Obama’s Definition of Change: More of the Same and Worse

By LIZ SIDOTI (AP)

WASHINGTON — So much for changing how Washington works.

Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics — dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power.

His lawyer admitted as much in a Friday report. It detailed how Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, sent former President Bill Clinton on a mission: try to persuade Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., to abandon his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., by offering an executive branch post. Sestak said no, stayed in the race and beat the incumbent.

“I can assure the public that nothing improper took place,” Obama had told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

True or not, Obama has a political problem.

Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher — perhaps impossibly high — bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently.

The White House’s reluctant acknowledgment of the chain of events shone a light on the unseemly, favor-trading side of politics — and at an inopportune time for Obama and Democrats as they seek to keep control of Congress.

This election year, angry voters have made clear they have little patience for politics generally and Washington politics specifically. And they are choosing candidates who promise to change the system — and ousting incumbents who fail to deliver.

But what may be even more troubling for the president is the question the episode raises: Has Obama become just like every other politician?

The answer could have implications for him ahead of congressional elections this fall and his likely re-election race in two years.

The White House tried to blunt the media maelstrom by releasing the report on the Friday before a long Memorial Day weekend, when fewer people are paying attention to the news.

White House counsel Robert Bauer said what transpired was neither illegal nor unethical.

But he also said: “There have been numerous reported instances in the past when prior administrations — both Democratic and Republicans and motivated by the same goals — discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office.”

Fair enough.

But Obama has held himself to a different standard. By that measurement, and in this case, he failed to deliver.

As a candidate, Obama cast himself as above partisan sniping and political maneuvering — even as he proved to be a shrewd politician able to broker deals. He promised voters turned off by politics and Washington — and yearning for change that this fresh-faced, political newcomer offered — that he would do things differently from his predecessors.

In Obama’s Washington, lobbyists would be banned from serving in his administration, the Democratic National Committee would be barred from accepting money from political action committees, White House visitor logs would be released and reams of information would be posted online.

As president, Obama has turned that vision into reality, albeit with some exceptions. He has trumpeted his goal of an open and transparent administration. He bristles at the notion that his White House is anything but. And in a frustrated tone, he routinely talks like an outsider doggedly working to change the ways of Washington.

But the Sestak incident undercuts all that — a point not lost on Obama’s GOP critics.

It all began when Specter, a veteran GOP senator facing a difficult Republican primary, chose to become a Democrat last year at the White House’s urging. Obama quickly endorsed him and pledged to campaign for him. The White House tried to clear the Democratic field for him.

But Sestak entered the Democratic primary anyway.

At one point during his campaign, he said that a job was offered but he provided no details. The White House deflected repeated questions about the claim, insisting officials did not behave inappropriately while also declining to elaborate.

It wasn’t until Sestak upset Specter in the Democratic primary May 18 that Republicans renewed their pressure on the administration to disclose what happened. Also, two top Democrats — party chief Tim Kaine and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the party’s second-ranking leader in the Senate — said the White House and Sestak needed to address the questions.

In the end, Bauer’s report said this: Emanuel enlisted Clinton’s help as a go-between with Sestak. Clinton agreed to raise the offer of a seat on a presidential advisory board or another executive board if Sestak remained in the House and dropped his bid, “which would avoid a divisive Senate primary.”

Sestak said Clinton called him last summer and raised the possibility, but “I said no.”

The White House hopes the report puts the matter to rest. Republicans will try to make sure it doesn’t.

EDITOR’S NOTE _ Liz Sidoti has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 2003.

Rob Fisher for District 1 in Maryland/Issues

Jobs

The current Congress has spent the vast majority of their time trying to force-feed a massive and unpopular health care bill down the throats of American taxpayers, at the expense of creating jobs and solving the unemployment crisis. In parts of the 1st District unemployment is 14% with no signs of slowing. We must work together to remove obstacles for American businesses, not create more barriers for growth, and allow them every opportunity to prosper. As a small businessman, I am deeply concerned that the Federal Government continues to forget that consumers spend money not Banks or Corporations. We need to develop new ways for consumers to feel safe in putting money back into the economy.

