The first Morning Jolt of the week features the shocking news of Pope Benedict’s resignation, a discussion of whether our culture is even capable of the earnest valorization depicted in the Paul Harvey ad, and then these two developments that will shape the political news in the week ahead:
Lindsey Graham: Until the Benghazi Truth Is Told, Your Nominees I Will Hold
Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday he’ll block President Barack Obama’s nominees for Defense secretary and CIA director if the White House isn’t more forthcoming about its response to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“No confirmation without information,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Graham said he wants to know if Obama himself phoned his Libyan counterparts during the Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi and what the results of such a call might have been. Without cooperation, Graham said he’ll try to put a hold on Chuck Hagel, the Defense nominee, and John Brennan for CIA.
“I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go forward to the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of Defense, until the White House gives us an accounting,” Graham said. “Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks?”
Rick Moran points out this is something of a symbolic maneuver, and one that isn’t likely to work, as long as Senate Democrats remain unified:
The hold is a senatorial courtesy, and threatening to use it is just about all the Republicans have left when it comes to leverage on the White House to get more information about Benghazi. It would be unprecedented to place a hold on a cabinet nomination, and it is likely that Majority Leader Harry Reid would demand a cloture vote in order to lift the hold and bring the nominations to the floor. Several Republicans would probably join the 55 Democrats in voting for cloture, and the president would get his up or down vote on both nominees.
Graham would probably not go along with a filibuster. Hagel and Brennan’s other major critics in the Senate would be equally reluctant. And what he’s asking for from the White House, he is not likely to get. The administration has successfully stonewalled, obfuscated, and brushed off requests for information until Benghazi now seems a distant memory — a bad dream that the president would like the American people to forget.
Obama: Did I Say the Economy Recovered? I Meant I’m Still Working on It!
Our old friend Byron York is a pretty even-keeled guy, but I think he finds it pretty audacious for the president to spend his State of the Union address insisting that he’s relentlessly focused on the economy and job creation, after his lone reference to the economy in his inaugural address was the declaration “an economic recovery has begun.”
You know, somewhere, just not here.
White House spinners are working furiously in the final 72 hours before President Obama’s State of the Union speech. Their job: Convince the recession-scarred American public that economic recovery is Obama’s top priority — after everything he has said and done to suggest otherwise.
The unemployment rate is 7.9 percent — one tenth of a point higher than it was when Obama took office in January 2009. But the true toll of joblessness is far higher. The Labor Department’s so-called U-6 rate, which includes people who want a job but have become so discouraged they have quit looking, is 14.4 percent. And a new study, by Rutgers University scholars, shows that 23 percent of those surveyed have lost a job sometime in the last four years, while another 11 percent have seen someone in their household lose a job. That is one-third of the American people who have experienced unemployment during Obama’s time in office, along with many more who have experienced other hardships of the economic downturn.
Elsewhere, Byron points out that the president has “pivoted back” to the economy at least six times since taking office.
Actually, back in 2011, the RNC identified at least nine times the White House was telling reporters that their energies would be “pivoting” back to jobs.
When the administration recycles its talking points, you’ll forgive me for recycling my reaction:
Keep in mind that inherent in the pivot-point talking point is an inherent excuse: the reason the administration hasn’t seen much success in bringing down the unemployment rate, or is perceived to be useless in bringing down the unemployment rate, or hasn’t communicated its message about its efforts, is always a lack of time and focus. I think most of us would argue the problem isn’t really an administrative attention deficit disorder or chronic focus on other issues; the problem is the policies stink . . . “Alright, now we’re really going to pivot to jobs, just you wait and see” sounds like the oft-heard pledges of dieting and exercise and saving money and cleaning out the basement and flossing; the idea that all it’s going to take is a bit more attention to the problem and it’s going to be solved.