After the GOP victory in the November 2010 elections, with a net pickup of 63 House seats and 6 Senate seats, the Obama Administration has been attempting to cultivate a moderate, centrist image to regain its footing with the American public. President Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts, which would have expired on January 1, 2011, and his personnel shakeups in the White House worked to improve Obama’s standing with the public to above the critical 50% level by the end of January 2011.
However, in the past week, President Obama has now returned to the approximate level of public approval prior to the November elections, with about 45% of the public approving of his performance. The two main daily pollsters, Rasmussen Reports and Gallup, demonstrate this recent decline in approval, with Gallup measuring 45% approval/47% disapproval and Rasmussen showing 46% approval/53% disapproval. The mainstream media has yet to report upon this end to Obama’s polling resurgence, despite the lavish attention paid to the rise in ratings. Rasmussen reported on this recent slide today in its report:
The president’s Approval Index ratings have fallen nine points since Monday as the crisis in Egypt unfolds. Most of the decline comes from a fall in the number who Strongly Approve of the president’s performance (30% on Monday, 23% now). However, for the first time since mid-December, the number who Strongly Disapprove has moved back over the 40% mark for five straight days. The Strongly Disapprove total had been above 40% for most of 2010 but fell to the high-30s after the president and Senate Republicans reached a deal to extend the Bush Administration tax cuts.
The major issue commanding media coverage in the past week or so has been the ongoing protests in Egypt against President Mubarak’s regime. The inconsistent and highly publicized statements of the Administration about the crisis, from Vice President Biden asserting that Mubarak was not a dictator and shouldn’t resign to Obama’s recent demands that Mubarak “immediately” begin a transition to a new government, may have unsettled some Americans who were moving in Obama’s direction in response to his post-election centrist manoeuvrings. Unfortunately for President Obama, it appears that his Administration’s handling of the crisis may have again soured the middle 10% of the country on his leadership.
BOB SCHIEFFER: A– as I understand it, and– and the parliamentarians seemed to have ruled that the House is going to have to pass the bill that the Senate passed.
ROBERT GIBBS: Right.
BOB SCHIEFFER: And then the President is going to have to sign that before the House votes on this so-called reconciliation package. It’s going to correct all those things they don’t like in
this Senate bill.
ROBERT GIBBS: Yes, sir.
Gibbs then continues after Schieffer pushed Gibbs on whether the Senate actually pass the “corrections” to the then-passed Obamacare:
ROBERT GIBBS: Yeah. Well, again, we’ve– we’ve worked with leaders in the Senate. We’ve talked to members of the Senate. The President has. And, look, members of the House, the President, and members of the Senate want to see some of those corrections made in– in that legislation. I– I think this is going to happen. Again, I think the House will have passed the Senate bill a week from today. We’ll be working now next on getting those corrections passed by both the House and the Senate. And we’ll have health care reform in this country.
In a perfect case study of how dramatic Washington can get on a Friday afternoon, attention on health care appears to have shifted from when the final vote will be (next week?) to the possibility of a new parliamentary procedure to greenlight the bill. At issue is what’s being dubbed the “Slaughter solution,” which, in a roundabout way, would let the House pass the Senate bill without actually voting on it.
Here’s how: Rep. Louise Slaughter is chair of the House Rules committee, and as such, figured out that the House could momentarily change its rules to say that the House doesn’t need to pass the Senate bill since both bills are pretty similar anyway (in that they’re about the same subject). That way, Democratic members reticent about voting for the Senate bill technically wouldn’t have to be on record voting for it. They would just have to vote not to stop it from passing. It’s effectively a shift from active passage of the bill to passive. Then, after this rule passed, the Senate bill would go straight to the president, he would sign it, and then both chambers would start working on a few fixes through reconciliation.