Government Spending

Our country is bankrupt, yet Congress is intent on ballooning the deficit even higher while proposing massive tax increases to pay for health care and climate bills the majority of Americans don’t want. We must work quickly to get our fiscal house in order or risk leaving today’s problems at the doorsteps of our children and grandchildren. Every member of Congress has a duty to spend our tax dollars wisely, and as your representative I pledge to vote against any bill that increases the deficit without real and immediate benefits to Maryland taxpayers. It is shameful that on the same day that the House of Representatives reinstituted the PayGo mandate, they passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling again. These actions show that they have no interest in controlling spending but are interested in raising taxes to pay for more government intervention in the Free Enterprise system.

Education
E ducation is the key to creating the kinds of high-paying jobs that will help the 1st District thrive and prosper in the 21st Century. Our leaders in Maryland and Washington, D.C. must do more to encourage college graduates to stay local and settle in their home communities. That means providing good jobs for them to come home to when they finish college. When in Congress I will work to stop the brain drain of math and science degrees that is currently limiting American businesses from reaching their full potential and help bring those jobs to the 1st District and the Eastern Shore.

Read More and Contact information here.

Phone Number is 443-859-8176

DOJ To AZ: Damn the Rule of law and Legal American Citizens

By PAUL DAVENPORT, PETE YOST
AP

PHOENIX – Justice Department officials told Arizona’s attorney general and aides to the governor Friday that the federal government has serious reservations about the state’s new immigration law. They responded that a lawsuit against the state isn’t the answer.

“I told them we need solutions from Washington, not more lawsuits,” said Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat.

The Justice Department initiated separate meetings by phone and face-to-face in Phoenix with Goddard and aides to Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to reach out to Arizona’s leaders and elicit information from state officials regarding the Obama administration’s concerns about the new law.

A Few Stars Who Have Served In The Military

Elvis Presley completed basic training at Fort Hood in 1958, and was posted with the 3rd Armored Division to Friedberg, Germany where he served until March 2, 1960.
Audie Murphy became a successful actor after his tour of duty, and what a tour it was. One of the most highly decorated soldiers in World War II, Murphy received the Medal of Honor and 32 more citations from the U.S. and our allies. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetary.
"NYPD Blue" star Dennis Franz (here with co-star Ricky Schroeder) fought in the Vietnam War with the Army's 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
Already one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, Jimmy Stewart enlisted and was a pilot in World War II, starting as a flight instructor until he became the commander of the 445th Bombardment Group. Stewart was the command pilot in the lead B-24 on numerous missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. He twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in combat. Before the war ended, he was promoted to colonel.
Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson played soldiers in "The Dirty Dozen," and were also soldiers in real life as well. Marvin was a sniper in the Marines, and Bronson was a gunner in the Air Force during World War II.
Henry Fonda, left, portrayed Adm. Nimitz, Glenn Ford, center, was Adm. Spruance, and Robert Mitchum was Adm. Bull Halsey in the 1975 film "Midway." Fonda fought in the Navy in World War II and was given the Bronze Star.
Chuck Norris was an MP in the Air Force.
Clint Eastwood (far right) was drafted into the Army in 1950 and became a swimming and life-saving instructor at Fort Ord.

