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Sam Stein

The Huffington Post • stein@huffingtonpost.com

 
Sam Stein

BIO

Bill Daley: I'd Like Republicans To Bring 'Anything' From Obama's Jobs Bill To Floor

October 6, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Faced with unbending opposition from congressional Republicans, the Obama administration signed off on changes to the president's much touted jobs bill on Thursday, endorsing a five percent surtax on income over one million dollars a year to help pick up the $447 billion tab.

But even after tinkering with the American Jobs Act, top aides to the president were left pleading, publicly, for legislative action. They weren't even demanding that House Republicans move the whole package, though that remained the stated goal. At this points, just parts of it would do.

"I would like to see anything start to be brought [to the floor]," White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley told The Huffington Post following his speech at the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday. "The [issue] is, get moving. It is now October, every three weeks they are gone. And they have a lot to do in a short time."

Time, indeed, does not appear to be of the essence to House Republicans, whose leadership has said it won't bring the president's job package in its current form to the floor. The president's proposal may include previously supported GOP provisions (an extension of the payroll tax cut); it may include infrastructure spending that individual Republican lawmakers have sought; it may come at a time when lawmakers unanimously agree on the need to address the jobs crisis. But it also calls for taxes to be raised and that remains anathema in the Grand Old Party.

"If they don't bring it to the floor, the question is, 'Okay, fine, you don't like the president's plan, what is your plan that's real?' asked Daley.

The debate over the president's job bill has quickly become more abstract than substantive. Ask Democrats on the Hill privately and there is quick agreement that, at some point in time, the package will have to be broken up and considered bit by bit.

"If it doesn't pass, we will strip it into components," confirmed one Democratic lawmaker.

Senior administration officials have said the president won't veto components of the plan. So the only question is: When does the paring down actually happen?

And yet, there is a clear explanation for what Democrats are now doing. Forty-nine percent of respondents to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll said they trusted President Obama more than congressional Republicans to handle job creation, compared to 34 percent who said they trusted Republicans more. So when asked whether the White House would be willing to consider, say, an extension of the payroll tax cut on its own, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett stuck to the script, even despite Daley's deviations.

"We want to push for the whole thing," she told The Huffington Post after speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum. "And we will see what Congress does."

That mindset may also help explain why the administration endorsed a pay-for provision it once rejected. Raising the tax rates on income only above a million dollars was once privately cast aside as a political misstep -- an inherent concession that the wealthy in America were only those who made at least seven figures. Yet on Wednesday, both Daley and Jarrett said they embraced the idea as a substitute for the tax policy changes that the president had suggested as a means to pay for his jobs plan.

"The president always said he is open to other alternatives, but the fundamentals of the bill are intact," said Jarrett.

The proposals' primary author, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was slightly more effusive. "This could be a turning point," he said of his own proposal. "The only way we will get the ability to raise revenues, whether for deficit reduction programs or anything else, is if the public starts being on our side. The Republican senators and congressmen will be the last to turn around on that."

But the problem remains: A comprehensive campaign to build up public pressure on Republican lawmakers on the issue of tax hikes will undoubtedly outlast the window for passing the president's job plan.

"Right," conceded Schumer. "But it is a building block and important building block to say that we were willing to pay for it by taxing millionaires and billionaires. The president and the Democrats in Congress are on the same page here. And it is a much crisper, cleaner argument."

Sam Stein

BIO

Bill Daley: I'd Like Republicans To Bring 'Anything' From Obama's Jobs Bill To Floor

October 6, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Faced with unbending opposition from congressional Republicans, the Obama administration signed off on changes to the president's much touted jobs bill on Thursday, endorsing a five percent surtax on income over one million dollars a year to help pick up the $447 billion tab.

But even after tinkering with the American Jobs Act, top aides to the president were left pleading, publicly, for legislative action. They weren't even demanding that House Republicans move the whole package, though that remained the stated goal. At this points, just parts of it would do.

"I would like to see anything start to be brought [to the floor]," White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley told The Huffington Post following his speech at the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday. "The [issue] is, get moving. It is now October, every three weeks they are gone. And they have a lot to do in a short time."

