The Essence of Politics

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lawmaker Opposes Rhode Island Name Change

The world may know it as Rhode Island, but its official name, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, may be on the way out.

Last week, the state's Legislature voted overwhelmingly to hold a referendum to drop the words "Providence Plantations" from the state's name. The reason: Critics say it conjures up images of slavery.

That may be so, but the state's name does not refer to the slave trade, says state Rep. Michael Rice, a Democrat who opposes changing the name.

Rice tells Robert Siegel that the official name goes back to the earliest days of the Rhode Island Colonies established in the 1630s and 1640s. Each of these small agricultural colonies reported directly to England; there was no connection between them. This type of governance was called a plantation colony.

Rice, however, acknowledges that Rhode Island didn't have clean hands in the slave trade. Slaves helped build Brown University, and much of the school's original endowment came from slave-trading funds.

"This is a sad part of Rhode Island history, but it, pretty much, antedates, actually, the word 'plantations' within the name of the state," he says.

Rice also says he likes the official name of the state, the longest in the union.

"There is something majestic about the name when it is said in open court," he says.
Rice, however, backed the call for the referendum on the name change because he says he doesn't want to get in the way of a constitutional issue.

"But I do think it underscores that Rhode Island's quirky history is a natural asset of the state," he says. "And I don't want to do anything to upset one of our key natural assets."

Kristol: Liberal Media and GOP Hacks vs. Palin

Lefty journalist Todd Purdum has a hit piece in the new Vanity Fair on Sarah Palin. You don’t have to be a big Palin fan to recognize the article is full of dubious claims, and is dependent on self-serving stories provided on background by some of the people who ran the McCain campaign into the ground.

Here’s a highlight of Purdum’s reporting: “More than once in my travels in Alaska, people brought up, without prompting, the question of Palin’s extravagant self-regard. Several told me, independently of one another, that they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--’a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy’--and thought it fit her perfectly.”

Is there any real chance that "several" Alaskans independently told Purdum that they had consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders? I don’t believe it for a moment. I’ve (for better or worse) moved in pretty well-educated circles in my life, and I’ve gone decades without “several” people telling me they had consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Meanwhile, on the day Purdum’s piece hit the web (today), a journalist who had expressed suspicions in the past that elements of the McCain campaign had undercut Palin suddenly got a friendly e-mail from top McCain-Palin campaign strategist Steve Schmidt. This journalist hadn’t heard from Schmidt in months. Perhaps Steve was nervous someone would finger him for the Purdum piece. One reason people might do so is this passage in Purdum’s article: “All the while, Palin was coping not only with the crazed life of any national candidate on the road but also with the young children traveling with her. Some top aides worried about her mental state: was it possible that she was experiencing postpartum depression? (Palin’s youngest son was less than six months old.)” In fact, one aide who raised this possibility in the course of trashing Palin’s mental state to others in the McCain-Palin campaign was Steve Schmidt.

Analysis: US role in Iraq doesn't end just yet--By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer

U.S. troops are out of Iraq's cities but not its future. Even a best-case scenario is likely to feature an American role there for years — militarily as well as diplomatically.

That does not mean a permanent large U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Under a security deal struck with the Bush administration, American forces are to be out by the end of 2011.

But it's no secret that Iraq's security forces are not fully ready to handle even a diminished insurgency on their own.

Some senior U.S. military officers say privately they anticipate Iraqi setbacks in coming months, particularly if the insurgents regroup. But by partnering with American forces, the Iraqis stand a good chance of succeeding. That is why a number of U.S. troops will remain in the cities to assist and advise.

But most were gone Tuesday as Iraqis marked National Sovereignty Day with military parades and marching bands in Baghdad. In a sobering reminder the violence was not over, a car bombing in a crowded food market in the northern city of Kirkuk killed at least 27 people.

It's not possible to know how long Iraq will need American help, but it could be well beyond President Barack Obama's current term. Much will depend on the pace of progress toward Iraqi political reconciliation. That is because the success of the Iraqi security forces depends as much, if not more, on their willingness to operate in a nonsectarian, evenhanded way as on their technical competence.

Diplomatically, the U.S. role will be less visible but still crucial. Even with declining levels of violence since 2007, progress toward political reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds has been minimal.

Obama made clear Tuesday that while he expects violence to persist, the final outcome is an Iraqi responsibility.

"Iraq's future is in the hands of its own people," he said at the White House. "And Iraq's leaders must now make some hard choices necessary to resolve key political questions" and to provide security.

There are still about 131,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. They won't be fighting in urban areas any more, unless the Iraqi government asks for their help. Instead they will focus on securing Iraq's borders, keeping insurgents on the run in rural areas and conducting training with Iraqi security forces.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Tuesday he was hopeful, in part because Iraqis have embraced the U.S. urban withdrawal as a confidence booster.

"They're not ready for us to go yet, but they are ready for us to allow them to attempt to exercise their security responsibilities, and to me that's very encouraging," Odierno said.

Even in the most optimistic of circumstances in which Iraq muddles through its political and ethnic problems — and keeps chipping away at the insurgency — it will still need U.S. support. And the Obama administration has said it wants to build a long-term relationship with a key Arab state in a volatile region.

But if today's relative peace in Iraq unravels within the coming year, Obama will face tough choices, including whether to push back his announced timeline for ending the U.S. combat role in the country by September 2010.

Obama could not reinsert U.S. combat forces in Iraqi cities without Iraqi government permission, under terms of the security deal negotiated by the Bush administration last year. And he could not change the 2011 deadline for removing all U.S. troops from Iraq without renegotiating that deal.

Nor might he want to, even with the prospect of Iraq spinning into a new cycle of sectarian warfare. Obama came into office promising to end U.S. involvement in the war, arguing that Iraq's remaining problems are primarily of a political nature and cannot be solved by continued U.S. military force.

And more recently, Obama announced that his administration was refocusing on what he considers a bigger problem — increasing instability in Afghanistan and a growing insurgency in neighboring Pakistan. In that context, U.S. troop reductions in Iraq are a one-way ticket; once out, they are unlikely to return.

Qubad Talabani, son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the Washington representative of the semiautonomous Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, believes that if security deteriorates in coming months and hot-button political issues are not settled, the 2011 deadline should be renegotiated.

"Regardless of whether things go well or things deteriorate, there is going to be a strong connection between the United States and Iraq," Talabani said in an interview Tuesday. "The nature of that relationship will depend on whether things improve or deteriorate. The U.S. has invested too much in this effort just to walk away."

What would Obama do if Iraq reverted to major violence?

Stephen Biddle, an Iraq watcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a recent analysis that a full-scale civil war could mean a civilian death toll in the range of 600,000 to more than two million.

"Given its role in precipitating the war in Iraq, the United States would bear special responsibility for such a catastrophe," Biddle wrote. He added that if the conflict spread beyond Iraq's borders it would risk a disruption of world oil markets and might derail prospects for successful Israel-Palestinian peace talks.

EDITOR'S NOTE — Robert Burns has covered national security and military affairs for the AP since 1990.

AP Newsbreak: SC gov 'crossed lines' with women--By TAMARA LUSH and EVAN BERLAND, Associated Press Writers

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, already struggling to salvage his family and his political career after admission of a scandalous affair, added explosive details Tuesday, including more visits with the mistress he calls his "soul mate" and additional women in his past.

The once-promising presidential prospect said he is committed to reconciling with his wife, but professed to The Associated Press his continued love for the Argentine woman at the center of the firestorm that gutted his political future.

In emotional interviews with the AP over two days, he said he would die "knowing that I had met my soul mate."

Sanford also said that he "crossed the lines" with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with his mistress.

"There were a handful of instances wherein I crossed the lines I shouldn't have crossed as a married man, but never crossed the ultimate line," he said.

Sanford insisted his relationship with Maria Belen Chapur, whom he met at an open air dance spot in Uruguay eight years ago, was more than just sex.

"This was a whole lot more than a simple affair, this was a love story," Sanford said. "A forbidden one, a tragic one, but a love story at the end of the day."

Even with the latest revelations, Sanford maintains he is fit to govern and has no plans to resign.

"I've been able to do my job and in fact excel at it," Sanford said, while acknowledging he is a spectator at his "own political funeral."

During more than three hours of interviews over two days at his Statehouse office, Sanford said he is trying to fall back in love with his wife, Jenny, even as he grapples with his deep feelings for Chapur.

"I owe it too much to my boys and to the last 20 years with Jenny to not try this larger walk of faith," he said.

Sanford detailed more encounters with his mistress than he had disclosed during a rambling, emotional press conference last week. The new revelations Tuesday led the state attorney general to launch an investigation of Sanford's travels, and some legislators to repeat calls for him to step down.

He delivered a personal check late Tuesday for nearly $3,000 to reimburse the state for a 2008 state-funded trip to Argentina where he visited Chapur, and he insists no public money was used for any other meetings with her.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who would chair any forced ouster of the governor by the Republican-controlled Legislature, said it's premature to heed calls from those in his own party to remove Sanford.

"I want to see what the investigation finds before I'm willing to discuss that topic," said Harrell, a Charleston Republican.

Sanford, at times crying and unabashedly emotional, acknowledged in the AP interview that he had casual encounters with other women while he was married but before he met Chapur. They took place during trips outside the country to "blow off steam" with male friends.

"What I would say is that I've never had sex with another woman. Have I done stupid? I have. You know you meet someone. You dance with them. You go to a place where you probably shouldn't have gone," Sanford said, declining to discuss details. But he said those encounters were nothing like his relationship with Chapur.

"If you're a married guy at the end of the day you shouldn't be dancing with somebody else. So anyway, without wandering into that field we'll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation."

Sanford also detailed more visits with Chapur, including an encounter that he described as a failed attempt at a farewell meeting in New York this past winter, chaperoned by a spiritual adviser and sanctioned by his wife soon after she found out about the affair.

