Friday, December 31, 2010

Obama's Statement on Year Ago Attack on CIA Officials

I can't think of the CIA without thinking of Smoking Man.
One year ago today, at a remote outpost at Khost, Afghanistan, seven American patriots showed us the true meaning of honor, integrity, and selfless sacrifice. For their colleagues and friends at the CIA, it was a heartbreaking loss of experienced veterans and young officers who served on the front lines in the fight to keep our nation safe. For Americans to whom the work of our intelligence community is largely unknown, it was a rare glimpse into the risks that our intelligence professionals accept in defense of the security and freedoms that we cherish. And for those of us who gathered at Langley last February to pay tribute to these seven heroes and to comfort their families, it was an occasion to rededicate ourselves to their work and to the ideals for which they died.

In the year since, that is what we have done. As President, I rely on our intelligence, military, and civilian personnel every day, and I know that our country is more secure, and the American people are safer, because of their extraordinary service. Today, al Qaeda’s senior leadership is under more pressure than ever before and is hunkered down in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are relentlessly pursuing our mission to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat that terrorist organization. In the United States and around the world, plots have been thwarted, attacks have been disrupted, and the lives of Americans have been saved.

This is the legacy of the courageous Americans who gave their lives one year ago and whose stars now grace the Memorial Wall at Langley, just as it is the legacy of our troops who have given their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. As we mark the first anniversary of their sacrifice at Khost, this is the work to which we recommit ourselves today. We will ensure that our dedicated intelligence professionals have the training and tools they need to meet the missions we ask of them. We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety and security of the American people. And like our seven patriots at Khost, we will never waver in defense of the security and liberties that keep America strong and free.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

West Wing Week Dec. 31

Obama signed legislation that says TV ads need to be the same volume as the program. Hurrah! Also in this week's edition is a look at the White House fireplaces, student loans and affording colleges:

Obama Goes to Barbecue on North Shore

More on the Obama vacation as it winds down. Obama is due back by Jan. 4.
President Barack Obama and his family today traveled to the North Shore for a barbecue with a high school friend at his beachfront home.

Obama's 20-car motorcade traveled from Kailua to Mokuleia on a hourlong drive for an afternoon visit with longtime friend Bobby Titcomb.

Obama also visited Titcomb on the same day a year ago. Star Advertiser

Obama Makes Several Recess Appointments

Republicans had been blocking Obama's nominations. What else is new?
President Obama Announces Recess Appointments to Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON – President Obama announced today his intent to recess appoint six nominees to fill key administration posts that have been left vacant for an extended period of time.

The President announced his intent to recess appoint the following nominees:

William J. Boarman, Nominee for Public Printer of the United States
William J. Boarman is President of the Printing, Publishing & Media Workers Sector of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the Senior Vice President of CWA. Mr. Boarman has been associated with the printing industry, its labor relations and personnel management for over 40 years starting with his four-year apprenticeship at McArdle Printing in Washington, D.C., succeeding to Journeyman Printer (Practical Printer by Trade) in 1971. In 1974 Mr. Boarman accepted an appointment as Printer to GPO. In 1977, Mr. Boarman took a leave of absence from GPO to serve in various elected posts within the International Typographical Union, which merged with CWA in 1987. He is chairman of the CWA/ITU Negotiated Pension Plan, a multi-employer defined benefit pension plan with assets of $1 billion; President of the International Allied Printing Trades Association; and President of the Union Printers Home, a 122-bed skilled nursing facility in Colorado Springs, CO. Mr. Boarman served three terms as co-chair of the Council of Institutional Investors (CII) and as the first-ever public member of the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities.

