ThinkFast: April 29, 2009

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) writes that, as a moderate member of her party, “you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe.” She adds that “the political environment that has made it inhospitable for a moderate Republican in Pennsylvania.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said President Obama’s push for progressive policies, including a hate crimes bill, “makes me want to throw up,” and declared Obama has “no plan for keeping America safe.” When asked by the Washington Times to grade his party’s 100 days of opposition, Boehner replied, “I think our team’s doing fairly well, considering the barrage that’s coming at us.”

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Obama administration’s state secrets privilege claim, allowing an “extraordinary rendition” case brought by five detainees against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan to proceed. The Justice Department has invoked state secrets in three court cases since Obama took office. Glenn Greenwald has more.

“American authorities confirmed the first death outside of Mexico from swine flu” today, as Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on CNN this morning “that the first American death of the disease was a 23-month-old child in Texas.” Besser gave no other details about the child.

Today, the Supreme Court will be hearing a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which “requires selected jurisdictions across the country to ‘preclear’ new voting rules with the Justice Department or a federal court.” The NYT writes that it would be “judicial activism” to take away Congress’s right to protect minority voters, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has an op-ed with evidence that the VRA is still needed.

Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs “pointedly refused to rule out a firing in the case of the Air Force One backup’s flight that terrified some in New York City on Monday.” Gibbs said that the White House Deputy Chief of Staff will conduct a review of the incident and the President “will take steps based on the outcome of the review.”

Attorney General Eric Holder will make a “public appeal” to European officials for help in closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay by taking some of the freed inmates. Yesterday, Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer suggested that European nations would be receptive to Holder’s appeal, saying, “I expect Europe will take some, and there is a strong will do so among some countries.”

On the 99th day of his term in office, President Obama’s Cabinet was finally completed yesterday when the Senate confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with a vote of 65–31. “We wanted to swear her in right away because we’ve got a significant public health challenge that requires her immediate attention,” said Obama last night as Sebelius took the oath of office.

The achievement gap between black and white students has not narrowed, “despite President George W. Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.” Although minority students “all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s.”

And finally: On Monday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) received a reminder that politics is “a full-body-contact sport” when he “collided with a teenage skateboarder while strolling along Pennsylvania Avenue.” Boehner reportedly “was knocked off his feet, but not totally off his game; he stumbled, but didn’t completely wipe out, after the crash.” Boehner and the teen then “exchanged wary looks.”

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