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Happy Hour Roundup

* Eric Holder goes for it: He opens a criminal and civil probe of BP.

* And dammit, the president is really, really angry, according to this extraordinary exchange today between reporters and Robert Gibbs, who confirms that Obama has been known to clench his jaw:

GIBBS: I've seen rage from him. I have.

QUESTION: Can you describe it? Does he yell and scream? What does he do? [Laughter.]

GIBBS: He said -- he has been in a whole bunch of different meetings -- clenched jaw -- even in the midst of these briefings, saying everything has to be done.

* Another lively quote from the briefing, this one from Helen Thomas, scorching Gibbs for saying the U.S. regrets Israel's flotilla raid:

Our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful. What do you mean you regret, when something should be so strongly condemned? And if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms.

* Ben Smith notes that the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations is flirting with blaming the flotilla activists.

* Michael Crowley adds to the growing backlash against the silly "Obama as Spock" meme.

* Relatedly, Steve Benen marvels at continued pundit complaints that Obama, as Steve puts it, is "too poised."

* TPM unearths more examples of Mark Kirk apparently embellishing his military record.

* Aaron Blake notes that Kirk could have been fined or imprisioned if Orrin Hatch's recent effort to criminalize fibbing about your service record were law. Hatch's office, natch, disagrees.

* CNN poll: Eight in 10 disagree with the GOP claim that Elena Kagan lacks the experience to serve on the Supreme Court.

* And the random deep thought of the day: The failure of the Gores' marriage was inevitable once pundits started calling Al "Gore the Bore."

What else is happening?

UPDATE, 6:16 p.m.: Obama tells the prime minister of Turkey on a private call that he supports an impartial investigation into the attack.

UPDATE, 6:38 p.m.: It still remains unclear what type of investigation the administration is willing to support. Earlier today the administration expressed a preference for a probe overseen by Israel, but now it's grudgingly signaling willingness for some kind of international participation.

By Greg Sargent  |  June 1, 2010; 6:08 PM ET
Categories:  Climate change , Foreign policy and national security , Political media , Senate Republicans  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Cantor to Obama: Stand up for Israel!
Next: The Morning Plum


@Greg: When you write of Helen Thomas's "great quote" - what in the heck are you saying??!!!

Do you agree with her assertion that this was a "deliberate massacre?"

Posted by: sbj3 | June 1, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Greg, the Israeli ambassador to the US (Oren), pretty much DID blame the flotilla deaths on the activists. They were violent, they shot IDF soldiers, etc.

He had no reservations about condemning those on the flotilla.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 1, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

"Eric Holder goes for it: He opens a criminal and civil probe of BP."

Considering how late in the game this action comes - can we now safely and accurately say that the admin was slow to act?

Posted by: sbj3 | June 1, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

For those who know his work, the Swedish writer Henning Mankell (who wrote the Kurt Wallender detective novels) was in the flotilla and is said to currently be in Israeli custody.

Here's the Guardian report.

Talk about a guy with the courage of his convictions.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 1, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

My first post is based on the Israel ambassador's interview with Andrea Mitchell on her show today.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 1, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

sbj3: "Considering how late in the game this action comes - can we now safely and accurately say that the admin was slow to act?"

Late in the game? They have been gathering evidence. They wouldn't start a criminal investigation until they had some indicators that there could be a crime. This is not at all late.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | June 1, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Haven't seen the rest of the Gibbs comments, but, wow, what a clownish performance from a clown.

Seriously trying to reassure the country that he has seen rage in the President?

And rage in the form of a clenched jaw?

SNL, here we go.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 1, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

All, see update. Administration is grudgingly signaling willingness for the probe of the flotilla raid to have some kind of international participation.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 1, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

More smooth work from Gibbs, bobbing and weaving and refusing to answer questions on the Sestak affair.

And just this morning it was being said here that the facts were on the table and all the questions answered.

Posted by: quarterback1 | June 1, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I made a comment back in the mists of the day but wanted to underline it here. It relates to Greg's wonderful post on Brooks et al

Aside from all else one can take such commentary to task for, there is an implicit aspect to Brooks' claim that... "They [Americans] want him to emote and perform the proper theatrical gestures so they can see their emotions enacted on the public stage."

