Holly Bailey

Stories by Holly Bailey

  • Jim Jones: Diminished Clout?

    Where has Jim Jones been? As the White House navigated its response to the Iran crisis, President Obama's national-security adviser was nowhere to be seen. In fact, Jones was out of the country dealing with another thorny issue on Obama's plate: the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. An administration official, who didn't want to be named discussing internal logistics, tells NEWSWEEK the trip had been in the works long before the surge of violence in Iran—and that Obama understood its importance and had encouraged Jones to not reschedule.But Jones's absence at the height of what has been Obama's biggest foreign-policy crisis led to additional speculation about his clout. Some have suggested the former general hasn't been a good fit in Obamaland, a PR problem fueled, in part, by Jones himself. He has been perhaps the least--visible national-security adviser in more than a decade. While Condi Rice and Sandy Berger were highly interactive with the press and enjoyed close...
  • Biden's Brief Expands to Include Iraq

    Vice President Joe Biden's official portfolio is expanding. NEWSWEEK has learned that President Obama has asked Biden to take the lead role on Iraq as the U.S. begins its scheduled drawdown of combat troops, a move that comes as administration officials are expressing concerns about the uptick in violence and political instability in the region.Biden's role will be something of an unofficial envoy to Iraq, though he won't handle day-to-day dealings with officials on the ground. The goal is to "raise the level" in hopes that Biden's stature encourages Iraqi officials to bridge their political differences, says a senior administration official who didn't want to be named talking about high-level personnel decisions. "He knows the players," White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel tells NEWSWEEK. "He brings a lot of experience and expertise on this issue to the table, and the president trusts him."While they insist that overall incidents of violence in Iraq remain low, Obama and his...
  • Flashback: Michael Jackson at the White House

      The Gaggle is usually a blog focused on politics, but we’d be remiss not to mention some of the moments when Washington intersects with pop culture. To mark Michael Jackson’s sudden death this afternoon, your Gaggler thought it might be appropriate to remember the King of Pop’s visit to the White House back in 1984 as a guest of Ronald Reagan. "Well, isn't this a Thriller," Reagan joked. Jackson, who was 25 at the time, was given a plaque for allowing his song “Beat It” to be used in the administration’s anti-drunk driving ads aimed at teenagers. There was no moonwalking, but Jackson was wearing his signature look of the early 1980s, including sequined socks and that one glittered glove. "I'm very very honored," Jackson said shyly, as he was interrupted by the shreiks of fans on the South Lawn. "Thank you very much, Mr. President and Mrs. Reagan."
  • Sanford to Reimburse Cost of Previous Argentina Trip

    Your Gaggler wondered yesterday if Mark Sanford would have to own up to using any state funds to either facilitate or cover up his infidelity. Now comes word via his press office that the South Carolina governor will reimburse the state for a junket to Argentina he took a year ago, which is when the affair apparently started. Here’s Sanford's statement:As noted by the Department of Commerce, I attended a trade mission with the Department of Commerce last June. As the agenda notes, the mission was spent meeting with government and private business officials in both Brazil and Argentina. This trip was handled very professionally by the Department of Commerce, and I'm proud of their work there. However, while the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman who I was unfaithful to my wife with. That has raised some very legitimate concerns and questions, and as such I...
  • Palin Still Rules, But Romney is Gaining

    Who stands to benefit the most from Mark Sanford’s troubles? Well, amid all the news yesterday, we missed this new poll the finds Mitt Romney's numbers are inching up, not just among Republicans but the general public According to the latest Pew survey, 40 percent of those surveyed viewed Romney “favorably”—about a 10 percent increase compared to February 2008 when he quit the GOP presidential primary. Still, Sarah Palin remains the most popular GOP figure, with a 45 percent favorable rating. Among Republicans alone, Palin is WAY more popular than Romney, with a 73 percent favorable rating compared to Romney’s 57 percent. And that’s a very important number—after all a candidate has to make it through the GOP primary first.The good news for Romney: While she remains enormously popular among Republicans, Palin’s numbers have been pretty steady since last fall, while Romney is moving up. According to Pew, Romney has made equal gains among both conservative Republicans and those...
  • News Flash: Sanford Also Likes Chick Flicks

