The Note: Obama: Setting The Tone, Setting A Trap?

Dec 23, 2010 8:50am


“One thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck: I am persistent,” President Obama said at his news conference on Wednesday. “I am persistent.”

And he’s going to have to be if he hopes that the legislative victories he scored at the end of this year will lead to bipartisan progress in 2011.

Yesterday, the final day of the 111th Congress, was certainly a moment for Democrats and the White House to celebrate after what the president called the “most productive post-election period we've had in decades.”

But president did more than take a victory lap. He set the tone — and potentially set a trap — for the next legislative session. If we can get this much done so quickly, and with huge bipartisan margins he said, what's stopping us from doing more of this next year?

We all know the answer to that question: five more GOP Senators and a GOP majority in the House.

In the shadow of victories — the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ratification of the START arms reduction treaty with Russia, the 9/11 health bill and the successful negotiation of the tax cut compromise — the president alluded to the unfinished business.

He called the defeat of the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship to some children brought into the country illegally, “my biggest disappointment” and “heartbreaking.”

Obama pledged to focus on immigration reform with Republicans, who he said, “know it's the right thing to do.” His solution: “We've got to change the politics and I've got to spend some time talking to the American people.”

As ABC political analyst Cokie Roberts noted on “Good Morning America” today, “the big question going forward is whether Republicans will continue to cooperate.”

“Now he’s in a position where most presidents are,” Roberts said. “There are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies. You put together a coalition on each issue.”  

BOTTOM LINE: If Obama is successful next year it will be because he made Republicans look as if they were playing politics instead of “listening to the will of the people.” Remember, the clear and overriding message from voters in 2008 and 2010 was this: “Just get it done!” The party that looks like they're holding things up for political gain is the party that will suffer at the polls.

LAME DUCK LOOK-BACK. ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe and Z. Byron Wolf take us through the last few weeks on Capitol Hill, which they write, was “unlike any lame duck session before.” One interesting nugget, among others, from their review piece: “Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the top Republican in the Senate, opposed every piece of legislation passed during the lame duck except for the extension of Bush-era tax cuts. He wrote in an op-ed Wednesday that, ‘a new Congress begins two weeks from today, and if the American people sense that change is coming, they're right.’” 

ALOHA, MR. PRESIDENT. President Obama arrived in Honolulu just before midnight Hawaii Standard Time (nearly 5 a.m. Eastern). “He was given and put on a green lei after he got off the plane,” according to a pool report from the Washington Post’s Perry Bacon Jr. Exiting Air Force One with the president were Hawaii Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Mazie Hirono. “I think he is, as much as anything, anxious to spend time where he grew up with his family and to see his sister, to see his … nieces,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday. The First Family is expected to stay at a secluded retreat in Kailua on the Windward side of Oahu until Jan. 2. 

NOTED: “President Barack Obama has something in common with potential White House rival Mitt Romney. He and the Republican are both taking vacations in Hawaii,” according to the Associated Press. “Romney and his wife, Ann, are on a two-week break with their five sons, five daughters-in-law and 15 grandchildren. They're relaxing on Maui. … Romney used a holiday trip to Utah four years ago to consult with his children before declaring his 2008 candidacy. A spokesman says there will likely be family discussions this year, but Romney will not announce whether he'll run again until the spring.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl welcome former Congressman Martin Frost, D-Texas, who will talk about the redistricting fights that lie ahead, especially in the Lone Star State, which picked up four new House seats when the Census Bureau released its latest population counts this week. Also joining the broadcast today, Ana Marie Cox, Washington correspondent for GQ Magazine. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



CLAPPER UPDATE. “After initially suggesting that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s inability to answer a question from ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer about the arrests of 12 suspected terrorists in London was because her question was too ‘ambiguous,’ the Obama administration acknowledged Wednesday morning that retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Clapper had not been briefed about the arrests at the time of the interview,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said of the incident: “Should he have been briefed by his staff on those arrests?  Yes. And I know there was breathless attention by the media about these arrests, and it was constantly on the news networks. I'm glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what's coming out of the media”   

NOTED: In an interview with CNN’s John King on Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, defended Clapper but not his staff: “Director Clapper was meeting with members of the Senate on the ratification of the START Treaty — pretty important. If that were me, I'd be a little bit upset with my staff, because before I went on television, I would have expected that my staff would have alerted me as to anything that came in.”

RAHM: ONE STEP CLOSER. “Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel cleared an important hurdle in his bid to be Chicago mayor early Thursday when a hearing officer recommended his name appear on the February ballot, even though Emanuel spent much of the last two years living in Washington working for President Barack Obama,” according to a dispatch from the AP. “The ruling, which still needs final approval from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, is a political win for Emanuel because it could help him silence critics who have persistently argued he isn't a Chicago resident. The board is scheduled to meet later Thursday and will likely make a decision.” 

COURT REJECTS MILLER. "Sen. Lisa Murkowski [got] one step closer to officially regaining her post in the Senate,” ABC News’ Huma Khan reports. “The [Alaska] Supreme Court today upheld a lower court’s decision and struck down Joe Miller’s claims that the Alaska Elections Division broke the law by counting write-in ballots that were misspelled but represented voter intent. ‘We do not interpret the statute to require perfection in the manner that the candidate’s name is written on the ballot. Our prior decisions clearly hold that a voter’s intention is paramount,’ the Supreme Court said in its ruling.”

DSCC’S NEW LEADER. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Patty Murray named Guy Cecil the committee’s executive director for the 2012 cycle on Wednesday Cecil previously served as chief of staff to Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Col., as well as the National Political and Field Director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. His appointment to the top staff job at the DSCC is a homecoming of sorts for Cecil, who served as the committee’s political director from 2005 to 2007.



@MPOTheHill: Obama may look to an outsider in naming a new, permanent chief of staff, says Valerie Jarrett

@GOP12: Pawlenty: Regret about not running for a 3rd term was "tongue-in-cheek"

@TheFix: Good piece on Kirsten Gillibrand coming into her own in lame duck.

@pwire: Nate Silver says Census and electoral vote shift likely to have little impact on 2012 presidential race…

@politico: Car crashes onto Bush's lawn.

@jaketapper: Folks – Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joeux Noel, Happy Kwanzaa , Happy New Year, Happy Festivus and best wishes for 2011!



The Note will be taking a brief hiatus for the holidays. Thank you for your loyal readership in 2010, and we’ll see you in the new year.


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