Daniel Stone

Stories by Daniel Stone

  • 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...
  • Will Health Care Really Come Down to One Vote?

    Outgoing Democratic Rep. Eric Massa spent the weekend giving a fiery rant about how he was being ousted from office. On a radio show in his New York district, Massa admitted that his intent not to seek reelection was tied to an inappropriate comment he made to a House aide at a cocktail party. From there, he says, House leadership circled like vultures, trying to get rid of him over his avowed “no” vote on health care. “Mine is now the deciding vote on the health-care bill,” Massa said. “This administration and this House leadership have said, 'they will stop at nothing to pass this health-care bill, and now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass."Privately, Democratic House aides adamantly deny Massa’s claim that he’s being pushed out over his health-care opposition. Publicly, they’re content to stay away from Massa’s self-implosion. One staffer tells me that even if House leaders were out to get Massa (which they say they're not), they couldn’t possibly do more damage than...
  • Alaska: A New 'Polar-Bear Defense'?

    When Congress all but dropped the idea of broad, national emissions limits, the fight against global warming appeared to be lost—at least for 2010. But there may be reason for environmentalists to hope. Later this year a federal judge will decide if the protection of polar bears can justify a cap on greenhouse gases—clearing the way for lawsuits nationwide against the country's worst polluters.This backdoor legal strategy stems from a 2008 Bush administration declaration that labeled the polar bear's habitat "threatened" by global warming—and, at the same time, added a "special rule" excluding that threat from forming the basis of a legal fight against climate-change regulations. Environmental groups sued to have the rule removed, while the oil-dependent state of Alaska sued to strip the polar bear of protected status altogether.Now a repeal of the special rule could come as early as this spring. And since the Endangered Species Act requires protecting any animal on the list,...
  • Sarah Palin Does Stand-Up—And Not Badly, Either

    Keeping the publicity train moving swiftly, Sarah Palin sat on Jay Leno’s couch last night. The interview didn’t break any news, but it did raise both parties' boats, allowing Leno to show he can still attract the top guests while Palin proved she can handle a giggly late-night interview. What came after the chat, though, was the better part. Leno announced that Palin would be making her “comedy debut” (wait, didn’t she do Saturday Night Live?) with a stand-up routine that turned out to be, well, actually pretty good. Comedy can be fleeting in politics, trust me, but Palin had some good zingers. Like about how in Alaska it’s so cold the weather is 5 degrees below Congress’s approval rating. Or about how she took a new gig at the Legends hotel in Las Vegas as an impersonator of Tina Fey.Palin’s got her share of wild speculation about her next step. President? Talk-show host? Author? Until now, comedian never factored in. But for someone like Palin, who can write her own tick...
  • Why the EPA Struggles With Water Regulation

    State and federal debates over which rivers and lakes should be regulated have left some bodies of water full of pollution, and with little hope of a mandate to clean them anytime soon. The starkest diagnosis of the breakdown of water regulation comes from EPA lawyer Douglas Mundrick. “We are, in essence, shutting down our Clean Water programs in some states,” he told the Times. The main snag is big industry, which has argued—successfully—that it should be exempt from any cuts, so long as it dumps pollution into small waterways and not big ones, which the act covers.Yet the entire debate over jurisdiction in water regulation hopelessly ignores one of the inherent qualities of water on Earth: that it works in a cycle. When lawmakers argue that only "navigable" waterways—a fancy way of saying major ones and not the small ones that trickle through rural communities—should be regulated, they’re neglecting to note where that “navigable” water comes from (usually smaller streams...
  • David Paterson: America's Sleaziest Governor?

    The New York Times dropped a bombshell today that has not only turned Albany upside down, but leaves New York Gov. David Paterson in a tight spot. According to the piece, state officials are now investigating whether Paterson acted improperly in the handling of a domestic-violence incident involving one of his top aides. The aide, David Johnson, had already come under fire earlier this month when the Times suggested that his rise to the top of the governor’s staff may have been influenced more by friendship than merit, but this whacks the ball a whole lot further, putting Paterson on the spot for some explanation. (The governor hasn’t denied any of the claims, saying he’ll wait for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to launch an inquiry.) But even before he talks, this latest development lands Paterson high in the running for the sought-after title of being America’s sleaziest governor.He's got some competition. First there's former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich,...
  • Health Care Summit Seating Chart

    For those of you watching on TV and unsure of who's addressing who, here's a handy seating chart, compliments of the White House.   
  • Health-Care Summit Starts With Discussion of Facts, Not Policy

    It used to be a bumper sticker, but lately the phrase “You’re entitled to your opinion but not your own facts” has become a mantra for partisans on health care, especially among Democrats accusing conservatives of twisting facts to support their priorities. President Obama started this morning’s health-care summit emphasizing that he wanted to put everything on the table, and discuss good ideas. But not even 40 minutes into the discussion, Democrats lobbed their first challenge. As GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander criticized the proposal the White House put online on Monday, Reid retorted, on script, when it was his turn. "Lamar, you're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts."Indeed, in the first hour, Republicans, especially Alexander, have been on the defensive about where to start the discussion. During another statement, Alexander noted that the CBO’s latest numbers supported his and the Republicans’ notion that the costs are too simply high, and that Obama’s...
  • With DADT Repeal, Lieberman Pursues Progressive Redemption

    Sen. Joe Lieberman is a man who likes to parade his conscience. It’s why he made such a splash last summer as he made demands that gutted large provisions of the Democrats health-care-reform bill. It’s also the same reason that the Connecticut senator is now leading the charge on repealing the military’s policy limiting gays from serving in the armed forces.His reason for doing it is the same reason as everyone else’s: restricting homosexuals from service undercuts the entire military, both morally and physically. “When you artificially limit the pool of people who can enlist then you are diminishing military effectiveness,” he said in a statement posted to his Senate Web site. But for Lieberman, the stakes are higher. By getting out in front of an angry, bipartisan, pack that realizes it’s time for repeal, the crafty senator further fortifies his credentials as a true unbeholden independent. Of course he can’t claim to be a moderate─fighting to axe DADT and opposing a public option...
  • Environmental Group Hits Back at Climate Skeptics

    Earlier this week, recognizing that climate science has lost considerable perceptive momentum, New York Times columnist Thomas Freidman called for a time-out. Stop everything, he told the science community, step back, and collect your thoughts. Then, top climate scientists should come together to write a single and concise paper entitled “Here’s What We Know.” At the same time, he suggests, “they should add a summary of all the errors and wild exaggerations made by the climate skeptics—and where they get their funding.”Not a bad idea in order to stop the bleeding. Climate researchers have been wounded with several scandals of late, but they’ve also been the victim of hefty and unabashed hyperbole from their critics, who have argued disingenuously that the recent errors that don’t actually change the fundamental research have in fact been a “game changer.”So who to take on the task of explaining climate science (or reexplaining, depending on what circles you run in)? As the world’s...
  • Virginia to Challenge Obama's 'Individual Mandate'

    As hard as the health-care fight has been for Democrats, the greater challenge may come if their bill is made into law. At issue is the "individual mandate," a statute that would require all Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty tax. It has presidential backing, a green light from both houses of -Congress—and it's expected to survive the legislative compromise process given that the alternative is either higher premiums or higher taxes.But legal scholars have questioned its constitutionality for months. And now the debate has shifted from theory to reality: Republicans in at least 30 states have launched bills that would reject the mandate. Earlier this month Tennessee enacted legislation that would require its attorney general to defend people who refuse insurance, and Virginia, pending the governor's expected signature, may soon be the first state to tell residents they would not need to comply. "We're ready to go," says Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has...