September 10th, 2010
President Obama Appoints Extremely Liberal Austan Goolsbee as Council of Economic Advisers Chair, Calls Pastor's Koran Burning Threat Damaging
By HUMA KHAN and JAKE TAPPER
In his first press conference since May, President Obama assailed Republicans for opposing his economic agenda and spoke out passionately about Pastor Terry Jones' threat to burn Korans and Muslims' right to build an Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero.
The president also announced that he is appointing University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee to be chair of his Council of Economic Advisers.
He took aim at the previous administration and the "partisan minority" that he says are blocking his economic proposals.
"Policies of the previous decades have left our economy weaker and our middle class struggling," the president said.
Obama acknowledged that progress has been "painfully slow" and that a lot more work needs to be done.
"Since I am the president and Democrats have control of the House and the Senate, it's understandable that people are saying, you know, what have you done?" Obama said. "We've still got a long ways to go."
But when asked about Democrats' prospects in the mid-term election, he painted the choice for voters as one between reverting to policies of the Bush administration and one that will solve economic issues in the long term. The president said he is willing to sign a bill this month that would give the middle class tax relief.
"Republicans [are] holding middle class tax relief hostage because they're insisting we've got to give tax relief to millionaires and billionaires, which would cost, over the course of 10 years, $700 billion and economists say is probably the worst way to stimulate the economy," he said. "That's an example of what this election is all about."
Republicans were quick to fire back -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement he was "disappointed" by the president's remarks.
"The president spent a lot of time blaming others and talking about more government spending. But Americans want to know that Washington is going to stop the reckless spending and debt, the burdensome red-tape and job-killing taxes," McConnell said in a statement.
The Republican leader, however, did praise Obama's tough stance against al Qaeda, saying he agrees "wholeheartedly with the president that we need to do everything we can to fight al Qaeda, while being clear who the enemy is."
Obama on Florida Pastor: Koran Burning Would Cause 'Profound Damage'
Asked by ABC News if he elevated the pastor who launched the Koran burning day, Obama defended his administration's decision to speak up, saying he was concerned people across the country would take similar steps to get attention.
"The idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for. It's contrary to what this country was founded on," he said, adding that such rhetoric is the "best imaginable tool for recruiting al Qaeda," and endangers U.S. troops.
Jones' threat led to an uproar in the Islamic world. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the Florida pastor this week to convey how dangerous his decision would be to U.S. troops serving abroad. On Thursday, Jones announced he is cancelling plans to burn the Koran.
Obama today spoke passionately for the freedom of Muslims build an Islamic center near Ground Zero. Since the president weighed in early last month, Republicans have seized upon the issue.
"This country stands for the proposition that all men and women are created equal, that they have certain inalienable rights," the president said at the end of his press conference. "And what it means is that if you could build a church on a site, you could build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on a site, then you should be able to build a mosque on the site."
Reminding Americans of Muslims who are serving in the U.S. armed forces, Obama cautioned people to beware of the real enemy and to not "turn on each other."
"We are not at war against Islam. We're at war against terrorist organizations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts. We've got to be clear about that," Obama said. "From a national security interest, we have to be clear about who the enemy is here."
Obama praised Goolsbee as a "brilliant economist" who has "a deep appreciation of how the economy affects everyday people."
The former chair, Christina Romer, departed last week, returning to teach at the University of California at Berkeley.
Goolsbee, 41, has already been confirmed by the Senate to serve as one of the three economists on the CEA; Obama has the prerogative to appoint the chair.
After a brief holiday and hosting Israeli and Palestinian leaders for peace talks, the president has turned back toward the economy -- the chief issue in the upcoming mid-term elections. Earlier this week, Obama announced new incentives for businesses and assailed Republicans for impeding his efforts and for wanting to revert to "the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place."
September 10th, 2010
September 10th, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Stephanie George used to see members of the Dove World Outreach Center at her neighborhood grocery store, wearing T-shirts that said “Islam is of the devil.” But on Friday, she and her friend Lynda Dillon showed up early at Dragonfly Graphics to order a dozen shirts with a different message: “Love, not Dove.”
The design itself, complete with a lyric made famous by Elvis Costello (“What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding”), takes direct aim at the pastor Terry Jones, his church and his threat — now suspended — to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, Sept. 11.
But Ms. George and others who have lined up for the shirts from Dragonfly frown and sigh with exasperation that such a public stand is even necessary.
“He’s a lunatic, and yet I still feel like I need to get the message out that we’re not lunatics with him,” said Ms. George, 46. “I don’t want this to represent my neighborhood.”
Mr. Jones has become a reviled figure around the world. But the people of this youthful city in central Florida are taking his actions personally, with anger and heartbreak, as one of their neighbors drags their hometown into nearly nonstop news coverage and infamy.
