Katie Connolly

Stories by Katie Connolly

  • Health-Care Reform and the Abortion Debate

    This morning, David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network posted a video of California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren being questioned at a public meeting about coverage of abortions in the health-care-reform legislation. As many town-hall meetings have illustrated this week, there’s much misinformation circulating about the reform bills, and it's seriously hindering rational debate over health care. Many of the crazier myths─like the one about death panels─are easy to dispel. But the question of whether the government will fund abortion is a little trickier. Why? Mainly because we’re still not sure what the final legislation will look like, but also because the answer is convoluted....
  • What Clinton's Temper Can Tell Us About Congo

    Robert Mackey, writing for the New York Times's Lede blog, has a really interesting take on Hillary Clinton's testy answer to a question posed by a young man at a Congolese town-hall meeting this week. No doubt Gaggle readers have seen the clip of Clinton smarting over being asked to channel her husband's opinion multiple times by now. And you've also probably heard the cable-news rationale that the question was misinterpreted, and the questioner was actually asking for insight into Obama's opinion. Mackey's not buying that excuse:It always seemed unlikely to The Lede that a translator working for...
  • Clift: Exercise and Health-Care Reform

    Eleanor Clift has escaped D.C.'s infamous August mugginess to unwind at an undisclosed beach. But like most political junkies, she couldn't help but start thinking about health reform. Here's a quick insight she kicked in last night:I was sitting on the beach ...
  • Are Other Countries' Health Systems Really So Scary?

    The New York Times reported yesterday on the thousands of people lining up for a free health clinic in L.A. Many came for routine medical care, like breast exams, TB tests, and Pap smears. Reading this report reminded me of a recent conversation I had with Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. The fund conducts a range of comparative analyses of First World health-care systems. Their findings are often surprising, and usually provide striking illustrations of the inadequacies of the American system. I discussed with Davis the difficulties many Americans have with accessing primary care, compared with their international peers. Davis believes the problems can be accounted for, in large measure, by the type of physicians available to Americans. "We have about the same number of doctors per capita as other countries, but a higher proportion of our doctors are specialists," she says. This shortage has led to a squeeze on other services, and a yawning gap in after...
  • Health-Care Protest Deja Vu: Welcome to 1994

    In his biography of Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein writes about the 1994 Reform Riders campaign, a nationwide bus tour designed to build support for President Clinton’s health-care reform agenda. The idea was to emulate the famous 1960's Freedom Rides but the campaign was plagued with protesters. In Portland, Ore., the route was blocked by an “angry anti-Clinton mob” who had their own bus, which was covered in red tape and dragged by a tow truck with a sign reading THIS IS CLINTON CARE. A plane bearing protest signs flew overhead. Hillary Clinton met the Reform Rider activists in Seattle where she delivered a speech on health care. The result was a mob scene. Here’s Bernstein:By the time the caravan had reached Seattle the threat of violence was constant. All week, talk radio hosts, both in the Northwest and on national broadcasts, implored their listeners to confront the Reform Riders to “show Hillary” their feelings about...
  • Why Promoting Health-Care Reform Is Harder Than Killing It

    In today's L.A. Times, Peter Wallsten writes about the challenges confronting Organizing for America (OFA), the grassroots network spawned out of Obama's campaign apparatus that is gearing up to combat opponents of health-care reform. Obama's impressive campaign activism quickly became the stuff of political legend, so OFA already has some pretty big shoes to fill. But Wallsten touches on its biggest problems when he writes:The network is powered by local volunteers who often have...
  • What Do Members of Congress Do in August?

    When the Senate breaks for recess this Friday, the Capitol will become an eerily quiet place. House members have already fled swampy D.C., along with many of their staffers. So what do they all do over these sweltering weeks? (Aside from boning up on health-care policy, that is.) Some take a break, some travel. For most, it's a chance to visit with constituents, fundraisers, and home-state lobbyists. They also tend to do something your Gagglers love doing in summer: going to state fairs, of course! (Holly will never forget the butter sculpture of Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson at last year's Iowa State Fair.) We asked Gaggle pal Rebecca Shabad to call a few folks on the Hill to find out exactly what their plans are....
  • On Health Care, Has Obama Picked the Wrong Punching Bag?

