Katie Connolly

Stories by Katie Connolly

  • Twittering the Revolution?

    The revolution won't be televised - it will be twittered, apparently. NBC's Libby Leist is reporting that the State Department has asked Twitter not to shut down for regular maintenance because tweets have proved useful in monitoring the situation in Iran. From Leist:...
  • James S. Brady Visits the WH Briefing Room Named in His Honor

    I just read a White House pool report that I found quite poignant, so I wanted to share it with you, dear Gaggle Readers. The report is from Mike Riley who covers the Washington for Denver Post. Here it is in full:With most of the president’s afternoon schedule closed to the press, it was former Reagan press secretary and gunshot victim James Brady who stole the show when, along with his wife Sarah, he dropped by the revamped James S. Brady press briefing room. Dressed in a dark blue pinstripe suit, Brady was in a wheelchair, holding a cane in his left hand, his injuries the result of a gunshot wound to the head inflicted by John Hinckley Jr. during a botched assassination attempt against Brady’s boss in 1981. Brady was at the White House to pay his respects to Robert Gibbs, the man who now holds his former job. Brady’s speech is sometimes slurred, but he took a few minutes for an exchange of quips with the reporters who now work in briefing room dedicated to Brady in February, 2000...
  • Is the Palin-Letterman Feud Over?

    After a week of outraged chatter on both sides on the debate, David Letterman has issued a full apology to Governor Palin for his unsavory joke about her daughter last week. Although he maintains that his intent was not to make inappropriate comments about a 14 year old girl, he took responsibility for the misconceptions about his motives. “I told a bad joke I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception. And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke," Letterman told viewers last night. "So I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the Governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I'm sorry about it and I'll try to do better in the future.”  The Associated Press is reporting that Palin has accepted the apology. 
  • White House Backs Off Push to Settle Detainees in U.S.

    The Washington Post has a story out today about the Administration's decision to stop pushing Congress to allow freed Guantanamo detainees to settle in the United States. Although they've found homes in Bermuda and Palau for the Chinese Uighurs who were released without charge, abandoning efforts to settle detainees here complicates the Administration's requests for countries like Germany, France and Australia to accept prisoners. Like U.S. representatives, foreign politicians will have a tough time explaining to their constituents that detainees that the U.S. Congress refused to release on American soil should be settled in their communities. The Administration's best hope now is to find other small nations, like Palau, who are willing to take detainees in the hope of receiving increased aid.It's unlikely though that this move signals that Obama will put the brakes on his plans to close Guantanamo by the end of his first year in office. Administration aides...
  • Three More Fundraisers Appointed as Ambassadors

    The White House just sent around another list of Ambassadorial posts. Amongst the names of career diplomats with long histories of service, three appointees stood out, and they just happened to coincide with the three most alluring posts on the list: Belize, Switzerland and Belgium. And yep, these three men all raised decent sums for the President during his campaign. Lawyer Howard Gutman, a partner at Williams and Connolly, Don Beyer, Former Lt. Governor of Virginia and Vinai Thummalapally, president of a company that manufactures recordable optical discs are all set to join the ranks of the the foreign service. I've blogged before about the longstanding Washington trend of giving ambassadorial posts to political friends, so no need to rehash. Just thought it was worth noting. 
  • Letterman vs Palin, Round Two

    Last night David Letterman tried to clear up his tasteless joke about Sarah Palin's daughter being impregnated by Alex Rodriguez. In a bizarre defense of his comments, Letterman suggests that his jokes were above board because they were in reference to Palin's 18 year old daughter Bristol (who recently had a baby) rather than her 14 year old daughter Willow, the one who actually attended the Yankees game with her mother. "These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any...
  • Obamas Statement on the Holocaust Museum Shooting

    The White House just released an official statement from the President regarding today's shooting at DC's Holocaust Museum, which left one security guard dead.  “I am shocked and saddened by today’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world. “Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time.”The shooter has been identified as James Wenneker von Brunn, an octogenarian from Maryland whose antisemitism has been widely reported today. He is in a critical condition in a nearby hospital.     
  • What Do You Get The Bush Matriarch Who Has Everything?