Matthew J. Bryza, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan, Department of State
Matthew J. Bryza is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs. He previously served as the Director for Europe and Eurasia at the National Security Council in the White House. He was also Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy. Mr. Bryza has also served in Russia and Poland. Mr. Bryza received a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

James M. Cole, Nominee for Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
James Cole has been a partner with Bryan Cave LLP since 1995. His practice includes counseling corporations on compliance, securities, regulatory, and criminal law issues, as well as representation of corporations and individuals before grand juries, in congressional hearings, in court proceedings, and before federal agencies. Mr. Cole was an official with the United States Department of Justice for 13 years before entering private practice in 1992, serving as the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section during his last three years. In 1992 he was also appointed to be a member of President Clinton's Transition Team reviewing aspects of the Department of Justice. Mr. Cole has been a member of the adjunct faculty at Georgetown University Law Center, teaching courses on public corruption law and legal ethics, and has lectured at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He was the former Chair of the ABA White Collar Crime Committee and First Vice-Chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section. He received his B.A. from the University of Colorado and his J.D. from the University of California-Hastings.

Norman L. Eisen, Nominee for Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Department of State
Norman L. Eisen has served since January 20, 2009 as Special Assistant to the President and as Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform. In that capacity, he has helped lead the Administration’s historic initiatives on government ethics, lobbying regulation and open government. His portfolio has also included financial regulatory reform, campaign finance law, whistleblower protection and other reform issues. Mr. Eisen before that was the Deputy General Counsel to the Presidential Transition. Prior to the Administration, Mr. Eisen was a litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm Zuckerman Spaeder. He launched and co-chaired the firm’s Public Client Practice, representing government entities on an array of matters, as well as handling white-collar investigations and complex commercial matters. He is the co-founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government watchdog group. Between college and law school, Mr. Eisen served for three years as an Assistant Director of the Los Angeles office of the Anti-Defamation League, a national civil rights organization. Mr. Eisen received his J.D. in 1991 from Harvard Law School and his B.A. from Brown University in 1985, both with honors.

Robert Stephen Ford, Nominee for Ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic, Department of State
Robert Stephen Ford is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He presently works for the State Department’s Inspector General’s Office. Immediately prior to that assignment, Ambassador Ford served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Ambassador to Algeria on May 27, 2006, and sworn in on August 11, 2006. Mr. Ford served from 2004 until 2006 and again from 2008 until 2009 as the Political Counselor to the U.S. Embassy Baghdad, Iraq and was Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrain from 2001 until 2004. Mr. Ford has also served in a number of other posts since entering the Foreign Service in 1985, including Izmir, Cairo, Algiers, and Yaoundé. He is a recipient of a number of Department of State awards, including the 2005 James Clement Dunn Award for outstanding work at the mid-level in the Foreign Service as well as three Superior Honor Awards and two Meritorious Honor awards. Mr. Ford earned a Master of Arts in 1983 from Johns Hopkins University.

Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, Department of State
Francis J. Ricciardone, Jr., is a Career Minister in the Foreign Service. He most recently served as Deputy Ambassador and Charge’ d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He also served as Ambassador to Egypt until 2008, and Ambassador to the Philippines and concurrently to Palau. Ambassador Ricciardone began his career in Ankara and Adana, Turkey. He served twice again in Turkey, as political advisor to the US and Turkish commanders of Operation Provide Comfort at Incirlik Air Force Base, and as Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge’ d’Affaires. He led the transition to an organization of the US Embassy in Baghdad in 2004, and the Department of State’s Task Force in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He served as former Secretary Albright’s Special Representative for the Transition of Iraq from 1999-2001. Ambassador Ricciardone graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1973.

Obamas Eat at Alan Wong's in Honolulu

Alan Wong cooked for the Obama party, which included Obama's sister Maya Soetoro-Ng and her husband and several Obama friends from Chicago and Hawaii:
President Obama and his party caused quite a stir dining at Alan Wong's Restaurant Honolulu on South King Street this evening -- one of his favorite restaurants.