But he saw Chapur again, this time over Father's Day weekend and after his wife expressly told him not to, leaving the country without telling his staff and instead leading them to believe he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

By the time he returned to a puzzled public, staff and family, his public image and emotional state had unraveled. He admitted the affair at a news conference televised nationally, but at the time said there were only four meetings with his mistress.

Sanford told the AP he saw Chapur five times over the past year, including two romantic, multi-night stays with her in New York — one in Manhattan, one in the Hamptons, both paid for in cash so no one would know — before they met in the city again with the intention of breaking up.
He said he saw her two other times before that, including their first meeting.

"There was some kind of connection from the very beginning," he said, though neither that first encounter nor a 2004 coffee date in New York during the Republican National Convention were romantic.

Their relationship turned physical, he said, during a government trip to Brazil and Argentina in June 2008, and when he returned, the e-mails that had started years earlier began to reflect anguish over what they had done.

"Now I am frightened," he told the AP, describing his state of mind at the time. "It was before safe. But now it's not safe. We gotta put the genie back in the bottle."

He has said he will reimburse the state an undetermined amount of the more-than $8,000 in taxpayer money spent on the trip, and he insists no public money was used for any other meetings with her.

Critics have charged that Sanford should resign or be impeached because he was unreachable during the latest Argentina trip and that no one was in charge of state government during his secret absence.

In the interview, he said he first became aware that officials were looking for him Monday evening, June 22 — four days after his departure for Argentina — when he checked his cell phone voice mail.

"I was reached ultimately on Monday evening," he said. "I was contacted and called (chief of staff) Scott (English) back that Tuesday morning." Sanford said he then changed his flight to return to South Carolina that evening.

He and Jenny, parents of four sons, say they are trying to reconcile their marriage but have not been sharing the same house for several weeks. Jenny Sanford found out about the relationship in January when she discovered a letter the governor had written to his mistress. She did not immediately return messages seeking comment Tuesday and was not at their coastal home on Sullivans Island.

Associated Press writer Brett J. Blackledge contributed to this report.

US: UBS must release names of suspected tax cheats--By CURT ANDERSON, AP Legal Affairs Writer

Swiss bank UBS AG "systematically and deliberately" violated U.S. law by dispatching private bankers to recruit wealthy Americans interested in evading taxes and must be forced to reveal the identities of 52,000 of those clients, the Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday.

The filing, which comes amid several published reports that the case may be near settlement, urges U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold to hold UBS accountable for conducting years of illegal business on U.S. soil — business that earned the bank more than $100 million in fees but cost the U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

"It is time for UBS to face the consequences that it has brought upon itself," said Justice Department tax attorney Stuart Gibson in the 55-page filing. "The United States has proven its case for enforcement."

Gold has set a hearing on whether to enforce what are known as "John Doe summonses" used by the Internal Revenue Service to seek information about U.S. taxpayers. U.S. and Swiss newspapers have reported a settlement is likely before that hearing, but Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller declined comment.

UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne said the bank is "open to an appropriate solution" short of going to court but said no settlement has been completed. In a statement, she repeated UBS's contention that disclosing the U.S. taxpayer names would violate Swiss law and that the dispute should be resolved by the two governments rather than the courts.

"UBS has sought to comply with the summons without violating Swiss law," Byrne said. "It has provided to the IRS as much information as it can from those records located in the U.S., where Swiss law does not apply."

The IRS summons seeks the identities of all U.S. taxpayers who had an "undeclared" account at UBS between 2002 and 2007. Many of these UBS clients have already voluntarily come forward to settle tax obligations with the IRS, Byrne said.

Zurich-based UBS wrote to its U.S.-based clients in March and April telling them to close their accounts within weeks and transfer any money to a specially created U.S. unit, to another bank or to withdraw the funds. That grace period ends July 1, according to the source close to the bank who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

"Please be advised that if your instructions are not received within 45 days of the date of this letter, UBS will initiate any steps deemed appropriate for the closure of and remittance of funds in your account," the bank said in its letter.

UBS said it might liquidate the accounts and send clients checks or hold the checks for them in Switzerland.

UBS previously reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department in which it agreed to disclose the identities of up to 300 U.S. clients and pay $780 million to the U.S. government. In that deal, UBS admitted regularly violating U.S. law through its client recruitment methods, use of sham offshore entities and filing of false paperwork.

"In sum, UBS has admitted that its bankers committed very serious crimes on U.S. soil, in ways that subjected UBS to the full jurisdiction of the IRS and the courts of the United States," Gibson said in the U.S. filing.

One of those 300 UBS clients, accountant Steven Michael Rubinstein, pleaded guilty last week in Fort Lauderdale federal court to charges of filing a false tax return. He faces up to three years in prison.

Miami federal prosecutors also have obtained an indictment charging former UBS senior executive Raoul Weill with tax evasion conspiracy for his role in handling cross-border business and private banking. Weill remains in Switzerland and has been declared a fugitive from justice.

That indictment followed the July 2007 guilty plea by former UBS executive Bradley Birkenfeld to a similar charge of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Birkenfeld has yet to be sentenced and has been cooperating extensively with federal investigators.

Associated Press writer Onna Coray in Zurich, Switzerland contributed to this story.

Will the Republicans or the Democrats be the 'Party of Growth'?--Posted by: Michael Mandel

Amity Shlaes has a very interesting commentary on Bloomberg. Shlaes responds to the Sanford scandal this way:

…instead of blowing up their marriages, Republicans might try
blowing up their party platform.

The single most-profitable franchise for the Republican Party
is growth, the kind of growth that sustains the relative competitiveness of the U.S. Instead of being the GOP, the Republicans should become the POG, the Party of Growth.

This growth franchise is Republicans’ for the taking because the Democratic Party leadership is in hot pursuit of other franchises — the green biz, civil rights and their dearest goal, more government health care.

The growth franchise is also valuable because a lot of people,
including many Democrats, recognize that a growth agenda is the only way to preclude a crisis worse than the current one. That crisis is the currency crisis that will occur if the world no longer wants to invest here.

Shlaes has four suggestions for making “the GOP a POG.”

— Junk the social conservatism. — Take budget-balancing seriously. — Push for growth-oriented tax cuts, the kind that make foreign businesses want to expand here. — Stand up for property rights.

Leaving aside the specifics of her proposals, I think Shlaes raises an important question: Will the Republicans or the Democrats become the Party of Growth? Right now, it’s up for grabs.

Will scandals inspire evangelicals to stray from Republican Party?--By Mark Z. Barabak

Cases like Gov. Mark Sanford's have undercut GOP assertions of moral authority. They could also reinforce some Christian conservatives' doubts about politics in general.

While Mark Sanford works to salvage his marriage, Republicans are facing the prospect of a different kind of breakup: religious voters walking out on the GOP.

A series of sex-related scandals over the last few years has undercut the party's assertions of moral authority and, worse, may serve to reinforce the doubts that many evangelical voters have traditionally harbored about the unholiness of the political realm.

"If we place our hope in a political party or a politician, we'll be let down," said Brandt Waggoner, 25, a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., who said he spoke for many young evangelicals. "My hope is in God and not in the government."

A sudden and overwhelming shift of Christian conservatives from the GOP to the more secular-minded Democratic Party appears unlikely. As Laura Olson, an expert on religion and politics at South Carolina's Clemson University, put it: "The Republican Party is still going to be, at a minimum, the lesser of two evils."

But in politics, subtraction can be just as important as addition. If large numbers of evangelicals were to stay home on election day, or channel their activism into outlets other than politics, the GOP could suffer grave consequences; over the last generation, devout churchgoer voters have become an increasingly vital part of the shrinking Republican base.

There are, of course, plenty of Democrats who have, like South Carolina Gov. Sanford, broken their marital vows and lied to the public about their actions.

"The fact is, within any group you're going to have some people who make mistakes," said David Winston, a GOP pollster in Washington, who cautioned against painting Democrats or Republicans with too broad a brush. "It's not systemic to any one party."

In general, however, Republicans have been far more active in reaching out to religious voters, not just through conservative positions on abortion, school prayer, and lately same-sex marriage, but also by promoting an image of greater virtue and more godliness.

That makes it all the more damaging when prominent figures in the party -- especially those espousing Christian values, like Sanford and Sen. John Ensign of Nevada -- are caught transgressing.

Their back-to-back confessions of marital infidelity place the two men in a lineup that includes, in just the last few years, former Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in an incident in a men's bathroom at the Minneapolis airport; Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who was identified as the client of a Washington prostitution ring; and former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, who resigned after sending sexually explicit e-mail messages to male congressional pages.

"Episode after episode like this makes it relatively difficult for Republicans to say with a straight face that they're a party that stands on moral issues that evangelicals care about," said Dale Kuehne, an associate political science professor at Saint Anselm College and a pastor in Nashua, N.H. "You look at Mark Sanford and Larry Craig and say, 'Is there anyone we can trust?' "

Margaret Feinberg, for one, has grown increasingly skeptical of all politicians. The thirtysomething evangelical author from Colorado doesn't differentiate between parties; she's turned off by all of the seamy revelations of low-life behavior in high-flown places.

"The . . . rumors and sexual details make me want to avoid the voting booth altogether," Feinberg said. "My head says that every vote counts, but my heart aches at the impropriety. How can I trust someone to uphold the laws of the land when they can't uphold their marriage vows?"

Historically, evangelicals have cycled through periods of political engagement and withdrawal from the electoral scrum. The latest activism began in the 1970s, when liberalism had evidently run its course and religious leaders like the late Rev. Jerry Falwell galvanized Christian voters and turned them into a force for conservative values and political change.

"We may be coming to an end of [that] cycle," said Corwin E. Smidt, a pollster and political scientist at Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts school in Grand Rapids, Mich. If nothing else, Smidt said, scandals like the Sanford affair make religious voters "more likely to second-guess themselves . . . and certainly increase disillusionment."

