Daniel Stone

Stories by Daniel Stone

  • White House Fires at ‘Unconscionable’ Insurers

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act made the practice of denying coverage for preexisting conditions illegal as soon as the Department of Health and Human Services begins to phase in the law. But until that happens, there’s public opinion to be won and lost.Having caught wind from a Reuters article that one Indiana-based insurer is not just denying but revoking coverage from women with breast cancer, the Obama administration decided to make an example out of someone and hit back at the company, called WellPoint, with a strongly worded letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Here’s an excerpt:"As you know, the practice described in this article will soon be illegal. The Affordable Care Act specifically prohibits insurance companies from rescinding policies, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact."WellPoint should not wait to end the unconscionable practice of deliberately working to deny health insurance coverage to women...
  • Montana vs. the Justice Department

    State lawmakers have done a lot since President Obama's election to shake off Uncle Sam, passing "sovereignty" resolutions and a record number of laws that specifically defy Congress on issues such as legalized marijuana and health-care reform. Most make the same claim: that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government power to regulate commerce between states but doesn't permit interference in purely local affairs. Later this year, the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which proclaims that guns manufactured in Montana and sold in state are not subject to federal rules such as background checks, is slated to become the first of these Obama-era commerce challenges tested in court. But the case, which originated when a gun-rights group sued the Justice Department for threatening a crackdown, shouldn't give separatists hope: it's doomed to fail, as will similar rebukes.That's because no state is an island (Hawaii included), and Congress can regulate anything that could jump state...
  • Earth Day Happy Hour: Biz Markie Edition

    We here at the Gaggle aren’t so steeped in politics that we don’t take notice of pop culture from time to time. So we took a long look—and you should, too—at this fantastic Earth Day remix from the folks at Repower America paying homage to hip-hop master DJ Biz Markie, featuring a cameo of the man himself. The message? Clean energy now, yo. (Our favorite part comes at 1:08)
  • How to Beat Republicans? Keep Slamming Them.

    It’s no secret on Capitol Hill that Democrats are on the defensive heading toward midterm elections that are considered a referendum on their majorities in Congress and their man in the White House. Part of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s job is to minimize losses however possible. With just over six months until the voting, Hoyer and colleagues are trying desperately to switch to offense, and keep Republicans from driving the conversation like they did on health care—a debate that almost proved crippling to his party’s survival.At a breakfast this morning in Washington hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Hoyer talked with reporters, taking time to slam Republicans at every turn. When asked to make an opening statement, Hoyer quipped that he’d be brief and try “not to filibuster the opportunity,” a clear jab at the filibustering party du jour.The slams continued. Taking a page from history, Hoyer noted that ...
  • Death to the Kittens: Supreme Court Defends Animal Cruelty Videos as Expression of Free Speech

    Is it morally reprehensible to torture and kill animals and document it on video? Maybe so. But that wasn’t the issue the Supreme Court was considering in its latest ruling published this morning. In U.S. v. Stevens, a case that tested the constitutionality of a law banning animal-cruelty videos, justices classified it as a First Amendment question, and ruled with significant unity—8 to 1—to strike down the law, which has been on the books since 1999.Animal cruelty in most forms is illegal—just look at Michael Vick and his wardrobe of orange jumpsuits. But some forms aren’t, like hunting or bullfighting, which creates a gray area in deciding just what crosses the line. The law's defenders argued that depictions of women in stiletto heels crushing hamsters was akin to child pornography. But it was a wobbly argument. One of the more concerning aspects of child molestation is often considered the long-term effect psychological effect on the child, long after scars heal. There’s...
  • Race for the Robe: Windy City Edition

    Bill Clinton's advice aside, three of the enduring frontrunners on the White House's shortlist for a Supreme Court nominee are still Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland—legal scholars and jurists with their own unique qualifications. But there's one thing they all share, and something that could be a contributing factor in President Obama's interest in them. Namely, their ties to Chicago....
  • Bill Clinton's Supreme Court Advice: Pick a Wild Card

    If you ask Bill Clinton what he thinks, President Obama should throw a curveball with his next nominee to the Supreme Court. The qualities he’d like? Someone young, energetic, and someone who’s not a jurist. That rules out virtually all of the names on the White House’s reported shortlist—led, at the moment, by Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Two other top contenders, Merrick Garland and Diane Wood, have two of Clinton’s strikes against them; both are appellate justices and are pushing 60. Speaking over the weekend with ABC’s Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s Luke Russert, Clinton quoted the late high-court justice Hugo Black, who said that people from small towns—sheriffs and county judges—would be better equipped to know “how the lofty decisions of the Supreme Court affect the ordinary lives of Americans."So who would he appoint? Clinton wouldn’t talk names. But he did firmly remove two from the list: his and his wife’s. "[Hillary] would be good at it, and at one point in her life,...
  • More on Elena Kagan’s Recusal Realities

