President Obama decried a recent spike in military assaults - and appeared to criticize turmoil at the IRS -- as he delivered the commencement speech Friday at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
As he lauded the grads for their service, Obama called on them to uphold the honor of their service, as he talked about how the "actions of a few" have eroded public confidence in government.
"We need your honor, that inner compass that guides you, not when the path is easy and obvious, but it's hard and uncertain, that tells you the difference between that which is right and that which is wrong," he told the graduates in their white dress uniforms.
Earlier, Obama caused a stir in the Twitter-verse when he walked directly up the steps of Marine One outside the White House without saluting the Marine on duty.
The White House pool report notes he "soon came out of the helicopter, walked down the steps, shook hands with the Marine and engaged in a brief conversation" before reboarding.
At the grad ceremony, held under grey skies and a persistent drizzle, Obama said that those who commit sexual assaults are not only committing a crime, "they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong. That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes. Because they've got no place in the greatest military on Earth."Obama opened his remarks on the scandal by noting that in recent decades, Americans have lost confidence in government, and that "we've seen how the actions of a few can undermine the integrity of those institutions."
He brought up mortgage companies and banks, saying they "put families in new homes and help students go to college."
But, he added, the "misdeeds of some, wild risk-taking or putting profits before people, sparked a financial crisis and deepened the recession that cost millions of Americans their jobs."
And he charged that politics where "compromise is rejected as a dirty word" and policies are "driven by special interests" have served to breed "cynicism that threatens our democracy."
He noted that civil servants do their jobs daily, "with professionalism," but said "it only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode the people's trust in their government."
He lauded the military for serving as "one American team," but added, "we must acknowledge that even here, even in our military, we've seen how the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide."
He likened the damage caused by sexual assaults seemingly to the pictures of soliders degrading detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison camp, saying that "a single image from the battlefield of troops falling short of their standards can go viral and endanger our forces and undermine our efforts to achieve security and peace."
He told the graduates he was telling them because they are "about to assume the burden of leadership. As officers, you'll be trusted with the most awesome of responsibilities, the lives of the men and women under your command. And when your service is complete, many of you will go on to help lead your communities, America's companies. You will lead this country.
"And if we want to restore the trust that the American people deserve to have in their institutions, all of us have to do our part. And those of us in leadership, myself included, have to constantly strive to remain worthy of the public trust."
Economic conservatism has hit a five year low, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.
And, the survey suggests, "ideological attitudes in the country may be shifting."
The poll found that social liberalism is up six points since 2001 and is embraced by about half the Democrats and those who lean Democrats.
"It is possible that Americans are returning to a certain sense of normalcy on economic ideology, while social ideology continues to charter new ground," said a poll analysis.
Here's more from Gallup:
"For much of President Obama's first term, economic conservatism appeared to be on the rise and social conservatism saw modest gains as well. In 2009, a record 42 percent of Americans said they were social conservatives, while in 2010, a high of 51 perent said they were economically conservative.
"This trend may have foreshadowed the 2010 midterms, in which Republicans gave congressional Democrats a memorable 'shellacking' by winning a large number of seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
"This new survey shows changes in Americans' ideology: economic conservatism is at a five-year low, while social liberalism has registered its highest support -- though it remains to be seen whether the changes will continue.
"On the one hand, for economic ideology, this may be a return to the 'normal' rate measured in past polls but momentarily disrupted by a number of factors over the last four years, including the economic recession, the Democrats' control of most of the federal government, and the healthcare debate. By comparison, the 41 percent% of Americans now calling themselves economic conservatives nearly mirrors the eight-year average (42 percent) during the Bush administration."
The poll was conducted May 2-7, and 1,535 adults were surveyed. Margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Lois Lerner, who headed the Internal Revenue Service office at the center of controversy for
targeting conservative groups, was placed on administrative leave Thursday, the second IRS official to face disciplinary action.
Acting Commissioner Steven Miller was asked to resign last week by President Barack Obama.
Lerner is being replaced by Ken Corbin, who will become acting director, exempt organizations,
tax exempt/government entities division.
A veteran IRS official, Corbin was touted by Danny Werfel, the new acting IRS commissioner, for a “track record of leading large work groups.” Those skills, said Werfel, “make him an ideal choice to help lead the Exempt Organizations area through this difficult period.”
Lerner appeared Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said she had done nothing wrong, and then took the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions. Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.,may recall her, as some thought she had waived her right not to testify.
Her actions infuriated many Republicans.
“She had an opportunity to disclose the targeting to Congress days before her disclosure at a legal conference and didn’t do it,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “She gave the impression that the issue came up independently at the conference, when it really was a plant that she arranged. The IRS owes it to taxpayers to resolve her situation quickly.”
Grassley said Werfel asked Lerner to resign and she refused.
President Barack Obama praised the Senate for confirming Sri Srinivasan, principal deputy solicitor general, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Srinivasan, the first circuit judget of South Asian descent, is the first D.C. Circuit nominee confirmed since 2006. He has worked under both Republican and Democratic presidents.
"Sri is a trailblazer who personifies the best of America," he said. "Now he will serve with distinction on the federal bench. Sri will in fact be the first South Asian American to serve as a circuit court judge in our history. While I applaud the Senate’s action, it’s important to remember that this confirmation is the first one to this important court in seven years."
President Barack Obama, under fire for his administration's crackdown on journalists, announced Thursday that he has directed Attorney General Eric Holder to review the Justice Department's guidelines for investigations that involve reporters.
"Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs," Obama said in a major counterterrorism speech Thursday. "Our focus must be on those who break the law."
Obama said Holder will report back to him by July 12. Holder's actions are part of an unprecedented crackdown on classified national security leaks.