PENN AG TOM CORBETT SHOULD EMPANEL GRAND JURY IN SESTAK AFFAIR

By Dick Morris and Judge Andrew Napolitano

With a Democratic Attorney General in Washington, a Democratic president, and both houses of Congress solidly in Democratic control, it is obviously futile to hope that the possible bribery of Joe Sestak to induce him to withdraw from the Senate race against Arlen Specter will be fully investigated. But, as the facts of this scandal grudgingly emerge from the White House and from Congressman Sestak, there is an alternative way to pursue justice.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General, Tom Corbett — who is the Republican nominee for Governor this year — has ample jurisdiction to convene a grand jury to get to the bottom of the scandal and answer the key questions:

1. Who offered a job to Sestak?

2. What job was proffered?

3. And did the president know of the offer?

Corbett’s jurisdiction stems from the concept of universal jurisdiction, now accepted virtually everywhere. The concept is simple. If someone on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River fires a pistol across the Hudson and the bullet from the pistol hits someone on the NY side, where did the crime take place? For about 600 years, the answer would have been in NY, where the harm was caused. Under the Reagan administration, and in response to urgings from the Meese Justice Department, the courts began to accept the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. This principle gives jurisdiction to law enforcement in the place wherever any act occurred that may have resulted in a crime. Thus, under our scenario above, the shooter could be prosecuted in NJ or NY.

Thus, if Cong. Sestak was in one of his homes, in PA or VA, when he received a telephone call offering him a job if he withdrew from the PA Senate primary against Sen. Arlen Specter, law enforcement authorities in PA and VA — both of which have Republican state Attorneys General — can subpoena Cong. Sestak to testify before a state grand jury and compel him to answer the who, what, when, and where that everyone has a right to know.

The people of the United States and, particularly the people of Pennsylvania, want these questions to be answered honestly. They will not settle for a Democratic stonewall that refuses to let the truth emerge.

Under our federal system, we need not tolerate giving one party the power to be the prosecutor, judge, defendant, defense attorney, and jury. We can open the process to checks and balances.

Corbett should make it possible for the truth to emerge by convening a grand jury and summoning Sestak, Emanuel, and anyone else who may have been involved to answer questions under oath.

Arizona’s New Immigration Law Triggers Dueling Rallies in Phoenix

AP

Thousands of people from around the country marched to the Arizona state Capitol on Saturday to protest the state’s tough new crackdown on illegal immigration.

Opponents of the law suspended their boycott against Arizona and bused in protesters from around the country. Organizers said the demonstration could bring in as many as 50,000 people.

Midtown Phoenix buzzed with protesters carrying signs and American flags. Dozens of police officers were on standby along the route of the five-mile march, and helicopters hovered overhead.

Supporters of the law expect to draw thousands to a rally of their own Saturday evening at a baseball stadium in suburban Tempe, encouraging like-minded Americans to “buycott” Arizona by planning vacations in the state.

Critics of the law, set to take effect July 29, say it unfairly targets Hispanics and could lead to racial profiling. Its supporters say Arizona is trying to enforce immigration laws because the federal government has failed to do so.

The law requires that police conducting traffic stops or questioning people about possible legal violations ask them about their immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they’re in the country illegally. Reasonable suspicion is not defined.

“Arizona has become the testing ground for the most draconian and anti-immigrant legislation in the country,” said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Some opponents of the law have encouraged people to cancel conventions in the state and avoid doing business with Arizona-based companies, hoping the economic
pressure forces lawmakers to repeal the law.

But Alfredo Gutierrez, chairman of the boycott committee of Hispanic civil rights group Somos America, said the boycott doesn’t apply to people coming to resist the law. Opponents said they secured warehouse space for 5,000 people to sleep on cots instead of staying in hotels.

They’re calling on President Barack Obama to order immigration authorities to refuse to take custody of illegal immigrants turned over under Arizona’s law.

Supporters of the law sought to counteract the economic damage of boycotts by bringing supporters into the state.

“Arizona, we feel, is America’s Alamo in the fight against illegal and dangerous entry into the United States,” said Gina Loudon of St. Louis, who is organizing the “buycott.”

“Our border guards and all of Arizona law enforcement are the undermanned, under-gunned, taxed-to-the-limit front-line defenders trying to hold back the invasion,” she said.

The law also makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally or to impede traffic while hiring day laborers, regardless of the worker’s immigration status.