    Yesterday, we took a look at Elena Kagan, currently on the shortlist of shortlisters to replace John Paul Stevens. One potential downside for Kagan, we suggested, is her current job. As solicitor general, history indicates that Kagan would have to recuse herself from any case she either argued or submitted a brief for, which some legal analysts have suggested could be as high as 70 percent of cases in her first year on the bench. We cited Thurgood Marshall, Kagan’s former boss and a former SG himself, who recused himself from 57 percent of cases in his first year, as a mold for what a Kagan appointment could look like.But history, as if often does, dives deeper. While Marshall’s example may indeed be a mark against Kagan, plenty of others took the bench with seeming conflicts and ended up being rather decent, even historic, members of the court. Stanley Reed had a stellar record as solicitor general when he was appointed to the high court in 1938. In his first year he penned a major...
  • Elena Kagan's Achilles Heel: Incessant Recusal

    Solicitor General Elena Kagan remains high on the list to replace John Paul Stevens, a White House official admitted earlier in the week. An excellent legal résumé and experience arguing before the Supreme Court qualifies her over other candidates, some of whom have too little bench experience, others with too many declared positions. But it’s precisely Kagan’s strength that is also her weakness. Kagan has taken part in dozens of cases (either in oral argument or in briefs) since taking office last January. That means that over the next two to three years, Kagan would have to recuse herself from as many as half of the cases heard by the court—a number extraordinarily higher than normal for freshmen top jurists. The court's majority, then, would shift to 5-3—a tough hurdle to mount, especially for the left wing of the court, which will have lost its most consistent member. The best example of what Kagan's appointment would look like is her former boss, Thurgood Marshall, f...
  • Obama Doubles His Income, Rakes In $5.6 Million Last Year

    The president's annual salary is $400,000 (which was actually raised from half that amount in 2001). So it was all the more surprising this morning when the White House released President Obama's tax return, showing the family made $5.6 million last year. How? "The vast majority of the family’s 2009 income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books," said the White House, seemingly bracing for the impact of "elitism" catcalls. Earnings from the previous year were just under $2.5 million, but the book sales have indeed been dramatic—scooped up, it's safe to say, by the president's adoring supporters and the critics doing oppo research about Obama's past.The more dramatic numbers, however, are what the first family paid in taxes: just under $1.8 million in federal taxes and $163,303 on the state return (which was filed in Illinois). Also, a large chunk of the president's windfall—$1.4 million—came from his Nobel Prize...
  • Obama and Biden Reach Out to Poland

    Just one week after visiting Europe to sign a treaty, it's now official that President Obama will head to Poland on Saturday for the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska, who were killed in a plane crash a week ago. The rationale for the trip seems clear: it's just the right thing to do for a fallen head of state. But in a grander sense, the White House may have in mind one of Obama's more unverifiable campaign promises: to reintroduce the world to a more compassionate U.S. after anti-American sentiments rose over the past decade. (See Obama's other promises, and his progress, here.) Back in Washington, Joe Biden visited the Polish Embassy late Wednesday to pay his respects and to sign a condolence book for Kaczynski and the 94 other victims. Here was his inscription:
  • Michelle Obama Makes First Solo Trip—and First Surprise Visit—on the Same Day

    En route to her first solo diplomatic mission in Mexico this week, Michelle Obama made a surprise visit today to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, to survey the recovery efforts in the island country hit with a massive 7.0 earthquake in January. Along with Jill Biden, Obama took a helicopter tour of the city and met with top government officials in the capital city, where more than a million people remain homeless. ...
  • Nuclear Summit: What Success Will Look Like

    For two days, the Washington press corps has been inundated with news of all the big names in town and the staged photo ops that are customary between visiting leaders and their host. Usually, the conversation is a cursory exchange of issues important in the relationship of both leaders. Rarely do bilateral handshakes get terribly deep.But the reason for everyone in town this week is a fairly deep topic: keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. In what is the biggest collection of world leaders since the 1945 conference that founded the United Nations, top officials from 47 countries—all with nuclear arsenals or some sort of access to fissile material—will sit around tables late Monday and Tuesday to discuss securing their stocks. On that point, there’s general agreement. Most world leaders understand the imperative of preventing terrorist groups like Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons. But there are still some rifts, like who will monitor the international effort, and...
  • Nuclear Security Summit: The Guest List

    The White House is eager to tout more than 47 international leaders in Washington this week for the president's summit on nuclear-weapon security. As anybody who works in downtown D.C. can tell you, so many heads of state in town is highly unusual. Not even the 2008 inauguration, the last time the city was truly crippled, included so many motorcades....
  • The Shortlist to Replace Stevens

    After a month of announcing that he “might be” retiring, the liberal stalwart Justice John Paul Stevens made it official this morning. Effective at the end of the Supreme Court’s term this summer, Stevens told President Obama in a letter this morning that he would be stepping down, keen to the timing requisite for Obama to appoint another, and ideologically similar, jurist....
  • The Problem With Politics? Apparently, It’s Media.

