Obama makes news on surprising front
By Ben Pershing
With all the issues on President Obama's plate recently -- implementing the health-care bill, passing financial regulatory reform, filling a Supreme Court seat and changing the nation's nuclear policy -- gay rights seemed an unlikely subject to lead the news coming from the White House Thursday. But that's what happened.
"President Obama late Thursday ordered most hospitals in the country to grant the same visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners that they do to married heterosexual couples," the Los Angeles Times writes, adding: "In a memo to his Health and Human Services agency, Obama ordered the secretary to ensure that all hospitals getting Medicare and Medicaid money honor all patients' advance directives, including those designating who gets family visitation privileges. The order also requires that documents granting power of attorney and healthcare proxies be honored, regardless of sexual orientation. The language could apply to unmarried heterosexual couples too." The New York Times reports: "Several states have tried to put an end to discrimination against same-sex couples, and Mr. Obama said he intended to build on those efforts. He said the new rules would make clear that designated visitors should enjoy visiting privileges that are no more restrictive than those enjoyed by immediate family members. The rules will take time to draft and put in place, and so Mr. Obama's order will have no immediate effect. Even so, gay rights groups called it a major advance for the families of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender individuals."
DC Agenda (formerly the Washington Blade) adds some background: "In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign praised Obama for issuing the guidance and said it was inspired by a New York Times profile on Lisa Pond and Janice Langbehn. According to HRC, Langbehn and her partner's children were kept away from Pond's bedside as she lay dying, even though Pond had a medical directive. After Pond's death, Lambda Legal represented Langbehn in a later lawsuit against Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and worked with the hospital to revise its policies." The Wall Street Journal gets reaction: "It was unclear how much opposition the policy would create. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R, Ohio) had no comment Thursday, nor did Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade group. that represents for-profit hospitals Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the socially conservative Family Research Council, said his group had no objection to allowing gay and lesbian patients to visit or make decisions for their partners. But he said the order 'undermines the definition of marriage.' He also said it furthers 'a big government federal takeover of even the smallest details of the nation's health care system.'"
On a related note, Howard Kurts writes that "[t]he White House ripped CBS News on Thursday for publishing an online column by a blogger who made assertions about the sexual orientation of Solicitor General Elena Kagan, widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court. Ben Domenech, a former Bush administration aide and Republican Senate staffer, wrote that President Obama would 'please' much of his base by picking the 'first openly gay justice.' An administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing personal matters, said Kagan is not a lesbian. ... Marc Ambinder, a blogger for the Atlantic, wrote Monday about what he called "a baffling whisper campaign" about Kagan 'among both gay rights activists and social conservatives. ... 'So pervasive are these rumors that two senior administration officials I spoke with this weekend acknowledged hearing about them and did not know whether they were true. ... Why is she the subject of these rumors? Who's behind them?'" Josh Gerstein reports: "In the post, Domenech grouped Kagan with two other women who have been named at times as potential Supreme Court contenders and are, in fact, openly gay: Stanford law professors Pam Karlan and Kathleen Sullivan. When Kagan was nominated for the Solicitor General's job last year, a profile of her posted on Fox News's website said flatly that she was homosexual, though it cited no evidence."
President Obama was in Florida Thursday, dividing his time between outlining the future of U.S. space policy and filling the coffers of the Democratic National Committee. The Miami Herald reports: "Reconnecting to a state critical to his reelection, President Barack Obama on Thursday rounded up about $2.5 million in Miami for the Democratic Party and tried to mollify critics in both parties about plans to scale back -- but not scrap -- a space exploration program out of Cape Canaveral. Obama's fourth trip to the nation's largest swing state in less than 16 months included a speech near the Kennedy Space Center historic launch pads that sent men to the moon, a more casual fundraiser at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami and a cocktail reception hosted by Gloria and Emilio Estefan." The New York Times writes, "Pointing to Mars and asteroids as destinations, President Obama on Thursday forcefully countered criticisms that he was trying to end the nation's human spaceflight program. This was the first time that the president had lent his personal political capital in an increasingly testy fight over the future of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration." Time says, "Never mind the tropical sun. Visit Florida and dis the space program, and the reception you'll get is going to be awfully cool. ... So how was the temperature in the room? Chilly -- and not without reason. Obama's take on space has never been an easy thing to track."
