Clinton on Obama's Style and on the Gulf Spill

CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked former President Bill Clinton about Obama's style and the President's perceived lack of empathy at the CNN/Fortune/Time Global Forum held earlier this week in Cape Town, South Africa. Clinton notes that each President has to be allowed to have their own style and what works for one may not work for another. Clinton also believes that Obama isn't being given enough credit he is doing as President.

As per the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Clinton noted the most important issues are, in order:

1. Fix the leak
2. Keep the oil away from the shore
3. Minimize the damage from the oil
4. Determine who is at fault whether that be BP or government regulators and hold them accountable.

The former President also discusses the possibility of having the US Navy seal the leak by bombing it.

Weekly Pulse: SCOTUS Nominee Kagan a Cipher on Choice

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

On Monday, President Barack Obama nominated solicitor general Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Kagan’s nomination has raised eyebrows among progressives. Despite a long career in legal academia, Kagan has published very little. She seems to have studiously avoided taking a stand on almost any controversial issue. Ruth Conniff of the Progressive calls the Kagan pick “a triumph of the bland.”

“Partial Birth Abortion” ban

As a White House aide, Kagan wrote a memo urging President Bill Clinton to support a ban on so-called “partial birth abortion.” At the time, the House had passed a sweeping late-term abortion ban with no exceptions for the life and health of the mother. Clinton asked Kagan whether he should throw his support behind a more moderate Senate version of the same bill. She recommended a “compromise”—a ban with a maternal health exemption. In the end, Congress passed the extreme version and Clinton vetoed it.

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones characterizes the memo as “more indicative of a political strategy than a legal argument.” In other words, Kagan was giving strategic advice to the president about what would be politically feasible, not legal advice about the government’s powers to regulate abortion. Kagan argued that the president should support the “compromise” position even though the Justice Department thought it was unconstitutional, according to Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check.

At TAPPED, Monica Potts argues that the memo gives us little indication of how Kagan would vote on abortion as a justice.

No Harriet Miers

There’s no question that Kagan is possessed of a formidable intellect. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones quotes one of her former law school students, Elie Mystal, sharing his experience with Kagan on the blog Above the Law:

Like Frodo on Weathertop, there are some wounds that never fully heal. Professor Kagan massacred me intellectually, and brutalized my pride. I got some form of a B in her class (I honestly don’t remember if there was a modifier — I’ve tried to suppress those memories). Kagan was a frightening professor for those who wanted to match wits with the brightest legal minds in the world. For people like me, people who just wanted to get through law school with minimal mental damage, Kagan was nothing short of terrifying.

That’s the best news I’ve heard all day.

Kagan has never been a judge, but that’s not necessarily a deal-breaker in itself. As Steve Benen points out at the Washington Monthly, over a third of the 111 justices of the Supreme Court have had no previous judging experience.

A missed opportunity

Scott Lemieux argues in the American Prospect that Obama is wasting a rare political opportunity to confirm a more liberal justice. Right now, the Democrats still have a sizable, though not filibuster-proof, majority in the Senate. Lemieux argues that Obama is almost certain to get another Supreme Court pick before the end of his term. Then again, he points out, the Democrats are likely to lose Senate seats in the midterm elections.

If Obama were ever going to get a strong liberal on the bench, this would have been the time. No date has been set for a confirmation hearing. Kagan is in Washington today, courting lawmakers.

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Smells Like Clinton, Waddles Like Cleveland

MSNBC talk show host Chris Matthews had Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary, on his show today. Here's what Matthews asked:

"It seem like this President has had to go to alot of fundraisers lately, he's played alot of golf lately, he's hung around with Geithner and Summers and the Paulson crowd, the whole New York rich guy scene.

He's beginning to look like a Clinton, he looks like a typical Democrats now, hanging out, playing golf, going to rich people's parties, bringing people into the White House to go bowling, this whole thing begins to smell like the Clinton era, what happened to the change we can believe in?"

But for the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party, our political system is effectively marked and dominated by two parties tied to corporate interests. Each party in their own way serves the interests of a narrow set of economic interests. There is little question that the interests served by the Democrats are broader than those served by the Republicans. As I've noted before, the former is the party of the top 10% and the latter the party of the top one-tenth of one percent. In numerical terms, that's a party of thirty million versus one of thirty thousand. No doubt, the differences in social issues is as deep as the Grand Canyon but on economic ones, not so much. But that's not the point really. The point is that they can be different because we are the party of people. That's what demos means. We have been this party since the Jacksonian Era.

I'm not the only one who has said this but there is a worry that Obama is just another Grover Cleveland, the lone Democrat to win election in the Gilded Age. My impression back in 2007 was that Obama was a centrist, a corporate Democrat. That hasn't changed even if I largely support the President's agenda because I hope it is but step one of a much larger re-orientation of our politics. I'm not worried about 2012; I expect President Obama to comfortably be re-elected barring an economic collapse. It's 2016 that's on my mind. This is about the long haul and need to remake the country to what it was when we shared a broad based prosperity even though it wasn't as inclusive as it should have been.

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