    After months of highly publicized and well-funded lobby battles over health-care and student-loan reform, it was becoming easy to diagnose money as the leading evil responsible for polarizing American politics. But a new Rasmussen poll reports the contrary. New numbers out this week show that a majority of voters (55 percent) lay the blame on media bias over money (32 percent)—suggesting that they’re more frustrated with the pundits inside their TVs and newspapers (and, OK, magazines too) than the fat checkbooks in Washington.It’s somewhat obvious that increasingly ideological programming on the cable channels has contributed to polarization. The sheer fact that Glenn Beck made $32 million last year illuminates just how big of a business opinion journalism can be. (It’s also a factor of why CNN, the most centrist of the three cable power hitters during prime-time programming, has seen its ratings slump over the past year.) But it’s a big deal, and certainly worth noting, when media...
  • Chicago GOP Takes Strange Foray Into Internet Porn

    Normally, the Web sites of political parties are supposed to feature photos of beaming candidates alongside pleas for donations. But that’s not quite the case this afternoon over at the online portal of the Chicago Republican Party. The top of its site features a large photo of a topless woman in a seductive pose, followed by a strange and barely comprehensible essay about John Edwards's mistress Rielle Hunter’s upcoming interview with Oprah. (The Gaggle is too much of a family site to excerpt the photo, but you can see it here—and don’t say we didn’t warn you.)The item appeared to be posted by a guest contributor, someone named Lumi Boldovici, who says she lives in Paris and appears to have contributed other risqué items to the site in the past. But instead of going after Boldovici, those who left comments were aiming their fire at Chicago GOP leaders, who appeared to be responsible. “Could you take the porn off your Web site?” wrote one. “I thought this was the party of...
  • Obama in Prague: Four Things He'll Have to Accomplish

    You might call April a nuclear month for President Obama. After announcing the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review this week, the president will travel to Prague tonight to sign a treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev—an overture to a nuclear-arms summit hosted at the White House next week that is expected to include more than 30 heads of state.Prague was chosen to kick off the proceedings because of a speech Obama gave there last year in which he called for a nuclear-free world. A year later, he hasn’t accomplished that vision, and likely never will. But his plans do move nuclear nonproliferation forward in a significant way by emphasizing that if the world won’t reduce its nuclear stockpiles, then at least leaders should commit to not developing new weapons and not using them against non-nuclear states. Obama faces the steep battle of convincing the rest of the world he's serious, while at the same time stunting the nuclear aspirations of rogue states or terrorist...
  • GOP Sen. Coburn Extends Olive Branch of the Year

    Remember the charges last summer that civility in Washington is dead? Not so. Just ask GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, who at a town-hall meeting over the weekend in Oklahoma had some choice words for the Foxerati. After a woman explained her fear of being thrown in the slammer if she didn’t buy health insurance, Coburn took her and his gossip-spreading partisans to task. “The intention is not to put any one in jail,” he said. “That makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn’t the intention.” Taking a jab at Fox in front of a conservative audience is risky—even political suicide to get on the behemoth network’s bad side—but Coburn kept going. Not only is Fox at times inaccurate, but Nancy Pelosi, the person Republicans have spent the most time vilifying, is actually “a nice person.” Huh? “How many of you all have met her?” he asked the crowd that we can only imagine had its jaws on the floor.No word yet on how GOP Central will handle Coburn’s remarks. On the one hand, it's hard to argue...
  • Will West Virginia Mine Disaster Affect National Energy Debate?

    As the scene in West Virginia becomes more dire—and as the death toll, now at 25, continues to rise—Washington has taken note. Dozens of lawmakers have offered condolences and West Virgina Rep. Nick Rahall has called for a full investigation into what happened. This morning, at a post-Easter prayer breakfast, President Obama offered the state any assistance the federal government could offer. It’s a relevant topic on Capitol Hill, which stands ready to take up energy security next on its docket. But that raises the question: will such a fresh reminder of the dangers of coal mining influence the nation's energy debate, underscoring the imperative to move beyond coal?The answer is probably not. "This is a mining accident," says Bill Wicker, communications director for the Senate Energy Committee. "This issue involves the health and safety of our miners, not our energy future." Coal is the one fuel that powers most of what we do. It accounts for about 45 perce...
  • The Spring of Obama's Content

