Thursday, February 12, 2009

Funny How Just a Few Weeks Ago Democrats Were Complaining That the Executive Branch had too Much Power Under Bush

GOP Threatens Legal Action Against Obama for Plan to Oversee 2010 Census

House Republican leaders said Thursday they're ready to go to court against President Obama if he doesn't scuttle his plan to move the census into the purview of the Oval Office, saying it's an unconstitutional abuse of power.

House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind., also called on Obama to withdraw his nominee to head the Commerce Department, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, if Obama didn't have the confidence in him to lead the Census Bureau. Gregg has been a long time opponent of increased funding to the bureau.

Under Obama's plan, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, who has yet to be named, would report to White House senior management in addition to the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau.

A Senate committee has scheduled a hearing next month on the potential change. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are also pushing for an investigation.

GOP leaders sent Obama a letter to the White House on Wednesday demanding a reversal of the plan.

"If the president doesn't acquiesce to our letter, then we will seek the courts," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at a news conference Thursday.

"Ultimately I don't think there's any question among federal courts about whether or not this is a personal power of the presidency or whether or not executive privilege would be waived if he started doing functions like this," Issa said.

A spokesman for Issa told that the lawmaker wouldn't initiate a lawsuit but would lend his support to any individual or group that did.

At the news conference Thursday, House Republican leaders announced the formation of a census task force to keep an eye on developments. Republicans displayed a large placard with a 2006 quote from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that read, "If you think redistricting is always partisan and political which it's going to be on steroids this time."

Census numbers determine everything from government pay-outs to how many people represent each state in Congress. Past censuses have sparked fights over issues as varied as how to ensure remote population groups are counted accurately to how such terms as "poverty" are defined.

The controversy began when Obama nominated Gregg to head the Commerce Department.

Gregg once voted for a broader budget measure that would have abolished the agency, and he opposed increased funding for the 2000 census. Gregg's record raised concerns about his commitment to an accurate census count, a priority for minority groups that have historically been undercounted.

Gregg's nomination initially pleased Republicans because he has opposed increased funding to the census and once supported abolishing the agency. But now they have begun to question his silence.

"If President Obama doesn't trust Sen. Gregg to oversee a fair and accurate census, he should withdraw the nomination," said GOP conference chairman Mike Pence, R-Ind.

The White House sought to soothe those concerns in a statement late last week reassuring that the census director would "work closely with White House senior management."

That in turn sparked an uproar from Republicans, who accused the White House of injecting partisan politics into the census and seeking to cut out agency professionals in favor of political operatives.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday, emphasizing Obama's commitment to a "complete and accurate count through a process that is free from politicization" even while seeking to explain that no real change was being made to the census director's chain of command.

"As they have in the past, White House senior management will work closely with the census director given the number of decisions that will need to reach the president's desk," said the statement from White House spokesman Benjamin LaBolt.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., who has pushed legislation to create an independent census agency, complained about the move by House Republicans, saying their "answer is to have a press conference and create a tempest over the Census Bureau, even before the president has had a chance to unpack his bags."

FOX News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Funny How Democrats Never Ask for a Fiarness Doctrine in News Print

Democratic lawmakers are considering pushing to revive the Fairness Doctrine to help increase the number of liberal shows on the airwaves.

A political battle is brewing over control of the radio airwaves as Democrats consider pushing for the revival of the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC policy that requires broadcast stations to provide opposing views on controversial issues of public importance.

Democratic lawmakers who support the doctrine say it will help increase the number of liberal shows in a landscape dominated by conservative talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

"I absolutely think it's time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told liberal radio host Bill Press last week. She said she expects hearings soon on reviving the policy, which was introduced in 1949 and abolished in 1987.

Stabenow's husband, Tom Athans, is and has been an executive at several liberal radio talk groups.

But Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe said radio programming should be based on what brings in listeners and advertisers.

"I can't think of anything worse than to have government in a position to dictate the content of information going over public radio," said Inhofe, a Republican. "The whole idea is that it has to be market driven. We have a lot of progressive or liberal radio shows but nobody listens to them and every time one tries to get on, they are not successful."

Inhofe and other critics believe those pushing to bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- nicknamed the Hush Rush Doctrine -- want to diminish the influence of Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts. Supporters insist that's not the case.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told Press Wednesday that the Fairness Doctrine is needed not to remove any conservative voices, but to ensure that there are a few liberal shows on the air.

During the presidential campaign, a spokesman said Barack Obama did not favor reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. But his White House spokesman has since left the door open.

"I pledge to you to study up on the 'Fairness Doctrine' so that, one day, I might give you a more fulsome answer," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Inhofe says Democrats and liberal advocacy groups aren't going to let the matter drop.