    Over the past couple of weeks the Obama administration has subtly but noticeably shifted its rhetoric on health-care reform. As poll numbers slid, Obama began to pepper his statements with references to health insurance reform. Moving away from the focus on containing costs and extending insurance coverage, which characterized his early sales pitch, now Obama is speaking more prominently about obstructive health insurers that deny or rescind coverage. Obama is making the insurance industry the enemy─a populist strategy designed to counter populist attacks on his plans. But has he backed the wrong horse?Yesterday, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder posted an interview with Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the same industry group (under a slightly different name) that fielded the devastatingly effective "Harry and Louise" ads during the 1993-94 health-care debate. Ignagni essentially says her organization is not planning to fight the...
  • Dan Balz's Campaign Book: New Info on the 2008 Race

    More than seven months after Barack Obama took the oath of office, the long-awaited campaign book from Washington Post political writer Dan Balz and Pulitzer Prize winner Haynes Johnson hits bookstores tomorrow. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Battle for America 2008, and sent Gaggle pal Stuart Johnson out to read it and report back on the juicy bits. The Washington Post has been excerpting the book over the past few days, but if you don’t have time to wade through all that, here’s Johnson’s take on it, and a few spoilers. The Battle for America 2008 is a reported narrative, much of which was written in real -time amid developments on the campaign trail. It covers all the major moments from the primaries onwards. (Unsurprisingly the primary battle between Clinton and Obama is the longest section in the book.) But perhaps the most compelling additions to campaign lore are the secret campaign memos Balz and Johnson managed to get their hands on. The authors paint a...
  • Six Other People Obama Should Invite Over for Beers

    This evening President Obama is hosting Sgt. James Crowley and Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. at the White House for beers─postconflict beverages if you will. Last week I wrote about how this simple gesture is laden with potentially transformative meaning. Today, as White House Beerfest ’09 steadily approaches, I got to thinking about some other folks the president might consider easing tensions with over a chilled-out pint. Here are my top six. If you think I missed anyone, add their name in the comments.1. Doug Elmendorf: The CBO director has become a bit of a headline grabber recently, particularly amongst policy wonks closely following the health-care debate. Elmendorf’s cost projections spell disaster for the House bill (particularly the letter his office released earlier this week showing the costs of reform spiraling in the second decade). With legislative negotiations halting during August recess, now might be the perfect time for Obama to have a friendly chat with Elmendorf,...
  • How Worried Should Obama Be About His Poll Numbers?

    Today’s headlines are screaming with bad news for President Obama. Two significant polls─from The Wall Street Journal/NBC and The New York Times/CBS─show support for his health-care-reform plans slipping, alongside his general approval rating. This is perhaps an unsurprising development when health care is dominating the national debate. History has proven repeatedly that this issue is kryptonite for presidents. Health-care reform is an easy issue to dog─it’s far simpler to criticize a system than fix it, and promoting fear of change is easier than explaining the complex nuances of policy alterations. Simply put, health care is a really hard sell, even for gifted communicators. Just ask Bill Clinton.So just how bad are these polls for the president? They’re certainly worrying, but in my view there are hopeful signs. We in the news media delight in dramatic narratives, and these polls can easily paint a damaging picture. But there is enough conflicting evidence in the numbers that...
  • Who Are DC's Biggest Lobbyists?

    Lobbying expenditures have increased in the second quarter of this year, and health care lobbyists appear to be the ones raking in the dough, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Around $262m has been spent on health care related lobbying so far this year. The graph below shows gives a breakdown of expenditure by sector. (Note: "Single Issue" refers to lobbying on topics like human rights, gun rights, Israel and abortion.)...
  • Palin Poetry, Read by William Shatner

    Fellow Newsweek-ette Sarah Ball, who writes our Popvox Blog, just alerted us to this amusing video. She writes, Update: The video has since been removed from YouTube, but you can still watch it here.
  • Senator Dick Durbin's Headaches

    Poor Dick Durbin. The democratic whip presides over the party's largest majority in the Senate since the Carter administration. Yet on contentious issues, like health care, he has to threaten, flatter, and cajole to get the support he needs. Durbin's good friend President Obama wanted a Senate vote on health reform by next month, but Democrats decided last week to put it off. Score one for the wayward Dems and zero for Durbin. His next task is to get the bill passed by Obama's October target date. NEWSWEEK looks at the senators mostly likely to be Durbin's migraine on health care—and a few GOPers who may offer an aspirin. ...
  • 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,...