THE BLOG
06/09/2013 12:35 am ET Updated Aug 08, 2013

Washington Watch: Week 19 - "Let's Play Ball"

The Administration played offense this week....the President, the Attorney General, and even the First Lady.

Rice for National Security

This past week the President nominated his embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice for the post of National Security Adviser. The highly capable Rice was the victim of much vitriol from Senate Republicans when she was mentioned as a possible Secretary of State.

By nominating Rice, the President signifies that his Administration is moving forward with or without GOP support (of which there has been NONE!).

The New York Times summarized the President's action in an article entitled: In Personnel Appointments, Obama Takes Assertive Tack:

"Mr. Obama made no secret of how upset he was when he passed over Ms. Rice for secretary of state last winter amid a furor about the handling of the deadly attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya. But ever since, he has been choosing appointees and nominees he knew would provoke fights with Republicans, almost as if trying to redeem the moment.
The unapologetic selections reflect a conclusion in the West Wing that when it comes to choosing personnel, the president can never satisfy Republicans who will find almost anyone objectionable."
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Three Judicial Nominees

Still battling to get his judicial nominees confirmed, the President nominated Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. This is expected to start a confirmation battle with Senate Republicans and just might lead to Senate leader Harry Reid taking the 'nuclear option' he threatened a few weeks ago.

The Economist reports:

"If Republicans filibuster Mr Obama's nominees, a showdown over the filibuster itself will follow. Harry Reid, the Democrats' leader in the Senate, has threatened to use his majority to end the filibuster for presidential nominees. (A filibuster needs 60 out of 100 votes to defeat it; an ordinary vote just 51.) This would probably cause the Republicans, in retaliation, to wreak havoc in all other areas of Senate business."
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The importance of these confirmations cannot be understated considering The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington is described as the nation's second most important court, following the Supreme Court. Cases on their way to the Supreme Court often go through the DC Circuit court.

Speaking of the Supreme Court....the next few weeks will be MAJOR as they rule on SIGNIFICANT civil rights cases (voting rights, affirmative action, gay marriage), as stated in NPR's Court Prepares To Write New Chapters In Civil Rights History:

"By June's end, Americans will know if and how public colleges and universities may administer programs designed to enroll more minority students.
Whether a key 1965 Voting Rights Act provision will survive, and with it federal monitoring of places with histories of discriminatory voting practices.
And if congressional action barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage is constitutional, and similar state restrictions enforceable."
Read More

Holder Not Ready to Step Down

Another embattled Administration figure...Eric Holder, made clear he is not ready to step down as Attorney General. The GOP has made Holder the 'face' of the many 'scandals' they are spending MUCH time on.

Holder told NBC's Pete Williams he has "no intention of stepping down." As reported:

"When it comes to his future tenure Holder said, "There's some things that I want to do, some things I want to get done" before relinquishing the post he has held since February of 2009. "I've discussed that with the president. And once I have finished that, I'll sit down with him and we'll determine when it's time to make a transition to a new attorney general."
Asked, directly, if he would step down, he responded, "No, I have no intention of doing so now."

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Americans of all political stripes are 'concerned' over allegations of domestic spying with the NSA collecting phone and internet communications. The Administration says all of this is part of the fight to keep America safe (and yes most of it was started during the Bush years.) The President said, during a speech in San Jose this week, that the data sweep is not targeting Americans and "nobody is listening to your phone calls."

I think we can assume that every phone call, email, text message, web search, online purchase,etc. can be part of the public record. Privacy restrictions and access rules haven't kept up with the technology...AND it seems the government can override restrictions ANYWAY!!!

This CNN op-ed by Bruce Schneier, from a few months ago, sums it all up:

"The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period."

And Finally.....

"Michelle Don't Play That"

Speaking at a fundraising event Mrs. Obama was heckled by a protester. The first lady left the podium, addressing the heckler directly and reportedly telling her audience,"One of the things I don't do well is this." She walked toward the heckler telling the woman she could, "listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving. You all decide. You have one choice." The heckler was escorted out of the room.

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Washington Watch is a weekly look at President Obama's second term -- and related news on the national scene. For prior weeks of Washington Watch visit: Our-Gov.com

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