The Obamaphile journalist David Stone concludes it is ludicrous to think the Democrats would actually do this, despite Democratic House Rules Chairwoman Slaughter’s explicit plans to do so, as reported by the non-partisan Congress Daily:
House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter is prepping to help usher the healthcare overhaul through the House and potentially avoid a direct vote on the Senate overhaul bill, the chairwoman said Tuesday.
Slaughter is weighing preparing a rule that would consider the Senate bill passed once the House approves a corrections bill that would make changes to the Senate version.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Will Democrats get health care passed?
LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: I’m going to say what I’ve said all along in my humble approach to this subject. I, having worked on this kind of legislation on the Senate floor, trying to get it passed, and in committee. I do not see how they can do this. Now, and part of that is because it’s never been done before. And they have moved into a legislative territory that has never previously existed. The Republicans have not been very smart about trying to describe this. It’s difficult to describe. But this is unprecedented, using reconciliation this way. Because what they’ve done, is that they’ve abandoned a bill in mid-conference. The Senate passed a bill, the House passed a bill. They were in mid-conference negotiating this bill, in conference, and they said it’s going to be impossible for us to pass it now because of Scott Brown, so we’re going to abandon conferencing this bill and move over to another legislative vehicle, called reconciliation. To handle something you’ve already been legislating another way, now, that’s never occurred before.
SCARBOROUGH: That’s never happened?
O’DONNELL: Never, never, never.
Such emphatic condemnation of the Democratic endgame strategy to pursue the “amend the ghost” trickery in the House and reconciliation in the Senate to pass Obamacare from an explicitly left wing ideologue like O’Donnell is a bright red flag for centrists and independents. Perhaps Newsweek’s David Stone is correct in saying that it is “hard to imagine a scenario in which such a process would actually fly.” Left-leaning The Hill concurs that the “Slaughter Solution” is a “sneaky, slimy sleight-of-hand” and that no one will be “fooled by this.”
The Van Hollen memo also advised members to avoid talking about the process.
“At this point, we have to just rip the band-aid off and have a vote — up or down; yes or no? Things like reconciliation and what the rules committee does is INSIDE BASEBALL,” the memo says. “People who try and start arguments about process on this are almost always against the actual policy substance too, often times for purely political reasons.”
Leadership expects a CBO score on the reconciliation package by today or Monday. No decisions have been made on how the final process will unfold on the House floor, the memo says. So it appears Democrats are still grappling with whether they can use the process to pass the Senate bill without voting directly on the bill. Many Democrats view the Senate bill’s deals and policies as a toxic political mix that they would rather not endorse without first making changes to it.
ROBERT GIBBS: –I– I do think this is the– I do think this is the climactic week for health care reform. And like I said I– I think whoever you interview just this time next week, you won’t be talking about a proposal in the House. You’ll be talking about the House having passed that proposal and us being a signature away from health care reform in this country.
As this is the “climatic week for health care reform” it is truly unfortunate that procedural trickery such as the “Slaughter Solution” and reconciliation are being pursued by the Democrats on such an important piece of legislation, even in the face of criticism by left-leaning journalist allies like Newsweek, MSNBC and The Hill. Unfortunately, the NYT and Washington Post have not touched the “Slaughter Solution” controversy to date, and the major networks are ignoring it as well, so outright misrepresentations like Gibbs’s claims on Face the Nation today will probably continue to slide under the radar until the deed is done as planned by the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democratic leadership.
Coming on the heels of the Massa Disaster and the Saigon analogy this morning, the NYT breaks another interesting comment from the White House this morning’s profile of Rahm Emanuel, essentially admitting that its an even-money bet as to whether Obama can force the House to pass Obamacare:
As Emanuel put it the morning of the Massachusetts election, the final judgments will depend on the final results. If the president and his chief of staff manage to salvage their ambitious campaign to overhaul health care in the next few weeks — a proposition the White House privately put at 51 percent as the month began, according to an official — then, as Emanuel said, they will be seen as smart all over again. But that 49 percent chance of failure could devastate Obama’s presidency, weaken Democrats heading into the fall midterm elections and trigger an even fiercer, more debilitating round of finger-pointing inside the administration.