    The State newspaper publishes more of those Mark Sanford emails today, and now we’re getting more of the back story on how those messages were obtained and why the paper chose to not print them until now. As your Gaggler mentioned yesterday, the State reports that it had the Sanford emails since December. According to the New York Times, which has a nice write-up on the press’s handling of the affair, someone forwarded the emails to the paper anonymously. A State reporter then contacted “Maria” via her e-mail address in an attempt to confirm their authenticity, but never heard back. They apparently did not approach Sanford’s office. “What it was, was a puzzle piece that was hardly discernible,” the paper’s political editor tells the Times. But the paper didn’t really pursue it further, in part because reporters were so skeptical that Sanford might be a cheater. By their own account, Sanford was a weirdo, but an adulterer? No way. The paper still doesn’t know who sent the emails—a...
  • Ick Watch: Sanford's Emails to His Mistress

    Speaking of other shoes to drop, the State newspaper down in South Carolina has published a series of emails between Gov. Mark Sanford and the woman in Argentina with whom he had an affair. The woman, identified only as “Maria,” refused to talk one of the paper’s reporters today when approached at her home in Buenos Aires, but the governor’s office doesn’t dispute the content of the emails, which date back to roughly one year ago. In the story, the State discloses that it's been in posession of the emails since December. (Oh really? What's the backstory there?) Warning: These emails are super cheesy, even for your Gaggler who will own up to watching the occasional episode of Days of Our Lives. (The guy who played Chris Kositchek now playing Roman? What is that about?) Here’s an excerpt of one Sanford love email to his beloved. Don’t say we didn’t warn you:Two, mutual feelings .... You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that so...
  • After Sanford, What Do Republicans Do Now?

    Mark Sanford’s decision to come clean about his extramarital affair today is just the beginning of the story. There will inevitably be other shoes to drop: What did his staff know? Did any state employees lie for him? Did Sanford use any state funds to facilitate or conceal his affair? After all, the South Carolina governor did take off in his official vehicle last Thursday when he made his secret getaway to Buenos Aires. Will he be forced to resign the governor’s office? While we’ve seen politicians bounce back from bad behavior before (just ask Bill Clinton or Newt Gingrich), all of this means Sanford’s 2012 presidential aspirations are likely over. But the bigger question is: What do Republicans do now?It was barely a week ago that Sen. John Ensign, another GOP rising star, admitted his own affair. Ensign, though still largely a political unknown nationally, had been tagged by many within the party as an up-and-comer with the ability to help the GOP rebuild in the era of Obama....
  • Mark Sanford Admits Extramarital Affair

    In an emotional press conference this afternoon, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted that he had been cheating on his wife with a woman in Argentina, where he had been secretly vacationing the past six days. Sanford, who announced he was resigning his post as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, repeatedly apologized to his wife and kids and to his staff, whom he admitted misleading about his whereabouts. The governor’s aides told reporters yesterday that Sanford was hiking the Appalachian Trail, when in fact he was in Buenos Aires. “I’ve been unfaithful to my wife, and I developed a relationship with what started as a dear dear friend from Argentina,” Sanford said, tearfully....
  • Obama and the Art of Presidential Stagecraft

    Did the White House plant questions at President Obama’s news conference yesterday? The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has a good write-up explaining the whole dust-up about Obama’s decision to call on a blogger from the Huffington Post who had apparently been asked to attend the presser Tuesday by administration officials. Nico Pitney, who has been blogging about the election in Iran, was escorted to a front line position by an Obama press aide just moments before the president himself came to the podium. To the surprise of many reporters in the room, Pitney got to ask the second question. (The first went to the Associated Press, which is WH tradition.) ...
  • Missing Governor Returns...From Argentina

