Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
11:15 AM ET, 05/ 8/2009

I wrote yesterday about Obama's underreaction to the latest deadly airstrikes in Afghanistan. Elisabeth Bumiller and Carlotta Gall write in the New York Times: "United States officials acknowledged Thursday for the first time that at least some of what might be 100 civilian deaths in western Afghanistan had been caused by American bombs. In Afghanistan, residents angrily protested the deaths and demanded that American forces leave the country." Greg Jaffe writes in The Washington Post that the deaths are seen as "a problem" by senior U.S. officials "who want to apologize quickly for any American mistakes while also arguing that the Taliban is the main cause of suffering in the country."

I wrote yesterday about how former vice president Dick Cheney won't shut up. Abby Livingston reports for NBC News: "The Dick Cheney post-admin media tour continued [Thursday] morning on a Fargo radio talk show hosted by local radio personality Scott Hennen....Cheney also aired disturbed feelings about the calls for the prosecutions of Bush administration officials over torture. 'I've never heard of such a thing,' he said. 'And talk about putting a wet blanket on anybody in government's willingness to be bold in their recommendations and so forth. Just forget that.' He warned that such action would have future consequences. 'Anybody who sees that kind of thing happen is going to pull their head in, and they'll be reluctant to take responsibility for anything,' he said....Cheney also addressed the current fissure in his party. 'I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate,' he said."

I wrote yesterday about how Obama is MIA on gay rights.
Carolyn Lochhead writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Dan Choi, a gay National Guard platoon leader, will be discharged from the military under the Obama administration, which has quietly shelved the president's campaign promise to repeal the 16-year-old 'don't ask, don't tell' policy with the tacit acquiescence of Washington's gay lobbying establishment." Eugene Robinson writes in his Washington Post opinion column that when it comes to the "long-overdue imperative" of "granting full equal rights to gay and lesbian Americans....it's time for Obama to put some of his political capital where his rhetoric is."

I wrote yesterday about Obama's attempt to talk up his $17 billion in proposed budget cuts. Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post that "the proposals are too small to impress his critics but probably too large for Congress to swallow." Lori Montgomery and Amy Goldstein write in The Washington Post that Obama's proposals "quickly ran into a buzz saw of opposition on Capitol Hill yesterday, as an array of Democratic lawmakers vowed to fight White House efforts to deprive their favorite initiatives of federal funds."

It's the new political bogeyman: The idea that moving some Guantanamo detainees to high-security prisons inside the United States would somehow put nearby residents at risk. And in case you were wondering, scaremongering on the right and political cowardice on the left are alive and well in Congress. Perry Bacon Jr. writes in The Washington Post: "Republicans, who have said the issue is an example of Obama's weakness on national security, accused the president of endangering Americans. They proposed legislation dubbed the 'Keep Terrorists Out of America Act,' which would bar moving Guantanamo prisoners to a U.S. facility unless the receiving state's governor and legislature approved...[S]everal Democrats have joined Republicans in saying they do not want Guantanamo prisoners in their states or districts."

Paul Kane writes in The Washington Post: "Intelligence officials released documents yesterday saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda suspects, seeming to contradict her repeated statements that she was never told the techniques were actually being used." Josh Gerstein writes for Politico that the new documents show "that members of Congress were briefed 40 times since 2002 on aspects of the so-called 'enhanced interrogation' program."

Steven Aftergood blogs for Secrecy News: "The White House should intervene to block the impending release of certain photographs showing detainees abused by U.S. military personnel, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham wrote in a letter to President Obama yesterday. Release of the photos is expected by May 28 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union."

Darlene Superville writes for the Associated Press: "President Barack Obama has a message for the unemployed: More help is on the way. The president was outlining steps Friday to help the jobless pursue education and training, and keep their unemployment benefits, too....The president was announcing the new measures hours after the government reported that the economy shed 539,000 more jobs in April, driving the unemployment rate to 8.9 percent, the highest level since late 1983. Still, it was the fewest jobs lost in six months."

In his New York Times opinion column, Paul Krugman writes that "while bankers may find the results of the stress tests 'reassuring,' the rest of us should be very, very afraid....What we're really seeing here is a decision on the part of President Obama and his officials to muddle through the financial crisis, hoping that the banks can earn their way back to health....It's a strategy that might work....But there are many things that could go wrong."

Mike Lillis writes for the Washington Independent: Though mortgage bankruptcy reform has been a central component of the Obama administration's foreclosure prevention strategy, the White House all but abandoned the proposal in the days leading up to last week's Senate vote, providing some Democrats with the political cover to kill the bill and leaving supporters scratching their heads in wonder why the administration didn't push harder for passage.

Rachel L. Swarns blogs for the New York Times: "First Lady Michelle Obama discussed her own struggles as a working mother on Thursday, and urged the nation's corporations to help working parents balance the demands of work and family."

Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times: "In replacing Justice [David] Souter, President Obama will almost surely pick another liberal. But Mr. Obama may also consider Justice Souter as a kind of counterexample and choose a bigger and bolder figure, one who sets agendas, forges consensus and has a long-term vision about how to shape the law."

Mary Beth Sheridan writes in The Washington Post that "arms control is back....In New York yesterday, senior U.S. and Russian negotiators sat down to start work on renewing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the 1991 pact that cut in half the superpowers' stockpiles of nuclear warheads. The talks are the first step in the administration's effort to seek 'a world without nuclear weapons,' as President Obama vowed last month in Prague."

Ken Ward Jr. writes for the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette: "The Bush administration kept secret for nearly five years data that showed increased cancer risks from drinking water polluted by coal-ash impoundments, according to a new report issued Thursday."

Hamil Harris writes in The Washington Post: "Founder of Focus on the Family and evangelical author James Dobson said Thursday that he was 'disappointed' that for the first time in nearly two decades, there was no representative from the White House during the National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill....[A] White House source with direct knowledge of the situation said event organizers placed restrictions on potential speakers, saying that they had to be 'pro-life' and that the only person officially invited from the administration was Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican. The Boston Globe reported that "other religious groups praised Obama for dialing back the observance and accused the task force of trying to exclude non-Christians." Jimmy Orr blogs for the Christian Science Monitor that Rush Limbaugh "made it sound like President Obama outlawed religion." And Dan Gilgoff blogs for U.S. News: I was struck that President Obama's proclamation for [Thursday's] National Day of Prayer features a solitary reference to God. Last year's proclamation for prayer day from George W. Bush featured five references to God in the first paragraph alone....Whereas Bush's last proclamation focused on the one being prayed to, Obama's focuses on the people doing the praying."

Media Matters chronicles the right wing's Dijon Derangement Syndrome: "Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Steyn criticized President Obama as an elitist because he ordered a burger with 'spicy mustard' or 'Dijon mustard.'"

Tim Arango writes in the New York Times that Amazon's celebrated Kindle can't pronounce Obama's name correctly.

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