The recent series of stories about Rahm has apparently angered Obama, according to the Times, which Politico notes spurred a Rahm apology:
Baker, who interviewed most of Emanuel’s inner circle, discovers that President Obama was, indeed, irked by a spate of stories defending Emanuel, including a recent Dana Milbank column that suggested the president would have been wiser to heed his underling’s advice on strategic decisions.
And Rahm seems to have apologized.
“As for Obama, ‘he’s irritated by the stories,’ a top aide told me, and Emanuel has ‘expressed regret’ to the president,’ Baker writes.
Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) says the House ethics committee is investigating him for inappropriate comments he made to a male staffer on New Year’s Eve — and that he’s the victim of a power play by Democratic leaders who want him out of Congress because he’s a “no” vote on health care reform.
“Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill,” Massa, who on Friday announced his intention to resign, said during a long monologue on radio station WKPQ. “And this administration and this House leadership have said, quote-unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill. And now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass. You connect the dots.”
“Rahm Emanuel is son of the devil’s spawn…He is an individual who would sell his mother to get a vote.”
The “Massa Disasta” is unwelcome news for the Obama Administration, which is already struggling to remedy prior questionable process actions regarding Obamacare, such as the Louisiana Purchase, Obama’s appointment of undecided Dem. Rep. Matheson’s brother to a federal judgeship and Cornhusker Kickback. Now, the “Massa Disasta” will take its place amongst the process scandals surrounding Obamacare as America begins the final days before the all-important House vote on the Senate health care bill.
Some “interesting” quotes from Massa also from the same NY radio station tape, which now is, of course, a dead link, courtesy of the Washington Examiner and Roll Call:
Roll Call reports this morning that on the local radio show he hosts in his district, Massa said he had not been informed of the sexual harassment allegations before they became public. He claimed that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., spoke falsely when he said he had brought the matter to him previously, Massa said. “Steny Hoyer has never said a single word to me, at all, ever, not once,” Massa said. “Not a word. This is a lie. It’s a blatant, false statement.”
He also railed against Hoyer for discussing Ethics Committee business with the press. “Never before in the history of the House of Representatives has a sitting leader of the Democratic Party discussed allegations of House investigations publicly before findings of fact. Ever.”
Directly calling our your Majority Leader as a liar is a pretty substantial claim by a House member, and these comments are also bringing to the fore the dislike of Rahm Emanuel amongst rank and file House Dem members. Some other choice quotes from Massa this morning regarding Rahm Emanuel, from Realclearpolitics:
Rep. Massa describes a confrontation with Emanuel in a shower: “I am showering, naked as a jaybird, and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me.”
President Obama’s message to progressives who are dissatisfied with the Senate health care bill is two fold: First: Don’t forget about the uninsured. Second: Don’t forget what failure to pass this bill would do to the party and my presidency.
In a meeting with House progressives today, Obama made the pitch.
Speaking to reporters in the Speaker’s lobby off the House floor, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said the President reminded them that “If this opportunity passes, much of our agenda, on the progressive side…it would be difficult, if not impossible for a generation to get back to this issue.”
I asked if the message was convincing to those in attendance.
“It’s pretty compelling,” Grijalva said.
That’s a significant change from his tone earlier in the week, when Grijalva said he was inclined to vote against the bill from the left.
Obama reminded the assembled Democrats that doing nothing would be politically disastrous. “To maintain a strong presidency we need to pass this bill,” the President said, according to Grijalva.
Directly on the heels of Obama’s meeting last night at the White House with center-leaning House Democrats, today’s gathering and the leaked substance of Obama’s plea to those in attendance demonstrate the lack of a majority of votes right now in the House for the Senate bill. No Republicans will vote for the Obamacare package, while about two dozen centrist House Democrats have already announced their opposition, and a few far left progressive House Dems are announced no’s as well. The next few days could be decisive in the White House drive to push the Senate Obamacare package through the House and achieve the largest reform of the American health system in history.