"They are committed to make this happen," he said. "We got to be ready."

Inhofe introduced a bill this year to prevent reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, but he said he has not gotten a single Democrat to co-sponsor it.

FOX News' Molly Henneberg contributed to this report.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Yeah, but since Obama did it and not Bush, it's merely Change We Can Believe In...


The good folks at the Wall Street Journal editorial page had this to say about Mr. Obama's heavily choreographed press conference this week:

About half-way through President Obama's press conference Monday night, he had an unscripted question of his own. "All, Chuck Todd," the President said, referring to NBC's White House correspondent. "Where's Chuck?" He had the same strange question about Fox News's Major Garrett: "Where's Major?"

The problem wasn't the lighting in the East Room. The President was running down a list of reporters preselected to ask questions. The White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.

Presidents are free to conduct press conferences however they like, but the decision to preselect questioners is an odd one, especially for a White House famously pledged to openness. We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors. Mr. Obama can more than handle his own, so our guess is that this is an attempt to discipline reporters who aren't White House favorites.

Few accounts of Monday night's event even mentioned the curious fact that the White House had picked its speakers in advance. We hope that omission wasn't out of fear of being left off the list the next time.

The original editorial can be found here.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Did TASS Report the Story?

Analysis: Obama Appeals to Liberal Media in First Prime Time Press Conference
President Obama reached out to non-traditional and left-wing media in his first prime time press conference at the White House.

He seated a left-wing radio host in the coveted front row. He called on a liberal blogger from the Huffington Post. He even brought far-left columnist Helen Thomas out of the wilderness and let her ruminate about "so-called terrorists."

Clearly, President Obama was making a point of showing deference to the Left at his first prime-time press conference, which was broadcast to millions from the stately East Room of the White House on Monday.

Longtime members of the White House press corps who are accustomed to sitting in the front row of presidential press conferences were surprised to find their prime real estate occupied by Ed Schulz, a strident liberal who hosts a nationally syndicated radio program originally based in Fargo, N.D., but of late broadcasting from the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

During last year's presidential campaign, Schultz warmed up the audience for Obama at a Democratic fundraiser in Fargo by denouncing Republican opponent John McCain as a "warmonger." When Obama took the podium, he thanked Schulz and called him "the voice of progressive radio," although the campaign was later pressured into distancing itself from Schultz's inflammatory remarks.

Critics also accused Schultz of carrying water for Obama during the candidate's presidential primary battle against fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. During one TV appearance, Schultz went after Clinton's husband in order to defend Obama.

"Bill Clinton is lying about Barack Obama's record," he said. "He lied 10 years ago about Monica Lewinsky and he's lying about a very viable candidate and somebody who could really bring change to this country."

On Monday, Schultz was seated next to Thomas, who was once the doyenne of the White House press corps. During President George W. Bush's tenure, Thomas went from correspondent to columnist, thereby losing her front row perch in East Room press conferences. In her speeches, Thomas has branded Bush the "worst president in American history."

On Monday, Obama returned Thomas to the front row and made her one of 13 people given the opportunity to question him.

"All right, Helen -- this is my inaugural moment here," Obama said with exaggerated reverence. "I'm really excited."

Thomas asked a rambling question about "maintaining the safe havens in Afghanistan for these so-called terrorists."

Obama also called on Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, a hard-left Web site that has never before been recognized by a president. Stein asked whether Obama would pursue "prosecution of Bush administration officials."

Critics pointed out that Bush never showcased right-wing bloggers or columnists at press conferences. And he certainly never allowed right-wing radio hosts to sit in the front row.

"What if Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh were up front at Bush's press conferences in the East Room?" asks media critic Michael Calderone of Politico.

During Bush's press conferences, reporters aggressively tried to ask numerous follow-up questions. But on Monday night, aside from Thomas and Major Garrett of FOX News, most reporters refrained from asking follow-ups, even when their initial questions went largely unanswered.

"The reporters' questions were direct, succinct and restrained, with none of the showmanship that has sometimes marked past news conferences," media critic Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post wrote approvingly. "The journalists stopped short of confrontation, as though they were sobered by the gravity of the financial crisis."

Bill Sammon is the Washington, D.C., deputy managing editor of FOX News Channel.
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Conn. Elections Enforcement Commission Eyes Coulter

NY Daily News reports that Connecticut officials are investigating a charge by anti-Coulter blogger Dan Borchers, that the blond bomber illegally voted in Connecticut while a resident of New York.

Coulter's response: Borchers is a stalker.
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Monday, February 9, 2009

First the quality of Walter Reed, then the efficiency of Katrina. Now SCHIP. Tomorrow: The Gov't Can Declare Grandma "Too Old" for Hip Surgery...