Onlookers waited patiently outside Alan Wong's for three hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of the president, the first lady and the rest of their party. The award-winning eatery is in the same neighborhood where Obama grew up, and the president's motorcade passed the Honolulu apartment where he once lived with his late grandmother and the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop where he worked as a teenager. More at the Star A

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Obama's Counter Terror Hawaiian Vacation

Obama may be in Hawaii, but he and his beefed up traveling team are on ramped up counterterrorism duty:
Against that backdrop, the White House has made substantive and public relations changes to Mr. Obama’s vacation, adopting what Juan C. Zarate, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, calls a strategy of “taking no chances and assuming the worst.”

It was no accident that Mr. Brennan called President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen on Christmas Eve; intelligence experts believe the man accused in the bomb plot last Christmas, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, trained in Yemen and obtained explosives there. The White House said Mr. Brennan reminded Mr. Saleh of “the importance of taking forceful action” against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the militant Islamist network. Read the whole thing at NYT

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Oprah and Other Kennedy Center Honorees at the White House

Obama Goes Snorkeling and Golfing

The press was told that they were out of luck for photos.
President Barack Obama is snorkeling with friends and family at Hanauma Bay, a favorite destination for the first family during their Hawaiian vacations.

The president's motorcade arrived at the nature preserve late Tuesday morning. The area is closed to the public on Tuesdays, giving the president's party a chance to enjoy the bay in private. Reporters and photographers traveling with the president were also kept away. The group spent about two hours at the bay and left just before 1 p.m.

The Obamas spent time at Hanauma Bay last Christmas. The area is popular with snorkelers and is known for its coral reef.

After the beach, the president hit the links at the Mid Pacific Country Club, golfing with friends Bobby Titcomb, Mike Ramos, Eric Whitaker and Marty Nesbitt. The president finished 12 holes before leaving as the sun was setting over Kailua. Read more at SA

Obama Takes a Bunch of Kids Out for Shave Ice

White House Statement on Russian Judge

Apparently, courts in Russia aren't independent and Putin wanted Khodorkovsky in prison.
Statement by the Press Secretary, 12/27/2010

We are deeply concerned that a Russian judge today has indicated that for a second time Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev will be convicted. We are troubled by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends. The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia’s reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law. The Russian government cannot nurture a modern economy without also developing an independent judiciary that serves as an instrument for furthering economic growth, ensuring equal treatment under the law, and advancing justice in a predictable and fair way.

The Obama administration stands in solidarity with the many people in the Russian government, in the legal system, and in civil society who are committed to strengthening the rule of law and deepening the commitment to universal values enshrined in the Russian constitution. Russia’s failure to keep this commitment to universal values, including the rule of law, impedes its own modernization and ability to deepen its ties with the United States.

President Obama has spoken frequently with President Medvedev about this case and others as part of their ongoing conversation about President Medvedev’s important campaign to strengthen the rule of law and modernize Russia’s political and economic system. We will continue to monitor closely the next stages in this case, including the fairness of the sentences and the review by higher courts during the appeals process.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hawaii Gov. Abercrombie Wasting Time on Birthers

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie wants to set the birthers straight. But facts mean nothing to birthers. Birthers are cowardly, too cowardly to admit that they fear Obama because he is black. Their claim that Obama was born in Kenya and therefore an illegitimate president was concocted so that they could make sense of the changing world around them. In their world, there are no black presidents. Birthers are small and narrow minded people. No amount of evidence to the contrary could change their beliefs. Birther faith is cult-like. As sincere as Abercrombie's efforts are, they're wasted on the birthers:
HONOLULU — Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, who befriended President Obama’s parents when they were university students here, has been in office for less than three weeks.
But he is so incensed over “birthers” — the conspiracy theorists who assert that Mr. Obama was born in Kenya and was thus not eligible to become president — that he is seeking ways to change state policy to allow him to release additional proof that the president was born in Honolulu in 1961.
“It’s an insult to his mother and to his father, and I knew his mother and father; they were my friends, and I have an emotional interest in that,” Governor Abercrombie said in a telephone interview late Thursday. “It’s an emotional insult. It is disrespectful to the president; it is disrespectful to the office.”
The governor, a Democrat and former congressman, said he has initiated conversations with the state’s attorney general and the chief of its Health Department about how he can release more explicit documentation of Mr. Obama’s birth on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital. Read more at msnbc

Obama Takes Family Bowling

President Barack Obama is passing the time on a cloudy, rainy day with a family trip to the bowling alley.