Time, indeed, does not appear to be of the essence to House Republicans, whose leadership has said it won't bring the president's job package in its current form to the floor. The president's proposal may include previously supported GOP provisions (an extension of the payroll tax cut); it may include infrastructure spending that individual Republican lawmakers have sought; it may come at a time when lawmakers unanimously agree on the need to address the jobs crisis. But it also calls for taxes to be raised and that remains anathema in the Grand Old Party.

"If they don't bring it to the floor, the question is, 'Okay, fine, you don't like the president's plan, what is your plan that's real?' asked Daley.

The debate over the president's job bill has quickly become more abstract than substantive. Ask Democrats on the Hill privately and there is quick agreement that, at some point in time, the package will have to be broken up and considered bit by bit.

"If it doesn't pass, we will strip it into components," confirmed one Democratic lawmaker.

Senior administration officials have said the president won't veto components of the plan. So the only question is: When does the paring down actually happen?

And yet, there is a clear explanation for what Democrats are now doing. Forty-nine percent of respondents to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll said they trusted President Obama more than congressional Republicans to handle job creation, compared to 34 percent who said they trusted Republicans more. So when asked whether the White House would be willing to consider, say, an extension of the payroll tax cut on its own, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett stuck to the script, even despite Daley's deviations.

"We want to push for the whole thing," she told The Huffington Post after speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum. "And we will see what Congress does."

That mindset may also help explain why the administration endorsed a pay-for provision it once rejected. Raising the tax rates on income only above a million dollars was once privately cast aside as a political misstep -- an inherent concession that the wealthy in America were only those who made at least seven figures. Yet on Wednesday, both Daley and Jarrett said they embraced the idea as a substitute for the tax policy changes that the president had suggested as a means to pay for his jobs plan.

"The president always said he is open to other alternatives, but the fundamentals of the bill are intact," said Jarrett.

The proposals' primary author, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), was slightly more effusive. "This could be a turning point," he said of his own proposal. "The only way we will get the ability to raise revenues, whether for deficit reduction programs or anything else, is if the public starts being on our side. The Republican senators and congressmen will be the last to turn around on that."

But the problem remains: A comprehensive campaign to build up public pressure on Republican lawmakers on the issue of tax hikes will undoubtedly outlast the window for passing the president's job plan.

"Right," conceded Schumer. "But it is a building block and important building block to say that we were willing to pay for it by taxing millionaires and billionaires. The president and the Democrats in Congress are on the same page here. And it is a much crisper, cleaner argument."

Sam Stein

BIO

Herman Cain's 2004 Campaign: 'Godless' Gays And Planned Parenthood Eugenics

October 5, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Herman Cain's widespread appeal, which has helped him ascend the ranks of the Republican primary field, stems in part from his ability to cast himself as the reluctant candidate. Cain is known as a successful businessman first and a motivational speaker and author second. He often tries to portray his run for the White House as an answer to the call of a unique time and challenges.

“I’m not a professional politician," he says. "I’m a professional problem solver."

But if Cain is not a professional politician, it's not entirely by choice. He ran for a Senate seat in Georgia in 2004 but lost in the Republican primary to current Sen. Johnny Isakson. That period of Cain's political life has gotten scant attention even as his White House bid has transformed from a quixotic quest to something more serious. That might be because the Cain who ran for Senate is a different type of candidate than the one running for the White House.

What stands out in particular is the extent to which the former Godfather's Pizza CEO used sharply conservative cultural issues to set himself apart from his fellow Republicans. An archived search of Cain's campaign website shows that he routinely attacked Isakson for wavering on abortion rights, chastising him in an early radio ad for voting "to allow abortions in our tax-funded military hospitals overseas." (The bill had simply allowed servicemen or women serving overseas to use personal funds on abortion.)

In an early television ad he introduced himself, first and foremost, as a believer of life from conception.

In an issue paper on his website, meanwhile, he said he would oppose abortion in the case of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, as well as the use of tax dollars that "could encourage abortion as a 'solution' to problem pregnancies."

Cain Abortion

The website also featured a "Contract with Georgia," in which he listed ten priorities he would pursue upon entering office. Third on the list was "Protect life which begins at conception."

Cain Contract

Beyond the confines of a carefully managed campaign website, Cain was even more outspoken. He told the Washington Post that he considers "plausible" a theory that the abortion rights group, Planned Parenthood, was established to systematically lower the black population.

