...Hillary Clinton. A Quinnipiac poll released today reveals the just-former Secretary of State also has the approval of well over half of Americans, revealing that yes, relatively apolitical Cabinet positions really can do wonders for image rehabilitation. She surpasses even President Obama, her once-rival for the Oval Office, and a stat like this is sure to set tongues further wagging for the potential of a run in 2016.
President Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, but today the former Senator and Secretary of State is more popular, with a 61 - 34 percent favorability rating among American voters, compared to the president's 51 - 46 percent favorability, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.
"Hillary Clinton ends her term as Secretary of State and the bruising inquiry into the Benghazi murders as easily the most popular actor on the American political stage today," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"After an initial burst of reelection enthusiasm for President Barack Obama, we may be seeing a return to the age of the polarized electorate."
"The difference in favorability ratings for the two leaders lies in Clinton's ability to win thumbs up from many more independent voters and Republicans than does the president," said Brown. "The lower approval numbers for the president could be because once the election afterglow is gone, governing inevitably requires decisions that make some voters unhappy."
Notably, she's about twenty points more popular than Vice President Joe Biden, a known 2016 hopeful; indeed, this all but cements the popular thought that the nomination is hers to lose. Of course, that race won't start to shape up for another two years or so; still, though, it's worth noting that the controversies that marred her last days in the office (not least of which was the Benghazi scandal) did essentially nothing to stunt her standing among Independents and even Republicans. Should she decide to run, Republicans better be ready.
Following Michigan's adoption of Right to Work legislation, unions, it seems, have decided that their best chance for self-preservation is a good offense...against their own members. The Wall Street Journal reports on a memo revealing that the unions' strategy for combating the law -- which will undoubtedly cost them precious funds, as already-reluctant members opt to quit -- is to target remaining members as they attempt to minimize loss of influence.
That's the message from a December 27-28 memo to local union presidents and board members from Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook, which recommends tactics that unions can use to dilute the impact of the right-to-work law. One bright idea is to renegotiate contracts now to lock teachers into paying union dues after the right-to-work law goes into effect in March. Another is to sue their own members who try to leave.
"Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August," Mr. Cook writes in the three-page memo obtained by the West Michigan Policy Forum. "We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year." Got that, comrade?
Also watch for contract negotiations in which union reps sign up members for smaller pay raises and benefits in exchange for a long-term contract. "We've looked carefully at this and believe the impact of RTW [right to work] can be blunted through bargaining strategies," Mr. Cook writes.
In other words, Michigan unions are going to squeeze every penny out of their members -- even those who wish to defect -- and sacrifice wages and benefits for the sake of obtaining contracts. These practices are notably antithetical to unions' historical objections; organized labor had its genesis when workers needed a forum to gather and combat predatory employer practices, and now here the unions are preying on their own.
Given the failure Wisconsin unions had when they attempted a recall, Michigan unions have ruled out a similar attempt, and the memo further suggests that they don't believe legal action a viable recourse, either. Thus, they're left to cannibalize their own, essentially, thereby making membership even less palatable. It's an example of just how far unions have strayed from their original intent. Now, glutted on the benefits of political clout, they have themselves become distracted by their own gain at the workers' collective sake. What's more, this seems like an ill-conceived survival strategy: in the short term, it may keep the coffers filled to expected levels, but such policies are unlikely to attract new members, and may drive out old members, as they continue to pay dues for little discernible benefit.
What's more, 50% of Michiganders approve of the law, while 45% disapprove. Hardly overwhelming, but notable nonetheless, when considering that Michigan, historically, was the state the UAW built. Half of the population of one of the nation's most union-friendly states doesn't feel that way anymore, and unions are harming their own in order to survive. The outlook is bleak from the unions' perspective, and it's only a matter of time before these chickens, too, come home to roost.
The search for a viable Republican candidate for now-Secretary of State John Kerry's former Senate seat continues, as Tagg Romney ended speculation that he's considering a run for the position. Mitt Romney's eldest son stated that he will not seek the seat, citing a desire to spend time with his family and continue growing his business -- as well as his father's dismal performance there in November's election.