"As commander-in-chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field," he said. "To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. That's who we are. And I'm troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable."
The House of Representatives today passed a bill along party lines (221-198, most Republicans for, most Democrats against) that would make federal student loans have market-based rates. The rate would be pegged to the 10-year Treasury note and would be reset once a year, so the rates would change over the life of a loan. (See how they voted here.)
It's another partisan fight. Republicans call it their Smarter Solutions for Students Act. House Democrats call it the Making College More Expensive Act.
President Barack Obama has proposed linking rates to the market but keeping them the same for the life of the loan. In the Senate, where Democrats have a thin majority, there's a proposal to extend the current 3.4 percent rate for two more years.
The White House threatened a veto of the House bill yesterday. Congress has to act by July 1, or the rate for a subsidized federal student loan goes from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
If Republicans are going to target President Barack Obama for not knowing more about the Internal Revenue Service controversy, says House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, consider this:
"Well," she told a news conference Thursday, "The president doesn't know about everything that is going on in every agency of government. Should Mr. Boehner have known because this is his neighboring district, and since -- Cincinnati, where the IRS office is?
"I don't think you can hold him accountable for what happened in that IRS office."
Asked if Democrats will be hurt politically, Pelosi, D-Calif, noted, "It happened under the appointment of the head of the IRS, who was appointed by President Bush; his length of stay extended into President Obama's stay." She referred to former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
"But," she said, "I think that that points to the fact that why is this, you know, a politicized issue because the -- we all are concerned about how the IRS does what it's supposed to do, supports the law but does not do it in a selective way. I've said before what they did was wrong. The inspector general has said over and over it is not illegal."
The Internal Revenue Service and the 2010 health law? Look out, says Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
"Here’s another thing we shouldn’t be doing: handing over the administration of Obamacare to these folks. I mean, think about it. A deeply unpopular law being administered by an agency that’s so betrayed the public trust," he said in Senate floor remarks Thursday.
“Even the IRS’ staunchest defenders in this scandal describe their actions as a case of ‘horrible customer service.’ That’s the best they can say: ‘Horrible customer service.’ And now they’re going to be put in charge of a new trillion-dollar program? One that will give them access to all sorts of sensitive, deeply personal information?"
McConnell, R-Ky., warned "that’s just what the Administration and congressional Democrats are about to let happen."
He noted "The IRS is in charge of administering some of the most important elements of Obamacare. And, for many Americans, that’s going to mean submitting to probing questions about their health insurance."
Then he posed some questions. Here's some of the rest of his speech:
“Do you have insurance?
“What kind of insurance is it?
“Does it follow our rules?
“And if the people at the IRS don’t like your answers? You’ll be hit with new taxes.
“For small businesses, the questions are going to be far more extensive, and the consequences for non-compliance far worse – and the agency will have broad discretion to define what constitutes non-compliance, by the way. This is nuts.
“The potential for waste and abuse would have been there regardless of which agency was put in charge of administering this bloated law. I mean, Obamacare is just massive – about 20,000 pages of regulations already – so waste and abuse is basically unavoidable. But now, we’re going to have Americans worrying that they might be discriminated against too – just for having an opinion? And you know what? We’re not going to be able to tell them not to worry. Because we don’t yet know the truth ourselves.
“And guess who’s heading the IRS office charged with managing Obamacare? Get this. It’s the very same person who led the division of the IRS now embroiled in scandal – who oversaw the very office now under fire for the discriminatory and harassing behavior. I’m not making this up.'
Did President Barack Obama ask the Senate to kill an amendment that would allow same-sex couples to apply for legal status for their foreign-born partners as part of a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws?
That was the word Tuesday just before the provision was rejected and the bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans who support the bill had expressed concerns about the amendment.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday would not confirm or deny the reports.
"I'm not aware of that conversation. What I can tell you is the president supports the amendment," he said.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators unveiled a proposal that would offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Obama said the legislation includes his four requirements — border security, restrictions on employers, a legal immigration program and pathway to citizenship — and that he will determine whether to support the legislation based on whether it makes the system better.
Obama has said he might accept a bill even if it did not allow tens of thousands of same-sex couples to apply for legal status for their foreign-born partners
"I think the president supports that amendment, and he also made clear that he knows he won't get everything necessarily that he wants in the final comprehensive immigration bill that he hopes the Senate will pass and the House will pass and will arrive on his desk," Carney said.
House Republicans came up with a student loan reform plan they said was along the lines of what President Barack Obama proposed _ let the loan rate change with the market (background story). But it turns out it wasn’t similar enough.
Today the White House put out a statement criticizing it and saying the president would veto if it Congress sends it to him. (Statement of administration policy here.)
The House student loan plan, HR 1911, is scheduled to be considered on the floor of the House this week.
If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, the rate on subsidized federal student loans will go up from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
The president’s budget proposal called for setting subsidized federal student loans at the rate of the 10-year Treasury note plus 0.93 percent. The rate would stay the same for the life of the loan. The president’s plan also has an income-based repayment option so that a borrower would never pay more than 10 percent of discretionary income on student loans.
House Republicans have proposed setting the rate at the Treasury rate plus 2.5 percent for subsidized student loans. But under that plan, the rate would vary every year, depending on the market. The House plan caps the rate at 8.5 percent.
As the White House put it in a statement today: “While the administration welcomes action by the House on this issue, H.R. 1911 is the wrong approach.” The statement says that having the rates vary after a loan is taken out would create uncertainty about borrowing for college.
Other complaints from the White House: Interest rates would increase immediately under the House plan for some types of student loans. It doesn’t extend repayment options to borrowers who have already left school. And White House objects to using higher student loan rates to balance the budget.