Katie Connolly

Stories by Katie Connolly

  • Could Having Beers at the White House Help Race Relations?

    In an unexpected appearance in the White House briefing room this afternoon, President Obama casually mentioned that he might invite Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley around to his house for a beer. Although Obama is known to socialize─he’s hosted Super Bowl and Fourth of July parties, as well as a Hawaiian luau─inviting the two men at the center of a delicate race-related controversy for a frosty beverage is a move that will probably one day be considered “classic Obama.” This is a man who likes to talk, to figure out how things tick. Copping flak for it just makes him more curious─recall his campaign comments about wanting to sit down with America’s enemies. He turned that into a commentary of the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy. Today he’s using an informal beer as a way of parlaying an inflammatory statement into a thoughtful cultural dissection.The proposal came on the heels of Obama’s attempt to clarify comments he made Wednesday night about Gates’s...
  • Congress: You Need to Skip Your Vacation

    Many moons ago I worked in a consulting firm. We worked against strict deadlines. Some days we just couldn’t work fast enough. On those days we didn’t get to go home at 8 p.m., have dinner with our loved ones, and get a good night’s sleep. We just kept working. Sometimes till 3 a.m., sometimes all night. We simply weren’t allowed to miss a deadline. We couldn’t tell clients that our discussions had taken too long. They were paying us to produce, and produce we would. If you had a vacation planned but your work wasn’t done, forget about it. Here at NEWSWEEK, if we are running late on a story, we don’t skip publishing that week’s magazine. We have a commitment to our subscribers. Even when I was in high school, if we didn’t finish our work, we’d have to stay after class. I think you get the point. The comparisons are endless. So here’s my argument. Congress has a commitment to voters and to the health of Americans. It also had a clear deadline. So why should it get to have an August...
  • Poker Players Descend on Capitol Hill

    With health-care reform dominating the airwaves this week, you'd be forgiven for not knowing that it is also National Poker Week. Dozens of dedicated players have descended on the Hill over the past few days to argue for the federal regulation of online poker. The Poker Players Alliance contends that poker should not be subject to the stringent regulations applied to other forms of online gambling because theirs is a game of skill and strategy involving complex risk calculations. Most other forms of gambling, like slot machines, are simple matters of luck, they claim. While dealing cards introduces an element of chance, poker aficionados say beyond that, it is a game that rewards learning and analysis. They believe that the act of placing a bet is more akin to "making a move" in other games than it is to basic gambling. On Tuesday night, the Poker Players Alliance held a charity poker tournament where several lawmakers, including Peter King (R-NY), Lynn Westmoreland ...
  • Tom Daschle on Health-Care Reform: Keep the Pressure On

    Earlier this year former senator Tom Daschle looked set to be a pivotal player in the president's plans to reform health care. A passionate health-policy expert, Obama wanted Daschle front and center as health and human services secretary. But problems with his taxes forced him to withdraw his name from consideration. Now Daschle is watching from the sidelines, hoping that Obama will be able to strike while the iron is hot. I spoke with Daschle this morning. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:  Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told me yesterday that he believes the president should take more time to pursue meaningful health-care reform. Why is it important to move this legislation quickly?It is more important to get it done right. But keep in mind there have been efforts to resolve these issues for years and years. I think even in Massachusetts as they considered health reform they worked against deadlines. Most legislative bodies work better when they are...
  • Romney on Obama's Push for Health-Care Reform: Slow Down

    In the last two weeks, political commentators have expressed doubts over President Obama's time frame for health-care reform. Meanwhile, even some Democratic lawmakers appear to be getting cold feet. In response, Obama is relentlessly pitching his plan. He has spoken about health care on eight out of the last nine days, and he's scheduled to hold a town-hall meeting on the topic this Thursday. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is one of the few politicians in the country with first-hand experience of steering major health-care reform through the legislative process. The reforms he enacted in Massachusetts have been criticized for being costly, but they've also managed to extend coverage to a significant number of uninsured people. By 2007, the proportion of uninsured people in Massachusetts was the lowest in the country. ...
  • Obama Makes Hay Out of DeMint