The 4 1/2 Month Wait for an MRI

Nadeem Esmail writes in today's Wall Street Journal that observation of the much-touted Canadian healthcare system should cause us all to be wary of Mr. Obama's and Ms. Pelosi's goal of inching us toward such a system. Read about it here.


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Obama/Emanuel Execute Land Grab with Census

It was OK for the Census to be overssen by the Commerce Department when Democrat Bill Richardson was going to be Commerce Secretary but things changed within hours when Republican Judd Gregg was tapped for the post. As Joe Stalin once noted "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."

Utah's congressional delegation is calling President Obama's decision to move the U.S. census into the White House a purely partisan move and potentially dangerous to congressional redistricting around the country.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told FOX News on Monday that he finds it hard to believe the Obama administration felt the need to place re-evaluation of the inner workings of the census so high on his to-do list, just three weeks into his presidency.

"This is nothing more than a political land grab," Chaffetz said.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the move "shouldn't happen." He and Chaffetz are trying to rally Republicans "before its too late."

"It takes something that is supposedly apolitical like the census, and gives it to a guy who is infamously political," Bishop said of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who would be tasked with overseeing the census at the White House.

The U.S. census -- a counting of the U.S. population -- is conducted every 10 years by the Commerce Department. Its results determine the decennial redrawing of congressional districts

As a matter of impact, the census has tremendous political significance. Political parties are always eager to have a hand in redrawing districts so that they can maximize their own party's clout while minimizing the opposition, often through gerrymandering.

The census also determines the composition of the Electoral College, which chooses the president. If one party were to control the census, it could arguably try to perpetuate its hold on political power.

The results of the census are also enormously important in another way -- the allocation of federal funds. Theoretically, a political party could disproportionately steer federal funding to areas dominated by its own members through a skewing of census numbers.

At this point the White House doesn't seem willing to say what Emanuel's role will be in overseeing the census, and White House officials say census managers will work closely with top-level White House staffers, but will technically remain part of the Commerce Department.

But critics say the White House chief of staff can't be expected to handle the census in a neutral manner. Emanuel ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2006 election, and he was instrumental in getting Democrats elected into the majority.

"The last thing the census needs is for any hard-bitten partisan (either a Karl Rove or a Rahm Emanuel) to manipulate these critical numbers. Many federal funding formulas depend on them, as well as the whole fabric of federal and state representation. Partisans have a natural impulse to tilt the playing field in their favor, and this has to be resisted," Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told FOX News in an e-mail.

Critics note that the method of counting can skew the census. Democrats have long advocated using mathematical estimates, a practice known as "sampling," to count urban residents and immigrants. Republicans say the Constitution requires a physical head count, which entails going door-to-door.

In 2000, Utah, which has three congressmen, was extremely close to landing a fourth House seat based on U.S. Census numbers, but the nation's most conservative state fell short by a few hundred votes because the Census Bureau wouldn't count Mormon missionaries from Utah serving temporarily overseas.

The GOP took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Utah leaders had hoped the 2010 census would rectify the problem, but now worry that they will lose again if the census is managed by partisans.

When Obama nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary -- he was later forced to withdraw -- he indicated that Richardson would be in charge of the census.

The decision to move the census into the White House was announced just days after Obama named New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican, to be his commerce secretary. Gregg has long opposed "sampling" by the census and has voted against funding increases for the bureau.

Sabato said moving the census "in-house" will likely set up a situation where neither the Commerce Department nor the White House will know exactly what is going on in the Census Bureau. He said the process is "too critical to politics for both parties not to pay close attention."

"I've always remembered what Joseph Stalin said: 'Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.' The same principle applies to the census. Since one or the other party will always be in power at the time of the census, it is vital that the out-of-power party at least be able to observe the process to make sure it isn't being stacked in favor of the party in power. This will be difficult for the GOP since I suspect Democrats will control both houses of Congress for the entire Obama first term," Sabato said.

FOX News' Bill Sammon and Shannon Bream contributed to this report.
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Since It Worked in Iraq Let's Not Do It

Obama Putting Brakes on Surge in Afghanistan

President Obama has demanded that defense chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge, the Sunday Times reported.

There is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy.

The Pentagon was set to announce the deployment of 17,000 extra soldiers and marines last week but Defense Secretary Robert Gates postponed the decision after questions from Obama.

The president was concerned by a lack of strategy at his first meeting with Gates and the U.S. joint chiefs of staff last month in "the tank," the secure conference room in the Pentagon. He asked: "What's the endgame?" and did not receive a convincing answer.

Obama promised an extra 7,000-10,000 troops during the election campaign but the military has inflated its demands. Leading Democrats fear Afghanistan could become Obama's "Vietnam quagmire."

Click here to read the full story from the Sunday Times.
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