In an e mail to ABC News, Tagg Romney says he is not running for U.S. Senate.
"I have been humbled by the outreach I received this weekend encouraging me to become a candidate for the US Senate," but the timing just doesn't work, Romney said.
"I love my home state and admit it would be an honor to represent the citizens of our great Commonwealth," Romney said. "However, I am currently committed to my business and to spending as much time as I can with my wife and children. The timing is not right for me."
The Boston Herald reported Monday morning that the eldest son of Mitt and Ann Romney is considering a run in the special Senate election in Massachusetts now that former senator Scott Brown decided against a run last week.
But, two sources close to both Tagg and his father Mitt told ABC News earlier Monday it's not going to happen. One consideration for Tagg Romney may be that his father lost the Bay State in last year's presidential election by 23 points.
Tagg joins Scott Brown in declining to run for the seat, a potentially wise move, given the prospect of running for reelection almost immediately, in 2014. The race is already an uphill climb for the GOP; unless a name emerges soon, it'll be all but impossible.
I know, I know. It is way too early to be talking about 2016, and believe me when I say I'm still recovering from 2012. But...
The Washington Post's She the People blog asserts that current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has suggested she's interested in running for the top job in four years, joining a list that includes Martin O'Malley, Deval Patrick, Hillary Clinton, and of course, Joe Biden. If, as she has maintained, Hillary really isn't interested in the job, says STP's Karen Tumulty, then Napolitano is a viable female candidate, and a formidable one at that.
It is hard to imagine the presidential field without a woman contender, and here’s one to keep your eye on: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano is quietly making it known that she is considering the race, and there is reason to take her seriously.
Before coming to Washington, Napolitano was a highly regarded and very popular governor in Arizona, a state not known as a hospitable one for Democrats. In 2005, Time Magazine named her one of the nation’s five best governors, noting: “Positioning herself as a no-nonsense, pro-business centrist, she has worked outside party lines since coming to office in January 2003 to re-energize a state that, under her predecessors, was marked by recession and scandal.” [...]
Napolitano is a sharp and savvy politician, and her decision to remain in the Obama administration for a second term is a telling one. Immigration overhaul may well be an opportunity to put herself at the forefront of an issue–and a constituency–that represent the future of the Democratic party. Particularly if Clinton doesn’t run, it’s a decent bet that she will be on the debate stage in 2016.
It's a little bit out of left field (no pun intended regarding ideology), but it's not entirely unfathomable. The article makes the point that she would have an uphill climb, coming from a non-governing Cabinet position, but she's hardly the most polarizing or scandal-ridden advisor Obama's had by his side. On the other hand, it's worth noting that Napolitano's career as Homeland Secretary has had its own episodes of intrigue: recall, the lawsuit filed in August of last year against the department, alleging that Napolitano’s handpicked staffers created a “frat-house” atmosphere, unfriendly to men.
The suit was filed by James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of New York City investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Hayes’ suit says that when it became clear he was going to be removed from his post, he “felt that he was being targeted because of his gender.”
He charges that in April and May 2009, ICE chief of staff Barr “removed the entire contents of the offices of three male employees, including nameplates, computers and telephones, to the men’s bathroom at ICE headquarters.”
“Barr also created a frat-house type atmosphere that is targeted to humiliate and intimidate male employees,” court papers say.
Regardless of whether the charges are founded, it seems as though she hasn't made too many friends among her subordinates, and would have to contend with unflattering portrayals of her time as the top anti-terror official in the country. What's more, the very public battle about the TSA scanners displaying very private body parts (that have since been scrapped anyway) doesn't exactly scream "competency."
Of course, there's no real sign indicating that she's laying the groundwork for such a run -- certainly nothing like the overt gestures Joe Biden has made in recent months -- and there's more than enough time for her to decide. But perhaps it's worth tucking away and taking a closer look at what she's up to as Obama's second term gets underway.
