Holly Bailey

Stories by Holly Bailey

  • Should Obama Be Talking Tougher About Iran?

    Perhaps not surprisingly, the White House has been very careful about how it responds to what is happening in Iran right now. Speaking out for the first time since Friday’s disputed election results, President Obama said late yesterday that Iranians have a right to have their votes counted, but didn’t go further—and quickly noted why. “It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be, that we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran, which sometimes the United States can be a handy political football,” Obama told reporters. “Having said all that, I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television.  I think that the democratic process -- free speech, the ability of people to peacefully dissent -- all those are universal values and need to be respected.  And whenever I see violence perpetrated on people who are peacefully dissenting, and whenever the American people see that, I...
  • Is Sotomayor Really a Bully or Are People Just Sexist?

    NPR’s Nina Totenberg had an interesting piece on Morning Edition this morning looking at the main rap against Sonia Sotomayor. Long story short, people have said she’s pushy, going so far as to describe her as “bully” on the bench. The labels have been circulating for months, long before Sotomayor was actually named as Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Since then, the White House has gone to great lengths to push back against the claims, producing clerks and lawyers who have worked with Sotomayor who insist she’s just fine. But the rumors just won’t go away. More recently, Sen. Lindsay Graham has cited reviews mentioned in The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which included anonymous comments describing her as a “terror on the bench” and “overly aggressive.” But is the criticism legitimate or is it, as some Sotomayor allies suggest, a case of her being picked on for being a strong woman? For the piece, Totenberg listened to audio recordings of two oral arguments made before...
  • Gibbs: I Don't Want to Parse the Word Pissed...

    At the White House briefing today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about news reports that the British government was not exactly thrilled to be in the dark about the decision to transfer four Chinese Muslim prisoners, known as Uighurs, from Guantanamo Bay to Bermuda this week. The Brits have told Bermuda, one of its territories, that they should have been consulted first, and the issue looks to also be causing drama between the U.S. and folks at 10 Downing Street. “They’re pissed,” an unnamed State Department official told ABC News yesterday. At the briefing, Gibbs was asked about the quote, which turned into a lot of talk about who was "pissed" at who:...
  • Dear Spock, Obama Feels Your Pain

    So Denzel Washington was on Letterman last night, where the subject of Barack Obama, the movie, came up. As you can see in the video above, Washington put his thumbs behind his ears and pushed them forward, mimicking Obama’s more prominent ears. Denzel! “Now I’m in trouble with the president,” he joked. We doubt it. As New York Magazine notes, Obama has led the way in making fun of his big ears, thus making it cool for everybody else to do so. They’ve put together a helpful video and photo slideshow titled, you guessed it, “Barack Obama’s Ears: A History.” Until now, your Gaggler didn't realize that Obama sort of has a complex about his ears. There's video of Obama talking about how his wife, Michelle, keeps him in check: She makes fun of his ears. There's also the interview, which Washington references to Letterman, where Obama talks about how he'd prefer Denzel to play him in a movie, but how it will likely be Will Smith. You see, the Fresh Prince, like Obama,...
  • Obama Woos Congress via Rahm's Cell Phone

    It’s not unusual for a president to phone up a member of Congress in the middle of the night to lobby for legislation, but this may be a first: the Commander in Chief talking to an impromptu meeting of lawmakers via a cell phone speaker? According to the Politico’s David Rogers, that’s what happened Thursday night when Obama intervened in stalled negotiations over the war supplemental bill. Senators, including John McCain, were looking for assurances from Obama that the administration will do what it takes to prevent the disclosure of controversial photos that allegedly show detainees being mistreated by members of the U.S. military. According to Rogers, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who was up on the Hill pushing for the bill, dialed up Obama on his cell phone and promptly put the president on speakerphone. “Good evening Angels!” Obama said. Well, ok, he likely didn’t say that, but your Gaggler is amused by the idea of Obama pulling a Charlie from Charlie's Angels...
  • Rumor Watch: Gates to Replace Jones at the WH?