    It was former First Lady Barbara Bush's 84th birthday on June 8, and no doubt George Bush Sr. spent some time pondering what surprising and thoughtful gift to give his spouse of 64 years. Now, thanks to photos from TMZ, purveyor of entertainment news, we know that the secret to Barbara's happiness is a pool party with the cast of A Chorus Line at the Bush's Maine residence. The pics are, well, interesting. Ahem (clears throat awkwardly). But it sure looks like they're having fun.     
  • Palin Hits Back at Letterman

    Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has responded to an off-color joke about her 14 year old daughter Willow made by Late Show host David Letterman Monday night. During his regular monologue, Letterman joked about Palin's daughter getting knocked up by Alex Rodriguez after the Governor's recent visit to Yankee Stadium. MSNBC has Palin's response: "Concerning Letterman's comments about my young daughter (and I doubt...
  • Virginia's Democrats Shun the Establishment

    For months, Creigh Deeds trailed his two better funded, media magnet opponents in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia. Last night he trounced both of them, winning with 50 percent of the vote. Former DNC Chairman and Chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign Terry McAuliffe and Virginia House of Delegates member Brian Moran trailed badly, with 26 and 24 percent of the vote respectively. Polls had shown Deeds closing the gap in the final days of the campaign, but few pundits expected such large, wide-ranging success for the moderate state delegate who until recently struggled for name recognition in a field including Moran and press drawcard McAuliffe. McAuliffe's campaign told reporters they thought it would come down to the wire. Instead, Deeds won a stunning statewide victory, winning 10 out of 11 congressional disctricts and even capturing one held by Moran's brother Jim.Political reporters like to search for broader national meaning in these...
  • Socialized Medicine vs Single Payer vs What We Have Now

    Domestic policy blogger Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post is kind of the blissfully nerdy girl's dream wonk. I've never met the lad, but he seems to adore policy and writes about it in clear, sharp and occasionally self effacing ways. Today, he wrote yet another post I wish I'd written first, where he clarifies the difference between various healthcare terms that get bandied around DC. You can read the full post complete with fun graphs here, but here's the bit that clears up a lot of nonsense about healthcare models:I've been meaning to write this post for some time. The words...
  • Sotomayor: Woman of Steel?

    Just how tough is Sonia Sotomayor? Holly recently noted an episode from her time as a private attorney when she gave chase to some crooks on a motorcycle through the streets of NYC. Yesterday, we learned that she fractured her ankle at La Guardia Airport before boarding her flight. She was traveling to DC for meetings with Senators and White House officials, and wasn't about to let a little thing like a broken ankle get in her way. Sotomayor boarded the plane regardless, went directly to the Old Executive Building (the office building adjacent to the White House where many senior officials work) upon landing and attended meetings. It was only THEN that she decided that her pained ankle needed some treatment. A White House physician soon sent her to a nearby hospital for x-rays which determined that yes, that throbbing pain in her ankle was actually a fracture. Now, in a substantial cast which has reportedly been signed by a couple of Senators, she's still holding meetings....
  • Fun Stats on the Cairo Speech

    The White House last night released some interesting stats from the Cairo speech, gathered from their Embassies around the world. Here's a few things they found:200 million Indians watched the speech in IndiaIn Sierra Leone, the Embassy organized for 11 cinema centers to screen the speech, allowing around 1000 residents to view the speech who otherwise would not have been able toAround 20,000 people signed up for the text message serviceThe Consul-General in Sydney Australia organized for 40 Muslim leaders from various communities, including Indonesia, Lebanese and and Turkish, to watch the speech at her official residence, along with a Jewish leader. Sydney's ethnic populations are rife with divisions, so their collective presence at this event is encouraging 
  • Echoes of Yes We Can in Moving Normandy Speech

    Obama is in Normandy this afternoon commemorating the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings here. Echoing his sentiments at Buchenwald yesterday, Obama urged people of the world to remember the significance of the immense sacrifices witnessed here. “We must not forget that D-Day was a time and a place where the bravery and selflessness of a few was able to change the course of an entire century,” he said. “At an hour of maximum danger, amid the bleakest of circumstances, men who thought themselves ordinary found it within themselves to do the extraordinary.” President Sarkozy of France, Prime Ministers Harper of Canada and Brown of the United Kingdom and Prince Charles are also present, with all but the Prince giving speeches.Penned by lead speechwriter Jon Favreau, Obama's remarks were moving and heartfelt. He said that of all the famous battles in history D-Day stands out for its success in the face of monumental odds. Moreover, Obama said, in a world of diverse and...
  • Obama at Buchenwald: I Will Not Forget

    Obama's trip to Germany has been shrouded in history. First, he visited Dresden, site of one of the most aggressive and controversial bombings of the Allied campaign in WWII. Historians dispute the actual death toll, but most concur that somewhere in the order of 25,000 lives where claimed. While much of the city is restored, signs of the devastation are still evident in many of the city's most celebrated structures. This afternoon, Obama visited Buchenwald, a concentration camp that his great uncle was involved in liberating. Obama has spoken of his uncle numerous times, alluding to the emotional struggle he endured upon returning home after witnessing such horrors. It's fitting that he will soon be visiting injured veterans at Landstuhl, many of whom will likely return with unseen scars. Touring the camp with Chancellor Merkel and two Buchenwald survivors - Bertrand Herz and writer and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel - Obama placed a long-stemmed white rose at two...
  • Merkel: Hanging with Obama is Fun