On MSNBC this afternoon, Sandra Fluke truly outdid herself, attempting to argue that the people who disagree with the contraception mandate on religious freedom grounds are in the same category as people who oppose insurance coverage for leukemia. Just...watch:
What's important to note is that some of the folks who are continuing to object to this policy are actually worried about employers who are private companies, not religiously affiliated employers in any way, but the boss has a particular religious concern, and they want to be able to deny their employees particular types of healthcare. Now if you take a step back and think about that, that's--you konw, you work at a restaurant, you work at a store, and your boss is able to deny you leukemia coverage, or contraception coverage, or blood transfusions, or any number of medical concerns that someone might have a religious objection to. So the folks who are still objecting have some very extreme ideas about religious freedom and employee healthcare in this country.
Fluke attended Georgetown Law, but it's not clear that she's particularly skilled at her craft: she's not making a terribly logical argument, and it's based on a false comparison anyway. Contraception is "preventative care," in that it's intended to head off a pregnancy, which--although at times inconvenient for the couple in question--is not a disease at all, but instead the result of a decision to have sex. Leukemia is cancer, a life-threatening illness, which requires prohibitively expensive treatment and most decidedly does not result from a decision about how to conduct one's romantic relationship.
By now, we're all aware of the faith community's reasoning for its position on the matter--including that of secular, but nonetheless faith-infused businesses such as Hobby Lobby--which is rooted more in moral teachings than the basic proceedings of logic. But honestly, even if I wasn't on the opposite side of the morality aisle from Fluke, I would find her argument severely lacking. I did, however, enjoy watching her beclown herself, and I invite you to take the opportunity to do the same. Happy Friday!
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals today unanimously slapped down the controversial “recess” appointments President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board way back in early January of 2012, in what the Associated Press rightly calls an “embarrassing setback.” Indeed, if the Supreme Court upholds the decision, it very well may nullify everything the board has done since the appointments, as it won’t have actually had the quorum of three members required to issue regulations. Ouch.
The unanimous decision is an embarrassing setback for the president, who made the appointments after Senate Republicans spent months blocking his choices for an agency they contended was biased in favor of unions. […]
The Obama administration is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but if it stands, it means hundreds of decisions issued by the board over more than a year are invalid. It also would leave the five-member labor board with just one validly appointed member, effectively shutting it down. The board is allowed to issue decisions only when it has at least three sitting members.
Recall, Senate Republicans gaveled in and out of pro forma sessions during the Christmas season, meaning that technically, the Senate was never fully out of session. The court’s decision helps to define what, exactly, a “recess” is, and definitively establish when a president may unilaterally make appointments, sans the requisite “advice and consent of the Senate.”
Importantly, the decision distinguishes “a recess” from “the Recess” (and the English major in me had a giggle at the court’s reference to Samuel Johnson’s dictionary when defining “the”). Essentially, the president has an extremely narrow window in which to make recess appointments: between formal sessions of Congress. From the decision:
All this points to the inescapable conclusion that the Framers intended something specific by the term “the Recess,” and that it was something different than a generic break in proceedings. […]
[The] appointments structure would have been turned upside down if the President could make appointments any time the Senate so much as broke for lunch.
Obama’s use of the recess appointment in such a manner represents one of many instances when he has attempted to skirt congressional authority to achieve his desired outcome.
The dearth of intrasession appointments in the years and decades following the ratification of the Constitution speaks far more impressively than the history of recent presidential exercise of a supposed power to make such appointments. Recent Presidents are doing no more than interpreting the Constitution. While we recognize that all branches of government must of necessity exercise their understanding of the Constitution in order to perform their duties faithfully thereto, ultimately it is our role to discern the authoritative meaning of the supreme law.
The Richard Cordray appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will likely face the same fate, although it was challenged in a separate case. The federal government will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, so this isn’t the end of the conflict; however, it represents a serious threat to one of Obama’s preferred methods of skirting congressional authority. What’s more, several labor-friendly regulations hang in the balance. In a sense, this is shaping up to be a two-fold loss for Obama: he could very well lose both pieces of his agenda, as well as a method of enacting it.
Vice President Joe Biden, known as much for his gaffes as for anything else in his four decades in politics, has long been rumored to be eyeing a presidential run in 2016. But new reports have surfaced, revealing the extent to which he layed the groundwork for such a campaign. Get ready: Sheriff Joe is at it again.
