Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
11:14 AM ET, 06/25/2009

Colum Lynch writes in The Washington Post: "The United Nations' top human rights advocate, Navanethem Pillay, on Wednesday appealed to the Obama administration to release Guantanamo Bay inmates or try them in a court of law, and said officials who authorized the use of 'torture' must be held accountable."

From her statement: "As [the Convention Against Torture] makes clear, people who order or inflict torture cannot be exonerated, and the roles of certain lawyers, as well as doctors who have attended torture sessions, should also be scrutinized.... Equally importantly, victims of torture must be helped to recover from one of the worst ordeals that a human being can face.... Victims of torture must be compensated and cared for – for as long as it takes to enable them once again to lead a relatively normal life."

Mother Jones writer Bruce Falconer interviews Spanish attorney Gonzalo Boyé, who "has turned his attention to six former Bush administration figures accused of putting forth specious legal arguments to justify clear violations of the United Nations Convention Against Torture." Says Boyé: "The lawyers who created the legal framework for Guantanamo are the basis for all that happened there. Without the lawyers, the crime would never have been committed, or at least not in that form and with such a degree of impunity."

Jake Tapper and Karen Travers write for ABC News about the ABC town hall on health care at the White House last night: "President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people -- like the president himself -- wouldn't face.... Dr. Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist and researcher at the New York University Langone Medical Center, .... asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn't seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he's proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get. The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if 'it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care.'"

Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times that Obama suggested "that one way to shave medical costs is to stop expensive and ultimately futile procedures performed on people who are about to die and don't stand to gain from the extra care."

Joe Conason writes in his syndicated column: "If Congress fails to enact health care reform this year — or if it enacts a sham reform designed to bail out corporate medicine while excluding the 'public option' — then the public will rightly blame Democrats, who have no excuse for failure except their own cowardice and corruption."

Steven Mufson and Jennifer Agiesta write in The Washington Post: "Three-quarters of Americans think the federal government should regulate the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and factories to reduce global warming, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with substantial majority support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. But fewer Americans -- 52 percent -- support a cap-and-trade approach to limiting greenhouse gas emissions similar to the one the House may vote on as early as tomorrow. That is slightly less support than cap and trade enjoyed in a late July 2008 poll. Forty-two percent of those surveyed this month oppose such a program."

Ginger Thompson and David M. Herszenhorn write in the New York Times: "President Obama is expected to meet with Congressional leaders of both parties on Thursday to begin laying the political groundwork for sweeping immigration legislation, even though its passage this year is considered very unlikely. With lawmakers already immersed in health care, financial regulation and energy policy, and with the Senate set to hold hearings soon on Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, administration officials and many in Congress say it is improbable that they will be able to add anything as challenging as an immigration overhaul."

Nazila Fathi and Alan Cowell write in the New York Times: "As Iran's embattled opposition leader renewed a call for protests against the disputed presidential elections, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assailed President Obama on Thursday, telling him to stop interfering in Iran's affairs and accusing him of striking the same hostile tone as his predecessor, George W. Bush."

Glenn Kessler writes in The Washington Post: "The White House announced yesterday that it had withdrawn invitations to Iranian diplomats to attend Fourth of July festivities at U.S. embassies around the world. The move is the first tangible penalty the United States has imposed against the Iranian government in the wake of the brutal crackdown of demonstrations over the disputed presidential elections."

Peter Maier writes for CBS News: Presidential Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said he has 'no apologies' for what many White House reporters saw as the planting of a questioner who was called on by President Obama at [Tuesday]'s news conference. Gibbs said the White House decision to invite The Huffington Post's Nico Pitney was the best way to convey information from an Iranian who had communicated with the liberal Web site. Defending the White House action, Gibbs said, 'I think it was important and the president thought it was important to take a question using the very same methods, again, that many of you all are using to report information on the ground. I don't have any -- I won't make any apologies for that.'"

Kate Phillips writes for the New York Times that "the criticism is that [Pitney] was cherry-picked, with a call-upon hours and hours beforehand, and handed a status that no one among the so-called elite of the press corps receives on any given day. While that may indeed be a thorn in the feet of the corps who toil daily, the perception of a favored one who got exceptionally advance notice may send signals — far and wide — as to what lengths the administration will go to stage and control the message the president wants to send.... It's not about Mr. Pitney's work or for that matter, the question he asked. It's about how the administration finagled the position in which he became an actor for the president's agenda."

But the White House didn't know what question Pitney would ask ahead of time -- and the question turned out to be a tough one, that Obama ducked. And Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent writes: "Just for kicks, lets compare The Times's reaction above with its worshipful 2003 coverage of another well-known exercise in presidential stagecraft." That would be George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" announcement.

Lois Romano writes in The Washington Post: "For weeks, Michelle Obama had been telling her staff and closest confidantes that she wasn't having the impact she wanted. She is a woman of substance, with a background in law, public policy and management, who found herself relegated to role model in chief. The West Wing of the White House -- the fulcrum of power and policy -- had not fully integrated her into its agenda. She wanted more. So, earlier this month, she changed her chief of staff, and now she's changing her role. Her new chief of staff, Susan Sher, 61, is a close friend and former boss who the first lady thinks will be more forceful about getting her and her team on the West Wing's radar screen. The first thing Sher said she told senior adviser David Axelrod, whom she has known for years: When I call, 'you need to get back to me right away.'"

The Associated Press reports: "A White House spokesman says President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI will talk about their shared belief in the dignity of all people at their meeting next month."

Nelson Hernandez writes in The Washington Post: "President Obama's name would grace a new Prince George's County elementary school a few miles from the White House under a proposal scheduled for a vote tonight, barely five months after he took office.... The school would not be the first in the country named after Obama.... [S]everal other school boards nationwide have taken steps to name new schools or rename old ones after the president."

The Washington Post Style section is asking readers to write the first paragraph of former vice president Dick Cheney's upcoming memoir.

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