    Unbeknown to many Americans, Obama's visit to Dresden comes at a time when Europeans perceive tension in the U.S-German relationship. Local reporters have speculated that the two leaders have little personal chemistry, and their cool relations date back to Merkel's refusal to allow Obama to speak at the Bradenburg Gate during his election campaign. Merkel thought the venue inappropriate for a candidate, but Obama still drew a crowd of 200,000 to a nearby monument. He remains hugely popular here. Merkel also refrained from traveling to America earlier this year to meet with the President, preferring to speak with him via video conference. The U.S. and Germany diverge on some policy issues as well. Germany offered a more cautious response to the economic crisis compared with Obama's massive injection of government funds. Germans have also been at the forefront on climate change initiatives, an area where the U.S. has lagged behind. Personally, the two leaders have...
  • Obama: The Moment Is Now for Mid-East Peace

    The President continued his frank rhetoric on Middle East Peace in the historic city of Dresden in eastern Germany this morning. "Asked about prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, neither leader indicated progress. Merkel was a vocal critic of the facility during the Bush administration, but has since been relatively silent, particularly on the question of whether Germany would be willing to take detainees. Obama said that he hasn't sought a "hard commitment " from Germany, nor have they offered one.  The leaders spoke briefly about climate change. Both were hopeful about the possibility of an agreement in Copenhagen, but neither spoke specifically about what an agreement would contain. Obama, it would appear, has taken comfort from the progress of the Waxman-Markey bill, which he supports but did little to shape. "
  • The Speech

    Obama's long awaited speech to the Muslim world delivered on the promises of his advisers. It was neither dramatic nor filled with romantic pledges. He tackled thorny issues, but only to a point. Coming just days after Osama Bin Laden released a new message in which he accused the President of inflaming tensions with the Muslim world, Obama's speech, entitled "A New Beginning", focused on the need for global cooperation in the advancement of peace. "This cycle of suspicion and discord must end," Obama said emphatically. And later, "as the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart." (You can read the full text of the speech here.) The speech was streamed live over the internet on the White House...
  • Inside the Entourage

    The logistics of organizing an event like the President’s speech in Cairo today are mind boggling to say the least. While the White House is reluctant to give out planning details for security reasons, the scale of this undertaking is evident. Advance staffers swarm the city for weeks before the President arrives, tracing every step he’ll take. Nothing is left to chance. Everything – from who gets to ride in the motorcade and in what order, to how long it will idle in a parking lot  - is negotiated with the host nation. Press advance staffers work to make sure that the media has access to every event possible - a luxury few other countries afford their press corps. This means that one plucky advance staffer has managed to organize a wireless internet connection at the Pyramids for the small group of reporters tasked with documenting the President’s tour (thanks Johanna!). Even details that seem straightforward require patient and persistent planning. For example, around twenty White...
  • Obama in Cairo: The Expectations Game

    Over the last few days, Administration officials have been carefully tamping down expectations of Obama's speech in Cairo this afternoon. They stressed that the speech alone won't be the catalyst for a change in relations between the U.S. and Muslim world, but rather it's part of an ongoing dialogue. There's been a lot of chatter in recent days about what to expect from the speech, what it might mean for both Americans and Middle East citizens. As reporters, we hope the speech will be a punctuation mark, a moment where the narrative shifts. We hope that because it's a moment we can capture, an event we can point to, describe and explain. We want it to be Nixon goes to China, where a shift in the national psyche is perfectly encapsulated in a meeting, readily documented for posterity. But in reality international diplomacy moves slowly, and relations between America and an amorphous, diverse Muslim world are complex and shifting. Muslim nations and their...
  • Obama Touches Down in Riyadh; Came to Seek King Abdullah's Counsel

    President Obama arrived in at the Royal airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia at around 2:20pm local time today. The visit to Saudi Arabia was a last minute addition to the schedule, ahead of his heavily anticipated speech in Cairo. Obama received a formal military welcome. Drums played as he disembarked Air Force One, and a 21 gun salute could be heard in the distance. Saudi King Abdullah greeted Obama with a light embrace and the two leaders touched cheeks on either side.  After listening to the national anthems and sharing a cup of Arabic coffee in the palatial, marble floored terminal, the two leaders left for what the White House is calling a the King's "farm". That's hardly an apt description of this lush, sprawling estate. A veritable oasis amid a vacant stretch of arid land, the ornate complex is decorated with chandeliers, elaborately carved ceilings, gold plated chairs and plush carpets. The King stables his stallions here, and we saw a dozen or more of them...
  • Obama Deploys Economists to Sell Health Reform