The president, 12-year-old Malia and 9-year-old Sasha arrived at the bowling alley at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Monday afternoon. It's the same base where the president plays golf and where the first family uses a private beach.

The Obamas haven't had much in the way of beach weather since the president arrived here Saturday. More rain is forecast throughout the week. Read more at Hawaii's Star Advertiser

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Obama Family Attend Church Services at Marine Base in Hawaii

President Barack Obama, his family and friends went to church at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on the Sunday after Christmas.

The first family arrived at a chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii mid-morning for a multi-denominational service. The Obamas were greeted by clapping parishioners and a band playing "Joy to the World" as they were led to their seats in the front row.

In his sermon, chaplain Steve Moses asked worshippers to recommit to God in the new year. He also joked that the reason God put him through a recent heart surgery was so he wouldn't suffer a heart attack while preaching before the president.

Obama was the first worshipper to take communion, dipping the wafer in wine before placing it in his mouth. Read the rest at Hawaii's Star Advertiser

Valerie Jarrett on Meet the Press Dec. 26 Video

Valerie Jarrett says that Obama wants his schedule in 2011 to reflect more outings with the American people. Peggy Noonan talks about Obama needing to gain "mystique." Bob Woodward says Obama needs to be more like Bill Clinton. Both are full of hooey. That narrative from the media is banal and off the mark. It shows how unimaginative these pundits are. This is the full show:

End of Life Care Revived

End of life care, known as "death panels" to the irrational and manipulative, will be alive and well under a new Medicare regulation:
Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

Congressional supporters of the new policy, though pleased, have kept quiet. They fear provoking another furor like the one in 2009 when Republicans seized on the idea of end-of-life counseling to argue that the Democrats’ bill would allow the government to cut off care for the critically ill.
Under the rule, doctors can provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves. More at NYT

The Obamas Greet Troops on Christmas

Like last Christmas, the Obamas spent time with the troops in Hawaii.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Obamas Spend Quiet Christmas With Family and Friends

The White House said the first family would be joined on Christmas Day by the president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives on Oahu, the island where Obama was born and spent most of his childhood. Several of Obama's childhood friends are also in town, along with family friends from Chicago, his home for most of his adult life.

On the first family's Christmas Day menu: steak, roasted potatoes, green beans and pie.

Thus far, Obama's excursions in Hawaii have been mostly to the gym and golf course. On Christmas Eve he visited the beach with his daughters.

Mrs. Obama skipped the beach so she could give some lucky children a Christmas surprise. The first lady answered calls for the "Tracking Santa" program, a Christmas tradition run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. With help from NORAD's Santa Route Schedule, Mrs. Obama was able to tell children Santa's whereabouts as he made his Christmas Eve rounds. Read more at Star Advertiser

The Obamas Christmas Message

Friday, December 24, 2010

Michelle Obama Fields Calls for Santa

Some kids who call NORAD on Christmas Eve to find out where Santa is hang up as soon as a volunteer answers the phone - probably because they expected a recording and not a real person, veteran Santa trackers say.
There were some especially awed kids Friday, when one of the people answering the phone was first lady Michelle Obama.
A telephone link from Hawaii, where the Obamas are on vacation, allowed her to pitch in with volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., who were answering phone calls and e-mails for the North American Aerospace Defense Command's Santa-tracking program.
It's believed to be the first time in the 55-year history of the event that a first lady joined in, said Jamie Graybeal, NORAD'S deputy chief of staff for communications. More at KITV
Tens of thousands kids call NORAD looking for Santa:

Obama's Vacation Reading

Obama's reading "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime." Obama's day two:
President Barack Obama began his second day of vacation in Hawaii the same way he started yesterday -- with a morning workout at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.