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.
Looks like he's taking this pretty seriously, and if Hillary Clinton is, by turn, serious about quitting politics, then Biden looks to be the last of the "old guard" who would throw his hat into the ring. The question becomes, would that help his chances, or are the Democrats looking for a change in regime?
Justice Clarence Thomas is known for his stalwart silence during Supreme Court hearings, but today, for the first time in seven years, he broke his silence -- and the transcript didn't even fully understand what he said. What's more, it appears he made a joke, but the official record doesn't contain the full sentence. The New York Times reports on the humorous moment in court, and the recordkeeping mix-up:
The justices were considering the qualifications of a death penalty defense lawyer in Louisiana, and Justice Antonin Scalia noted that she had graduated from Yale Law School, which is, by some measures, the best in the nation. It is also Justice Thomas’s alma mater.
Justice Thomas leaned into his microphone, and in the midst of a great deal of cross talk among the justices, cracked a joke. Or so it seemed to people in the courtroom.
The official transcript confirms that Justice Thomas spoke, for the first time since Feb 22, 2006. It attributes these words to him, after a follow-up comment from Justice Scalia concerning a male graduate of Harvard Law School: “Well – he did not —.” That is all the transcript recites.
Though the transcription is incomplete, people in the courtroom understood him to say that a law degree from Yale may actually be proof of incompetence.
The transcript then indicates laughter in the courtroom, and the attorney at the lectern responded with, "I would refute that, Justice Thomas," and saying something about the attorney in question being very competent. Apparently, however, the other justices drowned him out with chatter of their own. SCOTUSblog tweeted a more complete rendering of the comment, corroborating the Times' account:
Of course: when the famously silent Justice speaks, the record doesn't fully capture what he says. However, it's worth noting that he didn't ask a question -- that streak has still gone unbroken. Perhaps he'll be a bit more vocal in the coming year? Doubtful, if past is precedent -- especially since it's seems to be hard to get a word in edgewise with the other justices -- but it's fun to see his sense of humor in action.
As President Obama begins his second term, it seems he intends to make good on campaign promises to reform American immigration policy. The New York Times reports today that the president and his fellow Democrats in the Senate are seeking to create a giant omnibus bill that would remake the entire system.
Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats will propose the changes in one comprehensive bill, the officials said, resisting efforts by some Republicans to break the overhaul into smaller pieces — separately addressing young illegal immigrants, migrant farmworkers or highly skilled foreigners — which might be easier for reluctant members of their party to accept. [...]
Mr. Obama is expected to lay out his plan in the coming weeks, perhaps in his State of the Union address early next month, administration officials said. The White House will argue that its solution for illegal immigrants is not an amnesty, as many critics insist, because it would include fines, the payment of back taxes and other hurdles for illegal immigrants who would obtain legal status, the officials said.
The president’s plan would also impose nationwide verification of legal status for all newly hired workers; add visas to relieve backlogs and allow highly skilled immigrants to stay; and create some form of guest-worker program to bring in low-wage immigrants in the future.
There's also a bipartisan coalition, led by Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham, along with John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Mike Lee, that's begun working on a similar overhaul bill.
To be sure, the American immigration system needs some comprehensive reform, but clearly, don't understand the wisdom of avoiding massive "fix-all" bills, a la the Affordable Care Act. As Nancy Pelosi famously said, a bill like this is so big you have to pass it just to know what it does. With policy as sensitive and all-encompassing as immigration, it's best to err on the side of caution -- and with our finances in dire straights, it's best to avoid bills that can easily hide pork.
So says Marco Rubio, who also intends to pursue immigration reform, albeit down a different path of the president and his fellows. Although he's met with the aforementioned bipartisan coalition, Rubio instead advocates for four or five niche-issue immigration bills, each dealing with one facet of the extraordinarily complicated topic: low-skill guest worker programs, increased quotas for high-skill workers, border security, employee status checks, and a program to bring the 12 million illegal residents already here into the light of the law. It's this last piece of the puzzle, of course, that has proved to be the most contentious in the immigration battle.
