Obama agenda: Banging the drums

NBC News: "The diplomatic push ahead of a possible U.S.-led military strike on Syria intensified Tuesday as the White House prepared to release intelligence evidence alleging the use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad's military. President Barack Obama held discussions with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and French President Francois Hollande on Monday – the latest in a series of phone calls to allies as the United States lays the groundwork for potential military action."

Reuters: "Secretary of State John Kerry laid the groundwork on Monday for possible military action against the Syrian government over a chemical weapons attack, implicating President Bashar al-Assad's forces in a 'moral obscenity.' In the most forceful U.S. reaction yet to last week's gas attack outside Damascus, Kerry said President Barack Obama 'believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people.'

USA Today: “U.S. stock futures tilted lower Tuesday, dented by fears the U.S. government is gearing up for a redoubled confrontation with Syria.”

Politico notes how unpopular Syria intervention has been, and that presents a challenge for Obama.

CNBC: “A source from Team Obama told CNBC that Larry Summers will likely be named chairman of the Federal Reserve in a few weeks though he is "still being vetted" so it might take a little longer.”

The New York Times: “Behind the roiling conversation over whether President Obama might make Janet L. Yellen the first female leader of the Federal Reserve is an uncomfortable reality for the White House: the administration has named no more women to high-level executive branch posts than the Clinton administration did almost two decades ago.”

More: “Over all, Mr. Obama has named 13 women to cabinet-level posts, matching the historic high achieved by the Clinton administration. Mr. Obama has also put a record number of women in judicial slots, including two on the Supreme Court. Women make up about 42 percent of confirmed judges appointed by Mr. Obama, compared with 22 percent appointed by George W. Bush and 29 percent by Bill Clinton. Yet the ratio of men to women in the administration is where it was two decades ago, if not a little more heavily male. The Obama administration has a smaller proportion of women in top positions than the Clinton administration did in its second term, for instance. Women hold about 35 percent of cabinet-level posts, compared with 41 percent for Mr. Clinton and 24 percent for Mr. Bush at similar points in their presidencies.”

Josh Green notes, by the way, that “Summers, if he’s nominated, will get a huge break from the Senate Democratic caucus, because, unlike the GOP caucus, it contains no serious presidential contenders. Why does that matter? Because presidential candidates are almost always captive to the passions of their party’s base, and the liberal base of the Democratic Party loathes Summers. That would produce tremendous pressure to oppose him.”

AP reported Monday: “President Barack Obama has met with leaders of faith organizations and civil rights activists at the White House to discuss the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On the agenda was how current issues of voting rights, education, unemployment and health care are linked to the 1960s fight for civil rights and equality.”

USA Today previews Obama’s speech Wednesday to commemorate the March on Washington: “When President Obama steps to the podium at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, it will mark a signal moment in his presidency. In telling his own story to Americans over the years, Obama has shied away from declaring his own political rise as some sort of bookend to Martin Luther King Jr.'s seminal "I Have a Dream" speech. But he has constantly underscored that his story would not have been possible were it not for King and others who sacrificed during the civil rights movement. Aides to the president have kept details of his address close to the vest, but Obama has signaled in recent days that he will use his speech to mark the strides that the country has made in fighting the scourge of racial prejudice, while highlighting the work he believes the country needs to do to fight injustice.”

Glenn Thrush with some more detail: “Obama will spotlight his fallen hero’s unfinished economic agenda when he celebrates the 50th anniversary of King’s 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on Wednesday, leveraging an event most Americans view as strictly a racial milestone into something bigger — and more useful to a struggling president: A rationale for his second-term agenda.”

Author Taylor Branch said Obama is “in tiptoe stance on race” because he can’t ask, without potentially alienating many whites, To what degree is the partisan gridlock that is frustrating his attempts to govern racially driven?” To that end, Jesse Jackson was not tiptoeing. He said this: “The tea party is the resurrection of the Confederacy, it’s the Fort Sumter tea party.”

But an Obama veteran said: “Bill Clinton was a white guy from the country, and they were just as vituperative. But I don’t know what the president thinks about it.”