What is implicit here is that this isn't something Brooks wants, it is what he conceives "Americans" want. He doesn't want it because it is superficial and meaningless in terms of actual problem solving. But "Americans" clearly aren't the same sort of thoughtful and prudent citizens such as Brooks himself represents. They are really more like...sheep, perhaps.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

The clenched jaw:

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.


Posted by: sbj3 | June 1, 2010 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Mickey Kaus for Senate:

Posted by: sbj3 | June 1, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

sbj would of rather had charges brought forth on day one. At that point sbj would have told us that the Govn't is acting prematurely.

And qb, those questions were all answered by Sestak just like I told you. Maybe the ABC reported should be handed the Sestak transcripts.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 1, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

"Earlier today the administration expressed a preference for a probe overseen by Israel"

Is that a joke? As if Israel would condemn and punish itself?

Posted by: SDJeff | June 1, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse


After reading the explanation of the phone call I would love to know what the Turkish Prime Minister said in response to that load of BS. I bet it got ugly at some point

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | June 1, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I like that Obama is even keeled and emotionless. It shows he's mostly governing with his brain and not his heart. But lately he seems extremely distracted. Not even keeled, just out of it, like he doesn't want to be there. He can't even fake it. Something's wrong.

Posted by: SDJeff | June 1, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse


Exactly. If that is really an accurate portrayal of both the probe and our response, I can hardly think of anything more pathetic.

The fox investigates itself for deeds in the henhouse? Oy.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | June 1, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

@quarterback1: I wouldn't put that on Gibbs. It's the media's perpetuation of the curious notion that "America wants to see the President get mad!"

I, for one, don't want to see the President get mad. What point does it serve?

And aren't the people complaining about Obama not getting "mad enough" the very same ones that said that America was turned off by McCain's flashes of anger in 2008, because America doesn't want an angry President?

I mean, pundits of the chattering class, can we get some consistency here? Do Americans want a calm and collected President or any angry one?

I'm just glad that the American people aren't as fickle as the chattering class endlessly trying to drum up controversy for ratings.

Posted by: associate20 | June 1, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Those of you who have read Perlstein's Nixonland will appreciate what a very bright young historian the fellow is. So when you see a review of a book by Perstein this glowing, you'll want to get it...

“John Amato and David Neiwert have produced a book that should stay on shelves for 50 years—long enough to remind us that at least some people understood the strange and vile energies consuming the social contract at the beginning of the third millenium. As a record of what is happening to American conservatism in the year 2010, OVER THE CLIFF is unmatched.”

—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America"

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Re the phone call:

"The President affirmed the importance of finding better ways to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza without undermining Israel's security."

It is my understanding that the Israelis recommended the ships deliver their cargoes to an Israeli port from whence delivery could be made to Gaza. This offer made great sense insofar as the president's comment above goes. The unwillingness to cooperate points to the strong possibility that a provocation was the hidden intent of this venture. Especially when you consider that Hamas was seruptitiously involved in its undertaking.

Re Helen Thomas, is this the first time she has gone off on Israel without knowing or considering the facts before opening her mouth?

"Our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful."

Am I the only one to sense some anti-semitism in such a thoughtless quip?

Posted by: actuator | June 1, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

"Am I the only one to sense some anti-semitism in such a thoughtless quip?"

Yes, quite possibly.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

The right wing:

Bush Administration edition: if you criticize American foreign policy you are anti-American.

Obama Administration edition: if you criticize Israeli foreign policy you are anti-American and anti-Semitic.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 1, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

@Greg - At no time tomorrow or during the following days will you be allowed to write about the Gores. I've taken a vote here and it is 7% greater than unanimous. Thought you should know how the rules work around here.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

What Liz Cheney wants investigated and what she doesn't want investigated...

Sort of like what the Hells Angels deem a naughty thing and that which they don't.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 8:54 PM | Report abuse

It amazes me still the double standard the pundits have for democrats.
with Blumenthal he was pounded by the beltway Heathers over his Vietnam claims and yet, Kirk, a republican, you don't hear anything about it.
It's like the press had fainting spells and swooned on air when The dolt Bush played dressup on the carrier with his little flightsuit and yet, they were competely mute for years with his incompetent handling of that war.
Now we have a competent president who has been on the spill situation from the start and has been doing everything he can. And yet the public disapproves because the beltway Heathers are upset and telling them he is mishandling this because he is not being emotional enough.
I wish I could tell them to call Rent-a-Daddy and they can then have thier neediness cared for.