At the very least, some Republicans say, the party's politicians need to lower their voices and show some humility when addressing issues of morality and personal responsibility.

"We really do need to cut loose this stinkpot of self-righteousness," said Bob Inglis, a GOP congressman from South Carolina who once served alongside Sanford on Capitol Hill. "I see a real opportunity for a more accurate presentation of the Gospel in presenting fact rather than the fiction . . . that we're paragons of virtue."

Times staff writer Duke Helfand contributed to this report.

More Americans See Democratic Party as “Too Liberal”-- by Jeffrey M. Jones

More believe Democratic Party’s, rather than Republican Party’s, views are about right

PRINCETON, NJ -- A Gallup Poll finds a statistically significant increase since last year in the percentage of Americans who describe the Democratic Party's views as being "too liberal," from 39% to 46%. This is the largest percentage saying so since November 1994, after the party's losses in that year's midterm elections.

Most major demographic and attitudinal subgroups show at least a slight uptick since 2008 in perceptions that the Democratic Party is too liberal. The increasing perception of the Democrats as too far left comes as President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have expanded the government's role in the economy to address the economic problems facing the country. Additionally, the government is working toward major healthcare reform legislation and strengthening environmental regulations.

Notably, there has been no change over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say the Republican Party is "too conservative," though the 43% who say the party leans too far to the right matches the historical high mark set last year.

As a result, now slightly more Americans perceive the Democratic Party as being too liberal (46%) than view the GOP as being too conservative (43%).

But the Democratic Party still compares favorably to the Republican Party from the standpoint that more Americans say the Democrats' ideology is "about right" (42%) than say this about the Republicans' ideology (34%).

In fact, the 34% who say the GOP is about right is a new low since the question was first asked in 1992, and a far cry from November 1994 and November 2002, when majorities thought the Republicans' views were appropriately balanced.

Independents' Views of the Parties
Political independents' perceptions of the two major parties' ideological orientation are important since both parties need to appeal to the political center in order to win elections. (The vast majority of partisan identifiers predictably view their chosen party's views as being about right and the other party's as being too extreme.)

Currently, independents are more likely to view both parties as being too extreme in either direction than to believe they are about right. But more independents say the Democratic Party (38%) than the Republican Party (25%) is about right.

Independents are a little more likely to say the Republican Party is too conservative than to say the Democratic Party is too liberal, in a slight departure from the results among all Americans.

Since last year, there have been declining perceptions among independents that each party is about right in its ideological orientation -- from 31% to 25% for the Republican Party and from 43% to 38% for the Democratic Party. Most of the decline in regard to the Democratic Party has been associated with in an increase in seeing the party as "too liberal."

The Democratic Party continues to hold the upper hand over the Republican Party in the current U.S. political environment by a variety of measures, including party identification and party favorable ratings. However, compared to last year, Americans are significantly more likely to see the Democratic Party as too liberal, and as a result, they are somewhat more likely to view the party as being too far left than to perceive the Republican Party as too far right. That may expose a bit of a vulnerability for the Democratic Party, and if perceptions of the Democratic Party as being too liberal continue to grow, the GOP may be able to win back some of the support it has lost in recent years. But that may be possible only if the Republicans are at the same time able to convince the public that they are not too far to the political right.

Survey Methods
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted June 14-17, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Republicans Should Blow Up Party, Not Marriages--By Amity Shlaes

The question isn’t why Republicans like John Ensign or Mark Sanford are having marital crises. It is why they are choosing to have them now.

One gets the sense that the lawmakers have decided that scandal now is relatively cheap, at least versus a scandal later. After all, 2009 isn’t a year when Republicans are going to win much anyhow. By the next election they and the voters will have sorted out what to make of revelations of hypocrisy and be ready to move on.

The Republicans are wrong. To make 2009 the year of GOP personal scandal is to risk wiping out the party for at least four years, maybe a decade. The Grand Old Party needs a new credo. New credos are best forged in non-election years. So instead of blowing up their marriages, Republicans might try blowing up their party platform.

The single most-profitable franchise for the Republican Party is growth, the kind of growth that sustains the relative competitiveness of the U.S. Instead of being the GOP, the Republicans should become the POG, the Party of Growth.

This growth franchise is Republicans’ for the taking because the Democratic Party leadership is in hot pursuit of other franchises -- the green biz, civil rights and their dearest goal, more government health care.

The growth franchise is also valuable because a lot of people, including many Democrats, recognize that a growth agenda is the only way to preclude a crisis worse than the current one. That crisis is the currency crisis that will occur if the world no longer wants to invest here.
How to make the GOP a POG? Four suggestions:

Stop Moralizing
-- Junk the social conservatism. There’s always been an inherent contradiction in aggressive moralizing by Republicans. On the one hand, the party stands for federalism -- asking Washington to do less. On the other hand the party can’t resist moralizing, even when it means expansion of the federal government. Witness the federal foray into schooling that was No Child Left Behind.

On top of this policy split comes the personal hypocrisy. There are some who argue that voters like a sinning politician who reforms in prime time better than a politician who never betrays his family at all. After all, the former makes for better television. Still, every hour of public tears is an hour of new policy lost.

What next? The energy that used to go into moralizing can go into fighting for policies and laws to sustain that relative competitiveness. One such policy is a commitment to a stable dollar. Already, Ron Paul looks a lot less wacky than he did four years ago. The GOP can and should make a commitment to hardening our currency.

Can’t Outgrow Deficit
-- Take budget-balancing seriously. Gone are the days of Ronald Reagan’s Panglossian promise that we’ll outgrow the deficits. We can’t, without intense budget cuts. This is a negative message, but one Americans may be more willing to heed once unemployment crosses into the double digits. Rahm Emanuel is right -- a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Conservatives should use this crisis to balance the budget.

Entitlement reform is part of that. One reason it is a shame that Sanford, South Carolina’s governor, is retreating from GOP leadership is that he knows more than most of his colleagues about Social Security. In the 1990s, as a congressman, Sanford put forward a proposal to re-jigger the pension formula that would have erased almost all of Social Security’s shortfalls.
-- Push for growth-oriented tax cuts, the kind that make foreign businesses want to expand here. Capital gains cuts are important. So is improving the relative competitiveness of U.S. firms abroad, rather than undermining it, as the proposed changes to regulations on deferrals would do. Personal income taxes and estate taxes should be lowered or stay low.

Investment Destination
The nonprofit world is reeling after President Barack Obama said he didn’t see the logic in letting higher earners keep their full deductions when they make charitable gifts. Budget- balancing and tax cuts sound mutually exclusive, but they are not if the U.S. pulls a Margaret Thatcher, by making the U.S. an investment destination by pinning up a big sign: “Open for Business.”

Philosophically it is important that Republicans draw a distinction between productive growth and junk gross domestic product. Productive growth can entail some government projects - - the adding of nuclear plants, for instance. Short-term jobs programs, or incremental development programs for green causes at the state level -- not to mention $8,000 tax credits for new homeowners -- are junk GDP. They won’t attract the kind of steady international capital we need for recovery.

Bondholder Rights
-- Stand up for property rights. The kind of rescue that neglects holders of secured debt in favor of union friendship -- as in recent auto deals -- sends a signal to all investors, abroad and here: bonds are uncertain. The GOP shouldn’t be for rescues. It should be for rights.

In even contemplating such grand shifts, Republicans have allies they may not fully appreciate. Those allies are international markets. They don’t vote. But just as markets have punished Obama for neglecting growth and generating uncertainty, they will reward the GOP for doing the opposite.

If all the GOP is doing is looking to start somewhere, it might want to start with thinking about jettisoning the social conservatism from its program. The GOP ails. Long live the POG.

(Amity Shlaes, author of “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Amity Shlaes at

Some Encouraging News for Rubio’s Senate Campaign--By Austin Cassidy, The Jacksonville Observer

While the poll did show that Governor Charlie Crist still leads former House Speaker Marco Rubio by a 51-23 vote among all Republicans, the lead is based heavily upon his high name ID and Rubio’s low name recognition to date.

The numbers tighten significantly among Republicans who consider themselves familiar with both men.

Among those so-called “informed” Republicans, Crist leads Rubio by a much closer margin of 33-31 percent.

In related news, the Club for Growth appears to be considering launching a TV advertising blitz in support of Rubio.

“We recently interviewed Marco Rubio and were impressed,” said Club president David Keating. “We are very concerned about the two major tax increases Charlie Crist recently signed and believe there’s no excuse for his active support of the Obama big-government ’stimulus’ spending bill. We are actively considering the race.”

The Club for Growth is a conservative anti-tax group that has spent the last decade involving itself in selected Republican primaries, with varied levels of success. The group’s main project for 2010 was going to be helping Pat Toomey defeat Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP primary. Indeed, Specter was trailing in early polls before switching parties to run as a Democrat.

If the Club for Growth does back Rubio, Floridia Republicans should expect the race to take a sharply negative tone as the group’s general practice is to flood the airwaves with attack ads.

Former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s recent endorsement of Rubio makes any involvement by the Club for Growth an interesting partnership. During the 2008 Republican presidential primaries the Club was sharply critical of Huckabee, using funds mainly raised from backers of Mitt Romney to attack Huckabee as the “tax-increasing liberal governor of Arkansas”. Huckabee, in turn, has referred to the Club for Growth as the “Club for Greed”.

But as today’s poll numbers show… if the Club’s money is able to drive up Rubio’s name recognition, it’s very possible that we will see the overall polls tighten significantly in this race.

Unions’ Health Benefits May Avoid Tax Under Proposal--By Ryan J. Donmoyer and Holly Rosenkrantz

The U.S. Senate proposal to impose taxes for the first time on “gold-plated” health plans may bypass generous employee benefits negotiated by unions.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the chief congressional advocate of taxing some employer-provided benefits to help pay for an overhaul of the U.S. health system, says any change should exempt perks secured in existing collective- bargaining agreements, which can be in place for as long as five years.