UPDATE: Hotair has a different take on the meeting than TPM.
Tensions have been running high between the progressive left, which is agitating for the inclusion of the public option in Obamacare if passed via reconciliation, and the White House, which omitted any reference to the public option in the 11 page Obama Health Plan issued yesterday. This afternoon, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs sparked an escalation of those tensions with his comment confirming the death of the public option as ““[t]here isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.” This is the most explicit the White House has ever been about the lack of hope for the public option under any circumstances, as notes former TPM lefty blogger, now WaPo blogger, Greg Sargent:
At the press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs made the White House’s most expansive comments yet about the push for a reconciliation vote on the public option — and, to put it mildly, supporters won’t find them encouraging.
Gibbs said flatly that the White House doesn’t believe there’s enough support in Congress to get it passed.
Asked directly whether the President’s failure to include the public option in his proposal means he views the public option as dead, Gibbs didn’t exactly dispute this interpretation.
“There are some that are supportive of this,” Gibbs said. But he added: “There isn’t enough political support in the majority to get this through.”
“The President took the Senate bill as the base and looks forward to discussing consensus ideas on Thursday,” Gibbs added, presumably meaning that the public option is not a consensus idea.
It’s unclear why Gibbs is deciding in advance that there isn’t enough support to pass this idea. Momentum has been gathering for days. It’s also very likely that it would continue to gain steam if Obama racks up a victory at the summit and Dems press forward with plans to pass reform themselves via reconciliation.
But Gibbs’s statement seems likely, willfully or not, to slow that momentum in advance.
The progressive left has been pushing Democratic Senators to sign a pledge to vote for the public option in recent days, with blogs such as TPM and Daily Kos leading the way alongside political groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (“PCCC”). PCCC’s reaction to Gibbs’ comment was swift condemnation of the White House as having a “loser mentality – but America rallies around winners.” PCCC Spokesman Adam Green’s statement, via Sargent:
“The White House obviously has a loser mentality — but America rallies around winners. Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes. More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before, and the only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight. That’s why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.”
As the Obama Administration struggles to paint the GOP as ideological obstructionists who refuse to compromise, this burgeoning fight between the progressive left and the Obama Administration is an unwelcome distraction. Indeed, as the White House is now active disagreement with the over 20 Senate Democrats who have signed the public option pledge and the progressive left, the credibility of Administration to attack the GOP as obstructionists could be declining as even the Democrats themselves cannot agree upon what their health care package should consist of. Indeed, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid’s comment today that the GOP should “stop crying” over the use of reconciliation could perhaps be better applied to the progressive left regarding the public option. Centrists around America remain hopeful that a true bipartisan compromise can be reached between the parties instead of the use of reconciliation on the largest health care reform package in American history.
Liberals took a brutal whack at the White House this afternoon — suggesting “losers are leading” the health care fight — after President Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declared “there isn’t enough political support” to pass a public health insurance option.
“The White House obviously has a loser mentality — but America rallies around winners,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the group Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
“Polls show that in state after state, voters hate the Senate bill and overwhelmingly want a public option, even if passed with zero Republican votes,” Green said. “More than 50 Senate Democrats and 218 House Democrats were willing to vote for the public option before.”
Green and company have mounted a surprisingly effective campaign over the last week to get Democratic senators to to sign on to a push to pass a public option through the 51-vote budget reconciliation loophole. So far, 23 senators have backed it, including New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and New Jersey Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg.
“The only way to lose in reconciliation is if losers are leading the fight,” Green fumed about Gibbs and the White House. “That’s why Democrats in Congress should ignore the White House and follow those like Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez who know that the public option is a political and policy winner.”