Posted by: vwcat | June 1, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

LA County joins LA, San Fran and Oakland in Arizona boycott...

This is no small hit Arizona is getting from the various entities joining the boycott. Perhaps if things get really bad there, Israel could ship in necessities to minimize peoples' hardship.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm only amazed that it took this long for someone to come with the anti semiticism. Again utterly predictable. I defy any Jack are aging that we should "wait for the facts" to propose a scenario whereby Israel wasn't dead @ss wrong for boarding a ship in international waters, killing at least 10 ppl, when they knew they were unarmed.

I'll wait...

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | June 1, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Correction: I defy any jack arse arguing...

Posted by: sgwhiteinfla | June 1, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Bernie, whatever happened to Tipper Gore's reputation as the censorship maven?

Does anyone else remember when she was controversial?

I'm not taking sides, not do I want Greg to cover it, but it just occurred to me that she used to get tons of press for that way back.

Posted by: BGinCHI | June 1, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Protesters are provocateurs, that's what they do. I don't believe the measured response is to deploy Commandos storming down ropes out of helicopters.

Israel over reacted is my first take on this just as they over reacted with their barrage on Gaza over a year ago and their counter attack into Lebanon over three years ago.

Israel needs to learn the restraint that comes with having a powerful military. It's a maturity their country hasn't learned yet.

It's part of being a responsible Democracy.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 1, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

BG - Yes, I recall her being pitted against Frank Zappa. There was also a somewhat famous Crossfire debate back then between Zappa and John Lofton, a nut Christian. Lofton is still active and landed on my blog one day. I had soooooo much fun with him.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

@mike - As the one piece we've linked earlier details, Israel did something quite analogous itself during Brit occupation.

Sullivan notes an appropriate illustration of the dos and don'ts of Fast Roping...

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Is the crazy going to swamp Ohio too?

"...If Vander Plaats were now to beat Branstad, in a primary, not a caucus, and despite being heavily outspent, and despite running a less than impressive campaign, and despite Branstad looking much more electible--then we'd probably be entitled to conclude that hard-core conservatives are really and truly in charge of the Iowa Republican Party these days. This would not be very good news for Mitt Romney, who is pretty much stuck with a 2012 campaign that makes him the mainstream establishment candidate who's got money and is relatively electible. "

Posted by: bernielatham | June 1, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I think a by product of the DOJ charges of BP to every other American apart from the political chattering class shift the focus back to BP, where it should be. But, what Reich said makes sense. If the U.S. has a avenue of a temporary ownership of BP during a disaster, it might be worth considering. He's right when he says BP has their shareholders to answer to while the Admin has the American people to answer to.

Shareholder best interest != to American peoples best interest.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | June 1, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

All, you got it. No writing about the Gores here. :)

Posted by: sargegreg | June 2, 2010 6:11 AM | Report abuse

We are deGored and we are delighted.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 2, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Israeli defense minister Barak said yesterday (quoted at Ha'aretz )

"You carried out the mission and prevented the flotilla from reaching Gaza," Barak said. "We need to always remember that we aren't North America or Western Europe, we live in the Middle East, in a place where there is no mercy for the weak and there aren't second chances for those who don't defend themselves. You were fighting for your lives – I saw it, and I heard it from your commanders."

Note - "a place where there is no mercy for the weak".

One would imagine that those non-Israeli citizens living in Gaza and the West Bank and Jerusalem are clear on this formulation.

But the practical (not to mention moral) sense of it seems elusive. Surely, those citizens could coherently ask, "Are you keeping us weak so that you don't have to be merciful or do you show no merciful tendencies because you've kept us weak?"

Barak's argument or philosophy is absolutist, of course. Them or us, to the death (or what for all practical purposes is very like death). Therefore, mercy is weakness. Likewise, empathy is weakness. Co-operative effort among equals? That one doesn't seem to show up anywhere on Barak's compass.

Posted by: bernielatham | June 2, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

All, morning roundup posted:

...and agreed Bernie, that's just awful.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | June 2, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

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