Stories by Daniel Stone

  • 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...
  • Is It Time for Michael Steele to Go?

    When news hit the wires this morning about top Republican National Committee officials living the high life—frequenting strip clubs and musing about buying a private jet—the RNC went into crisis mode. The conservative Web site The Daily Caller had reported that during a February trip to California, Steele approved more than $15,000 for visits to several fancy hotels to visit with donors and close to $2,000 at a West Hollywood club “featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.” While Democrats were pouncing on the story all morning hoping for gains in public opinion, the RNC was walking back, and denying that Steele himself had any part in the planning or execution of fundraising in strip clubs. A spokesman also said the RNC is doing an internal investigation.The new revelations pose obvious embarrassment for the Republican establishment. Headlines about gentleman joints and private jets distract mightily from the GOP effort to build momentum before the midterms this fall,...
  • Wyoming: The Sage Grouse Could Cripple the Economy

    President Obama wants to double production of renewable energy by 2012, but a chicken-sized ground bird is tripping up progress. In the last century, the sage grouse—known for its iconic spiked tail -feathers—has been decimated by mining, ranching, and, most recently, the development of the rural West for wind farming. The bird won't mate near turbines, say biologists, and it's trapped on particular parcels of land by something of a mental block on crossing roads and under power lines. But since the grouse is concentrated in parts of the country's windiest states, an unusual green-vs.-green face-off is occurring, with the alternative-power lobby clashing with bird lovers like the Audubon Society.Now the fight may be entering a new stage. The Department of the Interior has moved to protect the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, casting doubt on wind development across the West. While specific restrictions won't be announced for at least a year, states are making preemptive...
  • Why Obama's Russia Agreement Is a Big Deal

    The U.S. and Russia have an undeniably storied past. There was the Cold War, of course, but relations since have only become slightly less tense. The nuclear arsenal of both countries has led to a begrudging acknowledgment of mutual existence, but friendship would be a far stretch. Even efforts to repair the relationship have been tepid. It's hard to forget the high-profile and embarrassing snafu when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a prop button that she thought said "reset" in Russian—but actually meant "overwhelm."But this morning's call between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev indeed signaled progress, but in a roundabout way. The purpose of the call was to agree to a new treaty between the two countries, one modeled on the original START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) that’s kept tension at bay since the early '90s. This one further reduces the number of usable...
  • Canada to Ann Coulter: Watch Your Mouth

    If there’s anyone who knows how to turn America’s freedom of speech laws into a payday, it’s Ann Coulter. The sometimes incendiary and always controversial conservative commentator has made millions on books and speeches that refer to liberalism as "a mental disorder" and progressives as "godless." But does her ability to incite at the expense of others end when she leaves the country? Apparently it does. This week, a group of conservative students invited Coulter to speak at the University of Ottawa in Canada, which has very different free-speech laws than its southern neighbor. To avoid potential problems (or even Coulter landing in jail), one of the campus’s top administrators sent Coulter a sharply worded yet perfectly polite letter. An excerpt:I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or "free speech") in a manner that is somewhat different than...
  • 'Baby Killer' Heckler Was Rep. Randy Neugebauer

    We’re just learning that it was Texas GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer who shouted “baby killer” at Rep. Bart Stupak on the House floor last night. The moment came close to 11 p.m. while Stupak denounced a GOP motion to weaken the health-care-reform package after it already passed. Under mounting pressure for someone to come forward, Neugebauer made an apology a few minutes ago, and offered a clarification. He says he called a baby killer, not Stupak himself, even though that’s how it sounded. In the apology, Neugebauer said he was “heart broken” by the passage of the bill, and deeply resentful that his comments were misconstrued.Neugebauer (pronounced new-guh-bow-er) is a three-term congressman who comes from a fiercely red district in the Texas panhandle, where he’s not expected to face a serious challenger this November. That means he probably won’t be punished for the remark by his constituents, many of whom probably agree with his angry sentiment (albeit perhaps not the heckle itself...
  • Hillary Takes Frank Tone in Speech to Israel Lobby

    Under that pretense, Clinton’s speech may be remembered as the most consequential thus far in her tenure as secretary of state. After decades of slow progress on Israeli-Palestinian relations in such a volatile region of the world, her point was framed as a turning point, as if to say that piecemeal negotiations were no longer good enough. For the preservation of all parties in the region, leaders would have to come to the table in good faith. What’s more, she said, Israel would have to take initiative first.For its moments of rebuke, the speech was also empathetic. Considering threats to Israel from its many sides, Clinton made clear that the U.S. would stand to protect the Jewish state. To that line, and several others, Clinton received a standing ovation. One of the biggest applause lines was the announcement that President Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow at the White House, a sign that the administration is taking Israel's situation ...
  • Democrats Pass Health Care by Slim 219–212 Margin