The exception, which could make the proposal more politically palatable to Democrats from heavily unionized states such as Michigan, is adding controversy to an already contentious debate. It would shield the 12.4 percent of American workers who belong to unions from being taxed while exposing some other middle-income workers to the levy.

“I can’t think of any other aspect of the individual income tax that treats benefits of different people differently because of who they work for,” said Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington research group that often criticizes Democrats’ economic proposals. Edwards said the carve-out “smacks of political favoritism.”

Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is proposing to tax Americans whose health insurance is valued at a higher rate than what is offered to federal employees. About 40 percent of insured Americans have costlier benefits, and Baucus has said he is trying to set the level at which taxes would be imposed high enough so fewer people are affected.

‘Gold-Plated’ Plans
The policy is aimed at so-called “gold-plated” plans such as the $40,543 in health benefits paid to Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of New York-based Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the fifth largest U.S. bank by assets.

It can also affect companies such as Henderson, Nevada- based, where workers’ $11 per hour pay is supplemented by employer-paid health insurance plans worth about $7,500. Federal workers’ health benefits are worth about $4,200 for individuals and $13,000 for families.

Lawmakers are crafting legislation aimed at meeting Obama’s goal of bringing down the cost of health care and expanding coverage to the 46 million Americans who lack insurance. Obama wants Democratic congressional leaders to seek Republican support, and to send him legislation by mid-October.

Baucus said yesterday the cost of health-care options his panel is considering can be cut to $1 trillion over 10 years and won’t add to the deficit, citing the Congressional Budget Office.

Cost Estimates
The non-partisan budget office last week delivered an informal cost estimate of $1.6 trillion for the legislation to overhaul the health-care system, sparking protests from both Republicans and Democrats and prompting Baucus to say his panel may delay consideration of a bill until next month.

“CBO now tells us we have options that would enable us to write a $1 trillion bill, fully paid for,” Baucus, who set that amount as his goal, told reporters at the Capitol.

The panel’s legislation must be joined with competing proposals from other Senate and House committees and forged into a single bill subject to negotiation and approval by both chambers before it can be sent to Obama.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said earlier this week that senators are coalescing around the idea of taxing some employer-provided benefits. Baucus said the details are still being negotiated, including how high to set the tax-free exclusion and when any changes would take effect, and whether to exempt union employees until their current contracts expire.

Cutting ‘Subsidy’
“It is hard for me to see how you can have a package that is paid for that does not reduce the subsidy” on employer-paid benefits, Conrad said.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the top-ranking Republican in the chamber, said today he has “serious reservations about capping the exclusion, particularly if they have a carve-out for union members,” according to his communications director, Don Stewart. Stewart taped McConnell’s comments and provided excerpts to a reporter.

Stewart said McConnell, discussing the prospect of a tax on some employer-provided benefits, said “table-pounding opposition” would result “if it were to exclude union members.”

Gerald Shea, an AFL-CIO official lobbying for health-care reform, said grandfathering benefits negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement is a “common thing when there is a big change in federal law.”

‘Expectations Are Set’
“Once a collective bargaining agreement is set, employer’s budgets are set, workers expectations are set. It doesn’t make sense to go back in the middle of the contract and change it,” he said.
Union groups and workers said Congress shouldn’t target contractually negotiated benefits.

Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said in an interview that workers have often traded salary increases for better benefits in agreements.
Taxes “shouldn’t be taken from the backs of workers who have bargained away wages and other things for their benefits over the years,” Burger said.

Sandra Carter, a retired Pacific Bell Telephone Co. technician from Stockton, California, said her health benefits, worth about $12,000 per year, were negotiated by the Communications Workers of America. She is unmarried with no children, meaning her individual coverage exceeds benefits paid to federal workers by about $7,800. If that amount were taxed at the 15 percent marginal rate, she would owe $1,170.

“I can’t afford the taxes I pay now,” said Carter, who said she suffers from diabetes. “Why should I get taxed on a benefit that keeps me a functioning person?”

Union Opposition
Other unions say they’re opposed to a tax on some employer- provided benefits, regardless of whether collective bargaining agreements are exempt.

“Either way, we are against a tax on health-care benefits in whatever form it takes,” said Jacob Hay, spokesman for the Laborers’ International Union of North America. The union represents 500,000 workers, largely in the construction industry.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan J. Donmoyer in Washington at rdonmoyer@bloomberg.netHolly Rosenkrantz in Washington at

Last Updated: June 26, 2009 15:13 EDT

Opposing view: A dangerous solution--By Tom Price

Politicians have no business deciding what's 'excessive' pay

Our commitment to market principles has created our nation's storied success. Yet some in Washington are disturbingly willing to abandon liberty and principle, and inject government control into private markets.

Perhaps nowhere is this desertion of principle more appalling than in the proposed limits and regulations on compensation for private citizens. Like most plans from this administration and Congress, this "solution" only compounds the problem.

In our mature corporate market place, new rules to empower shareholders regarding executive pay are superfluous. Those investing in companies already possess the ability to weigh in on the salaries of executives. In addition to their vote for board members, most powerfully, shareholders retain the power to register their disapproval by moving their investment to a competitor.

Some suggest that firms bailed out by Washington have an obligation to limit pay. Perhaps if our goal is to exact retribution on employees of bailout firms, this may be so. Yet if our goal is to provide the most urgent economic growth possible, reining in pay from Washington dangerously confirms that America has traded in a market economy for an economy in which politicians wield unparalleled power.

Many compensation packages in the private sector might, in fact, be "excessive." But many are not. And who should decide? Politicians or people? Like all markets, the mechanism for determining compensation is self-correcting. The danger lies in replacing markets with politicians. Are we not but one step away from Washington regulating all private sector pay?

As with the ongoing demagoguery against capitalism, efforts to limit private sector pay have more to do with populist fervor than economic recovery. If Washington finds the compensation packages of bailout firms so atrocious, the solution is to return the bailout funds to their rightful owners: taxpayers.

This new found zeal for governmental intervention into every aspect of our lives and commerce is very dangerous. The debate is a stark reminder of the slippery slope of governmental intrusion into the private sector. Without principle, we are left with ever-changing rules and uncertainty that prolongs our economic despair.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., is a member of the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives.

9 of 10 Americans worry about Obama's spending deficits: Poll

Most of today's news attention will focus on the White House Rose Garden and President Obama's news conference (live blogging starts here,, at 9:30 a.m. Pacific, 12:30 p.m. Eastern, 4:30 p.m. GMT).

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden flies way out West to Ohio today to talk about helping the middle class and the nation's economy.

But just a few months after congressional passage of the administration's whopping $787-billion economic stimulus plan, a new national poll shows Americans' confidence in its efficacy fading, especially in the Midwest, where Biden is heading.

Just about half (52%) believe the much-touted stimulus plan will or has had any impact restoring the economy, down from 59% in April. The Washington Post-ABC Poll found Obama's personal popularity remains high, in part because his Republican opposition remains in such disarray unable to offer a coherent political alternative.

The poll found:
The shift in public assessments of the stimulus package has clear political ramifications: At the 100-day mark of Obama's presidency, 63 percent of people in states that were decided by fewer than 10 percentage points in November said the stimulus act had or would boost the economy. Today, in the telephone poll of 1,001 Americans conducted Thursday through Sunday, the number has plummeted to 50 percent in those closely contested states, with nearly as many now saying the stimulus program will not help the national economy.

The new poll confirms other surveys showing the president's popularity dipping slightly, his disapproval rating jumping about 5% and particular unhappiness focused on his handling of the automobile manufacturing crisis and the federal deficit. They add up to a serious warning signal, with unemployment lines (see photo) expected to increase even further.

Currently, 90% of Americans are worried to some degree about the exploding federal spending deficit, a galactic number certain to gain politicians' attention on both sides. And yet to come is the final bill for Obama's healthcare legislation.

The Cap and Tax Fiction

Democrats off-loading economics to pass climate change bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has put cap-and-trade legislation on a forced march through the House, and the bill may get a full vote as early as Friday. It looks as if the Democrats will have to destroy the discipline of economics to get it done.

Despite House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman's many payoffs to Members, rural and Blue Dog Democrats remain wary of voting for a bill that will impose crushing costs on their home-district businesses and consumers. The leadership's solution to this problem is to simply claim the bill defies the laws of economics.

Their gambit got a boost this week, when the Congressional Budget Office did an analysis of what has come to be known as the Waxman-Markey bill. According to the CBO, the climate legislation would cost the average household only $175 a year by 2020. Edward Markey, Mr. Waxman's co-author, instantly set to crowing that the cost of upending the entire energy economy would be no more than a postage stamp a day for the average household. Amazing. A closer look at the CBO analysis finds that it contains so many caveats as to render it useless.

For starters, the CBO estimate is a one-year snapshot of taxes that will extend to infinity. Under a cap-and-trade system, government sets a cap on the total amount of carbon that can be emitted nationally; companies then buy or sell permits to emit CO2. The cap gets cranked down over time to reduce total carbon emissions.

To get support for his bill, Mr. Waxman was forced to water down the cap in early years to please rural Democrats, and then severely ratchet it up in later years to please liberal Democrats. The CBO's analysis looks solely at the year 2020, before most of the tough restrictions kick in. As the cap is tightened and companies are stripped of initial opportunities to "offset" their emissions, the price of permits will skyrocket beyond the CBO estimate of $28 per ton of carbon. The corporate costs of buying these expensive permits will be passed to consumers.

The biggest doozy in the CBO analysis was its extraordinary decision to look only at the day-to-day costs of operating a trading program, rather than the wider consequences energy restriction would have on the economy. The CBO acknowledges this in a footnote: "The resource cost does not indicate the potential decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) that could result from the cap."

The hit to GDP is the real threat in this bill. The whole point of cap and trade is to hike the price of electricity and gas so that Americans will use less. These higher prices will show up not just in electricity bills or at the gas station but in every manufactured good, from food to cars.