    Obama's much vaunted grassroots organizing will be tested over the next two weeks as it swings into action to support the President's health care agenda. Since the campaign, Obama's field operation has morphed into a group called "Organizing for America", which tries to capitalize on the formidable activism of Obama volunteers in last year's election. Today, the group's director Mitch Stewart sent a mass email to supporters, attempting to mobilize them around Senator Jim DeMint's remark that health care could be Obama's "Waterloo". In an email entitled "It will break him" (a direct quote from DeMint), Stewart urges his members to "stand with President Obama on health care reform" and sign a declaration of support. No doubt analysts will be examining the success of OFA's declaration to divine how long his coattails are, and determine if the polls showing that trust in the President has declined are...
  • Good News for Obama: Senate Denies F-22 Funding

    The Senate today voted to reject a request for $1.75 billion to fund the F-22 fighter-jet program. This is a bright spot for the president amid a swirl of criticism over his health-care plans, rising jobless numbers, and falling poll numbers. And it's evidence that he retains considerable sway over congressional Democrats. Obama threatened to veto the defense-appropriations bill if it contained funding for more than four F-22s, but it was unclear until today whether Democrats would fall in line. Not all of them did─this afternoon's vote crossed party lines. Republicans including John McCain and Judd Gregg voted to veto funding, while Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman had hoped the program would continue. Regardless, this is a significant political victory for both the White House and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saving them both from potential embarrassment. Gates has been an ardent proponent of scrapping the troubled F-22 program. In a speech in Chicago last Thursday, he...
  • Sotomayor Hearings: Winners and Losers? Our Experts Weigh In.

    Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings this week will be remembered as a civilized affair. The fiery exchanges and dramatic grandstanding that have characterized past confirmations were all but absent. Yet, tame as these were, Supreme Court confirmation hearings are always a critical barometer of power in the nation's capital: who's got it, who wants it, and who's losing it. We asked two of our experts—Howard Fineman and Stuart Taylor Jr.—to weigh in on the biggest winners and losers of the hearings.Barack Obama: The president's first Supreme Court pick came early in his tenure, and, true to his trademark calm, he made a no-mess, no-fuss selection. "It has been inevitable since the day she was nominated that she will be confirmed by a fairly wide margin. In that sense, she and President Obama are winners," says Taylor. But Obama did take a few knocks in the hearings. Sotomayor rejected his purported judicial philosophy—the notion that judges...
  • What Palin Should Do Next

    I posted earlier this week about Sarah Palin's op-ed in the Washington Post, which I consider her first move in establishing a post-gubernatorial political presence. I received quite a lot of feedback on it. That post was critical of the governor's op-ed, so this time I thought I'd offer up some thoughts on what I think she could do over the next year or so to increase her chances in the 2012 primary.1. Lie low for a while. The primaries are still a long way off and voters can tire of seeing candidates, especially those who have been the subject of as much media chatter as Palin. Overexposure will open anyone up for criticism, and Palin has proven more susceptible to that sort of flak than most. Romney is laying low, and it's working for him—his unfavorables have dropped 17 points over the last 18 months. And remember: there is nothing those important New Hampshire voters savor more than taking a frontrunner down a few notches and voting for an underdog. (Exhibit...
  • Playmates and Cowboy Caviar on Capitol Hill

    Although there's some superserious work churning through the halls of power on Capitol Hill at the moment─confirming a Supreme Court justice, reinventing health care─there's also some summer fun in the works. It always happens around this time of year: Congress is marching inexorably toward August recess and staffers start to taste freedom. It's almost like the last few weeks of senior year. So it's the perfect time for lobbyists to plan attention-grabbing stunts. Yesterday it was PETA's turn. The animal-rights group hosted their annual Veggie Dog Lunch, giving out around 400 meat-free hot dogs to passersby. But the main attraction was the servers: a pair of Playboy Playmates, clad only in lettuce-leaf and rhinestone bikinis, and, of course, heels. (You can see video of the event here.)And tonight? Well this event comes from the opposite end of the culinary spectrum. Courtesy of the Western Business Roundtable, politicos will have a chance to sample Rocky...
  • Republicans Pick Romney Over Palin in Gallup Poll

