ABC News reporter Jake Tapper deserves credit for asking a tough but fair question to President Barack Obama this week. It came during the news conference where Obama announced that, in light of the Connecticut school massacre, he had named vice president Joe Biden to lead administration efforts to craft new gun policy.
Tapper said many observers felt Obama, for political reasons, didn’t talk about gun violence much during his first term or the 2012 election. “This is not the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years,” Tapper said. “Where have you been?”
Obama shot back: “Here’s where I’ve been Jake. I’ve been president of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.”
He forgot to mention campaigning, which he did nonstop during his first term, blaming his predecessor for all the ills he recounted to Tapper. But George W. Bush is no help to him on this issue.
We’ve noted repeatedly that Oklahoma Republicans have more diversity in their leadership than many who promote affirmative action. It looks like that’s true in South Carolina as well.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is one of only two Indian-American governors in the nation, appointed U.S. Rep. Tim Scott to fill an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate. Scott, a Republican, will be the first black U.S. senator in state history, and the only black member of that chamber from either political party.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, it’s rumored that former Gov. Michael Dukakis may be appointed to fill John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat should Kerry be nominated as secretary of state. Yep, Democrats may replace a white male with another white male.
Fortunately for Democrats embarrassed by double standards, Massachusetts’ other U.S. Senator is Elizabeth Warren, who provides gender balance — along with dubious claims of American Indian heritage.
A free and open press. What a pain in the neck that can be.
Just ask officials at Oklahoma State University, who are hacked off that newspapers are wondering why the school didn’t notify Stillwater police after students reported they had been assaulted by another student. OSU says a federal privacy law prohibits the release of names or information about victims and witnesses in the case, and that university officials encouraged the alleged victims to contact police.
“The press has tried to indicate we tried to hide something,” said Gary Clark, OSU’s general counsel. “It’s not our place to try to force them to do something they don’t want to do in this regard.”
OSU could have given the identity of the suspect to police after wrapping up student conduct hearings involving the alleged perpetrator, but Clark said officials didn’t think that would have been useful. “What would the police be able to do with that information? Nothing, as far as I can tell,” he said.
Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said he wished his office had been contacted sooner because delays can hurt investigations. The first assault allegedly occurred Nov. 3. Police didn’t learn of it until last week — after being asked about it by a reporter with OSU’s student newspaper.
And now OSU President Burns Hargis has requested an inquiry into the handling of this case.
That danged media, always stirring up trouble.
Having seen fit — finally — to confirm attorney John Dowdell to the federal court in Tulsa, perhaps now the U.S. Senate can get around to placing Robert Bacharach on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Both men had the backing of Oklahoma’s U.S. senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, but the nominations got gummed up by Senate gamesmanship. Republicans held up many nominations made by President Obama, hoping Mitt Romney would win the presidency and submit his own nominations for those posts.
But Obama won. So this week the Senate voted 95-0 to place Dowdell on the federal bench.
Now Inhofe and Coburn need to push for Bacharach’s immediate confirmation. After all, he’s in line for a seat on the Denver court that’s been vacant nearly 2 1/2 years.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s staff is looking for reasons not to disclose how Fallin made the decision to return a $54 million federal grant last year after originally accepting it. Right or wrong, such maneuvering leaves the impression she has something to hide.
The Oklahoman sought emails from the governor’s office through an open records request. Fallin’s legal counsel rejected the request, citing executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. He said releasing such emails would hinder the ability of policymakers to have productive internal discussions.
But an expert in Oklahoma’s open records laws says once a personal note or memo becomes a recorded conversation or directive, it isn’t personal anymore. And executive privilege isn’t an exemption under Oklahoma law.
A 2009 opinion from the Oklahoma attorney general’s office was clear: “Emails, text messages, and other electronic communications made or received in connection with the transaction of public business, the expenditure of public funds or the administration of public property, are subject to the Oklahoma Open Records Act.”
Fallin and legislative leaders accepted the $54 million grant to establish a federal health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. Only after getting blowback from fellow Republicans did Fallin do an about-face.
The taxpayers who paid for the grant and who would have used the exchange deserve to know more about what went down.
It hasn’t taken long for U.S. Rep. James Lankford to make an impression on fellow Republican members.
In April 2011, four months after taking office, Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, was chosen to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s weekly radio address. He continued to shine as chairman of a House subcommittee on intergovernmental relations and with his work in helping craft a federal highway bill.
This week his stock rose some more when he was elected chairman of the House Policy Committee, the No. 5 spot in the House Republican hierarchy. The committee helps craft House GOP positions on issues and makes sure members are up to speed on them.
Two of Lankford’s Oklahoma colleagues saw this coming. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, recently raved to The Oklahoman’s editorial board about Lankford’s first two years, and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who’s about to begin his 19th year in the House, called Lankford “the most unfreshman freshman I’ve ever seen.” Congratulations!
Critics have warned Oklahoma officials who are considering expansion of the Medicaid program in order to obtain Obamacare subsidies that the cost of the program is already unsustainable and will only get worse if more people are added to the rolls. Evidence for that argument can be seen in neighboring Arkansas, where that state’s Medicaid program has a shortfall of $358 million.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is proposing a combination of new spending (including one-time funds) and budget cuts to address the problem. And that’s the situation without an expansion of the program.
In Oklahoma, lawmakers in recent years have raided the Insure Oklahoma fund, which is meant to help citizens obtain private insurance, in order to prop up Medicaid. Medicaid’s Oklahoma costs continue to escalate even without the Obamacare expansion.
In both Oklahoma and Arkansas, an expansion of Medicaid could be the triumph of hope over budget experience.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has grown weary of Republicans using filibusters to block legislation. So instead of forwarding better legislation, Reid is considering a vote in January to change the rules of the Senate — and doing so with the backing of a simple majority of members.
It normally takes a two-thirds vote to change Senate rules. Reid says he doesn’t want to end the filibuster, “but we’re going to make the Senate a more meaningful place, we’re going to make it so that we can get things done.”
That’s comical coming from a man who hasn’t seemed to mind that the Senate he controls hasn’t submitted a budget proposal in three years.
Changing the rules by simple majority is called the “nuclear option” for a reason. If he follows through, Reid is sure to feel the heat from that blast.
With the presidential election looming, many ask how anyone can still be undecided. The Associated Press recently interviewed some of those voters. Their answers didn’t bring much clarity.
Texas native Robert Dohrenburg said he voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush but not George W. Bush. He supported Barack Obama in 2008. He’s decided to vote for Obama again but he wishes Ron Paul had won the GOP nomination.
So Dohrenburg has supported the most conservative president in living memory and the most liberal president in living memory. Now he plans to stick with a liberal president because Ron Paul, who’s often to the right of Reagan, isn’t the GOP nominee.
If such political split personalities bother you, imagine how tough it must be for the presidential campaigns that must tailor their sales pitch to these voters.
During a visit this week with The Oklahoman’s editorial board, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, a political junkie, predicted the U.S. Senate could end up in Republican control if GOP candidate Mitt Romney defeats President Barack Obama. How best to make the latter happen?
Cole, R-Moore, suggested a three-pronged strategy for Romney to consider in the closing weeks of the election. One is to continue asking voters what reason is there to believe the next four years will be any different than what Obama has produced during the past four years.
Another is to, “Let (Paul) Ryan be Ryan.” Cole believes Ryan could be especially potent on college campuses, outlining his Medicare reform plan to those who are and will be paying for it instead of focusing on seniors who won’t be affected by his proposed changes.
Cole’s top recommendation for Romney? “Focus everything on the economy,” he said. “Nothing else matters.”