     Washington, a city built upon a swamp, doesn’t get many nice days. Today, however, is one of them. For President Obama, it’s a day centered squarely on ceremony. Earlier this morning Obama hosted 30,000 visitors at the White House Easter egg roll. And this afternoon, he’ll deliver the first pitch to start the baseball season at Nationals’ Park.Both events happen annually and have been done by presidents for almost a century, so Obama isn’t in any way forging new ground (although rarely do both happen on the same day). But today’s line-up is symbolic in other ways. After a brutal winter for the administration and Democrats in Congress, during which their signature issue was on a respirator, Obama and his presidency may well be turning a corner, appearing to finally be comfortable in the powerful and highly scrutinized role.By now, Obama has been in office for just over 14 months, and it might just be an issue of timing. “It takes a year to learn how to be president,” says Stephen...
  • Michael Steele Won't Resign—And Won't Be Forced To

    Can Michael Steele recover from the latest scandal to hit the Republican National Committee? While critics have been calling for his ouster for more than a week, the chairman gave his first interview this morning to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to say that he plans to stay put.The interview was clearly meant as a fence-mending exercise. There was none of the usual joking and colorful witticisms that are Steele’s trademark. He also tried to further distance himself from the embarrassing Club Voyeur story by denying he had any knowledge of the affair, and confirming that he fired the appropriate staffer when he found out. But it wasn’t all spin. Unprompted, Steele reveled the unflattering statistic that 71 percent of GOP lawmakers don’t like him. Curious why, Stephanopoulos asked Steele if he's held to a different standard because of his race. “The honest answer is, 'yes,' " Steele said. "Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do." Despite the...
  • If You Were Starting to Think All of Washington is Boring...

    ...Then you'll want to mosey over to The Washington Post to check out its annual Peeps diorama contest. We bring this to your attention for two reasons. One, these are not your average fifth-grade dioramas. And two, we here at the Gaggle are endlessly amazed at expressions of creativity found in Washington—a  town known to get all worked up over things like, um, reconciliation.This one’s our favorite, in part because it speaks to our cover piece two weeks ago on the first lady's healthy-eating initiative. But the others are certainly worth seeing. So hats off to you, Washington Post (which, by the way, owns NEWSWEEK). And Happy Easter, folks.
  • Pelosi Gets Little Love From Passage of Health Care

    One of Nancy Pelosi’s main selling points to Democrats mulling how to vote on health reform was that after it passed their party would be rewarded with a bump in the polls. She was right. Less than a week after Obama signed the package, USA Today measured favorability of the law at almost half the country (compared to 40 percent who disliked it). President Obama’s stumping has also had a heightening effect among survey takers, a growing number of whom are starting to see Democrats as victors.But Pelosi’s prediction was wrong on one ironic point. Namely, herself. New Gallup numbers out today show that of all Democrats to benefit from health reform’s passage, Pelosi’s favorability has hardly budged. The like-to-dislike spread is almost exactly the same as it was two months ago, 34 percent favorable to 54 percent unfavorable. I can think of two reasons why: 1)    The health-care debate was politically polarizing, no doubt, and the effect has been equally polarizing. Gallup reports tha...
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    Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda

    In only its first year, Sean Hannity argues, the Obama administration has been radical, even tyrannical, in its “socialist” policies. But rather than whine about it, conservatives should focus their anger strategically. Calm down and think smart, warns Hannity. And above all, keep saying no to Democrats wherever possible.
  • With White House Drilling Announcement, Cap-and-Trade Officially Dies

    After a long and bumpy past, it’s now clear that cap-and-trade has gone from the gurney to the morgue. The stark admission came this morning during a CNBC interview with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I think the term 'cap-and-trade' is not in the lexicon anymore," he said, suggesting that more agreeable goals, like slowing pollution and reducing oil imports, were more in the scope of the administration. Instead, the White House signaled it would be moving in a slightly different direction by opening parts of the Virginia coast and northern Alaska to offshore drilling.There has been plenty of outrage from environmental groups all morning. Environment America director Anna Aurilio said that the announcement “makes no sense,” especially when clean technologies on the horizon will usher in energy security. Ocean advocacy group Oceana was "appalled that the president is unleashing a wholesale assault on the oceans," according to programs director Jackie Savitz. Neither group was...
  • Sarkozy Has the Meeting He Needed With Obama

    Speaking at adjacent podiums, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stood half a head shorter than President Obama in the East Room of the White House. Such was the setting for the joint press conference the two men hosted at the White House this afternoon. Yet it was a conference closely watched for that very same disparity on policy. Over the past several months, the two men have been characterized as being on more than just different altitudes. On issues from escalating the war in Afghanistan to American monetary policy, the French president has lobbed pointed criticism toward his U.S. ally in the days leading up to his visit to Washington.One of the reasons for Sarkozy’s trip to the U.S. was to dispel the notion of crippling tension in the relationship, specifically by finding common ground in areas where the two men do agree, such as sanctioning a nuclear Iran. But it was also Sarkozy’s chance to stand up to Obama, showing his countrymen that he sees himself on equal footing with...