Gainesville, after all, is a university town that until a few months ago was best known for producing college football champions, Gatorade and rockers like Tom Petty.
Educated and progressive, with a gay mayor and a City Commission made up entirely of Democrats, Gainesville is a sprawling metropolis of 115,000 people where smoothie shops seem to outnumber gun shops.
Fanatics can come from anywhere, Gainesvillians will tell you, but why did this one have to come from here?
“He doesn’t represent the community,” said Larry Wilcox, 78, reading the newspaper at a local Panera restaurant. “This guy is obviously a publicity hound and a weirdo.”
On Friday, Mr. Jones once again turned the lawn at Dove into a spectacle, featuring dozens of photographers and newly arrived supporters, including a former Marine in full camouflage holding an American flag and demanding an apology from Muslims for the Marine barracks bombing in 1983 that killed 241 service members in Beirut.
“It’s frustrating,” said the Rev. Larry Reimer, pastor of the United Church of Gainesville. It was just before noon and he was standing at the door of Dove in a pressed sport coat, with a pile of 8,048 signatures and comments from 97 countries, all demanding that Mr. Jones unequivocally call off his plan to burn the Koran. The thick document was carefully tied in a white ribbon.
Mr. Reimer said people from all over the world had called him and sent e-mail messages offering to help Gainesville counter Mr. Jones. Mayor Craig Lowe said he, too, had been inundated with suggestions.
One local resident said he might sue the city or Mr. Jones so the community would be forced to go to court and talk through what happened. Someone from out of town suggested using the National Guard to stop Mr. Jones from setting the holy texts ablaze.
“The amount of e-mail that we’ve gotten is just massive,” Mayor Lowe said in an interview. “It’s almost one a second.”
The challenge for many seems to be managing their anger, and figuring out how to keep Mr. Jones in perspective. Some are looking to direct confrontation; Jose Soto, a leader with Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Florida, stood across the street from Dove on Friday afternoon with a group of students shouting, “Hey ho, hey ho, Dove Outreach has got to go.”
He said that even after this weekend, his group was thinking of following Dove’s leaders when they wore their “Islam is of the devil” T-shirts and surrounding them with signs that identified them as hate-mongers.
“Ignoring them hasn’t worked,” he said. “They just escalate.”
John L. Esposito, a scholar of religion and international affairs at Georgetown who has acted as a consultant to the State Department, offered a different option. Politicians, the news media, all of Gainesville, he said, should stop pleading or arguing against the Koran burning and shift their energy toward all that Mr. Jones is not.
“What we have to start doing is delivering the positive side of our message of who we are, and then that will set an example for others in our society who are maybe on the fence,” he said.
That seemed to be exactly the goal of Dragonfly. For 24 years, the tiny four-person company (with part-time help from the owner’s mother) has been printing T-shirts for companies, students, events and churches.
Joy Revels, the owner, said she even used to print generic polo shirts for Dove before last year, when Mr. Jones put a sign outside his church saying, “Islam is of the devil.”
“He called me for the T-shirts” with that slogan, she said, T-shirts that young members of the church wore to school last year and that led to standard uniforms this year. But she refused.
On Tuesday, after seeing the firestorm Mr. Jones created, she decided to act. She said “Love, not Dove” sounded like a good motto, and her graphic artist — Josh Huey, 24, thin, scruffy and lip-pierced — turned out a tattoo-like image of a dove in distress.
Because that seemed a little harsh, Ms. Revels returned to a favorite Costello song (written by Nick Lowe), which sets peace, love and understanding against an opening of “As I walk through this wicked world searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.”
Perfect, she thought. She printed 200 shirts to test demand, asking only for donations. As of Friday evening, more than 1,000 shirts had flown out the door.
By nightfall on Friday, Ms. Revels, looking younger than her 50 years, with spiky hair and long plaid shorts, was in the back working the presses with Mr. Huey. Strangers and friends streamed in asking for shirts. One gone. Six more. Then a dozen.
“Whatever Mr. Jones does, it’s still the same in our community,” Ms. Revel said.
She struggled to explain conflicting emotions. “This isn’t ‘We hate you, Terry Jones,’ ” she finally said.
“It’s ‘This is who we are, Gainesville.’ We’re not going to stoop to his level.”
September 10th, 2010
September 10th, 2010
Eagle-eyed reporters noticed that President Barack Obama wasn't sporting his wedding ring during Friday's White House press conference.
"big to-do over potus not wearing his wedding ring today," Tweeted The Hill's Sam Youngman, who was at the presser.
Obama's wedding band is "an intricate gold design from Indonesia, where he had lived as a boy," the New York Times reported in 2009.
Michelle will probably be okay with it; after all, she once left home without her wedding ring, too.
UPDATE: A White House spokesman tells POLITICO that Obama's ring is being repaired, though it's unclear what needed to be fixed.