His wholesale fix tries to square—triangulate, if you will—the liberal fringe that seeks broad amnesty for illegal immigrants and the hard right's obsession with closing the door. Mr. Rubio would ease the way for skilled engineers and seasonal farm workers while strengthening border enforcement and immigration laws. As for the undocumented migrants in America today—eight to 12 million or so—he proposes to let them "earn" a working permit and, one day, citizenship. [...]
Politically hardest is the question of the up to 12 million illegals currently here. Mr. Rubio's proposal allows for adults who overstayed their visa or sneaked in to come into the open.
"Here's how I envision it," he says. "They would have to come forward. They would have to undergo a background check." Anyone who committed a serious crime would be deported. "They would be fingerprinted," he continues. "They would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they've been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country."
The special regime he envisions is a form of temporary limbo. "Assuming they haven't violated any of the conditions of that status," he says, the newly legalized person could apply for permanent residency, possibly leading to citizenship, after some years—but Mr. Rubio doesn't specify how many years. He says he would also want to ensure that enforcement has improved before opening that gate.
The waiting time for a green card "would have to be long enough to ensure that it's not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way," he says. "But it can't be indefinite either. I mean it can't be unrealistic, because then you're not really accomplishing anything. It's not good for our country to have people trapped in this status forever. It's been a disaster for Europe."
It'll be interesting to see how the various immigration bills stack up against each other, and who will prevail. Ostensibly, something like what Rubio has proposed -- introducing several pieces of legislation, and tackling each issue individually -- would make the most sense, but in this day and age, the most "bipartisan-looking" bill, not necessarily the sanest, is the one that tends to make it farthest on the floor.
Granted, it's pretty rare these days for a Cabinet nominee to be unconfirmed; as happened to embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice, controversial figures just don't get the nomination. But still, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, has drawn bipartisan criticism for his controversial stances on issues ranging from homosexuality to Iran--and yet the Senate is likely to confirm him, per one of its admittedly reluctant members:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said on Sunday he believes former Sen. Chuck Hagel(R-Neb.) will be confirmed by the Senate as secretary of defense.
"I think Sen. Hagel will be approved," the Senate Armed Services committee member said on Fox's "Fox News Sunday." "I think the history of nominees shows and I think his own qualifications also demonstrate that he has the capacity."
Blumenthal did not move off his position that he is reserving his own judgment on Hagel until confirmation hearings
"I'm going to want to ask questions" about Hagel's views on Iran and Israel, for which he has drawn scrutiny, Blumenthal said. "I'm not comfortable yet."
So why did President Obama choose someone who's taking so much heat from both sides of the aisle? Two words, says Mark Steyn: defense cuts.
If the signature accomplishment of the president’s first term was Obamacare (I’m using “signature accomplishment” in the Washington sense of “ruinously expensive bureaucratic sinkhole”), what would he be looking to pull off in his second (aside from the repeal of the 22nd Amendment)? Hagel isn’t being nominated to the Department of Zionist and Homosexual Regulatory Oversight but to the Department of Defense. Which he calls “bloated.”
“The Pentagon,” he said a year ago, “needs to be pared down.” Unlike the current secretary, Leon Panetta, who’s strongly opposed to the mandated “sequestration” cuts to the defense budget, Hagel thinks they’re merely a good start.
That’s why Obama’s offered him the gig. Because Obamacare at home leads inevitably to Obamacuts abroad. In that sense, America will be doing no more than following the same glum trajectory of every other great power in the postwar era.
This is probably the most convincing theory I've seen on the matter. Given the loud concerns over lack of diversity in his administration -- from even those most stalwartly on the president's side -- it does seem strange that Obama would nominate a white man with a history of offending key constituencies. But clearly, he's taking the "more flexibility" comment to heart, and using this opportunity to stock his Cabinet with officials who will make cuts where it matters...to Obama, that is. If Hagel is willing to slash his own budget at the Pentagon, then who is the president to stop him? And with Obamacare stuck on the books, that's more helpful now than ever.