Consumers will cut back on spending, which in turn will cut back on production, which results in fewer jobs created or higher unemployment. Some companies will instead move their operations overseas, with the same result.

When the Heritage Foundation did its analysis of Waxman-Markey, it broadly compared the economy with and without the carbon tax. Under this more comprehensive scenario, it found Waxman-Markey would cost the economy $161 billion in 2020, which is $1,870 for a family of four. As the bill's restrictions kick in, that number rises to $6,800 for a family of four by 2035.
Note also that the CBO analysis is an average for the country as a whole. It doesn't take into account the fact that certain regions and populations will be more severely hit than others -- manufacturing states more than service states; coal producing states more than states that rely on hydro or natural gas. Low-income Americans, who devote more of their disposable income to energy, have more to lose than high-income families.

Even as Democrats have promised that this cap-and-trade legislation won't pinch wallets, behind the scenes they've acknowledged the energy price tsunami that is coming. During the brief few days in which the bill was debated in the House Energy Committee, Republicans offered three amendments: one to suspend the program if gas hit $5 a gallon; one to suspend the program if electricity prices rose 10% over 2009; and one to suspend the program if unemployment rates hit 15%. Democrats defeated all of them.

The reality is that cost estimates for climate legislation are as unreliable as the models predicting climate change. What comes out of the computer is a function of what politicians type in. A better indicator might be what other countries are already experiencing. Britain's Taxpayer Alliance estimates the average family there is paying nearly $1,300 a year in green taxes for carbon-cutting programs in effect only a few years.

Americans should know that those Members who vote for this climate bill are voting for what is likely to be the biggest tax in American history. Even Democrats can't repeal that reality.

Republican Weekly Trunk Notes

Can You Hear Me Now?The Connecticut Republican Party created this new interactive website with highlights from Senator Dodd's career.

The Tax ManDespite President Obama's campaign promises not to tax health care benefits, he continues to leave the option on the table. (Donald Lambro, "Tax your employee benefits?" The Washington Times, 6/29/09)

Into the FrayGOP Representatives stepped up and hit the airwaves last week in opposition to President Obama's government-run health care scheme. (Michael O'Brien, "GOP Lawmakers Take Up RNC Effort To Combat ABC Special," The Hill, 6/25/09)

Take a Number...Government-run health care will lead to decreased choices, increased prices, and federal bureaucrats rationing health care. (Op-Ed, Scott Gottlieb, "Government Health Plans Always Ration Care, The Wall Street Journal, 6/25/09)

‘Cap and Trade’ Claims Dishonest--By the News-Register

Liberals in Congress have been busy smearing lipstick on their "cap and trade" bill this week, but guess what: It's still a pig. Some congressmen allegedly representing our area don't seem to recognize that. They seem to be more interested in doing the bidding of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., than in protecting West Virginians and Ohioans.

Last fall on the campaign trail, then-candidate Barack Obama made a comment about Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Obama was comparing his opponents to the policies of then-President George W. Bush. "You can - you know, you can put lipstick on a pig," Obama remarked, adding, "It's still a pig."

Even then, as he claimed that he viewed coal as a key to America's energy needs in the future, Obama was applying lipstick to his true intentions. His administration's policies and practices have made it clear that Obama wants to cripple the U.S. coal industry. In doing so he will hurt tens of millions of Americans who depend on coal, directly and indirectly, for relatively low-cost energy.

One key part of Obama's campaign against coal is the "cap and trade" bill now being negotiated in the House of Representatives. The measure may come up for a vote on the House floor as early as Friday.

One congressman representing this area, U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, D-Ohio, plans to vote against the measure. Another East Ohio lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio, has said he remains undecided.

So are U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va. Of the Mountain State's congressional delegation, only U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., opposes the bill.

Mollohan, Space and Rahall claim they want to see the final version of the bill before deciding how to vote. But, though Pelosi and other liberals have been working hard to apply lipstick to the pig - making concessions here and there to make the bill sound less onerous than it is - it's still a pig.

Two claims being made by supporters of the bill deserve scrutiny:

First, the measure's supporters are touting a Congressional Budget Office study that claims the average cost per American household of "cap and trade" will be $175 a year by 2020.

That is a dishonest claim - and the liberals know it. Notice that they use the year 2020 for their base - ignoring higher costs between now and then. And notice that the $175 figure is the average for all American households. Some - in California, for example - will pay much less than that because their economies have virtually no reliance on coal. Here in West Virginia and Ohio, families will pay much more, both now and in 2020. One analysis determined that the annual cost of the bill could be as high as $3,100 per household.

A second claim being made by supporters of "cap and trade" is that it would not hurt the coal industry. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that even if "cap and trade" is enacted, Americans would use more coal in 2020 than we did in 2005.

But the EPA - officials of which clearly have an anti-coal agenda - bases that position on a shaky foundation. It is that utilities and industries would not be forced to stop using coal. They would be permitted to burn it by purchasing expensive government permits. Obviously, consumers would bear the additional cost of such permits. Power companies also would have incentives to convert to nuclear energy - something the EPA doesn't mention.

Apparently, enough lipstick has been slapped on the "cap and trade" pig to persuade some members of Congress that they have adequate political cover to vote for the bill. They are wrong. West Virginians and Ohioans will not be misled - and they will remember which lawmakers stood up for us and which ones did not.

Stay Tuned for More of 'The Obama Show'--By Dana Milbank

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In his first daytime news conference yesterday, President Obama preempted "All My Children," "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless." But the soap viewers shouldn't have been disappointed: The president had arranged some prepackaged entertainment for them.

After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. "I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post," he announced.

Obama knew this because White House aides had called Pitney the day before to invite him, and they had escorted him into the room. They told him the president was likely to call on him, with the understanding that he would ask a question about Iran that had been submitted online by an Iranian. "I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet," Obama went on. "Do you have a question?"

Pitney recognized his prompt. "That's right," he said, standing in the aisle and wearing a temporary White House press pass. "I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian."

Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.

The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world -- Iran included -- that the American press isn't as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn't so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, "The Obama Show." Missed yesterday's show? Don't worry: On Wednesday, ABC News will be broadcasting "Good Morning America" from the South Lawn (guest stars: the president and first lady), "World News Tonight" from the Blue Room, and a prime-time feature with Obama from the East Room.

"The Obama Show" was the hottest ticket in town yesterday. Forty-five minutes before the start, there were no fewer than 107 people crammed into the narrow aisles, in addition to those in the room's 42 seats. Japanese and Italian could be heard coming from the tangle of elbows, cameras and compressed bodies: "You've got to move! . . . Oh, God, don't step on my foot!" Some had come just for a glimpse of celebrity. And they wanted to know all about him. "As a former smoker, I understand the frustration and the fear that comes with quitting," McClatchy News's Margaret Talev empathized with the president before asking him how much he smokes.

Obama indulged the question from the studio audience. "I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where I mess up," he confessed. "Like folks who go to AA, you know, once you've gone down this path, then, you know, it's something you continually struggle with."
This is Barack Obama, and these are the Days of Our Lives.

As if to compensate for the prepackaged Huffington Post question, Obama went quickly to Fox News for a predictably hostile question from Major Garrett. "In your opening remarks, sir, you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged," Garrett said. "What took you so long?

"I don't think that's accurate," Obama volleyed testily, calling his toughening statements on Iran "entirely consistent."

The host of "The Obama Show" dispatched with similar ease a challenge from CBS's Chip Reid, asking whether his hardening line on Iran was inspired by John McCain. "What do you think?" Obama replied with a big grin. That brought the house down. And the studio audience laughed again when ABC's Jake Tapper tried to get Obama to answer another reporter's question that he had dodged. "Are you the ombudsman for the White House press corps?" the president cracked.

The laughter had barely subsided when the host made another joke about Tapper's reference to Obama's "Spock-like language about the logic of the health-care plan."

"The reference to Spock, is that a crack on my ears?" the president asked.

But yesterday's daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner -- from the Huffington Post.

Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question's wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian. And, as it turned out, he was not the only prearranged questioner at yesterday's show. Later, Obama passed over the usual suspects to call on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language EFE news agency. The White House called Vidal in advance to see whether she was coming and arranged for her to sit in a seat usually assigned to a financial trade publication. She asked about Chile and Colombia.

A couple of more questions and Obama called it a day. "Mr. President!" yelled Mike Allen of Politico. "May I ask about Afghanistan? No questions about Iraq or Afghanistan?"

Sorry: Those weren't prearranged.

Media Darling

Media Darling

Joe Torsella Endorses Arlen Specter for Re-Election

Below is a statement from former Democratic Senate candidate Joe Torsella.

I am announcing today my support for and endorsement of Arlen Specter for re-election to the United States Senate.

I have known and worked with Senator Specter for nearly two decades, first when I worked for Mayor Rendell and later at the Constitution Center.

Senator Specter has been a hard working, effective and honest fighter for Pennsylvania in the United States Senate.

I know we share many of the same values, and with his decision to become a Democrat, I believe and hope that the Democratic voters of Pennsylvania will renominate him for another term of service.

In my own case, I decided to withdraw from the race following Senator Specter’s decision because, among other reasons, a primary challenge to Senator Specter as an incumbent Democrat would inevitably weaken our party’s chance in the general election in November 2010. And with the pressing issues of health care reform, economic recovery, education, the environment, and our national security at stake, I decided that now isn’t the time for the politics of personal ambition, but for the principle of putting Pennsylvania’s and the nation’s interests first.

In my campaign I spoke often of the need for new ideas and a new approach in Washington. In the weeks since I ended my candidacy, I have spoken at great length with Senator Specter and watched his work in Washington to advance the President’s agenda for change. I have become convinced that years of service do not preclude the ability to promote change; in fact, under the right circumstances, they enhance it. My conversations have convinced me that Arlen Specter will work hard to do just that on the issues most important to me and families across Pennsylvania.

