In a Terrible Week, Obama Finds Voice

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: Obama in Boston: ‘You will run again’ … Feds seeking two in Boston video … Reid appoints beleaguered former NRC chair to panel … Poison-letters suspect an Elvis impersonator …House passes CISPA … Ranking presidential beards


In a Terrible Week, Obama Finds Voice

This is the type of week that validates in terrible ways The Onion’s classic 2008 headline, Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job. It started Monday with the Boston Marathon bombing. On Tuesday, there were the ricin-laced letters to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

On Wednesday, Obama’s impassioned push for new gun laws collapsed in the Senate. By evening, a huge explosion at a Texas fertilizer factory had killed as many as 15 people, sent some 200 wounded to hospitals, and leveled several blocks.

The tragedies and disappointments are coming so fast they are bleeding into each other. Today, as Obama flew to Boston to speak at an interfaith prayer service for the bombing victims, he called Texas Gov. Rick Perry to offer prayers and federal help to the devastated town of West.

“We may be momentarily knocked off our feet. But we’ll pick ourselves up. We will keep going. We will finish the race,” Obama said at the service. The remarks were aimed at the people of Boston, but they resounded far beyond.

--Jill Lawrence


PRESIDENT TELLS BOSTON: ‘YOU WILL RUN AGAIN.’ Obama addressed an interfaith prayer service held today at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross following the bombing at the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon. The president, addressing those injured in the attack, said: “I have no doubt you will run again. You will run again. Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act.” The president cited his personal ties to the city, alluding to his time at Harvard Law School in neighboring Cambridge. “Every one of us has been touched by this attack on your beloved city. Every one of us stands with you. Because after all, it’s our beloved city, too,” he said. Read more

  • National Journal’s Matthew Cooper ranks the speech as likely one of his best ever. Read the full text and see the video here.

NAPOLITANO: FBI SEEKS TO INTERVIEW TWO INDIVIDUALS. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told members of the House Homeland Security Committee today that the FBI is seeking to question two individuals captured on video, but declined to identify the two as suspects, the Associated Press reports. Napolitano also said that investigators have yet to determine whether the perpetrators were foreign or domestic terrorists, but “said the investigation is continuing ‘apace.’ ” Read more

  • An official briefed on the investigation said that authorities have “clear video” of two individuals and plan to release the images to the public today in an effort to identify them. Read more

MANCHIN: NRA ‘MADE A BIG MISTAKE’ ON BACKGROUND-CHECK BILL. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., discussed the failure of his amendment to expand firearms background checks at a breakfast sponsored by The Wall Street Journal today. Manchin said that the bill would have secured the backing of 70 senators, but for the opposition of the National Rifle Association. Manchin said of the NRA, “I think they made a big mistake. I hope that they are able to look at the mistake they made and look at the bill for the facts that’s in it and say, fine, we gotta let our members vote and not score the next time we come—I would love to see that happen.” Read more

  • National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein writes that the Senate gun vote could spell trouble for the gun lobby come 2016, while Josh Kraushaar explains how the defeat owes to the 2014 Senate landscape.

SENATE COMMITTEE BACKS ENERGY NOMINEE. The Senate Energy and Commerce Committee backed the nomination of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Ernest Moniz to serve as Energy secretary on a 21-to-1 vote today, the Associated Press reports. Only Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., opposed Moniz’s nomination, citing the president’s plan to cut $200 million in funding from the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina. Read more

FEDERAL AUTHORITIES TO AID IN TEXAS EXPLOSION INVESTIGATION. Authorities estimate that between five and 15 people were killed and over 160 injured following an explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, 20 miles north of Waco. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board have dispatched teams of investigators, and local authorities say that they are examining all possible causes for the fire that triggered the explosion. Rescuers continue to search for survivors. Read more

  • Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the federal siege at the Branch Davidians’ compound in Waco.