    Over at Foreign Policy magazine, the very well-connected Tom Ricks, formerly of the Washington Post, says he’s “picking up the vibe” that some “powerful people” want to see Defense Secretary Robert Gates replace Jim Jones as President Obama’s national security adviser. A Pentagon spokesman shoots down the story, calling it “utterly and completely absurd”—though Ricks, for his part, seems to think he’s protesting a bit too much. Your Gaggler, for the record, hasn’t heard this rumor, but she’s heard the many others that have circulated around Washington in recent months that have suggested that Jones just isn’t quite fitting in at the White House.Administration officials have been hearing these whispers too—and they always deny them, insisting that things are all right and swell in Obamaland. But Jones’s PR problems haven’t gone away. He’s taken a much lower public profile than his predecessors in the Bush administration. When they had Jones’s job, Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley were ...
  • More Photos from the Obama Scrapbook

    Your Gaggler has said it before, and she’ll say it again: This White House is extremely smart about managing President Obama’s image. Yesterday, aides updated the official White House Flickr account with dozens of candid behind the scenes photos of Obama’s trip to the Middle East and Europe last week. It’s pure candy for people who like getting a glimpse behind the curtain. Even if it’s not the most private of moments—Obama clearly knows he’s being photographed—it’s more than we’ve seen in real time from other modern day presidents. In this particular set, there are photos of Obama roaming a Paris art museum with his daughters, a shot of Obama body guy Reggie Love showing the president and his aides pictures on his laptop (a Dell?!), and a photo of Obama wearing an Indiana Jones hat during his tour of the pyramids in Egypt. (Don’t quit your day job, Mr. President.) The White House’s message here: Obama is a real person, just like you and me.  He wears silly hats and mugs for the ca...
  • Gingrich Apologizes for Calling Sotomayor a Racist

    In a lengthy message posted on his Web site today, Newt Gingrich apologizes for calling Judge Sonia Sotomayor a “racist" over her comment that a "wise Latina woman" could reach a better decision than "a white male who hasn't lived that life." Here’s Gingrich:My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct.  The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice. With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree.  The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).That's not to say the former House Speaker is suddenly on the Sotomayor bandwagon. In the message, Gingrich...
  • Cheney More Liberal Than Obama on Gay Marriage

    Is Dick Cheney more liberal than Barack Obama? Yes, at least on one issue. Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Cheney reiterated his support for same-sex marriage, as long as the issue is decided by the states not the federal government. “People ought to be free to enter into any kind of union they wish, any kind of arrangement they wish,” That officially puts him to the left of President Obama, who has endorsed civil unions rather than marriage, for lesbians and gays. It’s not a new position for Cheney, whose youngest daughter, Mary, is gay. The former Veep has been saying the same thing for years, dating back to the 2000 vice presidential debate with Joe Lieberman. "We ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into," Cheney said back then....
  • Obama Feels Comfortable, REALLY Comfortable, with Sotomayor

    Twenty-two. That’s how many times White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs used the word “comfortable” during today’s press briefing when asked by reporters about President Obama and his conversations—or lack thereof—with Sonia Sotomayor specifically on her views on abortion and privacy rights. As Gibbs said yesterday, Obama didn’t bring up those topics with his Supreme Court nominee, and, as we learned today from Gibbs, neither did his staff. But grilled on the subject for the second day in a row, Gibbs said the president did talk to Sotomayor about her views on the Constitution. And guess what, Obama feels comfortable. “They talked about the theory of constitutional interpretation, generally, including her views on unremunerated rights in the Constitution and the theory of settled law,” Gibbs said. “He left very comfortable with her interpretation of the Constitution being similar to that of his.” In response to follow-ups, Gibbs added that Obama “feels comfortable that she shares...
  • Are We Really Having This Debate? Part Deux

    Your Gaggler thought she wouldn’t read anything more bizarre than that fight yesterday over how to pronounce Sonia Sotomayor’s last name, but not surprisingly, she was wrong. Via Talking Points Memo, we find this story from yesterday's edition of The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, which takes a closer look at how Senate Republicans are gearing up to fight Sotomayer’s nomination. It seems the Repubs have taken great interest in a lecture Sotomayor gave in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley law school, where she talked about how personal experiences shape judges—ie, a big no no in their book. But here’s the story gets weird:Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.” This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such...
  • On Abortion, Sotomayor Seems to Make Everyone Nervous

