politics


From The Washington Post:

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) responded defiantly to President Obama’s comments earlier Wednesday about the impending “fiscal cliff.”

In an appearance before cameras that lasted less than one minute, Boehner said the House would pass his “Plan B” on Thursday “to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American – 99.81 percent of the American people.”

“I hope the president will get serious soon about providing and working with us on a balanced approach,” Boehner said. “Then the president will have the decision to make: He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”

With that, the Speaker walked away from the microphones without taking questions.

According to CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller, Boehner’s statement lasted 51 seconds. I’m not sure why Boehner didn’t just send out a press release — except he probably wanted some face time on television and a clip to be played on the radio. That’s fine, except that a press conference should be exactly that — let at least a few questions be asked.

Maybe he’ll get it right next time.

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President Obama held a press conference today to announce the formation of a gun violence task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden. This seems like a good idea considering that in 1994, then-U.S. Sen. Biden was a key author of a 1994 crime bill that banned assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, but there are renewed calls to reinstate it after the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Many questions asked by the press concerned the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations, but the one that stood out most to me was the last one, asked by ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper. The question itself wasn’t a bad one per se, but the way he asked it seemed a bit rude and confrontational (especially if you hear it rather than just read it in a transcript):

“It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008, in your first term and in 2012, not to talk about gun violence,” Tapper said. “You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Sen. Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue — the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?”

Obama responded with what I thought was an appropriate “smackdown” response:

Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been president of the United States, dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.

And so, you know, I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, you know, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that, that we do everything we can to keep our children safe. A lot of things go — are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs — those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.

Again, it was not inappropriate for Tapper to question Obama why he hasn’t done something about gun violence sooner, but I believe he could’ve asked his question in a less-confrontational manner.

You can read a full transcript of the press conference here.

A jury of 11 women and one man today found Rod Blagojevich guilty of 17 of 20 charges in the former Illinois governor’s corruption retrial.

I’m sure Blagojevich’s attorneys will file a motion to appeal the verdicts, but I believe the convictions will stand.

Justice has finally been served in this case.

President Obama has decided not to release photographs of a dead Osama bin Laden. Here are his comments about the subject, told to “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft:

“The risks of release outweigh the benefits,” Obama said. “Conspiracy theorists around the world will just claim the photos are doctored anyway, and there is a real risk that releasing the photos will only serve to inflame public opinion in the Middle East.

“Imagine how the American people would react if al-Qaida killed one of our troops or military leaders, and put photos of the body on the Internet,” he continued. “Osama bin Laden is not a trophy — he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaida has been eliminated.”

I completely agree with Obama’s reasoning. Here’s what I tweeted about his decision before I read his comments:

“I think that’s the right decision. No need to risk upsetting the wrong people (potential terrorists) just to satisfy conspiracy theorists.”

and

“Besides, would conspiracy theorists really be silenced if photo released? They probably would claim it’s doctored.”

Obama’s comments about not releasing post-mortem images of bin Laden will air today on “CBS Evening News.” The full interview will air Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

Oh, what a night! Osama bin Laden is dead!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time typing this post because, frankly, I want to concentrate on watching news coverage of the al-Qaida leader’s death. But I’d like to point out that the news broke and spread quickly on Twitter, before the television anchors told us (particularly CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who metaphorically seemed to be the last person to arrive at the party). Yesterday I wrote about the news value of Twitter and its varied acceptance level by print reporters (you can read that post by clicking here), and the way so many people learned about bin Laden’s death is a perfect example of why all reporters should be on board with the use of social media.

As I tweeted earlier tonight, “I hope all the print journalists who don’t buy into the news value of Twitter are paying attention to how the bin Laden news broke/spread.”

Finally, I’ll end this post with the sentence I tweeted immediately after President Obama finished his speech tonight: “If I could type the sound of America clapping, I would.”

It’s my observation that there are three types of newspaper reporters when it comes to Internet use beyond searching for information: those who “get” it and totally embrace its use as a way to report news; those who don’t understand the Internet’s value as a media source and, as a result, resist its use as much as possible; and those who fall somewhere in the middle (they essentially understand or accept the value of online media methods but don’t use them quite right).

The first type is self-explanatory. If you understand the power of online reporting and the use of social media to further the reach of a reporter’s words, you know a reporter who “gets” it when you see his or her work.

The second type is still too common. A great example of this type can be found locally. There are two smaller daily newspapers that primarily cover La Salle County — The Times and the NewsTribune — and they both have reporters who “get” it and reporters who resist having to do anything beyond writing and occasionally shooting a photo for the print product. Reporters at both newspapers obviously were directed to create and use Twitter accounts, and as best I can tell, all the NewsTribune reporters embrace this to varying degrees, but there are still some Times reporters who don’t use Twitter at all — one reporter even locked his account so you can’t follow him unless he approves you doing so! They obviously don’t understand the value of reaching out to a wider audience through such newfangled means.

An example of the third type works for the Chicago Sun-Times. Lynn Sweet, a columnist and Washington bureau chief for the newspaper, uses Twitter and blogs, but she doesn’t do it quite right. Earlier today, she tweeted a reminder that the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is tonight, and that people can follow her at @lynnsweet for notes and photos from it. That is a good use of Twitter. But when I clicked on the link she included in her tweet, I found her accompanying blog post, which began as follows:

WASHINGTON–The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is tonight, with Saturday Night Live headwriter and comic Seth Meyers the headliner. Meyers–I locked eyes with him for a mini-moment at the New Yorker party Friday night–speaks after President Obama, always a hard act to follow.

That is an example of Sweet trying too hard to impress and not quite “getting” it, which she tends to do on her blog. Believe me, nobody cares that Lynn Sweet locked eyes with Seth Meyers for “a mini-moment.” Another example of her trying too hard on her blog is the many instances of her writing “as I reported earlier” or a similar phrase. Newspapers have a long tradition of patting themselves on the back for reporting something first — and I have no problem with that — but when it’s done often by the same reporter in the first person, the writer can come across less favorably.

With that said, at least Sweet is using social media, and she gets credit for that. Too many reporters still resist using social media, and that’s a real problem in the journalism industry.

As you surely know by now, President Obama released a copy of his long-form birth certificate Wednesday to prove to Donald Trump and the birthers that he was born in the United States.

I wish I could say with any certainty that this will end the birther movement, but I think it’s more likely those people who hate Obama so much they wouldn’t believe he was born in Hawaii now will find something else equally ridiculous to believe and pester the president about.

And while Trump is not to blame for those people believing such nonsense, he is responsible for stoking the fire that fuels their craziness. (Incidentally, Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” said “NBC has created a monster” in Trump. I agree with him.)

Since most of us who are sane are tired of hearing about the birther nonsense and Trump’s feeble attempts at logic, the president’s action Wednesday was most welcome (and sad that a sitting president had to produce his birth certificate to prove again that he was born in the United States). I just wish Obama would’ve done this on Friday so there would be something big to report that day other than the royal wedding that’s being covered way too much in this country. I’ve already accepted that the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, which will be attended by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (the shooting victim whose husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, is helming the Endeavour’s final voyage), will practically be ignored by comparison.

I expect to take a day off from watching TV news on Friday because of the royal wedding overkill. I’ll stick to the Internet (Twitter and websites of news organizations) for my news that day so I can avoid the royal wedding as easily as possible while still staying informed about whatever important is happening.

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