The president and first lady were seen in a motorcade which left their Kailua vacation compound at 8:07 a.m. and arrived at the gym a few minutes later.

People waved and took pictures as the motorcade passed.

The president and first lady returned to the vacation home at 9:51 a.m.

On the way back, they may have caught a glimpse of a sign welcoming the family to Hawaii posted along the canal leading to the compound. The sign read: "E Komo Mai Obama Ohana."

A neighbor told reporters covering the president that she was able to meet first dog Bo when she was out walking her dog yesterday. Star Advertiser

West Wing Week Dec. 24

West Wing Week is rundown of Obama's week and video worth watching. You'll find footage and camera angles in WWW that you won't find anywhere else:

Holidays at the White House:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Obama Golfs in Hawaii With Friends Dec. 23

On Obama's first full day in Hawaii, he golfed, which is par for the course. Ha!
After a little bit of work and a morning workout, President Barack Obama hit the links on his first day of vacation in Hawaii.

The president spent the afternoon golfing with childhood friends from Hawaii, Bobby Titcomb and Mike Ramos, as well as Eric Whitaker, a pal from Chicago, at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course overlooking the ocean at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

A media pool report said it is believed to be Obama's first full golf outing since Oct. 24, when the president played 18 holes at the Andrews Air Force Base course.

Obama returned at 4:45 p.m. to his rented vacation home in Kailua, where he is expected to spend the rest of the night. More at the Star Advertiser

Another Roundup of Obama's Accomplishments So Far

Read round one here.

This is what the Obama administration has gotten done since the mid-term elections:
1) Overturned Don't Ask Don't Tell.
2) Got START treaty ratified.
3) Signed middle-class tax cuts/unemployment benefits extension.
4) Signed a new food safety bill.
5) Got the 9-11 responders healthcare bill through.
Check out this Obama appreciation.
You can also find a crowd sourced achievement list here.
Read a few of the Obama administration's lesser known accomplishments here.
Politifact tracks Obama's promises.
Read Obama's signed legislation here.
Rachel Maddow has another good summary. Obama should be able to vacation well:

History of the START Treaty

The U.S. and Soviet Union/Russia have been negotiating to reduce nuke weapons since the 1960s. The first START agreement reduced nukes from 11,000 - 12,000 (on both sides) to 6,000 weapons. Subsequent agreements brought the weapons down to 2,200. The new treaty signed by Obama reduced the nukes to 1,550.

Obama Arrives in Hawaii Video

Obama is joining his family and Bo. They arrived in Hawaii Dec. 18. Obama stayed behind until Congress finished its work. Hitching a ride home on Air Force One: Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Mazie Hirono:

After a 10-hour flight, President Barack Obama arrived in Honolulu under a waning moon on a humid night.

It was 74 degrees with humidity climbing past 88 percent at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam when Air Force One touched down at 11:49 p.m.

About five minutes later, Obama appeared in the doorway of the jet wearing a long-sleeve white dress shirt and khaki long-pants. He waved to the members of the press.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) followed the president down the stairs. Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Gary North, 15th Wing Commander Sam Barrett, and Air Force Capt. Tyisha Owens greeted Obama and Owens presented him with a lei.

Obama got into his black SUV and the motorcade departed within 10 minutes.

The ride to his vacation home lasted 25 minutes, with the motorcade arriving in Kailua at 12:25 p.m. Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama's Off to Hawaii Returning to DC Jan. 4

From Hawaii's newspaper:
President Barack Obama departed Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility in Maryland at 1:53 p.m. Hawaii time on his way to Honolulu to begin his Hawaiian vacation.

The president departed the White House at 6:34 p.m. after wishing a Merry Christmas to staff and media gathered for his departure.

