ThinkFast: November 18, 2009

Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Afghanistan today “for a surprise visit on the eve of the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai.” Clinton, who is making her first visit to Afghanistan as secretary of state, “will attend Karzai’s Thursday inauguration to a second term, showing U.S. support for his government, after an election which was tainted by fraudulent balloting.”

President Obama told CBS News that leaks about his administration’s Afghanistan deliberations are “absolutely” a “firing offense.” “I think I am angrier than Bob Gates about it, partly because we have these deliberations in the Situation Room for a reason,” said Obama. “Because we are making decisions that are life-and-death, that affect how our troops will be able to operate in a theater of war.”

Former Bush adviser Karl Rove’s memoir will be released on March 9, 2010, and be titled “Courage and Consequence.” In a new statement, Rove said that the book will be “a frank account of what I witnessed and my often-controversial role.” Last year, Rove said that he was planning to “name names” of the people who never “accepted” Bush as a “legitimate president.”

The House “may pass a new economic stimulus bill by December 18 in a bid to combat sky-high US unemployment.” “I would certainly want to see us move something on jobs before that, and we are working on it now,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, adding, “I wouldn’t characterize it as a second stimulus. I don’t want to be as broad as that, I want to be very targeted on jobs.”

President Obama “directly acknowledged for the first time” today that the prison at Guantanamo Bay will not close by the January 2010 deadline he set. Saying he was “not disappointed,” Obama “said he hoped to still achieve that goal sometime next year.”

Israeli officials “moved forward Tuesday with a plan to build 900 homes in a disputed neighborhood of Jerusalem, prompting sharp criticism from the White House, the Palestinians and others who feel it will further undermine the chance of renewing peace talks.” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration is “dismayed” at the decision.

President Obama is “creating a multi-agency task force to pursue criminals who bilked investors and consumers during the financial crisis.” Working with state and local authorities, the task force will “pursue financial fraud cases stemming from the crash of the housing market and the Wall Street meltdown.”

House Democratic leaders are considering imposing a new tax on stock transactions to fund a jobs bill,” The Hill reports. The idea, which has been pushed by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), “is attractive because it’s very small, likely 0.25 percent of each trade.” Though “Small- and medium-sized investors would hardly notice a transaction tax,” major trading firms “may see it as a significant threat to their profits.”

Two days before his 92nd birthday and on his 20,774th day representing West Virginia, Sen. Robert Byrd (D) becomes the longest-serving member of Congress. After “six years in House and then nearly 51 years and counting in the Senate,” Byrd “sets a record for longevity unlikely to be broken.”

And finally: A tip if you visit the White House: The silver eagle place card holders are not souvenirs. Rep. Betsy Markey’s (D-CO) husband found this lesson out the hard way when he was at a luncheon with the First Lady. On the way out, a Secret Service agent stopped him and asked him to return the eagle. “Jim! You were shoplifting from the White House!” the congresswoman joked.

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