"One of the motivations was killing black babies," he said, "because they didn't want to deal with the problems of illiteracy and poverty."

His campaign dealt with cultural issues beyond abortion as well. When a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was offered in the state of Georgia, he jumped to applaud its passage.

"We have a war on our moral fiber," he said, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press article on February 22, 2004. "We will not allow the godless few to destroy our moral foundation."

Even substantive political debates were passed through the prism of culture and race. Arguing that Social Security needed to be disbanded and replaced with 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts, Cain made the case that the entitlement program was inherently biased against African Americans.

"If that's going to be a transfer from me to white people," Cain said of his own payments into the Social Security trust fund, "can't I at least give it to white people I like?"

The extent to which Cain the presidential candidate would back off from any of these positions is unclear. His campaign didn't return an email request for comment. He has aired his suspicions about Planned Parenthood-linked eugenics more recently than 2004, but his position on gay marriage is a bit more vague now than it was back then.

What's noteworthy is the extent to which talk of race, abortion, or same-sex marriage rarely come up, either for Cain or any other Republican presidential candidate. A run for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Georgia is inherently different than a Republican presidential primary contest. But more than that, it's the current political and economic climate that is responsible for social issues taking a backseat. And for Cain, that climate has facilitated what's clearly been a beneficial evolution in his campaign narrative, allowing him to emphasize his business background rather than play the role of orthodox social conservative.

Earlier on the Huffington Post:

Sam Stein

BIO

Darrell Issa Pressed To Add Bush Administration Program To Fast And Furious Investigation

October 5, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The long-simmering controversy surrounding the Department of Justice's Fast and Furious program took on a new level of import Tuesday amid the publication of two major stories.

The first, and more damaging for the Obama administration, was a CBS report accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of making contradictory statements during a May 3, 2011 Judiciary Committee hearing when he said he had first heard about the program -- which allowed illegal guns to be sent into Mexico so that investigators could trace where they were going –- only "over the last few weeks." Internal Justice Department documents showed that Holder had, in fact, received memos discussing Fast and Furious almost a year before that hearing.

There were nuances to the story. Weekly DOJ reports like the one cited in the CBS story are stuffed with general information about a host of Department programs, making it possible if not excusable that Holder glossed over it at the time. Still, Tracy Schmaler, a DOJ spokesman, noted that Holder had said both in March and May of 2011 that he became aware of the "questionable tactics employed in the Fast and Furious Program in early 2011 when ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] agents first raised them publicly."

‪“As the documents provided to Congress show, not a single one of these reports referenced the controversial tactics that allowed guns to cross the border, and in fact, in one example provided to Congress consisted of a single sentence referencing a Phoenix-based operation," Schmaler added. "None of the handful of entries in 2010 regarding the Fast and Furious suggested there was anything amiss with that investigation requiring leadership to take corrective action or commit to memory this particular operation prior to the disturbing claims raised by ATF agents in the early part of 2011."

The distinction between knowledge that Fast and Furious exists and knowledge about the controversial aspects of the program may be a useful one. But it did little to assuage critics of the Justice Department's handling of the program, some of whom have called for an independent investigation into the Attorney General's testimony. (Full disclosure: my wife works for the Department of Justice.)

The second story to emerge on Tuesday provided some relief for the administration. The Associated Press reported that a program similar to Fast and Furious had been implemented under the Bush administration.

Far less is known about that program, Operation Wide Receiver -- which also allowed guns to be transferred to suspected traffickers for the purposes of tracking their movement -- mainly because it remained a secret during the previous administration. But to the extent that it was similar to Fast and Furious, it helped defuse the current controversy.

The chief driver of the Fast and Furious investigations, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), had pledged to look into the Bush administration when circumstances demanded it, noting, "many of the issues we’re working on began [with] President Bush or even before, and haven’t been solved."

And during a CNN interview on Tuesday evening, he was pressed for the first time to address the work done by Obama's predecessor on arms trafficking.

“[W]e will get to the bottom of whether or not this practice in a smaller way may have begun on the Bush watch," he said. "We’re not putting it past any administration and giving anyone a pass. The American people and the people of Mexico expect us to have a zero tolerance for letting drugs come into our country or weapons go into Mexico.”