    Gallup has released the results of a survey about potential GOP 2012 nominees, and it contains much good news for Mitt Romney fans. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the former Massachusetts governor just beats out Sarah Palin in the preferred-nominee stakes (26%-21%), with Mike Huckabee coming in third (19%), followed by Newt Gingrich (14%). Two sitting governors whom pundits consider strong contenders─Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty and Mississippi's Haley Barbour─both polled poorly, but that's likely due to their low name recognition outside the Beltway.The other good news for Romney is that his unfavorable rating among all voters has dropped substantially since he exited last year's presidential race. Back then, his unfavorables far outweighed his favorability: 46% to 34%. In this latest poll, that dynamic has flipped, with 37% of respondents viewing Romney favorably and 29% unfavorably. That's a 17-point drop in his unfavorables. However,...
  • Palin's First Move

    Since announcing her resignation as governor of Alaska in an unexpected and jarring press conference two weeks ago, pundits have been pondering Sarah Palin's next step. Today her strategy is emerging: she intends to be a serious, national conservative voice. In another surprising move, Palin has penned an op-ed in The Washington Post, a paper she'd ordinarily decry as an engine of the liberal media elite. The piece is an attack on what she calls "President Obama's cap-and-tax energy plan." We presume she is referring to the Waxman-Markey bill which recently passed in the House. (Oddly, the White House was conspiciously absent from most of that bill's negotiations, so calling it Obama's plan is a bit of a stretch.) Palin is playing to her strengths. Aside from her social conservatism, energy was the issue where she was perceived to have the most credibility during last year's election. The op-ed contains none of her trademark folksiness. This...
  • How Do Sotomayor's Hearings Compare to the Other Supreme Court Justices?

    After a relatively uneventful first day of hearings, most court-watchers anticipate that Sonia Sotomayor will cruise smoothly to the Senate Floor and on to the bench. If that happens, how will her confirmation compare with her soon-to-be peers? Certainly, it will be a marked contrast to Clarence Thomas's hearings, which were arguably the most tawdry in recent Supreme Court history. When President George H. W. Bush nominated Thomas in 1991, he was under pressure from the right to appoint a reliably conservative justice. His first appointment, the recently retired Justice Souter, had turned out to be much more moderate than expected. Thomas' nomination was met with immediate suspicion on the left: He was opposed to affirmative action but Bush had selected him because he was black, a dynamic that disquieted liberals. Thomas was attacked as inexperienced, having authored no books or opinions of note. Early in his confirmation hearings Thomas won some empathy with his stories...
  • Was Obama Checking Out This Girl's Butt?

    You may have seen this rather misleading photo doing the rounds this morning. The photo appears to depict President Obama checking out the rear of 16-year-old Brazilian girl Mayora Taveres. We admit that the shot is incriminating, but the real story is far less titillating. If you watch the full video you'll see that Obama was in the midst of an entirely gentlemanly maneuver—he's about to offer his hand to the girl in the floral skirt and black top behind him to help her step down to his level. So, despite the unfortunate timing of this shot, Obama is innocent. Not only that, Obama is proving again that chivalry is not dead. (Rememer how he recently whisked his wife off to New York and Paris for dates?) French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the other hand—well, we'll leave it up to you to determine what he's looking at.
  • Palin's Resignation: Will Holding Office Matter in 2012?

    Governor Sarah Palin's shock resignation last week prompted yet another round of colorful punditry on the woeful state of the Republican Party. If Palin does seek the GOP nomination in 2012, not only will she have an exceedingly short political resume, but she won't have a public office from which it launch her campaign. Interestingly, she's not alone. Two other candidates high on most politics watchers' lists - Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney - won't be in elected office either. (Pawlenty recently announced that he would not seek a third term as Minnesota Governor in 2010.) Here at the Gaggle we started wondering: Does it really matter if a candidate doesn't hold public office when he or she takes a stab at the presidency? Veteran GOP consultant Charlie Black doesn't think incumbency is a decisive factor in determining the success of Presidential candidates. There are examples to illustrate either side of the argument. Barack Obama, George W. Bush...
  • Which Senators Are the Biggest Obama Supporters?