UPDATE #2: Hotair points out that, putting aside the public option debate, the Number 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, is publicly stating he’s not sure the House can pass Obamacare. AP has Steny’s comment:
“We may not be able to do all. I hope we can do all, a comprehensive piece of legislation that will provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans,” Hoyer said at his weekly media briefing. “But having said that, if we can’t, then you know me — if you can’t do a whole, doing part is also good. I mean there are a number of things I think we can agree on.”
In a dramatic reversal late on Friday evening, the White House admitted that newly minted Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) US envoy, Rashad Hussain, made inappropriate comments in support of convicted terrorist supporter Sami Al-Arian. Politico notes the reversal:
President Barack Obama’s new Islamic envoy, Rashad Hussain, changed course Friday – admitting he made sharply critical statements about a U.S. terror prosecution against a Muslim professor after initially saying he had no recollection of making such comments.
“I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well-formulated,” Hussain said, referring to a 2004 conference where he discussed the case.
Hussain’s reversal came after POLITICO obtained a recording of his presentation to a Muslim students’ conference in Chicago, where he can be heard portraying the government’s cases towards professor Sami Al-Arian, as well as other Muslim terrorism suspects, as “politically motivated persecutions.” Al-Arian later pled guilty to aiding terrorists.
The comments touched off criticism from conservative commentators, who questioned whether someone who held those views should represent the United States in the Muslim world.
Initially, Hussain, 31, said through a White House spokesman that he didn’t recall making the statements. Hussain also suggested that another speaker on the panel, Al-Arian’s daughter Laila, made the comments about her father.
As noted by Politico, the White House and Rashad Hussein before today claimed that newly appointed OIC envoy Hussain did not make statements in support of convicted terror supporter Al-Arian. Indeed, the White House and compliant journalists, like ABC’s Jake Tapper, went so far as to state as fact that the quotes by Hussain in a 2004 article were “misattributed” to him:
In 2006, Al-Arian, a Florida professor, entered into a plea agreement in which he admitted conspiring to help people associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group designated terrorist by the US government in 1995. Al-Arian admitted that he hid his associations with Palestinian Islamic Jihad by lying to some people, and that had been associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad during “the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.”
Two years before that, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs reported that Hussain called Al-Arian’s case one from a series of “politically motivated persecutions” and that the case against Al-Arian was being “used politically to squash dissent.”
But that report was apparently erroneous. Hussein denies being the one who made the comments, and the editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Delinda Hanley, later edited the quotes out of the story because, she says, Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila Al-Arian, actually made the comments attributed to Hussain.
ABC’s Jake Tapper, seen by many as the most independent and objective reporter in the White House News Corps, strongly pushed the Obama Administration’s talking points that the attribution of the damaging, terror sympathizer supporting comments to Hussain “was apparently erroneous” as the 2004 Washington Report article reporting them had been “edited” to remove the Hussain quotes. Sadly, Tapper, and the rest of the mainstream media, tonight failed to clearly correct their prior, false reporting but instead just edit out the offending passages, as Tapper’s article linked above no longer includes the phrase “apparently erroneous.” Prior to this evening, the left wing new media, as epitomized by Media Matters, a site that is funded by Democratic partisans, actually smeared other media sources who were questioning Hussain’s prior denials by trumpeting the White House and Tapper’s false claim that the Hussain quotes were “apparently erroneous.”
The only reason it appears Hussain, the mainstream media and the White House reversed course on the “misattribution” talking point is the surfacing of the transcript. It is troubling to this observer that the White House would so overwhelmingly push a clearly false storyline that “controversial remarks defending Al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain” for several days and only cease such fraudulent activity when being presented with a transcript of the remarks as made by Hussain. A highly disturbing revelation from tonight’s Politico report is that Hussain himself made the call to the Washington Report last year to demand his quotes be removed from the 2004 article, despite the fact that Hussain admits making the statements:
Hussain also answered another question surrounding his comments – why they were removed from the website of a magazine on Middle East issues that published a brief account of the panel back in 2004, attributing the statement about “politically motivated persecutions” to Hussain.