In San Francisco, groups planned to protest at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ game against the Giants Saturday night.

Actor Dennis Hopper Dies at 74 After Suffering From Prostate Cancer

Actor Dennis Hopper, whose 50-year film career spanned such classics as “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Easy Rider,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Blue Velvet” died Saturday following a battle with prostate cancer, Reuters reported. He was 74.

Hopper died from complications related to the cancer at his home in Venice, Calif., at 8:15am PT and had friends and family by his side, friend Alex Hitz told Reuters.

The unconventional, enigmatic Hopper played villains, counterculture heroes and even a young Napoleon Bonaparte with equal aplomb.

He began acting in television in the 1950s, and by 1955 was appearing with James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” In the late ‘60s, he co-wrote, directed and starred in the counterculture classic “Easy Rider,” along with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, triggering a wave of anti-establishment films.

Following a period of substance abuse in the ‘70s, he came back in 1979’s Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now, “ then followed with such memorable efforts as “ Rumble Fish” (1983) the erotic “Blue Velvet” (1986) and “Speed” (1994).

More recently, from 2008-2009 he appeared in 26 episodes of the television series “Crash.”
In March, Hopper was given his own star on Hollywood Boulevard with a bevy of screen legends on hand to honor him.

“Everyone here today that I’ve invited and obviously some that I haven’t invited have enriched my life tremendously,” a frail-looking Hopper said at the time, flanked by fellow actors Jack Nicholson and Viggo Mortensen.

“They’ve shown me a world that I would never have seen being a farm boy from Dodge City, Kansas, and learning things I would never have learned.”

The actor’s last months also were marked by a bitter divorce dispute with his fifth wife, Victoria, after 14 years of marriage.

In March, Hopper, a noted art collector, demanded Duffy, return “the valuable works of art she literally stole from me.”

He claimed in an affidavit filed in L.A. Superior Court, that Duffy “surreptitiously removed from my home very valuable personal property while I was extremely ill, refused to tell me where the property was when I asked her, and then left town.”

Hopper estimated the missing art, including a portrait of himself by Andy Warhol and sculptures by Robert Graham and Brit wit Banksy, were worth more than $1.5 million.

Duffy claimed, “I removed my own property. He is making a big deal about me removing things that are legally mine from the house. I have legal letters saying they belong to me.”

Hopper and Duffy had a seven-year-old daughter, Galen. He also had three grown children by his earlier marriages.

Is Hillary Clinton Really This Stupid? Reason TV Answers That Question.

Seeing a fallen soldier home

By Colleen M. Getz

His name was Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson – although I did not know it when his life brushed mine on March 25 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Lance Cpl. Wilson was not there in the terminal that afternoon; at age 24 and newly married, he had been killed in Afghanistan on March 22 by a roadside bomb. A coincidence of overbooked flights led our lives to intersect for perhaps an hour, one I will never forget.

I did not meet his family that day at the airport, either, although we were there together that evening at the gate, among the crowd hoping to board the oversold flight. I did not know that I had a boarding pass and they did not. I did not know they were trying to get home to hold his funeral, having journeyed to Dover, Del., to meet his casket upon its arrival from Afghanistan.

I also did not know that they already had been stuck for most of the day in another airport because of other oversold flights. But I did not need to know this to realize what they were going through as the event unfolded and to understand the larger cause for it. No matter how we as a nation have relearned the lesson forgotten during Vietnam – that our military men and women and their families deserve all the support we can give them – despite our nation’s fighting two wars in this decade, it is all too easy for most of us to live our lives without having the very great human cost of those wars ever intrude.

But it did intrude heartbreakingly that day at the airport gate. It began simply enough, with the usual call for volunteers: Anyone willing to take a later flight would receive a $500 flight voucher. Then came the announcement none of us was prepared to hear. There was, the airline representative said, a family on their way home from meeting their son’s body as it returned from Afghanistan, and they needed seats on the flight. And there they were, standing beside her, looking at us, waiting to see what we would decide. It wasn’t a hard decision for me; my plans were easily adjusted. I volunteered, as did two women whom I later learned sacrificed important personal plans.