    While the White House is growing more confident by the day that there will be no knock down, drag out fight over Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, there is some unease on both sides about the judge’s position on abortion. Abortion foes are angry because they believe Sotomayor would vote to sustain Roe v. Wade, but, as the New York Times notes this morning, abortion rights advocates aren’t so sure how she would rule. Part of this has to do with the fact that Sotomayor has never had to directly rule on a law regarding abortion. But yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at the daily briefing that President Obama had, in fact, not asked Sotomayor about abortion or privacy rights because the president, as he said, has no “litmus test.” That has caused some women’s rights groups to temper their support for Sotomayor, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, which has a banner on its home page at the moment calling for Sotomayor to get a “fair...
  • Bill Clinton Is Still A Little Upset About 2008

    The New York Times is out this afternoon with a preview of a profile of Bill Clinton running in its Sunday magazine this weekend. Written by Peter Baker, who covered Clinton’s final years in the White House for the Washington Post and who now covers President Obama for the Times, the piece is all about what the former president has been up to lately now that his wife is Secretary of State. There’s plenty of interesting scenes in the piece, starting with the opener: Clinton, looking at handbags and jewelry in Peru, confesses that he likes picking out gifts for his friends’ wives and girlfriends. The former president, who has now been out of the White House longer than he was in it, is an expert at craft stores around the world “and can tell you the best ones in Hong Kong or Arusha,” Baker writes. Thus goes the life of a former president.But it’s the underlying tension between Obama and Clinton that still lingers from the campaign that’s most telling in the piece. While it appears...
  • Biden Jokes About Obama and Teleprompters

    Vice President Joe Biden is in Colorado today, where he addressed graduating cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs this morning. The ceremony was outdoors, and according to local reports, it was very windy, prompting one of Biden's two Teleprompters to blow over during the speech. The Veep couldn’t help but make a joke, alluding to his boss’s own use of the machine. “What am I going to tell the president when I tell him his Teleprompter is broken?” Biden joked. “What will he do then?”
  • Sotomayor, Action Star?

    The White House says Sonia Sotomayor helped save Major League Baseball. Cool. But your Gaggler must admit she is a little more impressed with one particular anecdote from today’s New York Times profile of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Writing about her years as a private attorney in New York City, the Times says that Sotomayor used to go after counterfeiters who sold fake Fendi bags. And when we say “go after,” that’s no joke. Here’s the Times: If the firm had a tip from the United States Customs Office about a suspicious shipment, Ms. Sotomayor would often be involved in the risky maneuver of going to the warehouse to have the merchandise seized. One incident that figures largely in firm lore was a seizure in Chinatown, where the counterfeiters ran away, and Ms. Sotomayor got on a motorcycle and gave chase. Gave chase? On a motorcycle in New York City? Over fake Fendi bags? If true--and we did notice the word "lore" there--all your Gaggler can say is, wow.
  • You Say Potato... I Say Are We Really Having This Debate?

    Your Gaggler won’t lie: After hearing many different pronunciations from various people—including those in the administration--she had to turn to YouTube yesterday to figure out the proper way to say Sonia Sotomayer’s last name. As Slate notes—with a helpful recording, too—the judge puts emphasis on the final syllable: “so-toe-my-YORE.” This, in turn, has irritated Mark Krikorian over at National Review, who declares the pronunciation is simply “unnatural in English...and insisting on unnatural pronounciation is something we shouldn't be giving into." Seriously? 
  • Touring the West, Obama Hits the Money Circuit

    President Obama is in Las Vegas today, where he’ll tout the benefits of the stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year by touring a solar energy farm at Nellis Air Force Base. But that’s not the main reason he’s out on the road this week. Last night, Obama was the star attraction at a $2 million fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who looks to face a tough re-election campaign next year. After speaking on the stimulus, Obama flies to Los Angeles, where he’s headlining a reported $3 million fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at the Beverly Hilton. (Home of the Golden Globes!) ...
  • Bush 41 Nominated Sotomayor? Well, Technically

    When President Obama introduced Sonia Sotomayor this morning at the White House, he was quick to note that she began her career on the federal bench in 1992 after being nominated by George H.W. Bush, a Republican, for the U.S. District Court, and that she was subsequently prompted to the Federal Court of Appeals by Bill Clinton, a Democrat. “It’s a measure of her qualities and her qualifications,” Obama said. Yet it’s a little misleading. As John McCormack over at the Weekly Standard writes, Sotomayor was nominated by Bush as part of a compromise with Senate Democrats at the time to break a deadlock on judicial nominees. Under the agreement, then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat and senior member of the Judiciary Committee, was allowed to recommend judges for two of seven vacancies. One of his picks: Sotomayer.One interesting bit of trivia: A fair number of Republicans voted in favor of her nomination at the time. According to the 1992 Senate roll call of the vote, she...
  • How the White House Will Sell Sotomayor