REID APPOINTS BESIEGED REGULATOR TO NUCLEAR-WEAPONS PANEL. Late Wednesday evening, in the midst of one of the busiest and most unnerving times Washington has seen in a long while, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quietly appointed a controversial nuclear-energy regulator to a key but obscure panel, National Journal’s Amy Harder reports. Reid appointed Gregory Jaczko, the beleaguered former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to a newly created congressional advisory panel that oversees the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the nation’s nuclear-weapons stockpile and nuclear nonproliferation with about $8 billion of taxpayer dollars. Read more

RICIN SUSPECT A SOCIAL-MEDIA CONSPIRACY THEORIST. Mississippi resident Paul Kevin Curtis, arrested on suspicion of targeting Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker with ricin-laced mail, is not only an entertainer, but also a conspiracy theorist, The Washington Post reports. Curtis, in an April 16 Facebook post, wrote: “They burned down my home, killed my dogs, my cat, my rabbit, blew up my 1966 Plymouth Valent. They destroyed my marriage, they distracted my career, they stalked, they trolled, they came in to my home, took my computers, had me arrested 22 times and guess what? I am still a thorn in their corrupt anals! I will remain here until Jesus Christ decides its time for me to go.” Read more

  • Sen. Wicker said that Curtis is an Elvis impersonator who “entertained at a party that my wife and I went to… My impression is that about that time he had some mental issues, and was perhaps not as stable. A number of couples threw the party…and we kicked in [money to pay him] I’m sure." Read more

HOUSE PASSES CISPA ON BIPARTISAN VOTE. The House passed H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, on a 288-127 vote, with 92 Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill and just 29 Republicans defecting, The Hill reports. The bill allows the federal government and private companies to share information on potential security threats; detractors fear that companies could share users’ personal data with government agencies. The president has threatened to veto the measure in its current form. Read more

FORMER BACHMANN AIDE TO DETAIL IMPROPER PAYMENTS. Andy Parrish, a former chief of staff to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is expected to appear before an Iowa state Senate ethics committee to corroborate allegations that Bachmann’s presidential campaign made payments to its state chairman, Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, in violation of state law, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The accusations, first made by former campaign aide Peter Waldron, also are the subject of investigations by the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Federal Election Commission. Parrish’s attorney says that his client will provide the panel with “documentary evidence” of the improper payments to Sorenson. Read more


SENATE TAKES UP IMMIGRATION REFORM. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the first of two hearings Friday at 10 a.m. on the recently introduced comprehensive immigration reform bill (the second will be Monday). The bill offers a pathway to legal status and citizenship for undocumented workers. The hearing will feature as a witness Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Read more


“The investigation is proceeding apace. This is not an NCIS episode. Sometimes you have to take time to properly put the chain together to identify the perpetrators. Everyone’s committed to seeing that that gets done in the right way.” —Janet Napolitano testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee (The Hill)


THE HELL OF AMERICAN DAY CARE. “American day care is a mess,” writes Jonathan Cohn for The New Republic. Roughly 40 percent of children under 5 spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. A “sizable minority” of those attend home day cares, where the “overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian.” A 2007 survey found the majority of day-care operations to be “fair” or “poor”—only 10 percent provided high-quality care. And for most families, that 10 percent is unattainable: In 22 states, day care is more expensive than rent. With an inflating number of studies showing the benefit from quality early child care, why does America’s day-care system remain unregulated and unhelpful, while other countries have long had subsidized and well-regulated day-care systems? Read more


OBAMA THE TRAVEL PLANNER. Jimmy Kimmel’s monologues usually touch on celebrity culture more than politics, but the two converged recently when rapper—and friend of Obama—Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncéplanned their anniversary trip to Cuba. Since there’s a travel restriction on the Caribbean state, Jay-Z implied in a song that Obama pulled strings to get the couple there. Kimmel jumped on this story, quoting Snoop Dogg and saying that Obama is “keeping his mind on our money and our money on his mind.” O’Brien also looked at some fake tweets and explored the stereotype of Joe Biden’s maturity, while Kimmel examined the news on the ricin-laced letters sent to Washington this week. Watch it here



RANKING PRESIDENTIAL FACIAL HAIR. From Chester A. Arthur, the “mutton chop hero,” to Martin Van Buren’s “1.21 Jiggawatts” of electric sideburns, to Rutherford B. Hayes’s “mountain man beard,” United States presidents have a long history of eclectic, and undeniably interesting facial hair. Check out BuzzFeed’s ranking of the 10 best presidential facial coifs of all time. Read more


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