But we three were not enough: Six were needed. So we stood there watching the family – dignified and mute, weighed with grief and fatigue – as the airline representative repeatedly called for assistance for this dead soldier’s family. No one else stepped forward. The calls for volunteers may have lasted only 20 or 30 minutes, but it seemed hours. It was almost unbearable to watch, yet to look away was to see the more than 100 other witnesses to this tragedy who were not moved to help. Then it did become unbearable when, in a voice laced with desperation and tears, the airline representative pleaded, “This young man gave his life for our country, can’t any of you give your seats so his family can get home?” Those words hung in the air. Finally, enough volunteers stepped forward.

I had trouble sleeping that night; I could not get out of my mind the image of the family or the voice pleading for them.When I met my fellow volunteers the next morning at the airport, I found I was not alone. One had gone home and cried, and another had awakened at 3 a.m.; all of us were angry and ashamed that our fellow passengers had not rushed to aid this soldier’s family and consequently had forced them to be on public display in their grief. We worried that this indifference to their son’s sacrifice added to their sorrow.

It turned out my destination was his hometown, so I was able to learn his name and more. I learned he had been a talented graffiti artist and had married his sweetheart, Hannah, the day before he deployed to Afghanistan. They planned a big wedding with family and friends for after he returned home. I learned how proud he was to become a Marine in January 2009. I learned that he and his fellow Marines liked to give the candy they received from home to Afghan children. In sum, I learned that he was the kind of honorable, patriotic young person we want defending our country and how great our loss is that he had to give his life in doing so.

I posted a message to his family on the online condolence book. I told them I was sorry for what they went through in trying to see their son’s body home, but because of it, many more people were going to have heard of Justin and his dedication to his country: I was going to tell everyone I knew about what I had witnessed and tell them his name. And I have.

I thought that was enough, until I received a thank-you note from Lance Cpl. Wilson’s father-in-law.It was a completely humbling experience; he wrote that he was glad I had been able to learn about Justin, and he wanted me to know that Justin “served knowing the risks, but felt it was his obligation and privilege to serve his country.” At that moment, I realized that in this day of an all-volunteer military and a distant war that touches so few of our lives directly, more people should hear the story of Lance Cpl. Wilson and his family.

I’ve thought a lot about what happened that day in the airport, and I choose to believe my fellow passengers were not unfeeling in the face of a soldier’s death and a family’s tragedy. They were just caught off guard – they were totally unprepared to confront the fierce consequences of the war in Afghanistan on their way to Palm Beach on a sunny afternoon.And I believe it was for this reason that people did not rush to the podium to volunteer their seats. It was not that they did not want to, and it was not that they did not think it was the right thing to do. Rather, it was because they were busy trying to assimilate this unexpected confrontation with the irrevocable cost of war and to figure out how to fit doing the right thing into their plans – to fit it into their lives not previously touched by this war. In the end, enough of us figured out how to do the right thing, and it turned out as well as such a painful situation could.

But still I wonder: Barring some momentous personal event that necessitated a seat on that flight, how could any of us even have hesitated? How could we have stopped to weigh any inconvenience to our plans against the sacrifice Lance Cpl. Wilson and his family had made for our country? In such circumstances, it is not a question of recognizing the right thing to do; we should know it is the only thing to do.

From what I have learned of him, in his short life, Lance Cpl. Wilson created a legacy of courage and patriotism that will not be forgotten by those who knew him. I hope there’s a greater legacy as well. I hope through this account of his family’s struggle to see him home, if ever again the war intrudes unbidden on my life or yours, we will know what we must do, and in their honor, and for all those who serve and sacrifice, we will do it.

Colleen M. Getz works in the NATO policy office of the Department of Defense.