    After more than a year of debate, the House passed a health-care-reform package late Sunday night that will be sent to the president for him to sign into law. The winning margin was bigger than many on the Hill had expected, three votes over the 216 threshold. But what was entirely predictable was the way the vote broke down: on partisan lines. No Republican voted for the bill. All but 34 Democrats voted yes. In a last attempt, House Minority Leader John Boehner made a fiery address laden with rhetorical questions and aimed at Democrats. "Can you say you read the whole bill?" he shouted. Hell no, you can't!" Order had to be called twice during the speech. At the end of his remarks, he called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to order a roll call vote. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), who was standing in for Pelosi, politely declined to answer. When Pelosi took her turn to speak, she addressed many of Boehner's points, and won just as many jeers from the other side. She cited...
  • 11th-Hour Watch: All Eyes on Stupak

    As my colleague Sarah Kliff noted yesterday, much of the last-minute scrambling before tonight’s health-care vote is centered around the office of Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak and his band of anti-abortion rights Democrats. Stupak started with a dozen lawmakers on his side, but has since lost four to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Last night the remaining eight were summoned to the White House for discussions with administration lawyers about language to bring Stupak’s bloc into the fold to reach the 216-vote threshold.There aren’t many legislative ways to get around Stupak’s opposition to the bill, especially not reconciliation in the Senate. But Stupak’s main request of the president was for him to stipulate that federal funds wouldn’t be used for abortions through executive order, which would supplement the full bill. The White House says no deal was reached last night, but a source close to Stupak tells me the congressman is “on the verge” of an agreement this afternoon.That would...
  • How Health Care Is Hurting the Chances for an Energy Bill

    There are plenty of ways that partisan maneuvering over the past year has eroded trust on Capitol Hill. Each party has squarely opposed the other, almost unanimously. But there are signs that the heightened tension over health care could spread to other issues, including an energy measure that was once touted as possibly being a bipartisan effort....
  • Leading America's Fight Against Climate Change

    Washington, D.C., is littered with the careers of well-meaning public servants who came to do good but fell victim to politics. Lisa Jackson is determined not to become one of them. As head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she oversees the quality of America's air and water and monitors pollution levels. It's a job that endears her to green activists (and anyone who likes clean air and water)—but it puts her at odds with some of the nation's largest, richest industries.For decades, big manufacturers and commercial farmers—who retain powerful lobbyists and make large contributions to the election campaigns of members of Congress—have pushed back against the EPA's efforts to enact stricter controls on pollution. In the George W. Bush years they often got their way, as the EPA rolled back on enforcement.Now Jackson is out to change that. With the backing of her boss, President Barack Obama, she has announced that unless Congress acts by next January, the EPA will use its...
  • Biden's Deathly Gaffe and Quick Recovery

    Last night, while speaking at a White House reception honoring Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, Joe Biden royally stepped in it, referring to Cowen's mother as having passed away ("God rest her soul")—even though she's still very much alive. Whoops. But what impressed us more was Biden's witty recovery. Have a look:
  • More Lost Ground on Climate-Change Concern

    It’s been a crummy year for environmentalists. First it was the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit showing some questionable discussions among scientists about climate-change research. Then the Copenhagen summit ended with a big thud. And then Congress indicated it would trade an aggressive climate-change mitigation measure for a more diluted energy bill.Piling on, Gallup is out with new numbers today showing that concern over climate change continues to recede. According to one of its surveys from earlier this month, almost half of the country (48 percent) is unmoved by climate-change warnings. A growing number are also newly skeptical that humans are causing the planet to change and think that the science isn’t as concrete as they once believed.Surprisingly, the cause of the regression in public opinion isn’t entirely the about the hacked e-mails, although that certainly didn’t help. Skepticism about climate change has hovered in the 30...
  • Sebelius Calls Out Health-Care Opposition

    The goal over the past month for the Obama administration has been to discredit its opponents on health reform. It’s why the president hosted the televised policy summit last month, which wasn’t really about finding common ground, but was mostly an effort to show in a public setting that the other side's ideas to fix the ailing health-care system were all talk and no action.Now the administration is taking the fight to the real opponents of reform, the lobbyists who have funneled more than $20 million over the past year toward blocking a bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prepared some straight talk for her address this morning to the annual conference of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the top lobbying force that’s been a thorn in the side of Democrats. Even though it was delivered respectfully, Sebelius's message was clear: if reform fails, all the impending evils will be of your own doing—and will affect your business, too.You can...