    CQ Politics has a great tool that analyzes the voting patterns of members of Congress. Your Gaggler has just spent a few minutes perusing the records of senators--specifically the degree to which they support the president--and found some interesting results. CQ has tallied the votes from the 214 roll-call votes of this Congress, up through June 25. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two Republican senators offering greatest support for the president's agenda are Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine. Each supported the president in 92 percent of their votes. Ohio's George Voinovich came in third with 83 percent support, and fourth was New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg with 82 percent support. Yep, that's the same Judd Gregg who was offered the post of commerce secretary but the unexpectedly withdrew his name citing "irresolvable conflicts" with the Obama administration. Maybe they weren't so irresolvable after all.On the other end of the spectrum,...
  • Another Separation For Mark Sanford

    Another one of Mark Sanford's relationships is on the rocks today. This time it's his publisher. Sanford had a contract with Sentinel, a conservative publisher owned by the Pengiun Group, for a book titled "Within Our Means". Today a spokesperson announced that Sentinel and Sanford had made a "mutual decision" to go their separate ways. Sanford, who made headlines earlier in the year for wanting to refuse stimulus money for his his state, had planned to write about fiscal conservatism. It's unclear if Sanford will seek another publisher, or how far he'd gotten in writing the novel. We're just glad he wasn't planning to writing about family values.
  • Obama on MJ: 'I still have all his stuff on my iPod'

    Obama gave a wide ranging interview to the Associated Press today, where he finally spoke about Michael Jackson's death."I'm glad to see that he is being remembered primarily for the great joy that he brought to a lot of people through his extraordinary gifts as an entertainer," Obama said, adding that his briallinace "was paired with a tragic and in many ways, sad personal life." He brushed off the notion that African Americans were disappointed that he hadn't issued a formal statement after the entertainer's death last week. "I know a lot of people in the black community and I haven't heard that," Obama told the AP. He also mentioned that has a lot of Jackson tunes on his iPod.  
  • 'Stand With Jenny' Petition

    Amid the heartbreaking turmoil of her personal life, South Carolinians appear more enamored than ever of their first lady, Jenny Sanford. As Newsweek's Kathy Deveny noted, Mrs. Sanford's response to her husband's teary press conference and public confession of infidelity seemed pitch perfect to most women. She played neither the humilated victim nor the scorned wife. Rather, Jenny projects an image of loving mother, prepared to forgive but not to compromise her principles. The reaction of South Carolina's women to Jenny's statement and interview has prompted the Palmetto Family Council, conservative Christian organization, to launch "Stand With Jenny", a petition showing support for the First Lady. They'd received so many emails and phonecalls from constituents who were angry with Sanford but proud of his wife that they wanted to provide a space for the community to both vent frustration and offer consolation. The petition calls Sanford "...
  • Franken Won, Says Minnesota Supreme Court

    The Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously ruled Al Franken the winner of the hotly contested Minnesota Senate race this afternoon. Incumbent Norm Coleman had appealed a lower court's decision, primarily arguing that absentee ballots had been improperly handled by electoral officials. Coleman now has the option of appealing to federal courts. He has yet to indicate whether he plans to rest his campaign for the seat. ***UPDATE Coleman has conceded the race to Franken. He won't be lodging a federal appeal.*** On Sunday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty told CNN he was prepared to certify Franken as soon as the ruling was handed down, but he added he would of course follow the direction of the Supreme Court should Coleman take his appeal further. ...
  • Obama Says He'll Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell...Someday...