    Mark Sanford has been found! The South Carolina governor was spotted this morning in Atlanta, where, surprise surprise, he was not actually hiking the Appalachian Trail as his staff had said. Rather, Sanford had been in Argentina, tootling around Buenos Aires. How did his staff come to think he was hiking Appalachians? “I don’t know,” Sanford told the State newspaper this morning, as a reporter captured him arriving back in the United States. “I wanted to do something exotic.” Mission accomplished. It was the first time in almost a week that Sanford had been seen. The governor disappeared last Thursday, leaving his staff, family and fellow legislators in the lurch. His wife insisted she wasn’t worried, even though she hadn’t heard from him, while his staff seemed to imply they had talked to him, even though his cell phone was apparently off. Sanford didn’t tell any of his fellow lawmakers he was leaving town, including Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who would feasibly be in charge should...
  • Ouch: Clinton's Fractured Elbow

    Here’s the latest from the White House’s Flickr feed: A photo of President Obama with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who fractured her right elbow last week.
  • SC Gov Reportedly Found, But Questions Continue

    The Mark Sanford story just gets stranger. Late last night, Sanford’s staff came clean about the South Carolina governor’s previously undisclosed location: They say he’s hiking the Appalachian Trail this week—although they won’t say exactly where. But this has done little to appease his critics who say Sanford should have let people know where he was going in case of a state emergency of some kind. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer tells Politico that he believes his office was misled by Sanford’s staff, who he says didn’t actually know where the governor was despite their claims. According to Politico, Bauer called Sanford’s office Monday and requested an “immediate phone conversation with the governor.” “That request was denied because the governor’s chief of staff does not know where the governor is and has not communicated with the governor since he left South Carolina last Thursday,” Bauer told Politico. “I cannot take lightly that his staff has not had communication with him for more than...
  • South Carolina Governor Missing?

    Now this is a strange story: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford left his executive mansion on Thursday night and hasn’t been seen since. According to the Associated Press, his wife doesn’t know where he is, ditto for his security detail who hasn’t been able to reach him. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who would presumably be in charge, doesn’t know what’s going on. His office has been told by Sanford’s office that he’s been located and is fine--though they seem unwilling to provide any details. "He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," First Lady Jenny Sanford told AP this morning. She said she didn't know where her husband was, but wasn't concerned. According to the State newspaper, both of the governor’s cell phones—his state phone and his personal cell—have been turned off. His last known whereabouts had been near Atlanta because a mobile phone tower picked up a signal from one of those phones. Sanford (or someone pretending to him?) has...
  • Hello, President Obama Calling...

    The White House usually sends reporters “readouts” of President Obama’s phone calls to foreign leaders, summarizing what the Commander in Chief said to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, etc. So this morning, your Gaggler was a bit surprised to see two emails detailing Obama’s phone calls with… professional sports coaches? According to the White House, Obama phoned the Los Angeles Lakers’ Phil Jackson and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Dan Bylsma to congratulate them on their recent championship wins. While it doesn't say how long the phone calls lasted, it's pretty obvious Obama was way more interested in talking to Jackson. According to the White House, the two discussed "the president's interest in the Lakers' innovative triangle offense." Ooh, someone getting some tips here? The summaries, courtesy the White House, after the jump....
  • Gibbs: We're On the Same Page, I Swear!

    Remember that internal discord over how President Obama is handling Iran? Forget it! Everything is swell! On the record, at least. Here's White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs at the briefing this afternoon:...
  • What is John Edwards Thinking?

    John Edwards gives a lengthy interview to the Washington Post today, his first since he admitted last summer that he’d had an affair with a campaign videographer after lying about it for months and months. It’s not that we haven’t seen him around. Your Gaggler thinks Edwards doesn’t deserve much sympathy for cheating on his wife, but it was hard not to cringe when Oprah confronted him about it during her interview in May with Elizabeth Edwards, who recently published a memoir based in part on the whole icky situation.  (In fact, for the record, we’re pretty disgusted with everybody involved in that shoot: Bringing the Edwards kids out to hug Oprah when she pulled up in front of the house in the SUV? Just plain awful.) But John Edwards can’t seem to let it go. The Post’s story today is about how Edwards is trying to lay low and be humble but he still aches to think of what could have been and how he wishes there was someone (someone like him?) speaking out for the poor people. "...
  • Want Access to Obama? Learn to Play Basketball

