ThinkFast: July 20, 2009

President Obama talks about leadership on health care

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A new Washington Post/ABC News poll has found that President Obama’s public support on health care has dropped below 50 percent (from 57 to 49 percent) and his “approval ratings on other front-burner issues, such as the economy and the federal budget deficit, have also slipped over the summer.” However, Obama’s overall approval rating remains high at 59 percent.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) is preparing to reemerge on the national stage by taking on the issue of health care. He is reportedly “penning op-eds this week outlining his reform ideas and appearing on cable television shows Monday and Tuesday, including a Fox News Channel appearance alongside conservative commentator Sean Hannity.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wants to soften the surcharge on the wealthy in the House health care bill, raising the trigger for individuals from $280,000 to $500,000. “I’d like it to go higher than it is,” Pelosi told Politico. “I just want to remove all doubt. You hear ‘$500,000 a year,’ you think, ‘My God, that’s not me.'”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected U.S. calls to halt settlement expansion by allowing 20 Jewish-owned apartments to be built in East Jerusalem, a “part of the city that Palestinians regard as key to their future state.” “I would like to reemphasize that united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged,” Netanyahu said. 

White House Budget Director Peter Orszag said yesterday “that the struggling economy has backed away from the precipice it was teetering on late last year but a return to economic growth has not occurred yet.” “Where we are is the sense of free fall that we had back in December…we’ve stepped back from that precipice but we’re not yet in the growth zone,” Orszag told CNN.

Lobbyists are gearing up to try to weaken the clean energy bill in the Senate. “Even those industries more in tune with [Senate Chairwoman Barbara] Boxer’s vision are looking to mold the House climate bill more to their liking in the Senate, which could be difficult considering the Jenga-like structure of the measure.”

During a CNN appearance yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) urged opponents of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to “stop the racial politics.” “I hope we don’t go back to the day when we used to have African-Americans up for confirmation and say ‘Yes, but you belong to the NAACP so, you know, we’re really suspicious of you,’” Leahy said.

Federal statistics show that the number of Hispanic workers who die on the job has risen, despite the overall number of workplace deaths declining. “There can be no excuses for negligence in protecting workers, not even a language barrier,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. “Hispanic worker deaths increased from 533 in 1992 to 937 in 2007 — a 76% jump. In the same period, total fatalities in all jobs nationwide fell from 6,217 to 5,657.”

Ethan Hastert, the son of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), is running for his dad’s old congressional seat. “The younger Hastert filed papers to run early last month and is already in the process of fundraising and assembling a campaign team.”

And finally: During her visit to India, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that stereotypes perpetuated by our respective entertainment industries create false impressions. “If Hollywood and Bollywood were how we all lived our lives, that would surprise me,” Clinton said. “People watching a Bollywood movie in some other part of Asia think everyone in India is beautiful. And they have dramatic lives, and happy endings. And if you were to watch American TV and our movies,” she said with a twinkle in her eye, “you’d think we don’t wear clothes and we spend a lot of time fighting each other.”