    As I noted earlier, the first couple hosted a celebration honoring LGBT Pride Month in the East Room this afternoon. The event comes amid rising tensions between the Obama administration and the gay community, who are disappointed at the lack of attention given to their issues so far this year. For the most part, Obama didn't mince words. He described the gay rights "struggle" as "difficult," "painful," and "heartbreaking." He likened the movement to prior civil-rights battles, drawing parallels with "all those in our history who've been denied the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, who've been told that the full blessings and opportunities of this country were closed to them." He told the by-invitation-only group that he understood their frustrations, and it wasn't for him to advise patience, "any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal...
  • Administration Inches Forward on Gay Rights

    Over the past couple of weeks, we at the Gaggle have been discussing Obama's fraught relationship with the gay community, a group that provided his campaign with both staunch support and cash. (Read Holly's summary post here.) Today there are two symbolically important developments in this relationship. First, the president is hosting a reception in the East Room this afternoon to honor LGBT Pride Month and commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. Second, Politico's J-Mart (filling in for Ben Smith) reports that the administration is planning to repeal a ban that restricts HIV-positive travelers from entering the country. It has filed notice with the Federal Register, so there will be a 45-day window for public discussion before the Department of Health and Human Services enacts the change. While the HIV-travelers ban is not strictly a gay issue, it's certainly one that advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign feel strongly about.Will these two moves...
  • Rudy for Governor?

    Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on CNN's American Morning today and admitted, in a roundabout fashion, that he's considering running for governor of New York in 2010. Giuliani said, "I don’t know if I am or if I’m not" entering the gubernatorial race, but disclosed that he's been thinking about it. Incumbent Gov. David Paterson has been polling poorly for some time and would likely lose to Giuliani in a general election. But if Paterson doesn't run, other Democratic contenders, such as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose political heritage would serve him well, would be tougher competitors. Your Gaggler would be interested to see what impact Rudy's spectacularly bad campaign for president would have in a New York state race, if any. I happen to think his aborted stab at the GOP nomination is one of the most underreported stories of the 2008 campaign, overshadowed by all things Obama. Back in 2006, Giuliani was widely considered a...
  • A Lawsuit Over Wartime 'Burn Pits'

    Josh Eller, a military contractor stationed in Iraq in 2006, was driving through Balad Air Base when he spotted the wild dog. He wasn't sure what was in its mouth—but when Eller saw two bones, he knew he was looking at a human arm. The dog had pulled the limb from an open-air "burn pit" on the base used to incinerate waste. Eller says it's "one of the worst things I have seen."Since hearing Eller's story, lawyer Elizabeth Burke has signed on 190 additional clients with complaints about burn pits at 18 military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. By now, she says, all pits should have been replaced by pollution-controlled incinerators. She's filed suits in 17 states against KBR, the company contracted to provide waste-disposal services at these bases, accusing it of negligence and harm. Burke was shocked to learn what her clients saw incinerated: Humvees, batteries, unexploded ordnance, gas cans, mattresses, rocket pods, and plastic and medical waste (including body parts, which may...
  • Obama on Michael Jackson (via Gibbs)

    Since the tragic news about the passing of pop icon Michael Jackson broke, your Gaggler has been wondering if and when the president would make a statement. It's not unusual for the White House to release such statements after the death of major cultural figures, and Jackson was arguably the biggest pop superstar of the past 30 years or more. And he was black, so it seemed reasonable to expect the first black president to have a few heartfelt words. But of course, dealing with Michael Jackson and his often baffling (and sometimes dark) private life is not that simple. So rather than issuing a formal statement, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made a few remarks at today's briefing. Here's Gibbs:“I talked to [Obama] about it this morning. Look, he said to me that...
  • Sex Scandals Through the Years: Both Parties Even

    Mark Sanford's unexpected and emotional revelation of an affair yesterday has caused much hand-wringing about the future of a seemingly scandal-plagued GOP. Critics are quick to point out that the party espousing "family" values seems to be having some difficulty getting its representatives to live accordingly. But here at the Gaggle, our memories are a little longer. We recall the days, not so long ago, when it seemed as though Democrats were the ones having trouble keeping their pants on. So we tasked our wonderful intern Aku Ammah-Tagoe to tally up who's been doing what to whom since the Wayne Hays scandal of 1976. My penchant for PowerPoint graphs once again proved irresistible, so I turned the results into graphic form. (Please note, this is not an entirely scientific analysis. Politicians are grouped by year, according to when the affair/scandal was exposed.)  It's impossible to say whether affairs are more common now, or the media has gotten better at...
  • Poll Finds Americans Revile Infidelity