Obama, wearing a long black coat to ward off the frigid Washington, D.C., temperatures, was accompanied by personal aide Reggie Love and other staffers.

Obama is scheduled to arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam late tonight or early tomorrow morning, to rejoin his wife and two daughters who already are staying in their beachfront vacation home in Kailua.

His scheduled arrival is at 11:50 p.m. The airspace around Honolulu Airport will likely be shut down to departing and arriving flights when Air Force One lands. More at the Star Advertiser

Congress Passes 9-11 Responders Health Bill

An NPR reporter pointed out today that if Obama didn't get the tax cut/unemployment extension done so quickly, all the rest of it -- DADT repeal, START treaty, 9-11 bill and a stab at DREAM act -- might not have gotten done. For now, the media is lauding Obama as a leader. But fear not, it won't be but a few days and they'll be calling him a lousy communicator, out of touch, a one-term president...

Obama to Host China's Hu for State Dinner Jan. 19

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of President Hu Jintao of the People's Republic of China

The President will host Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the White House on January 19 for an official State visit. This will be the third State visit of the administration and reciprocates President Obama’s State visit to China in November 2009.

President Hu’s visit will highlight the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and China on bilateral, regional, and global issues, as well as the friendship between the peoples of our two countries. The President looks forward to welcoming President Hu to Washington to continue building a partnership that advances our common interests and addresses our shared concerns.

The President and Mrs. Obama will host President Hu for an official state dinner on the night of January 19.

Obama's Year-End Press Conference Video Dec. 22

Full video:

Read the transcript.My favorite parts:
HE PRESIDENT: You know, my sense is the Republicans recognize that with greater power is going to come greater responsibility. And some of the progress that I think we saw in the lame duck was a recognition on their part that people are going to be paying attention to what they're doing, as well as what I’m doing and what the Democrats in Congress are doing.
With respect to the issue of whether gays and lesbians should be able to get married, I’ve spoken about this recently. As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.

At this point, what I’ve said is, is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think -- and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough, and I think is something that we’re going to continue to debate and I personally am going to continue to wrestle with going forward.
and Obama appealing to our better angels:
Well, let me say, there are a number of things that I wanted to get accomplished that we did not get accomplished. For example, collective bargaining for firefighters and public safety workers -- that was something that I thought was important. We didn’t get it done. I’m disappointed in that. I think we’re still going to have to figure out how we work on energy, and that’s an area that I want to immediately engage with Republicans to figure out.

But I will tell you, maybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote. You know, I get letters from kids all across the country -- came here when they were five, came here when they were eight; their parents were undocumented. The kids didn’t know -- kids are going to school like any other American kid, they’re growing up, they’re playing football, they’re going to class, they’re dreaming about college. And suddenly they come to 18, 19 years old and they realize even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn’t recognize me as an American. I’m willing to serve my country, I’m willing to fight for this country, I want to go to college and better myself -- and I’m at risk of deportation.

And it is heartbreaking. That can’t be who we are, to have kids -- our kids, classmates of our children -- who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break a law -- they were kids.

So my hope and expectation is that, first of all, everybody understands I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done. It is the right thing to do. I think it involves securing our borders, and my administration has done more on border security than any administration in recent years. We have more of everything -- ICE, Border Patrol, surveillance, you name it.

So we take border security seriously. And we take going after employers who are exploiting and using undocumented workers, we take that seriously. But we need to reform this immigration system so we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants. And at minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done.

And so I’m going to go back at it and I’m going to engage in Republicans who, I think, some of them, in their heart of hearts, know it’s the right thing to do, but they think the politics is tough for them.

Well, that may mean that we’ve got to change the politics. And I’ve got to spend some time talking to the American people, and others have to spend time talking to the American people, because I think that if the American people knew any of these kids -- they probably do, they just may not know their status -- they’d say, of course we want you. That's who we are. That's the better angels of our nature.

