numbers compare favorably to, or even exceed, John Roberts' and Samuel Alito's; Dick Cheney's positive rating has increased eight points (to 26%); Nancy Pelosi's rating has decreased seven points (to 24%); for the first time, a plurality support believe the U.S. should take military action to destroy North Korea's ability to make nuclear weapons; and Obama's Cairo speech/Middle East trip was viewed favorably by the public, as 42% said it helped the United States' relationship with the Muslim world versus 14% who said it hurt it. Just askin' on Pelosi vs. Cheney, but did the speaker's numbers fall because she won't defend herself as much publicly as Cheney does?
*** Bush strikes back? Not only is Obama's honeymoon apparently over with the public, but it also seems over with the man he succeeded: George W. Bush. Yesterday giving a speech in Erie, PA, the former president fired a few shots at the new administration, according to the Washington Times. "I know it's going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we're in," he said. "You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money." He also said, "Government does not create wealth. The major role for the government is to create an environment where people take risks to expand the job rate in the United States." On health care, "There are a lot of ways to remedy the situation without nationalizing health care," he said. "I worry about encouraging the government to replace the private sector when it comes to providing insurance for health care." Finally, when asked by the emcee whether Obama's policies were "socialist," Bush started to answer and then stopped. "I hear a lot of those words, but it depends on…" He later said, "We'll see."
*** Obama's day: The president meets with Middle East envoy George Mitchell at 3:15 pm ET (closed press) and then with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner at 4:00 pm (also closed press). In the evening, Obama headlines a fundraiser for the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, which is expected to raise $3 million for the party. And here's one other piece of news: Hillary Clinton broke her elbow yesterday on her way to the White House and will need surgery. She was scheduled to do an event with Angelina Jolie today on refugees, and that has been canceled.
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The Wall Street Journal on the latest NBC/WSJ poll: "After a fairly smooth opening, President Barack Obama faces new concerns among the American public about the budget deficit and government intervention in the economy as he works to enact ambitious health and energy legislation."
Video: NBC's David Gregory talks to former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean about a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing a lower approval rating for President Obama.
Here's our take: "Obama remains a popular figure in the poll. But these numbers on the deficit and the government's intervention seem to mark a new period for the administration, as the public moves from welcoming his inauguration and first days in office to examining his initial actions as president."
The latest New York Times/CBS poll, which has Obama's approval rating at 63%: "A distinct gulf exists between Mr. Obama's overall standing and how some of his key initiatives are viewed, with fewer than half of Americans saying they approve of how he has handled health care and the effort to save General Motors and Chrysler. A majority of people said his policies have had either no effect yet on improving the economy or had made it worse, underscoring how his political strength still rests on faith in his leadership rather than concrete results."
CNBC's Steve Liesman has this response to Obama's financial overhaul plan: "On Wednesday, President Obama launched what you could call the 'Star Wars' of financial regulation, the government's defense system against Wall Street's weapons of mass destruction -- complex derivatives and subprime mortgages - that have brought the nation's economy to its knees," he writes in the New York Daily News.
But here's the New York Times' take: "On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled what he described as 'a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression.' In terms of the sheer number of proposals, outlined in an 88-page document the administration released on Tuesday, that is undoubtedly true. But in terms of the scope and breadth of the Obama plan — and more important, in terms of its overall effect on Wall Street's modus operandi — it's not even close to what Roosevelt accomplished during the Great Depression."
Politico writes, "President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday offering limited benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees failed to quell growing anger in the gay community that gay rights issues were getting short shrift at the White House."
Video: President of the Human Rights Campaign Joe Solmonese reacts to President Barack Obama's decision to only offer same-sex partners of federal employees some of the benefits granted to heterosexual couples.
Meanwhile, don't miss this statement by the White House on the Bipartisan Policy Center's Health Reform Proposal. One of the authors of the proposal is Tom Daschle, who was the administration's original choice to spearhead health-care reform: "The Bipartisan Policy Center, led by three distinguished former Senate Majority Leaders, has produced a serious and detailed proposal for health reform that reinforces the importance of the President's core principles: lowering costs for families, businesses and governments; guaranteeing choice of doctors and plans; ensuring quality and affordable health care for all Americans, and adhering to fiscal discipline that does not add to the deficit.
"This group of extraordinarily experienced legislators agree with the President that health reform must be enacted this year because the status quo -- skyrocketing health care costs, rising premiums, swelling deficits - is unsustainable. With this report, they have demonstrated what can be achieved with bipartisan effort. The Bipartisan Policy Center has produced a significant report, and the White House applauds their efforts." Hmm. Keeping Daschle in the game through a back channel?
And this is interesting: "President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats risk a major rift with their union allies if they decide to pay for health care reform by taxing employer-provided health benefits, according to union sources."
Politico: "President Barack Obama's strict ban on lobbyist contributions will limit the haul from Thursday night's fundraising dinner for congressional Democrats, but organizers have found a way around it: a morning-after event at the same hotel where lobbyists -- and their money -- will be welcomed with open arms. Invitations for the $5,000-per-person Issues Conference don't say it's an effort to skirt Obama's lobbying ban, but they walk right up to the edge.
Oberstar vs. LaHood? "Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, plans to unveil a six-year, $500 billion bill to overhaul transportation programs on Thursday. He wants Congress to pass the bill by Oct. 1, which is when the current law that authorizes transportation programs expires," the AP says. "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to tell lawmakers the administration will offer a plan to extend financing of current highway programs for 18 months. An estimated $13 billion to $17 billion will be needed under the plan to make up a shortfall in federal gas tax revenues, which fund highway and transit programs."
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The AP looks at Sotomayor's answers so far to key issues like Roe v. Wade. It writes that she, like other Supreme Court nominees, avoids firm answers to those hot-button issues.
"The first crack in President Barack Obama's ambitious schedule for health care reform emerged Wednesday as Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) postponed the markup of his panel's legislation because he needs more time to develop a consensus," Roll Call writes.
"President Obama's push for a bipartisan healthcare overhaul suffered a double blow on Wednesday when Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced he would cut $600 billion from his measure while Republicans derided a Democratic markup of an alternative bill as a 'joke,'"
The Hill writes. "Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he is looking to shrink the costs from $1.6 trillion to $1 trillion after reading an analysis of both Democratic bills by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)."
"Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is maneuvering for the GOP leadership opening left by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who resigned the post Wednesday," The Hill reports.
And the election for that post will apparently take place June 25th.