    Gallup is out today with timely poll today finding that 92% of Americans find extramarital affairs to be morally unacceptable. Pollsters asked respondents how they felt about a range of topics, like the death penalty, cloning and gambling. The results indicate that of all these moral quandaries, infidelity is the most abhorred, edging out polygamy by just one point. Divorce and the death penalty were considered the most morally accpetable, but cloning, suicide and abortion are frowned upon. Check out the full results here.
  • Jenny Sanford Speaks

    Mark Sanford's wife Jenny has just released a statement announcing that she asked her husband to leave for a trial separation two weeks ago. (Your Gaggler, was actually quite pleased to not see her at the press conference today. It's always distressing to watch a humiliated wife cower by her husband's side while he announces infidelity and grasps his remaining strands of dignity.) Mrs. Sanford says her biggest worry about the affair is the "potential damage" it will do to her children. In a classy statement, she writes that she "reached a point...
  • The GOP 2012 Nomination: A Case of Last Man Standing?

    It's official: If DC pundits consider you a contender for the GOP nomination in 2012, then it's just a matter of time before you are publicly humiliated (or sent to China.) Seriously. In light of Sanford's stunning admission of an affair today, let's take stock:Governor Kenneth the Page, um I mean Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana Governor was a bright spot in a gloomy Republican landscape early this year. But it didn't last. Jindal delivered the Republican response to Obama's speech to a Joint Session of Congress in February, and it was, well, a bit weird. Your Gaggler has seen Jindal speak several times. He's usually engaging, serious and forceful. But that night, he was just plain goofy - all smiles and vocal inflections. The response, which prompted comparisons to (and a very funny video by) 30 Rock's Kenneth the Page was pilloried by comics and critics alike. We haven't seen much from him since.Governor Sarah Palin: Palin made her national...
  • Is Obama Falling Off the Smoking Wagon?

    At one of the lighter moments of today's Presidential Press Conference, McClatchy Reporter Margaret Talev asked Obama something we've all been wondering: Is he still smoking? Obama seemed a little testy at first, replying that the tobacco bill he signed into law yesterday wasn't about his own episodic addiction. But he soon simmered down. Here's his response, via the White House transcript:"As a former smoker, I constantly struggle with it.  Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes?  Yes.  Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker?  No.  I don't do it in front of my kids, I don't do it in front of my family, and I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where -- (laughter) -- there are times where I mess up.  And, I mean, I've said this before.  I get this question about once every month or so, and I don't know what to tell you, other than the fact that, like folks who go to AA, once you've gone down this path, then it...
  • Obama's Job Approval Slips in Gallup Poll

    Gallup just announced that the President's job approval has slipped to 58%, an all time low for him in Gallup's daily tracking poll. Obama's approval rating has averaged at 63% since he took office, peaking at 69% early in his presidency. He's only dipped below 60% on three other occasions this year. The drop seems to be attributable to respondents identifying as Republican or Independent. Around 92% of Democrats approve of how Obama is doing the job.  Although this latest number is slightly lower than Obama's average, it is still high by historical standards.
  • Official Portrait of First Dog Bo Released

    The White House today released an official portrait of First dog Bo Obama. It's a cute picture of Bo, who is quite a fine specimen. But it strikes your Gagglers as a little odd because, as Holly pointed out to me, the girls don't have official portraits yet, nor is there an official first family portrait.The White House has also released an official Bo baseball card to answer all the burning questions about the world's most famous pup. We now have confirmation that Bo's favorite food is tomatoes (weird huh? Maybe he's vegetarian....) and that his goal as first dog is to "meet with foreign dognitaries."  We're impressed that he sat still for long enough to be snapped. But perhaps that just confirms Holly's sneaking suspicion that Bo is actually an anamatronic dog. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if we found out he's a muppet.