I am also proud that my party practices an inclusive brand of politics. We agree on core values but we are tolerant, as we should be, of differences and respectful of independent thinkers. By welcoming Senator Specter, we show that strength.

The bottom line is that Arlen Specter is smart, independent and gets the job done. He is one of the great assets of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

I unreservedly endorse Arlen Specter. He deserves to keep his job and Pennsylvanians need to keep him working for all of us.

– Joe Torsella

California's Fight over What to Cut--By Kevin O'Leary

If California voters had any remaining hopes that their state would somehow avoid drastic cuts in government services to help plug a $24 billion budget shortfall, they were surely dashed after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's rare midyear appearance before the California legislature Tuesday. Proposing historic cuts in education and social-welfare spending, the governor said, "California's day of reckoning is here ... Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. Our credit is dried up."

Two weeks after voters decisively defeated five ballot measures that would have eased the state's fiscal crisis, Schwarzenegger says the message he heard is, "Do your job. Don't come to us with these complex issues. Live within your means. Get rid of waste and inefficiencies. And don't raise taxes." (See pictures of tea-party tax protests.)

In addition to the $24 billion budget deficit, California faces a dangerous cash-flow shortage in the coming weeks. State controller John Chiang has called on the governor and legislature to balance the books by June 15 so the state can, in the midst of a tight credit market, raise the short-term financing needed to fund day-to-day operations in the new fiscal year that starts July 1. Tax receipts in the Golden State have dropped 27% from last year, and without bridge financing, Chiang warns, the state could run out of money by the end of July. (Read Joel Stein on "California's State of Insanity.")

Since the May 19 special election, the governor has proposed cutting public schools' funding by $5.2 billion, closing 220 state parks, firing 5,000 state workers, selling state property and, most dramatically, eliminating the safety net of subsistence economic support and health care to 1 million children living in poverty.

Acknowledging the pain these cuts will cause to million of state residents, Schwarzenegger declared, "We are not Washington. We cannot print money. We cannot run up trillion-dollar deficits. We can only spend what we have. That is the harsh but simple reality."

The Republican governor and GOP legislators say they will not raise taxes, especially after Schwarzenegger and six Republican legislators brokered a budget deal in February that combined deep cuts and $12.8 billion in higher taxes. At that time, the governor said, "We solved $36 billion of a $42 billion deficit," but the continuing economic meltdown has spilled even more red ink.

Schwarzenegger has done his best to make the case that the budget woes are as much "an opportunity to make government more efficient" as a funding crisis, but that is little comfort to average residents. "People come up to me all the time, pleading, 'Governor, please don't cut my program,' " Schwarzenegger said Tuesday. "I see the pain in their eyes and hear the fear in their voice. It's an awful feeling. But we have no choice." (Read "Can Marijuana Help Rescue California's Economy?")

Critics are appalled. "With a reckless cuts-only approach, the governor proposes life-threatening cuts to deny coverage for kidney dialysis, cancer treatments, HIV testing, mental-health care and many other needed services. For over 1 million children, Governor Schwarzenegger would eliminate Healthy Families coverage altogether, leaving those kids and their families at severe medical and financial risk," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Despite their relatively small numbers in the California legislature, Republicans wield lots of leverage, because both a budget and a tax increase require a two-thirds vote of the Assembly and Senate. Democrats realize raising any revenue will be difficult but still hope to target "sin taxes" and specific business taxes to avoid closing the budget shortfall entirely with historic cuts in services. Assembly speaker Karen Bass, a Democrat from South Los Angeles, says she is optimistic the state can close the budget gap in the next three weeks.

For his part, Schwarzenegger continues to argue that there are smart ways to make the necessary cuts. If the state has to cut billions of dollars from the schools, he argues, why not "give districts more freedom and flexibility"? And with state spending on prisons having nearly doubled in the past five years, the governor believes it is time to follow the lead of other states that have "privately run correctional facilities that operate at half the cost."

Chaos, arm-twisting gave Pelosi win--By Glenn Thrush, Patrick O'Connor Glenn Thrush, Patrick O'connor

After lawmakers had devoured the last of the Kalua Pig at last Thursday night’s White House Luau, Nancy Pelosi summoned her team back to the Capitol — to ensure the climate change bill wasn’t the next thing roasted on the spit.

Pelosi and her top lieutenants would spend the next four hours whipping, cajoling, begging and browbeating undecided Democrats — and triple-checking their whip lists to decide who was a solid “yes” and who was prevaricating on the cap-and-trade legislation.

Yet no matter how many calls they made — or how many times they checked and rechecked their list — Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) kept coming up between 12 and 20 votes short of the 216 votes needed to win.

“We didn’t have the votes — and we had to have this vote,” said a leadership aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This was the big one for us. [Pelosi] staked her prestige on this one. . This was her flagship issue, and this was a flagship vote for us.”

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed by only 219-212, after an epic day replete with Republican ambushes, petty betrayals, hastily rearranged flights and disappearing acts.

Yet for all the apparent chaos, the action was commanded by a House speaker maneuvering with the urgency of someone who knew her reputation was on the line.

Despite Republican promises to punish battleground state Democrats for supporting a “cap and tax” plan, Pelosi and her fractious caucus passed their most serious test to date.

And whatever the fallout, aides say that both Pelosi and President Barack Obama now know that their majority can hold together — barely — when placed under withering pressure — which may bode well for the equally arduous trials on health care reform.

At the end of it all, Pelosi, who floated in and out of the House cloakroom all day, impossible to miss in an arctic-white linen pantsuit, gambled big and pulled off one of the most important legislative victories of her career, a win she views as a personal vindication, according to those close to the San Francisco Democrat.

“There’s no question about it,” Clyburn said after the vote. “She went back to her whipping days of old. She is an incredibly good whip. I’m trying to learn from her every day.”

Despite the most coordinated push yet between Democrats on the Hill and the Obama White House, the outcome was not certain until the very end, according to two dozen aides and members of Congress interviewed by POLITICO.

“It was really never a solid [216],” one person said afterward.

Party leaders agreed to bring the bill to the floor during a meeting Monday night, even though some of the members present had reservations about forcing vulnerable Democrats to cast votes on a package that may not go anywhere in the Senate.

In the days leading up the vote, the number of Democratic “yes” votes was locked at 200, according to people familiar with the tally. Every time they’d pick up one vote, another would slip. Democratic leaders needed a cushion to help protect the most vulnerable among them, and they didn’t have it.

As the frustration grew, an aide joked in one meeting that White House staff should give fence-sitters the same colored leis so that the president and his Cabinet secretaries would know who to buttonhole. The desperation was such that others in the room paused for a split second to consider the joke before abandoning it as a logistical impossibility.

During the luau, Clyburn set up shop in the Oval Office with Obama to meet with wavering Democrats, like freshmen Reps. Frank Kratovil Jr. of Maryland and Eric Massa of New York. Members of Clyburn’s whip team patrolled the White House lawn, cornering colleagues and making the case for the bill.

As the week wore on, Pelosi was directing former Vice President Al Gore whom to call, but everyone decided late Wednesday night that the list of undecided members was small enough that he should stay in Nashville, Tenn., to make calls.

On the day of the vote, the bleary-eyed tag team of Pelosi and Clyburn camped out in the cloakroom, just off the House floor, for nearly three hours.

One of Pelosi’s first targets was Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a key fence-sitter who wanted more money generated from the carbon trading to be directed to the research and development of green technology.

Pelosi talked to him again and again, but he wouldn’t budge. Her message to him was the same as it was to others: It wasn’t worth voting against the bill because of what wasn’t in it.

According to witnesses, Pelosi perched herself on the arm of Holt’s chair and went nose to nose with him for a half-hour warning him that his no vote could scuttle the entire climate change effort — and that liberals would have another chance to make their case once the bill came back from the Senate.

Around 2 o’clock, he became a “yes.”

Next up was Austin, Texas, liberal Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who had seemed to be leaning toward the bill during a Thursday night visit with Obama in the Oval Office — but then infuriated the White House midday Friday by declaring the measure too weak on polluters to win his vote.
An exasperated White House staffer told POLITICO it was “stunning that he would ignore the wishes not just of his president but of his constituents and the country.”

Then Pelosi began working Doggett as the two stood in the back of the chamber near the railing, making the same perfect-is-enemy-of-the-good argument she had used against Holt. Doggett ended up voting “yes.”During the vote, Washington Rep. Jay Inslee, one of the taller members of the House, guarded the doors on the floor leading out to the Speaker’s Lobby, warning members not to leave the floor in case anyone needed to switch his or her vote. But that didn’t stop some Democrats, like Colorado Rep. John Salazar, from voting no early and sneaking out to avoid getting pressured by party leaders.

Leadership aides say Texas Rep. Ciro Rodriguez promised Pelosi he’d vote yes, but voted no and sprinted from the chamber. California Rep. Xavier Becerra tried unsuccessfully to flag him on his cell phone — and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) bounded into the ornate Speaker’s Lobby off the floor shouting, “Rodriguez! Rodriguez!” as puzzled reporters looked on.

Pelosi forced members to postpone their trips abroad to stay in town for the vote, aides familiar with the situation said. At one point, she even promised to escort one member out to the airport in her motorcade to catch an early flight — as House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) stalled the proceedings with an hourlong reading from the 300-page manager’s amendment.

California Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a master of floor procedure who left the House on Friday to take a top job at the State Department, may have made the biggest personal sacrifice by postponing a dinner the night before her wedding to preside over the debate — her last as a member of Congress.

When another Californian, Rep. Joe Baca, declared himself undeclared, Pelosi and her whip team surrounded him — and burst out into applause when he cast one of the decisive “yes” votes, according to an eyewitness.

