ThinkFast: April 20, 2009


“The Obama administration opposes any effort to prosecute those in the Justice Department who drafted legal memos authorizing harsh interrogations at secret CIA prisons, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said yesterday.” Speaking with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” Emanuel said, “But those who devised the policies…should not be prosecuted either.”

President Obama will visit the CIA today, “in a bid to reassure staff stung by the release of memos detailing harsh interrogation techniques.” Obama will discuss “the importance of the CIA” and “reassure CIA officers of his promise not to seek prosecution of CIA agents or former officials” involved in torture.

Days after Gov. David Paterson (D-NY) unveiled a same-sex marriage bill, Rudy Giuliani is “declaring war on gay marriage.” Giuliani, who is pro-civil unions, is “vowing to use his strong opposition of it against the Democrats if he runs for governor next year.”

Republicans are struggling with a health care reform “message [that] is still vague and unformed.” “I thought we would have been much farther along than we are,” said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). Rep. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) Health Care Task Force “wants to come up with fresh solutions and not just party rhetoric — and that takes some time,” said a spokesman for Blunt.

ExxonMobil has supplanted Wal-Mart atop the Fortune 500 list, which ranks companies by their annual earnings. “Texas-based Exxon took in $442.85 billion in revenue last year, up almost 19% from 2007.” Wal-Mart, which had held the top spot for six of the last seven years, had revenues of $405.6 billion.

Every day, the White House sorts through its mail and picks at least 10 letters for President Obama to read, a process designed to “offer a sampling of what Americans are thinking.” The letters are read by the president, and he sometimes answers them by hand. In a letter to the mother of a soldier, Obama wrote, “I will do everything in my power to make troops like Matthew my priority. … Please tell him ‘thank you for your service’ from his commander in chief!”

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote to end debate on the nomination of Chris Hill to be ambassador to Iraq. The opposition to Hill’s nomination from several Republican senators led by Sam Brownback (KS) is “not expected to derail Hill’s eventual confirmation.”

Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, posted a video online today, urging “Muslims not to be fooled by U.S. President Barack Obama’s policies which he said…are no different to those of his predecessor, George W. Bush.” “[Obama] is calling for change, but he aims to change us so that we abandon our religion and rights,” al-Zawahri said.

Today, President Obama will be holding his first Cabinet meeting, where he plans to “order its members to identify a combined $100 million in budget cuts over the next 90 days.” Although they won’t make much of a dent in the multi-trillion dollar deficit, they will “signal the president’s determination to cut spending and reform government.”

And finally: First runner-up Miss California caused a stir in yesterday’s Miss USA pageant when she was asked a question about legalizing same-sex marriage. “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage,” Carrie Prejean said. “And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.” Scott Ihrig, a gay man who attended the pageant with his partner, called her answer “ugly,” adding, “That is not the value of 95 percent of the people in this audience. Look around this audience and tell me how many gay men there are.”

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