White House Press Briefing Dec. 22

Obama Will Persist on the DREAM Act

In Obama's year-end press conference today, Obama says the administration has to do a better job of showing who the DREAM act kids are. He says the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM act is one of his greatest disappointments but he said he's going to keep at it. People (especially the media) need to remember that Obama plays the long game, he's highly disciplined and contrary to recent criticism, Obama's a fighter.

Obama Says He's Evolving on Gay Marriage

A bit ago Obama held a year-end press conference and he was asked about gay marriage. His answer reveals a lot about Obama. Right now, Obama favors civil unions. I'll post the full press conference when it's available.

START Treaty Ratified 71-26 with 13 Republican Ayes

According to Mark Knoller, the republicans who voted aye on the ratification:
Alexander, R-TN
Bennett, R-UT
Brown, R-MA
Cochran, R-MS
Collins, R-ME
Corker, R-TN
Gregg, R-NH
Isakson, R-GA
Johanns, R-NE
Lugar, R-IN
Murkowski, R-AK
Snowe, R-ME
Voinovich, R-OH

Obama to do Year End Press Conference Then Head to Hawaii

Update: Video.

Update: the press conference will be held at 4:15 pm eastern. Obama will have lots to talk about: the tax deal, the START treaty, which moments ago was ratified 71-26 with Joe Biden presiding over the Senate,  the Senate passage of the 9-11 responders bill, repeal of DADT, the future of the DREAM act, shot down by republicans...

Obama will speak to the press today before joining his family in Hawaii.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says officials are watching the congressional schedule to determine the best time Wednesday to have Obama conduct a news conference. The White House is considering a time Wednesday afternoon. After that, Obama plans to join his family in Hawaii for the holidays. AP

Obama's Schedule Dec. 22

9:15 AM
The President delivers remarks and signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010
U.S. Department of the Interior
Pooled TV, Open to Correspondents
10:15 AM
The President meets with Secretary of the Treasury Geithner
Oval Office
Closed Press

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Obama Signs Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal Dec. 22

Obama acknowledges the following for fighting for the bill: Patrick Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Carl Levin, Susan Collins, Steny Hoyer, Joe Lieberman, Susan Davis, Barney Frank, the military leadership of Robert Gates and Mike Mullen and others.

Rachel Maddow has a look at the long and winding road to DADT repeal:

Healthcare White House Whiteboard with Kathleen Sebelius

White House Press Briefing Dec. 21

Obama's Holiday Message to the Troops Video

Obama's Statement on Net Neutrality Vote

There are people on the left (who say Obama "caved") and the right (who says the new rules go too far), which I typically take as a good sign. The new rules don't apply to wireless providers, just the traditional cable and telecom companies. The new rules would prevent your cable company, for example, from blocking websites such as Hulu.
Statement by the President on Today’s FCC Vote on Net Neutrality

Today’s decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech. Throughout this process, parties on all sides of this issue – from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers – came together to make their voices heard. This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

As a candidate for President, I pledged to preserve the freedom and openness that have allowed the Internet to become a transformative and powerful platform for speech and expression. That’s a pledge I’ll continue to keep as President. As technology and the market continue to evolve at a rapid pace, my Administration will remain vigilant and see to it that innovation is allowed to flourish, that consumers are protected from abuse, and that the democratic spirit of the Internet remains intact.

I congratulate the FCC, its Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and Congressman Henry Waxman for their work achieving this important goal today.

Net neutrality explained:

Nine Republicans Needed to Ratify START Treaty

The START treaty needs at least nine republican votes to be ratified and they're in. They are: Bob Bennett, Johnny Isakson, Lamar Alexander, Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, George Voinovich, Richard Lugar, and Bob Corker. The final vote could take place tomorrow.
Mitch McConnell, Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and other republicans appear to be sticking together in opposing the treaty ratification purely for politics.