    And now the games begin. With Congress out of town on recess and much of Washington slow to get back to work after the Memorial Day holiday, the White House is taking advantage of having the megaphone largely to itself today on Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court. Their message, which you’ll hear again and again: Not unlike Obama, Sotomayor is the epiphany of the American dream who not only understands the law but also the challenges that people face in their everyday lives. Marc Ambinder has the talking points that went out to Obama’s surrogates this morning, and the White House just forwarded a lengthy backgrounder to reporters echoing many of the same points. Conservative groups are already describing Sotomayor as a “liberal judicial activist.” The White House has its own lexicon that it’s hoping to get out there by the repeat, repeat, repeat method. Among the words we’ve noticed they are using again and again in talking about Sotomayor: “common...
  • Obama Picks Sotomayor for Supreme Court

    President Obama has settled on his pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter: Sonia Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A native of New York—as has been much reported, she grew up in the Bronx, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium—Sotomayor is not only a woman but would be the first Hispanic on the court if she wins the confirmation. Of all the candidates rumored to be on Obama’s short list, Sotomayor was the one he knew the least. According to the White House, Obama met her for the first time last Thursday, where he was “very impressed," according to one administration official. The president made his final decision last night....
  • Biden Visits Beirut

    Vice President Joe Biden made a quick stopover in Beirut on Friday en route home from a three-day visit to the Balkans. He arrived just two weeks before a major parliamentary election here in Lebanon where the militant Shiite group Hezbollah, which Washington has long regarded as a terrorist group, is hoping to make major electoral gains. Biden insisted did not come to Lebanon to influence the elections though he made clear their outcome would influence the amount of foreign aid that Washington offers the country. “I do not come here to back any particular party or any particular person,” Biden insisted. “I come here to back certain principals.” ...
  • Kosovo Hearts Joe Biden

    Barack Obama may be the guy who attracts the huge crowds, but Joe Biden is no slouch either, at least in Kosovo. Upon arrival in the capital of Pristina this morning, Biden was greeted by thousands of people waving American flags and holding signs professing their love for the Veep. But that was nothing. Every billboard in town featured his face and a "thank you" message. Biden's photo was also plastered all over fences and various buildings throughout the city.
  • Biden on Gitmo: "It's Like Opening Pandora's Box"

    Speaking to reporters on the final day of his tour of the Balkans, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged the administration still hasn’t figured out what to do with all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but predicted that it will still meet its deadline of closing the prison within a year. “I think so,” Biden said, when asked about the January 2010 deadline. “But, look, what the president said is that this is going to be hard. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box. We don’t know what’s inside the box.” ...
  • In Belgrade, Biden Tours a City Under Lockdown

    When Joe Biden arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday, he landed in a ghost town—or so it seemed. The Veep, on day two of his tour of the Balkans, was reportedly the subject of the Serbia’s most intense security ever. The country closed the regional airspace, shut down all the roads and major highways leading into Belgrade’s city center and ordered people living and working along Biden’s motorcade route to stay out of sight. Authorities even reportedly advised people against looking out the window—although more than a few people were spotted breaking the rules. It was all an attempt to keep anti-American protests at bay.The result: A little eerie—though not as creepy as that scene of a deserted Times Square in Vanilla Sky, which your Gaggler kept thinking of during the ride. Occasionally, pockets of people could be spied watching the motorcade from afar—though not close enough to do anything that might cause a security snafu. (In the photo above, that's police in the distance.) Your...
  • Biden to Bosnia: Shape Up or Else

    In a speech so pointed that he paused to apologize several times out of concern he was being rude, Vice President Joe Biden warned Bosnia on Tuesday that it needs to rise above the chronic ethnic tensions that have long threatened its stability or face being a failed state. “To be very blunt with you, I personally, and the leadership of my country is worried about the direction of your country and your future and your children’s future,” Biden told members of the Bosnian Parliament in Sarajevo on Tuesday. His speech came nearly 14 years after U.S. diplomacy helped to end the war in Bosnia, which killed at least 100,000 people. Yet the country’s progress has remained stagnant and largely divided under the same ethnic lines that caused the initial war in the first place. In particular, Biden called out a “sharp and dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric.” “God, when will you tire of that rhetoric, stirring up anger and resentment,” Biden said. “With all due respect, and forgive me for...
  • Prime Minister? What Prime Minister?