    Washington is a funny place. It wasn’t so long ago that people were learning to ride mountain bikes, in hopes of being one of the chosen few to join George W. Bush on one of his rides here in Washington or at his Texas ranch. Now, ESPN’s Wright Thompson has a pretty great piece on how the powerful in Washington are picking up the game of basketball, all in hopes of shooting hoops with the most famous baller in town, President Obama. There’s Rep. Baron Hill, a former high school basketball star, working on his jump shots. "I stayed away from the game," the five-term Democrat tells ESPN, "and here I am shooting hoops again. And it's because of him. If I ever have an opportunity to play with him, I want to be able to halfway get around that court well enough." And then there’s all the Cabinet secretaries in training, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Lobbyists, members of Congress and reps at trade industry groups are all taking lessons. Even the junior...
  • Clinton Fractures Elbow, Has to Cancel on Angelina

    First Sonia Sotomayor fractured her ankle. Now comes word that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fractured her elbow yesterday. According to a statement issued late last night, Clinton was on her way to the White House when she slipped and fell, injuring her right elbow. She was taken to a local hospital here in Washington, and according to an aide, she’ll undergo surgery to repair her elbow next week. Ick. That means Clinton’s had to clear her schedule, and unlike Sotomayor, she wasn’t just meeting with a long list of boring old senators. Clinton had been scheduled to appear alongside actress Angelina Jolie today to mark World Refugee Day. Your Gaggler was on Team Aniston once upon a time—We’re are now of the opinion that fighting over Brad is sooooo 2005—but missing out on seeing Angie's new tattoo? Total bummer.
  • Internal Discord Over Obama's Iran Response?

    It’s not just Republicans who are unhappy with President Obama’s muted response to what’s happening in Iran. There’s apparently an internal divide at the White House over how tough or not Obama should be. According to the New York Times this morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden “would like to strike a stronger tone in support of protestors” while “other White House officials have counseled a more cautious approach.” Obama has clearly sided with the latter, saying he doesn’t want to be seen as “meddling” in the Iranian elections. What’s interesting to your Gaggler is this is only second or third time we’ve heard about internal discontent coming from this very buttoned down, very on message, very “all is great” White House. So who leaked this out?
  • Obama: LGBT Benefits Memo "Just a Start"

    As expected, President Obama this evening signed an executive memo authorizing some additional benefits to the same sex partners of federal employees. A copy of the actual memo is here, along with a lengthy statement in which Obama emphasizes this is “just a start.” Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Obama said the law doesn’t allow him to go as far as he’d like and announced his support for legislation in Congress that would guarantee “all rights” including health insurance and pension benefits for domestic partners of federal employees. As he spoke, Obama was surrounded by representatives of many gay rights groups who have criticized his administration’s stance on equality issues in recent days, including the Human Rights Campaign. Obama specifically brought up the Defense of Marriage Act, which his administration defended in a controversial legal brief last week, and repeated his support for its repeal. “I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states...
  • Is Obama At Odds with DOJ On DOMA?

    Your Gaggler is starting to sense a pattern at the White House. For two straight days, on two very different subjects, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has defended a move that seems counter to what President Obama said during the campaign by seeming to punt the blame on the folks who made the rules before them. On Tuesday, it was the Obama administration’s decision to reject a request to make visitor logs to the White House public. According to Gibbs, the “previous policy” is under review but until then the White House will stick with the status quo, i.e., no visitor logs released, no way. Today, Gibbs was asked about Obama’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act, which Obama has said repeatedly he wants to repeal. As we’ve noted several times, the Obama Justice Department entered a controversial legal brief last week defending DOMA—which included language and implications that irked many of Obama’s top gay supporters. At today’s briefing, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Gibbs if...
  • Obama No Stranger to Fly Attacks