The remark certainly indicated a willingness to broaden the scope of the Fast and Furious investigation. But in a statement sent to The Huffington Post Tuesday night, Issa's press secretary on the Oversight committee, Becca Glover Watkins, hinted strongly that her office viewed throwing the Bush administration into the mix as a political distraction.

“The committee has received paltry few documents from the Justice Department about Operation Wide Receiver but Justice officials still have not made clear to committee investigators what did and did not take place in this operation," she said. "This far into the investigation, throwing out the 'Bush Administration did it too' defense reeks of desperation. If true, it would indicate that Obama Justice officials have engaged in an active effort to deceive Congress about gun-walking they knew had taken place but had strenuously denied until only recently.”

Sam Stein

BIO

Darrell Issa Pressed To Add Bush Administration Program To Fast And Furious Investigation

October 5, 2011

WASHINGTON -- The long-simmering controversy surrounding the Department of Justice's Fast and Furious program took on a new level of import Tuesday amid the publication of two major stories.

The first, and more damaging for the Obama administration, was a CBS report accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of making contradictory statements during a May 3, 2011 Judiciary Committee hearing when he said he had first heard about the program -- which allowed illegal guns to be sent into Mexico so that investigators could trace where they were going –- only "over the last few weeks." Internal Justice Department documents showed that Holder had, in fact, received memos discussing Fast and Furious almost a year before that hearing.

There were nuances to the story. Weekly DOJ reports like the one cited in the CBS story are stuffed with general information about a host of Department programs, making it possible if not excusable that Holder glossed over it at the time. Still, Tracy Schmaler, a DOJ spokesman, noted that Holder had said both in March and May of 2011 that he became aware of the "questionable tactics employed in the Fast and Furious Program in early 2011 when ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] agents first raised them publicly."

‪“As the documents provided to Congress show, not a single one of these reports referenced the controversial tactics that allowed guns to cross the border, and in fact, in one example provided to Congress consisted of a single sentence referencing a Phoenix-based operation," Schmaler added. "None of the handful of entries in 2010 regarding the Fast and Furious suggested there was anything amiss with that investigation requiring leadership to take corrective action or commit to memory this particular operation prior to the disturbing claims raised by ATF agents in the early part of 2011."

The distinction between knowledge that Fast and Furious exists and knowledge about the controversial aspects of the program may be a useful one. But it did little to assuage critics of the Justice Department's handling of the program, some of whom have called for an independent investigation into the Attorney General's testimony. (Full disclosure: my wife works for the Department of Justice.)

The second story to emerge on Tuesday provided some relief for the administration. The Associated Press reported that a program similar to Fast and Furious had been implemented under the Bush administration.

Far less is known about that program, Operation Wide Receiver -- which also allowed guns to be transferred to suspected traffickers for the purposes of tracking their movement -- mainly because it remained a secret during the previous administration. But to the extent that it was similar to Fast and Furious, it helped defuse the current controversy.

The chief driver of the Fast and Furious investigations, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), had pledged to look into the Bush administration when circumstances demanded it, noting, "many of the issues we’re working on began [with] President Bush or even before, and haven’t been solved."

And during a CNN interview on Tuesday evening, he was pressed for the first time to address the work done by Obama's predecessor on arms trafficking.

“[W]e will get to the bottom of whether or not this practice in a smaller way may have begun on the Bush watch," he said. "We’re not putting it past any administration and giving anyone a pass. The American people and the people of Mexico expect us to have a zero tolerance for letting drugs come into our country or weapons go into Mexico.”

The remark certainly indicated a willingness to broaden the scope of the Fast and Furious investigation. But in a statement sent to The Huffington Post Tuesday night, Issa's press secretary on the Oversight committee, Becca Glover Watkins, hinted strongly that her office viewed throwing the Bush administration into the mix as a political distraction.

“The committee has received paltry few documents from the Justice Department about Operation Wide Receiver but Justice officials still have not made clear to committee investigators what did and did not take place in this operation," she said. "This far into the investigation, throwing out the 'Bush Administration did it too' defense reeks of desperation. If true, it would indicate that Obama Justice officials have engaged in an active effort to deceive Congress about gun-walking they knew had taken place but had strenuously denied until only recently.”

< 10.04.2011