Members who wanted to be spared of the Pelosi treatment — slinked in and out of the chamber hoping the speaker wouldn’t notice them.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) — another progressive who didn’t think the bill was strong enough — was an especially elusive target, according to leadership aides. Pelosi’s attempts to contact Filner early Friday weren’t successful, staffers say, but she began lobbying him furiously when he showed up for a series of procedural votes leading up to the fateful climate change measure.

After Baca and others had cast their “yeas,” the speaker walked up to Filner and calmly said, “It’s now your time to be on the record, Mr. Filner,” according to a witness.

He voted yes.

California's Fiscal Crisis: The Legacy of Proposition 13--By KEVIN O'LEARY / LOS ANGELES

The financial crisis in California grew worse this week as State Controller John Chiang warned that if legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fail to come up with a budget-balancing package, he would begin paying California's bills with IOUs on July 2. The last time the state did this was during the Great Depression.

What has brought California to such a perilous state? How did its government become so wildly dysfunctional? One obvious cause is the deep recession that has caused tax revenues to plunge for all states. But California's woes have a set of deeper reasons: direct democracy run amok, timid governors, partisan gridlock and a flawed constitution all contribute to budget chaos and people in pain. And at the root of California's misery lies Proposition 13, the antitax measure that ignited the Reagan Revolution and the conservative era. In Washington, the Reagan-Bush era is over. But in California, the conservative legacy lives on. (Read TIME's report: Can the U.S. Afford to Let California Fail?)

Before Prop 13, in the 1950s and '60s, California was a liberal showcase. Governors Earl Warren and Pat Brown responded to the population growth of the postwar boom with a massive program of public infrastructure - the nation's finest public college system, the freeway system and the state aqueduct that carries water from the well-watered north to the parched south. When Ronald Reagan was governor he actually raised taxes. Then Proposition 13 shot the tires out of Pat Brown's liberal state. Liberal legislative leaders such as Willie Brown and John Burton jerry-rigged repairs and kept the damaged vehicle running for 30 years. Now Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger says there is no choice but to complete the demolition by slashing essential services. (TIME's Joel Stein weighs in on California's state of insanity)

Proposition 13 was the brainchild of the late Howard Jarvis. The antitax crusader was a policy genius not unlike Franklin D. Roosevelt. Both shared an affinity for designing deep structural change that, once embedded in the political system, is nearly impossible to alter without a massive change of heart by voters. Social Security is the lasting legacy of the New Deal era because F.D.R. understood that workers who contribute payroll-tax deductions from their paychecks would not want politicians tinkering with their retirement dollars. Conservatives have mounted assaults on Social Security through the years but to no avail.

Jarvis created a similarly impregnable institution. When he rode the wave of anger over skyrocketing property-tax assessments to pass Proposition 13 in 1978, he included a two-thirds vote requirement for the passage of any new taxes in California - an insurmountable obstacle built on populist allergy to any kind of new levy. Beholden to a tax-averse electorate, the state's liberals and moderates have attempted to live with Proposition 13 while continuing to provide the state services Californians expect - freeways, higher education, locking up felons, assisting needy families and, very importantly, essential funding to local government and school districts that vanished after the antitax measure passed.

Now, however, that balancing act no longer seems possible. In the state's current fiscal crisis, California's public schools stand to lose $5.3 billion on top of $7.4 billion in cuts last year. Superintendents and school boards foresee teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, the loss of computer labs and libraries and, in some districts, insolvency. Superintendent Ramon Cortines says the Los Angeles Unified School District will lay off more than 2,500 teachers.

"If not for the county [welfare program], lots of people would be out on the streets and I'd be one of them with my two kids," says Cinnamon McDaniel. Petite and well dressed, McDaniel is hardly the Reagan-stereotype welfare mom of yore. The 26-year-old African American mother of two was employed until a year ago when her doctor ordered her to stop working because of complications with her second pregnancy. A high school graduate and a preschool teacher's aide for six years, she is working toward a nursing degree. Following a divorce, she now receives a welfare check for $623 as well as food stamps and the state's health coverage for low-income families. "Last year I was able to work and pay my own bills. I'd like to see if Gov. Schwarzenegger could cut it on $600 a month."

South of Los Angeles at California State University, Fullerton, Nicole Muth, 22, has just finished her junior year with straight A's. Muth grew up in Modesto with "lots of love but no money." Raised by her aunt and uncle, she receives a Cal Grant of $4,500 a year. "It definitely helps," says Muth, who credits the grant with allowing her to focus on her studies. As part of his proposed budget cuts, however, Schwarzenegger says Cal Grants should be phased out and that money promised to the incoming college class eliminated. "I appreciate the grant very much and I'm concerned about students coming after me not having the opportunities I've had," says Muth. "I'm really sad to see our state in this economic crisis. It's bewildering." Muth is not alone.

The governor has addressed the need for shrinking the state, saying, "We have to go and make certain cuts in health care. We have to make certain cuts in education, in higher education, in all these various different programs, in prisons, law enforcement and so on." But Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a nonprofit advocacy group, says, "These are no longer cuts. These are amputations, and the question is, Which limb are we cutting off today?"

Jay-Z - History

(Jay-Z - History)Jay-Z - History with Lyrics

LYRICS : [Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
(Gimme a lighter)
Victory (Lighters up) is finally ours
(Lighters up)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 1: Jay-Z]
In search of victory, she keeps eluding me
If only we could be together momentarily
We can make love and make history
Why won't you visit me? until she visit me
I'll be stuck with her sister, her name is defeat
She gives me agony, so much agony
She brings me so much pain, so much misery
Like missing your last shot and falling to your knees
As the crowd screams for the other team
I practice so hard for this moment, victory don't leave
I know what this means, I'm stuck in this routine
Whole new different day, same old thing
All I got is dreams, nobody else can see
Nobody else believes, nobody else but me
Where are you victory? I need you desperately
Not just for the moment, to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History (yeah), so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 2: Jay-Z]
So now I'm flirting with death, hustling like a G
While victory wasn't watching took chances repeatedly
As a teenage boy before acne, before I got proactiv I couldn't face she
I just threw on my hoodie and headed to the street
That's where I met success, we'd live together shortly
Now success is like lust, she's good to the touch
She's good for the moment but she's never enough
Everybody's had her, she's nothing like V
But success is all I got unfortunately
But I'm burning down the block hoppin' in and out of V
But something tells me that there's much more to see
Before I get killed because I can't get robbed
So before me success and death ménage
I gotta get lost, I gotta find V
We gotta be together to make history

[Chorus: Cee-lo]
Now that all the smoke is gone
(Lighters. Up.)
And the battle's finally won
(Lighter. Up.)
Victory is finally ours
(Lighters. Up.)
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

[Verse 3: Jay-Z]
Now victory is mine, it tastes so sweet
She's my trophy wife, you're coming with me
We'll have a baby who stutters repeatedly
We'll name him history, he'll repeat after me
He's my legacy, son of my hard work
Future of my past, he'll explain who I be
Rank me amongst the greats, either 1, 2, or 3
If I ain't number one then I failed you victory
Ain't in it for the fame that dies within weeks
Ain't in it for the money, can't take it when you leave
I wanna be remembered long after you grieve
Long after I'm gone, long after I breathe
I leave all I am in the hands of history
That's my last will and testimony
This is much more than a song, it's a baby shower
I've been waiting for this hour, history you ours

[Chorus: Cee-lo (2x)]
Now that all the smoke is gone
And the battle's finally won
Victory is finally ours
History, so long, so long
So long, so long

Man in the Mirror--By Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

I'm gonna make a change,
for once im my life
It's gonna feel real good,
gonna make a diference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on
my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind
I see the kids in the streets,
with not enought to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard,a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)
(Na na na, na na na, na na, na nah)

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
(Washed-out dream)
They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see
'Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me
(Starting with me!)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
(If you wanna make the world a better place)
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
(Take a look at yourself, and then make a change)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Change his ways - ooh!)
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that..
(Take a look at yourself and then make that..)

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
(Man in the mirror - Oh yeah!)
I'm asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could have been any clearer
(If you wanna make the world a better place)

Michael Jackson - Man in the mirror

A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cook

It's been a long time coming but a change is surely going to come in America and the World! I am the Future of America and the World and that is the message that each of us must carry with us each and every day that we wake up on Earth! I am the Future! You are the Future! We are the Future of America and the World! That is way every election is important--primaries, special elections and general! So vote every year and hold our politicians accountable. Hold our political officials accountable by writing them, calling them and making sure they attend meetings that we the people have. "The Time for Change is not Now but Right Now!"

"EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary" should be our anthem and should be our creed as we make the positive differences in America and the world that so many people beg for and hungry for year after year! A Change is Gonna Come, A Change is Gonna Come, that's what we must say as we say "God grants us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courge to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference" each morning before we go about the task of making a positive change in America and the world a reality.

Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

“When will people realize that we are Americans first and foremost, not Democrats or Liberals, not Republicans or Conservatives, not Independents or moderates. We are Americans. Stop putting a political party above America and stop putting any politican above America. America succeeds because of us the people holding our government responsible no matter the political party because the main two political parties are to blame for the condition America is in."—Hodari P.T. Brown

America with its flaws and all is a country I am proud to have been born in. America is not perfect but my love for it is perfect. That’s why all Americans must realize that we are all Americans. In fact we are Americans first and foremost. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are Americans.

We are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. We are Americans. Too many times we recognize our differences with others rather than appreciating our similarities which are, we are Americans. We are Americans first and foremost, no matter if we were born here or moved here legally. We are all Americans, here in this country to make not only our lives better but the lives of other Americans better so future Americans can enjoy the rights and freedoms that make us all Americans.

We are all Americans. We are one party united under God. We are Americans and this is the only political party that matters. We are Americans and this is our country so let’s make sure that we make America better than how we found it so future Americans can live prosperous and joyous lives. We are Americans and must not ever forget that.