The Associated Press focuses on the future: "President Barack Obama boldly predicted Thursday his new plans for space exploration would lead American astronauts on historic, almost fantastic journeys to an asteroid and then to Mars -- and in his lifetime -- relying on rockets and propulsion still to be imagined and built. ... His prediction was reminiscent of President John F. Kennedy's declaration in 1961, 'I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.' That goal was fulfilled in 1969. Obama did not predict a Mars landing soon. But he said that by 2025, the nation would have a new spacecraft 'designed for long journeys to allow us to begin the first-ever crewed missions beyond the moon into deep space.'" As for the fundraising appearance, Politico reports: "President Obama made the case to Democrats Thursday night that the change they voted for in 2008 is 'beginning to take hold,' even as the chairman of the party predicted a fierce fight with Republicans in the mid-term elections this November. Obama's 30-minute speech at a DNC fundraiser at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts focused heavily on the economy, an issue he said Democrats can proudly run on this fall. 'One year later, we can say that the financial system is stabilized,' Obama said. He touted his proposed bank fee and said while the economic stimulus bill got confused with the bank bailout signs show it is working. 'The change you fought for is beginning to take hold.'"
In Washington, Tax Day events dominated the scene. USA Today writes: "Backers of the "Tea Party" movement marked Tax Day on Thursday by descending on the nation's capital for demonstrations and seminars in which political pragmatism vied with boiling anger against President Obama. ... In meetings before and after different rallies, veteran political strategists tried to channel the movement's energy from street theater to boiler-room organizing. The Tea Party movement, which is strongly against taxes and big government, has no national leader and is not aligned with either major party." AP says "Tea party protesters marked tax day Thursday with exhortations against 'gangster government' and appeals from Republicans seeking their grass-roots clout in November elections, a prospect both tempting and troubling to those in the loose movement." The Washington Times notes that "Immigrant-rights groups sought to tap some of the "tea party" thunder Thursday by using the anti-tax-and-spending movement's nationwide protests to argue illegal immigrants must be legalized because they are eager to pay their full taxes."
Peter Beinart says Tea Partiers are "not today's version of the Nebraska dirt farmers who rose up against the railroads and the banks more than a century ago. They're today's version of the California suburbanites who rose up against their property tax bills in the late 1970s rather than pay for decent schools for the Golden State's black and Hispanic kids. They're the second coming of what Robert Kuttner called 'the revolt of the haves.' The Tea Partiers aren't standing up for the little guy; they're standing up to the little guy. We've long known that their leaders, like Sarah Palin, opposed against real regulation of Wall Street. Now we learn that what the Tea Partiers dislike about Barack Obama's economic policies is that they don't do enough for the rich." Larry Kudlow writes: "So much is being written in the mainstream media about who the tea partiers are, but very little is being recorded about what these folks are actually saying. ... We know that this is a decentralized grassroots movement, with many different voices hailing from many different towns across the country. But the tea-party message comes together in the "Contract From America." ... Of the top-10 planks in the Contract, the No. 1 issue is protect the Constitution. That's followed by reject cap-and-trade, demand a balanced budget and enact fundamental tax reform. And then comes number five: Restore fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government in Washington. Note that two of the top-five priorities of the tea partiers mention the Constitution."
On the Hill, financial reform remains the chief debate. The Wall Street Journal reports: "In the increasingly bitter struggle over regulating financial markets, senior Republican lawmakers are coalescing around a blunt line of attack, warning that White House-backed legislation headed to the Senate floor would entrench rather than end federal bailouts of Wall Street. The strategy aims to pit Republicans against the administration's financial overhaul without appearing to side with Wall Street. Elements of the critique focus on conditional language in the bill that might easily be made more definitive, and some Democrats have pledged to ensure no bailouts are allowed. But the charge is designed to score political points at a time when public anger about Wall Street bailouts remains high." The Hill writes, "The fate of a Senate bill that would revamp the nation's financial regulatory system could hinge on a Republican centrist from Maine. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) may end up being the deciding vote next week on a Democratic Wall Street reform plan touted by the White House." Bloomberg says, "President Barack Obama, facing stiffening Republican and industry opposition to his financial- market regulation proposals, is convening his panel of outside economic advisers to help make the case for passage. With the Senate set to take up the measure next week, Obama is meeting today with a panel of business and labor leaders and economists headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, an advocate for tightening rules on banks."
April 16, 2010; 8:05 AM ET
Categories: The Rundown
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