OBAMA AGENDA: Unrest in Ukraine
As the Sochi Olympics continue, the crisis in Ukraine expands. And Russia is pulling the purse strings. “Tensions soared after Russia said Monday that it was ready to resume providing the loans that Yanukovych's government needs to keep Ukraine's ailing economy afloat,” AP writes. “This raised fears among the opposition that Yanukovych had made a deal with Moscow to stand firm against the protesters and would choose a Russian-leaning loyalist to be his new prime minister. … The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, blaming the West for the failure to condemn the opposition for the latest bout of violence. EU leaders took the opposite stance” with the Swedish Foreign Minister saying that “Yanukovich has blood on his hands.”
The New York Times: “Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. telephoned Mr. Yanukovych to 'express grave concern regarding the crisis on the streets' of Kiev, and urged him 'to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint,' the vice president's office said in a statement. Mr. Yanukovych had repeatedly pledged not to use force to disperse protesters, but after meeting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he had clearly changed his mind. The fighting also broke out a day after Russia threw a new financial lifeline to Mr. Yanukovych's government by buying $2 billion in Ukrainian government bonds.”
The Washington Post: Biden ‘made clear that the United States condemns violence by any side, but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation,’ a White House statement said. Earlier, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration is ‘appalled’ by the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital. Washington announced no specific new action, but the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, threatened both sides with sanctions.”
In addition to Ukraine, the White House is starting to see the situation in Syria as a growing national-security threat as radicals, the Obama administration believes, are forcing out moderates in the rebellion. The administration is “looking at newer, more far-reaching options, including drone strikes on extremists and more forceful action against Assad, whom President Barack Obama told to leave power 30 months ago,” AP reports. “Obama's top aides plan to meet at the White House before week's end to examine options, according to administration officials. They weren't authorized to talk publicly on the matter and spoke only on condition of anonymity.”
Here’s the problem for the Obama administration: Even if it wants to do something about Ukraine or Syria, American support for international intervention is at an all-time low. Just check out this Gallup poll, which finds, for the first time, more Americans say it was a mistake to get into Afghanistan in 2001 -- 49% say it was a mistake, 48% say it was not.
The CBO says raising the minimum wage could cost around 500,000 jobs, but lift wages. Republicans attacked Obama and Democrats, charging that their policies would cost jobs. The White House’s Dan Pfeiffer fired back on Twitter this way: “The logical extension of the GOP position on today's CBO report would be to call for lowering the minimum wage --> lots of jobs at $2/hr.”
As First Read has previously reported, the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation.
The New York Times points out: “it would also lift 900,000 families out of poverty and increase the incomes of 16.5 million low-wage workers in an average week.”
The New York Times notes that Obama wants to forge closer trade ties to Canada and Mexico, but that Democrats back home don’t want it.
The Times looks at the difficulty and the pain-staking efforts of the Obama administration trying to reach and sign up the uninsured. Among the groups heavily involved – Planned Parenthood and Enroll America: “The canvassers’ lists are derived from data created at Enroll America’s offices in Washington by some of the same computer programmers who churned out the statistical models for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaigns. Using commercially available information, the data experts generate lists of people with rankings that indicate their likelihood of needing health insurance. The typical uninsured is younger, male and either low-income or unemployed. People are scored from zero to 100, with those at the top most likely to be uninsured. By using an uninsured score of just 20 or higher, Planned Parenthood is casting a wider net to improve the chance that its door-knockers find people without insurance.”
CONGRESS: Seeking a deal on jobless benefits
Rob Portman, Dean Heller, and Susan Collins are working to get an agreement with Democrats on expired long-term unemployment benefits.
Patricia Murphy looks at how one conservative group is making candidates’ opposition to John Boehner its litmus test for support.
An ex-Democratic congressman called the woman who defeated him and is now retiring a “bimbo.”
OFF TO THE RACES: Cochran: “The Tea Party is something I don’t really know a lot about”
Bob Shrum says you better believe Hillary Clinton’s got a lock on the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Even Markos Moulitsas says she’s got it in the bag. “If Hillary runs, she's the nominee,” he writes bluntly.
Mike Huckabee’s going back to Iowa in April.
America Rising PAC got a new website, intended to look like a fresh, newsy website.
HAWAII: Steven Shepard looks at how difficult it is to poll in the Aloha state.
KANSAS: How’d you like to be a kid in Kansas? A state legislator introduced a bill that would allow parents, teachers, and caretakers to hit kids hard enough to leave a mark. Currently, they can hit kids as long as it doesn’t leave a mark. Thirty states have banned corporal punishment altogether.
MISSISSIPPI: Thad Cochran says he doesn’t know what the Tea Party is. "The Tea Party is something I don't really know a lot about,” he said. “It's a free country. We have open opportunities for people to participate in the election process."