    Your Gaggler is still laughing about President Obama’s run-in with that fly at the White House yesterday. “That’s the most persistent fly I’ve ever seen,” commented CNBC’s John Harwood, who was the closest witness to the attack. What was that fly thinking, trying to interrupt the freaking president of the United States during a very important television interview? Well, this could be a larger conspiracy than we thought. Courtesy New York Magazine, here’s video of a fly going after Obama during an interview on the campaign trail last year. This one buzzed Obama not just once but several times, but the future prez didn’t swat to kill as he did yesterday. He just ended the interview. Was he worried about denting his likability numbers in the polls? Did he lack the bold fortitude that comes with being the Commander in Chief? Answers escape us. But the clear lesson here: You can’t back down from a fight. Not even with a fly. They always come back.
  • Can Obama Win Back the Gay Community?

    In what initially looked like a big deal for the gay community, the White House put out word last night that President Obama will sign a “memo” today to extend benefits to same sex partners of federal workers. Early reports suggested those benefits would include the right to health insurance, which, if true, would have gone far in soothing some of the tension between the White House and gay rights activists, who have accused Obama of breaking campaign promises to promote equality for gays and lesbians. But the president's move today likely won't be as far reaching as some had hoped.While we still don’t know exactly what Obama will sign—he’s scheduled to sign the memo and talk to reporters at 5:45 this afternoon—it appears that whatever he does won’t go as far as providing health benefits. That’s because under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government cannot provide health insurance to same sex partners. And that’s where it gets very touchy. During the...
  • No One Messes with Obama. Not Even a Fly.

    H/T to our pal Michael Scherer over at Brand X, this video makes your Gaggler's day. John Harwood's commentary is priceless, though did President Obama really smash that thing with his hand? No offense, Mr. President, but yuck.
  • Obama Issues Statement on Afghan Elections

    President Obama has said twice in the last 24 hours that he doesn’t want to be seen as meddling in Iran’s political process. Now here comes this written statement from Obama on the upcoming elections in Afghanistan. We’ve posted the full statement just issued by the White House below, but here’s the jist: Whoever wins, we’ll work with them. It’s not hard to read between the lines here. For months, administration officials have been defending what some have described as “strained” ties between the White House and current Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whom some folks in Obamaland just don’t trust. The White House has tried to make nice with Karzai, even as some administration officials anonymously hint they wouldn’t mind working with someone else. Recently, they’ve tried to dial back. At a briefing on Afghanistan policy in May, a senior administration official repeatedly insisted the U.S. has no stake in the campaign beyond seeing that the democratic process was fair and just. “In...
  • After Netanyahu's Speech, Israel's Top Diplomat Comes to DC

    Bowing to pressure from President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a major speech over the weekend that he’d accept a Palestinian state, as long as it was demilitarized and recognized Israel as a Jewish state. Now Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is on a 10-day tour to gauge the international reaction. Yesterday, he met with the European Union and is expected to land tonight in Washington, where he’ll meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and various members of Congress. (No meeting with Obama or Vice President Biden--not yet, anyway.) NEWSWEEK’s Rebecca Shabad spoke with Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, former U.S. - Middle East negotiator and author of The Much Too Promised Land to preview the foreign minister’s visit. Excerpts:...
  • Obama Blocks Access to WH Visitor Logs

    Will the Obama White House make its visitor logs public? Administration officials have launched a formal review in the wake of a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a Washington ethics group that has been trying to gain access under the Freedom of Information Act to a list of those who have come to see administration officials in recent months. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, who previously sued the Bush administration for similar records, had requested names of any coal executives who have visited Obama officials during the first few months of the administration. The request was denied, as was a similar request to the administration from MSNBC, which asked for the names of everybody who had visited the White House since Inauguration Day. Asked about the logs during the press briefing today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the policy is under review by the White House Counsel's office, though he declined to say how long the review could last. Asked if the administration still...
  • Obama Has "Deep Concerns" About Iran's Election

    Speaking to reporters at the White House this morning, President Obama went a teeeeensy bit further on Iran than he did in his remarks yesterday, saying that he had “deep concerns” about the election. (On Monday, he said he was “deeply troubled” by the violence.) Here’s what Obama said, courtesy the White House:...