It was Hussain himself, he said Friday, who contacted the publication to complain about the story.
“When I saw the article that attributed comments to me without context, leaving a misimpression, I contacted the publication to raise concerns about it. Eventually, of their own accord, they modified the article,” Hussain said of the article in the Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs.
Obviously, as Hussain himself was calling the Washington Report last year regarding his quotes in a 2004 article, Hussain, and the White House, were well aware that Hussain made the controversial comments at the Muslim Students Association conference in 2004, and not Al-Arian’s daughter as the White House has been claiming since this story broke early this week until tonight’s reversal.
Many conservatives and moderates are pointing out that the Obama Administration cannot not have key officials, like new OIC envoy Hussain, espousing such radical views of U.S. terror prosecutions. This is especially so in a case like Al-Arain’s, which, despite Hussain’s claims that the case against Al-Arain was one of many “political motivated persecutions” by Bush-era anti-terror prosecutors, resulted in a conviction of Al-Arain via guilty plea for material support of terrorism, specifically support of the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad. The Obama Administration apparently has no plans to jettison Hussain:
The White House declined to say Friday whether the statements or the controversy affected Obama’s confidence in Hussain.
Perhaps the most disturbing revelation in tonight’s reporting on Hussain involves a deeper, personal link that Hussain revealed in the newly unearthed transcript of the 2004 comments made at an Muslim Students Association conference at Yale Law School. As noted above, one of the “politically motivated persecutions” railed against by Hussain in 2004 was the case of Professor Sami Al-Arian. Thereafter, Professor Al-Arian plead guilty to a charge of supporting terrorist activity, admitting that he conspired to help Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group, and was closely associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad during “the late 1980s and early to mid 1990s.”
In his speech, Hussain revealed another link that may have left him sympathetic for Al-Arian. Hussain indicated he was acquainted with Al-Arian’s son Abdullah, while both were college students in North Carolina.
Hussain told the audience that he was on hand when Abdullah Al-Arian was abruptly removed by the Secret Service from a White House meeting in June 2001, prompting a walkout by Muslim leaders. President George W. Bush later apologized for the incident, which a spokesman called “wrong and inappropriate.”
The extent of the relationship between Hussain and the Al-Arian family is sure to come under close scrutiny in the days to come as Hussain attempts to ride out this embarrassing, forced admission and keep his job as Obama’s top Islamic advisor in the years to come. Convicted terrorism supporter Professor Al-Arian’s family appears to have fantastic connections with the left wing media and Democrat Party, as son Abdullah Al-Arian interned for Democrat House Member David Bonior in 2001 while daughter Laila Al-Arian works for Al-Jezerra in DC and is warmly embraced by left wing new media.
The fervor over the flip-flop by the Obama Administration on whether Hussain made the 2004 comments, as well as over the extent of Hussain’s relationship with the Al-Arian family (as such family includes one convicted terror supporter, Sami Al-Arian), could continue into next week. The political heat on this matter may end up costing Hussain his new job as the chief Islamic envoy as many conservatives and moderates could object to the concept of a convicted Islamic terrorism supporter’s family friend being the United States’ chief Islamic envoy and call upon Obama to fire Hussain or at least ask him to resign.
UPDATE: Powerline links over, thanks for the link guys, welcome to Powerline readers. By way of substantive update, go here for Politico’s audio tape of Hussain’s 2004 comments in support of Al-Arian
Clearly, there is disconnect from reality in the White House that flows all the way down to the MSM, where the Associated Press once again stated that claims rose “unexpectedly“. Unexpectedly?!? May we suggest that the AP and Obama administration hire some economists who are in touch with the American people.
Update June 2016:
Still as true today as when I wrote this draft in 2010