    The New York Times fronts an interesting story today: Zalmay Khalilzad, who was George W. Bush’s envoy to Afghanistan, is apparently in talks to join Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government. According to the Times, Khalilzad, an American citizen who was born in Afghanistan, had originally considered challenging Karzai in the country’s upcoming presidential elections, but missed the registration deadline and is now in negotiations to become something akin to an unelected prime minister or chief executive officer of the country. Although U.S. officials insist they are not behind the move—they say British Prime Minister Gordon Brown brought it up first, according to the Times--both Karzai and Khalilzad have discussed their negotiations in recent weeks with top American officials, including President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, who is Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. What’s interesting about this story is that rumors have been...
  • Biden Arrives in the Balkans

    While President Obama navigates the tricky diplomacy of the Middle East peace process in Washington, Joe Biden is off on a mission of his own this week. With your Gaggler in tow, the Veep arrived early Tuesday morning in Sarajevo, the capitol of Bosnia-Herzegovina, kicking off a four-day visit to the Balkans. He’ll deliver what U.S. officials describe as some much needed diplomacy in an area of the world that still remains largely unsteady after a series of wars divided the region more than a decade ago.Here in Sarajevo, Biden will meet later today with top Bosnian officials and speak to the Parliament. Tomorrow, Biden takes his tour to Belgrade, Serbia—a city that still has visible scars and resentment stemming from U.S. bombing runs during a 1999 effort to force what was then Yugoslavia to pull out of Kosovo. On Thursday, Biden heads to Kosovo, where he’ll speak to the Assembly of Kosovo and visit U.S. troops still deployed on peacekeeping missions in the region. The big picture ...
  • Who's Coming Up With Obama's Jokes?

    Barack Obama has had a busy week, with all that diplomatic wrangling and stuff. But behind the scenes, his staff has been getting ready for Obama’s big debut on the Washington dinner scene. On Saturday, Obama will speak at the White House Correspondents Association’s annual dinner. It’s an event that most presidents have used to poke fun at the reporters who cover them—and, as Bill Clinton famously did, at themselves. Some people think it’s a silly event—your Gaggler won’t lie and say she’s not looking forward to it—but one thing is for sure: No president can afford to show up unprepared. It’s a moment where people judge whether the Commander in Chief has the ability to be funny or not.With all that pressure, presidents have been known to recruit outside help in prepping their speech. Clinton had a joke writer and was rumored to have solicited help on occasion from some of his comedian friends in Hollywood. George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, had assistance from a GOP speechwriter...
  • Has Specter Alienated Everybody?

    Does Arlen Specter have any friends left on the Hill? The Pennsylvania senator’s surprise decision to switch parties last week made him persona non grata with many Republicans. Yet Democrats aren’t exactly feeling the love for him either, after Specter has repeatedly gone out of his way to show how independent he’ll be. Specter has pushed back against reports that he’d promised President Obama that he’d be a “loyal Democrat” (“Never said that,” he insisted); then he trashed Obama’s budget proposals; and then he threw his support behind Republican Norm Coleman in the still undecided Minnesota Senate race. To put it nicely, Democrats were none too pleased, and last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led the charge on a resolution that stripped Specter of his 29-years of seniority in the Senate. That means he now ranks behind Roland Burris and Kirsten Gillibrand, who were appointed the Senate earlier this year. Specter, not surprisingly, is very unhappy about this development,...
  • In Afghan-Pakistan Summit, Obama Faces His Trickiest Diplomacy Yet

    For all the attention his recent jaunts to Europe and Latin America have gotten, President Obama faces perhaps his most crucial moment of diplomacy yet when he hosts the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan today at the White House. There are a few goals today, the big one being that Obama hopes to press leaders of the countries to drop their long-held suspicions of one another and work together against a common mission of defeating insurgent Taliban who threaten to undermine their governments and compromise America's fight against terrorism. Ahead of the meetings, Obama aides were speaking in the starkest terms yet about the region, particularly Pakistan, where one senior administration official called on that country’s government to recognize the “existential nature of the threat” Pakistan faces in the Taliban. That’s scary language and there’s a reason for that: Pakistan has made clear it doesn’t want American troops on the ground to fight the Taliban and other insurgents...