Friday, December 19, 2014

Last Call For Last Man Out, Turn Off The Lights

President Obama's end-of-year press conference for 2014 was one for the ages.

President Obama did something remarkable on Friday. He held his last press conference of the year, and the only people in the entire press corps who were called on to ask questions were women. Yes, this was on purpose; it had to be.

It was amazing.

The first woman ever to cover a president was the late Helen Thomas and she had been a fixture in the first row of the briefing room and at presidential news conferences for decades beginning with John F. Kennedy's presidency. 
And, for the record, here are the eight reporters -- all of them print reporters, it should be noted -- who got called on. 
  • Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico
  • Cheryl Bolen, Bloomberg
  • Julie Pace, Associated Press
  • Lesley Clark, McClatchy
  • Roberta Rampton, Reuters
  • Colleen M. Nelson, Wall Street Journal
  • Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
  • April Ryan, American Urban Radio 
The eighth was a bonus question. As is custom, when reporters thought Obama was heading for the exits, they shouted one last question at him. A male reporter asked Obama about his New Year's resolution. 
Obama ignored it and called on Ryan instead.

I'm still chuckling over this.  Obama Trolling level: Pallas Athena.

Credit Where Credit Is Blatantly Appropriated

Over at Bloomberg News, Josh Rogin has apparently gotten into the special egg nog a little early.

Although President Barack Obama is taking the credit for Wednesday’s historic deal to reverse decades of U.S. policy toward Cuba, when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, she was the main architect of the new policy and pushed far harder for a deal than the Obama White House
From 2009 until her departure in early 2013, Clinton and her top aides took the lead on the sometimes public, often private interactions with the Cuban government. According to current and former White House and State Department officials and several Cuba policy experts who were involved in the discussions, Clinton was also the top advocate inside the government for ending travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and reversing 50 years of U.S. policy to isolate the Communist island nation. Repeatedly, she pressed the White House to move faster and faced opposition from cautious high-ranking White House officials. 
After Obama announced the deal Wednesday, which included the release of aid contractor Alan Gross, Clinton issued a supportive statement distributed by the National Security Council press team. “As Secretary of State, I pushed for his release, stayed in touch with Alan’s wife Judy and their daughters, and called for a new direction in Cuba," she said. "Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime's grip on power.” 
Yet Clinton played down her own role in the issue, which will surely become important if she decides to run for president. Top prospective Republican candidates, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have all come out against the president’s policy shift. 
Clinton’s advocacy on behalf of opening a new relationship with Cuba began almost as soon as she came into office. Obama had campaigned on a promise to engage enemies, but the White House initially was slow to make good on that pledge, and on the Cuba front enacted only a modest relaxation of travel rules. From the start, Clinton pushed to hold Obama to his promise with regard to Cuba. 
Hillary Clinton played a very large role,” said Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation who advocated for changes to U.S.-Cuba policy. “The president, when he ran for office and when he came in, thought that doing something on Cuba front would be smart. But as soon as he got into office, though, every other priority hit him.”

If there was any doubt that President Obama's move on Cuba is a massive foreign policy legacy point for the history books that will stand the test of time, please note the blinding speed at which the credit for the deal is being given to someone else.

Also, if there was ever any doubt that Hillary Clinton was not going to have trouble earning the trust of Obama 2008 primary voters, well, please note the same goddamn thing. The false modesty angle actually made me laugh aloud while reading it, as if this wasn't the perfect example of That Awesome Co-Worker Taking Credit.

It's one thing to say "Secretary Clinton had a role in this" and another thing completely to say she was the "main architect" of a diplomatic coup that happened 2 years after she left Foggy Bottom. Maybe I'd be a little less angry if this was the first time people were trying to "Aww shucks" their way into giving her credit for something President Obama accomplished, and again I'm sure she did play a part.

But in the end, a Secretary of State is implementing the foreign policy of a President. Period. Deal with it.

Alison's Split Decision

As you may have heard, my hairpiece of a junior senator Rand Paul may be playing for the White House in 2016. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Oval Office for ol’ Rand. Kentucky law says that a candidate’s name can’t appear twice on the same ballot for different races, so Rand either has to run for Senator or for President, but not both. Rand and the KY GOP want to change that law or even go around it. But any election law business has to go through Kentucky’s current Secretary of State.

Six weeks after she lost her own bid for the U-S Senate, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (R-Kentucky) tells WHAS11 if U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) tries to appear on the same ballot for both Senate and President in 2016, she will challenge him in court. 
“The law is clear,” Grimes said. “You can’t be on the ballot twice for two offices.” 
Kentucky Democrats are not cooperating as Paul considers mounting simultaneous campaigns for Senate and President. Democrats maintained control of the Kentucky House in last month’s election, a roadblock to legislation favored by the Republican Senate to remove the prohibition. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) declined to consider a Senate bill to that effect earlier this year. 
Paul may challenge the law in court as the Republican Party of Kentucky also discusses whether to hold a presidential caucus rather than a primary, which would allow Paul to follow the letter of the law by not appearing on the primary ballot, twice. 
“We haven’t made a final decision one way or another,” Paul told WHAS11 last month, “other than I have decided I am going to run for reelection for the US Senate.” 
Grimes was asked about the potential battle after a meeting at Kentucky’s Board of Elections on Tuesday. 
“I will not be bullied,” Grimes said. “I think hopefully the people of Kentucky understand that over the course of this past year, and I will not hesitate to seek help and assistance in the opinion of a court.” 
Pressed whether she would also seek an opinion from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D), who lost to Paul in the 2010 Senate race, Grimes reiterated that she would rely on the courts. 
“We’ll look to the court for any guidance that is needed,” Grimes said. “And at the end of the day, we’re not going to be bullied. I’ve done my job as Secretary of State for the people of Kentucky and I’ll continue to do that.”

Some background on politics here:

Republicans control Kentucky’s state Senate, Democrats control Kentucky’s state House. Odds are good there’s going to be a Senate bill reversing the law, but it will have to get past the House and Kentucky’s ambitious House Speaker, Greg Stumbo. If it does, Kentucky’s gubernatorial election becomes key in 2015, when Democrat “Dinosaur” Steve Beshear (he of the tax credits for the Ark Encounter park, recently reversed) hangs it up after his second term. (Kentucky’s off-off year election for Governor is how state officials get around the election law locally when running for that office, the other state offices are during presidential election years.) Beshear’s running mate Jerry Abramson recently left the Lt. Governor’s office to be the Obama administration’s point man on local governments. Beshear called informer State Auditor Crit Luallen to finish up Abramson’s term, but she’s not going to run for Governor. Republican and current Ag Commissioner James Comer is already in for the GOP, versus Democrat and current Attorney General Jack Conway and it’s possible that if Comer wins, he can push to overturn the law in time for Rand to run in 2016. If Conway wins, he can veto it if needed.


So, having said all that, I’m thinking that all this theater may be Alison’s opening act, but not for a run at Frankfort. Sticking it to Rand is a good way to get noticed by the Village, after all. And if Rand jumps in the clown carpool and the law still stands, suddenly his Senate seat is a open race in 2016. Conway, Grimes, maybe even Luallen might take a shot at it. On the GOP side, if Comer loses in 2015 I’m betting he’d be in, and lurking around the corner is Libertarian spoiler David Patterson, who got 3% in November’s race.

Either way, next year should be pretty exciting around the Bluegrass State.

Um, we apologize in advance for how this will probably find a way to mess up America in the process. Sorry.


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