America will prosper as long we make sure we are doing our part to make it prosper and that means we can’t put any political party or politician above America. Long live America forever and long live America’s service to the world. Together, America and the world will prosper for future generations to enjoy America and the world we live in.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

This video of the ' Negro National Anthem' was originally screened at the historic African-American Church Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC on January 18th, 2009. Many of the esteemed individuals featured in this video in attendance and we presented with the ' Keepers of the Flame' award for the monumental contributions to social justice.

This version of the song was performed by the Grace Baptist Church Cathedral Choir, conducted by Derrick James. The video was produced and donated by Ascender Communications, LLC ( at the request of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

If I Was President--Wyclef Jean

If I was President that is the people's anthem. We all have ideas of what we can do as President and through this website, we will fulfill our deam as a people!

Somethings Gotta Give--Big Boi ft Mary J Blige

Somethings Gotta Give people and it begins today for all us to make sure that something is us. We the people are sick and tired of suffering. Where is our piece of the Dream that so many people dead for so that we all could see today. This is our time people to change America and the world so that the Next Generation has a better future than the past we inherited.

This is our call to service. This isn't about one political candidate or one political figure. This is about us as people coming together to finally leave up to our potential and achieving the great feats that those before us have achieved. This is our moment to lead our nation and our world to greater heights.

Somethings gotta give people and it starts with us the people making it happen. We have to improve our education system in America. We have to rid the world of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have to go to the streets and lift a hand to another in order to decrease poverty in this world. We have to take a stand today and make sure that the future of America and the world is brighter than it has ever been.

Somethings Gotta Give and that is why we must "Remember Each One, Reach One and Teach One so America's future and the World's future continues to prosper."

John Legend - "If You're Out There"

If you're out there than you need to get started in helping to change America and the world. The world and America won't change until you get involved in making the changes you want to see in this world. If you're out there, than you must know that tomorrow started now and today started yesterday so you are behind in helping to the change. If you are tired of hatred, racism, poverty, war, and violence than the time to change it is now. If you want universal health care, world peace, democracy for every nation, equal rights, and happiness for all than you must get involved now to help the save world.

You must believe in the change that you want to see and you must act on making that change a reality. If you're out there than say it aloud and show the rest of America and the world that you're out here to make a real positive change in the communities we stay in. If you're out there than get involved now. I'm calling every women and men to join me as we take back our country right here, right now. If you're out there than the future started yersterday and we are already late so we have lots of work to do but I know we can do it together as one.


Yes We Can accomplish anything that we set out to do! We don't need charismatic or inspirational leaders to believe in ourselves and to take responsiblity for our own faith, we just need each other. Yes We Can build a new America and a new world if each of us would take action now to make the changes that we want to see in the world. Yes We Can control government by holding our political officials accountable for their actions by calling them out when they don't pass legislation that supports the common good of all man and by voting in every election to ensure that we have people representing the people locally, state wide, nationally and in the world.

Yes We Can be great! Yes We Can be what we want to be! Yes We Can be glorious in not only America but the world! Yes We can put action behind our worlds and change the world starting right here, right now! Yes We Can as Republicans, Democrats and Independents become one as we freely think about our fellow men and women and make decisions that will be in the best interest of all people and not one single group.

Yes We Can be the change that we want to see in the world! Yes We Can show the world that the youth are ready to lead! Yes We Can put our egos, our social economic statuses, our religions, our educational statuses and our skin color to the side for the better good of the world! Yes We Can be Greater than we have ever been and help others be Greater than they have ever be!

YES WE CAN and YES WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS IN ALL THAT WE DO! YES WE CAN, no matter what others may say, we will be glorious! YES WE WILL and YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN is what will be sung from every mountaintop, every riverbank, every household, every school yard, every factory, every sporting event, every college campus and even every place you can imagine in the world is where YES WE CAN, will be said and heard!


Keep On Pushing - Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions

Wake Up People! No matter who is elected to any public office, we have to “Keep On Pushing” as a people to make sure they don’t leave us in a worst state than what they inherited. We as a people have to “Keep On Pushing” to make a difference in the lives of others. We have to have an “EmPOWERment By Any Means Necessary” attitude as we continue to push our agenda that we the people deserve and want better. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change in a positive way that will benefit all Americans no matter their age, their religion or skin color. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will improve our education system, improve our military, improve our national security, improve our healthcare system and improve our economy. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to bring about change that will leave America’s future in a better than how we found it and that will leave the world’s future in a better state than we imagined we could live it. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to make life better for our neighborhoods, our families and even our quote on quote enemies. We have to “Keep On Pushing” to inspire, to uplift and to guide those who need help spiritually, physically and mentally. We have to “Keep On Pushing ” so that our lives, our future generation’s lives and the lives of those who came before us does not die in vein.

“Keep on Pushing”

A War For Your Soul

A War For Your Soul-regular version from Erisai Films on Vimeo.

The moment has come for us as a nation of people to finally wake up and realize that our destiny and fate in society has rests on our shoulders. We cannot allow the forces of evil and darkness to drain us out. We have to continue to overcome all odds in order to make the future of our nation better and the future of future generations of Americans better. We have to continue to pray to our Lord and we have to continue to uplift each other in prayer as well as take action against those things that are trying to destroy us. We have to stand up once and for all and be the future that we want to be. Now is our time and we shall do together by any means necessary.

This video was created to inspire young African-Americans not to fall prey to some of the problems they face in society. The use of the voice "Master of Darkness" represents evil, which is where the blame of all problems should be placed, and not on any one group of people. This video should not to be used to divide people (Black & White), there are images of heroes that are white in this video, and there are images of Black & White coming together with the words of Dr. King in the background. Some of the images from the past can be unsettling, but they are used to show all Americans how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This film is being strategically placed in school systems, churches and youth orgs around the country, in hope of helping a lost generation of kids that we as Americans have forgotten. As fellow Americans we must continue to love each other, and take that love and spread it to the rest of the world. **THIS VIDEO IS NOT FOR SALE & I AM NOT ACCEPTING DONATIONS FOR THE FILM, I ONLY WANT THE MESSAGE TO REACH AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITHOUT ANY HIDDEN POLITICAL OR FINANCIAL AGENDA.
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Sitting On the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

"The time for sitting is over! The time for action is now! The time for hope without action is hopeless! The time for change without a positive attitude is a change that we can't believe in! We need change that is positive of helping all people! Our time for action is now, our time for hope is now, our time for change is now and our time to believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to is not now but right now!"


The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming;
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner; O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land,
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just.
And this be our motto— "In God is our trust; "
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Black President

Our Time is not now but Right Now! Our Time has finally come to change the world not now but Right Now! If you don't believe that we can change the world than watch as we do it by changing your mind into believing in us and what we can do! This is OUR TIME RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!


We got to FIGHT THE POWER! We can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch injustices take place. We can no longer sit by and allow our right to vote to become unexercised. We must FIGHT THE POWER for our past, present and future! We can no longer allow our rights to be oppressed and our voice to become drained by the powers at be. We must FIGHT THE POWER and show that we have a lot to say that needs to be heard by the mainstream media. We must FIGHT THE POWER and live up to our potential as dynamic, unbelievable and phenomenal people.

We must not believe the hype but we must become the hype. We are not Harriett Tubman, Marcus Garvey, MLK, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. DuBois, the Black Panther Party, SNCC, or any other activists but we are the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties, and relatives of those who came before us to pave the way for us to FIGHT THE POWER! We are not next Generation of leaders who will not be honored and praised until they die but that’s the fight we accept. We are not fighting the power for glory or fame but we are fighting the power for just causes that most men and women will not understand until years or decades later.

We are fighting for our sisters and brothers in Darfur, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, China and Mexico. We are speaking for those who are poor and have no food or water. We are fighting for those who are sick and dying. We are fighting for universal healthcare across the world and human rights for all people. We are fighting for rich and poor! We must FIGHT THE POWER no matter how hard and tough the road may be. We must FIGHT THE POWER for a better today and an even greater tomorrow!



“People Get Ready” our time is coming! We have come too far to turn back now. Our train is coming and it is coming in waves. “People Get Ready”, we don’t need a ticket but we need faith and the Lord will help guide us as we take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” our moment is now and we are ready to see the change we want in America and the world. All we got to do is have faith, hope and prosperity. “People Get Ready” to face your fears. “People Get Ready” to face your demons and the challenges of yesterday because today and tomorrow we will conquer & be victorious. “People Get Ready” a change is coming and our actions will make sure that change is a real positive change that lasts forever.

“People Get Ready” because we have had enough of just talking but now is our time to show action. “People Get Ready” to take back America and the world. “People Get Ready” to take back our communities and to make our streets safer and schools better. “People Get Ready” to make all our dreams come true. “People Get Ready” to see a better present for everyone and a better future for future generations. “People Get Ready” to live up to your potential and to help others live up to their own potential. “People Get Ready” to move past hatred, bigotry, racism and sexism. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the dreams of those who came before us and those who will come after us.

“People Get Ready” as we make our actions speak louder than our words. “People Get Ready” to make words mean something again as we put action to back up our rhetoric. “People Get Ready” as we embark on a new journey that will re-write America’s history as well as the world’s history. “People Get Ready” as we make the lives of others better and the lives of future generations better. “People Get Ready” because all we need is faith, hope and action to make this world a better place. “People Get Ready” to make a difference. “People Get Ready” to fulfill the American dream. “People Get Ready" to live out the American Dream as our founding fathers wanted us to live it. “People Get Ready” because our time is now, our moment is now and our moment in time to change America & the world is not now but right now. “People Get Ready” because a change is coming!

(Let me tell you now)
People get ready, there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord

People get ready, for a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among those loved the most

There ain't no room for the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all man kind just to save his own (believe me now)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
For there's no hiding place against the kingdoms throne

[Alicia & Lyfe]
So people get ready there's a train coming
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming,
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the lord


God Bless the U.S.A. by Lee Greenwood

Lee Greenwood-god bless the U.S.A