Gibbs Answers Questions on Nuclear Weapons and Social Networking

Obama's Schedule Dec. 21

0:05 AM
The President and the Vice President receive the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press
10:45 AM
The President meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Oval Office
Closed Press

Monday, December 20, 2010

White House Press Briefing Dec. 20

MR. GIBBS: Mr. Feller.

Q Thanks, Robert. A few questions on START. Can you give us your updated sense of where we stand? Does the White House feel that it has -- still has the votes?

MR. GIBBS: The White House believes that before Congress leaves town, that the Senate will ratify the New START treaty.

Q So are you confident ultimately you’ll have the votes or right now is it still in play?

MR. GIBBS: Look, obviously, the President and the Vice President continue to communicate with senators in order to ensure that they have the most up-to-date information. Obviously you heard last week I think a pretty compelling endorsement from General Cartwright, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs, speak to one of the misconceptions about the impact of preamble language on our missile defense posture. And I think that’s been dealt with rather effectively.

We were asked over the weekend whether Senator Kyl or Senator McConnell’s opposition impacted passage and I don’t -- I have not talked to anybody here who had them as “yes” votes at any point in this process anyway. So their statements in my mind don’t impact passage.

Q Are the concerns that you’re still hearing at this point from senators who have not committed are ones that you consider to be substantive in nature?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, we have -- as I’ve said here before, there have been 18 committee hearings on this; a thousand questions asked and answered; a treaty that’s been on the Internet for eight months. If there are senators with substantive questions, we can have anybody that they want to speak with them about those questions. We feel very confident that all of their questions have good answers.

Again, General Cartwright is the expert on the chair -- on the Joint Chiefs staff on missile defense. And when he stands in this room and says that there are no concerns with preamble language on missile defense, that's a weighty endorsement for what’s in the treaty.

Q Can you give us an update on the President’s week ahead, as best you can tell right now? Specifically -- (laughter) -- READ THE REST

Obama Signed Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Reauthorization

White House reporter CBS' Mark Knoller says this is Obama's 300th piece of legislation.
From the White House's Lynn Rosenthal, an advisor on preventing violence against women:
This afternoon, I stood in the Oval Office and watched as President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which includes the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA.) As he signed this crucial bill into law, the President was surrounded by Senators and Representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, and national advocates who work every day to end domestic violence and child abuse.

In 2008, 772,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect. Nearly 2,000 of those children died. By providing states and local communities with new tools to identify and treat abuse and neglect, CAPTA-funded services will continue to protect children across the country. Prevention efforts will help parents by addressing high risk-factors like substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence. Read more

White House Christmas Photos 2010

 Michelle Obama reads "Twas the Night Before Christmas"
 Michelle Obama and pastry Chef Bill Yosses

 Obama checking his BlackBerry
 Obama in the Oval Office

 Obama family lights the national Christmas tree
 The Obamas squeeze in with an a capella group

 Bo and pastry Bo
The Obamas in front of the Blue Room tree

Obama To Sign Bill Repealing DADT Dec. 22

Update Dec. 22: The video.

At 9:15 am eastern on Wednesday, Obama will speak and sign the bill that repeals DADT. I suspect by then START may be ratified and Obama may be on his way to Hawaii to join his family in their annual Christmas vacation.

White House Staff: It Gets Better

Scott Brown to Vote for START Treaty Ratification

Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl and Jim DeMint are still playing just-say-no politics. But if moderate republican (normal) Sen. Scott Brown is an aye, then there is likely enough republicans to ratify the treaty. Brown also supported the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell:
Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, announced that he will support the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, providing a potentially crucial vote when the measure comes up for a vote as soon as Tuesday. ...
"I believe it's something that’s important for our country, and I believe it’s a good move forward to deal with our national security issues." Boston Globe

Obama and Biden Say Goodbye to 2010

Obama's Schedule Dec. 20

10:00 AM
The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
Oval Office
Closed Press
10:30 AM
The President meets with senior advisors
Oval Office
Closed Press