    The Obama folks are polishing all the weapons in their armory in preparation for the imminent battle over health care reform. Today, they're giving the megaphone to their economists to make the case. Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, has penned an op-ed outlining the economic benefits of reining in costs and expanding coverage. She maps a range of upsides including higher incomes (if people are able to spend less of their salary on health insurance), lower deficits (if government spending on health is reduced), reduced unemployment (if employers can spend less on health care and direct savings towards more employees) and a more flexible labor market (if workers have fewer fears about switching jobs, and people with pre-existing conditions don't have their mobility stanched by a need to cling to their current insurer). Romer's arguments sound appealing and sensible on the surface, but the Washington Post's Ezra Klein makes an incisive...
  • DNC Chair Believes Texas Will Soon Be Blue

    DNC Chair Tim Kaine emailed supporters today to announce that the committee's fall meeting will be held in the Lone Star State. In the email, Kaine likens Texas to Virginia, arguing that it is poised to shift to the Democrats. He says Dems should have every reason to feel "bullish" about their hopes in Texas. Kaine writes:It wasn't that long ago -- less than 10 years, in fact -- that Virginia was considered just as strong a lock for the Republicans as Texas has been. In Virginia, we had Republican Governors, Republican U.S. Senators and a strong Republican majority in our Congressional delegation and state legislature. And we didn't merit any attention from Presidential candidates during general elections because no Democratic candidate since Lyndon Johnson had won Virginia's electoral votes.Today? I'm the second consecutive Democrat to serve as Governor of Virginia, we took back the State Senate and have reached near parity in the House of...
  • Gallup Poll Shows Arab Approval of U.S. Rising

    Ahead of the President's speech in Cairo this week, Gallup has released a poll showing that approval of American leadership has risen in 8 Arab countries since Obama took office. Overall, the approval ratings are very low, with disapproval rates outweighing them by over 50 points in the case of Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. But still, most are improving. Tunisia saw the biggest increase, rising 23 points to 37% approval, followed by Algeria (up 22 points to 47% approval) and then Egypt (up 19 points to 25% approval). Polls in both Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories returned a drop in approval ratings. Interestingly though, there was not a corresponding rise in disapproval ratings. Rather, the percentage of people answering "don't know" increased significantly, perhaps indicating that many people are uncertain of Obama's intentions in the Middle East. Read the results here.
  • GM Bankruptcy: Obama, Reluctant Businessman

    Speaking about the bankruptcy of General Motors at the White House this morning, President Obama sought to reassure Americans that he's not interested in being the CEO of a car company. After praising Chrylser for its surprisingly swift moves to restructure through bankruptcy and sale to Fiat, the President spoke carefully and soberly about the "unwelcome position" the government has found itself in as a major shareholder in the struggling auto giant. Part of the restructuring plan GM has formulated involves granting the government a 60% stake in the company in exchange for $30 billion, bringing the total government commitment to GM to nearly $50 billion. Obama called the government "reluctant shareholders" in GM, but said that another alternative - loaning the company more capital - would have been irresponsible as GM is already weighed down by enormous amounts of debt. "What we are not doing -- what I...
  • POTUS Wines and Dines His Wife in NYC

    On a day full of sobering news about missing planes and failing auto giants, at least we have some answers to one of the important questions of our time: What's it like to go on a date if you are the President? Via the New York Daily News, we have all sort of details of the Obamas date on Saturday night. They made a low profile escape to New York City, late Saturday afternoon, to continue their long tradition of date nights, and their new traditon of getting out of the White House as often as possible. Earlier the in the day, the President had played the part of soccer dad, traveling to a local field to watch his eldest daughter Malia play, and win. The First Couple dined at Blue Hill, a small (83 seat) Greenwich Village restaurant with a seasonal menu featuring local produce sourced from the Hudson Valley. Entrees range from $28-$36. Mrs. Obama apparently had 2 martinis. It's unclear whether they were gin or vodka, shaken or stirred, dirty or with a twist. Alas,...
  • Preview of Obama's Speech to the Muslim World

    Next Thursday the President will deliver his long-awaited address to the Muslim world in Egypt's capital, Cairo. The University of Cairo will provide the venue for the speech, with Al-Azhar University co-hosting. The site was chosen to highlight the storied history and scholarly traditions of Islam. In a conference call with reporters this evening, Robert Gibbs gave some background on the speech. "The speech will outline his personal...
  • Bush Speaks on Interrogations, Economy and North Korea

    President Bush made a rare public appearance last night, speaking to the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan at Lake Michigan College. According to reports by the Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press, his prepared remarks and answers to audience questions were wide ranging. Bush refrained from criticizing his successor, saying he found it unhelpful when former Presidents weighed in on his decisions. "I wish him all the best," Bush said, striking a very different tone than many of his supporters on talk radio. He didn't mention Dick Cheney, but he did defend harsh interrogation techniques. "I made a decision within the law to get information so I can say, I’ve...