1) Obama ‘confident’ of keeping to Afghan pullout plan – President Barack Obama said he was “confident” the United States could stick to its Afghan drawdown timetable despite a week of deadly unrest over the burning of the Koran at a US base. “I feel confident that we can stay on a path that by the end of 2014, our troops will be out and will not be in a combat role and Afghans will have capacity, just as Iraqis, to secure their own country,” Obama told ABC News. Obama, criticized by Republican opponents for apologizing to Afghan people after US troops sent copies of the Koran to an incinerator at Bagram airbase, defended his decision, saying it was necessary to try to quell the violence.
- Bush apologized for soldiers shooting the Koran in 2008 – Bush’s spokeswoman said Tuesday that the president apologized during a videoconference Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told the president that the shooting of Islam’s holy book had disappointed and angered both the Iraqi people and their leaders. “He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.”
2) Obama’s Most Dangerous GOP Opponent: Netanyahu – Some new details on the Israeli prime minister’s recruitment of US senators to push back against their own president and chairman of the JCOS: Netanyahu and his advisers briefed a group of senators and senior congressmen during the past two weeks on the Iranian issue, and asked them to pressure Obama on the matter. Last week, Netanyahu met a group of five senior senators over lunch, headed by Sen. John McCain, who ran four years ago against Obama for president. Netanyahu reportedly told the senators he was not interfering in U.S. politics and expected U.S. officials not to interfere in Israeli politics either. So Netanyahu gets McCain – the president’s last electoral opponent – to make the following public statement: “There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the [Iranian] threat. Unfortunately there clearly is some.”
3) NPR’s NEW RULES — it says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report - NPR commits itself as an organization to avoid the worst excesses of “he said, she said” journalism. It says to itself that a report characterized by false balance is a false report. It introduces a new and potentially powerful concept of fairness: being “fair to the truth,” which as we know is not always evenly distributed among the sides in a public dispute. Maintaining the “appearance of balance” isn’t good enough, NPR says. “If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side…” we have to say so. When we are spun, we don’t just report it. “We tell our audience…” This is spin! (The new policy is already having an effect.)
4) In case you didn’t believe that Romney will do / say anything and pander shamelessly to the far right for the GOP nomination - One day before a critical Senate vote that could loom large as a 2012 election issue, Mitt Romney came out for a congressional Republican measure designed to roll back the Obama administration’s requirement that employer health plans cover birth control. “Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith,” Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told TPM. The Blunt amendment, which is scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday, would permit employers to deny coverage of birth control or other services they deem morally objectionable.
- Sen. Gillibrand blasts Blunt amendment: Employers shouldn’t dictate health decisions – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Wednesday slammed legislation that would allow employers to refuse to pay for health insurance coverage of specific services if it would be contrary to their religious beliefs or “moral” convictions. “When will my colleagues understand this very non-debatable fact, that the decision of whether a woman takes one medicine or another or what type of health care she should have access to should not be the decision of her boss?” Gillibrand said on the Senate floor.
5) China welcomes North Korea nuclear moratorium - North Korea’s key ally China on Thursday welcomed Pyongyang’s announcement that it will suspend its nuclear tests and uranium enrichment programme in return for US food aid. The deal — which came less than three months after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il — follows talks held in Beijing last week between the United States and North Korean negotiators. [...] “We welcome the improvement in relations between North Korea and the United States and their contributions to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei in a statement. “China is willing to work with relevant parties to continue to push forward the six-party talks process, and play a constructive role to realise long-term peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia.”
6) Twilight Of The RINOs? – It’s kind of pathetic for politicians who have spent decades exploiting the far right for political gain to complain now when those forces are becoming dominant in their party. That’s what you get for playing with fire. James Joyner has expressed the hope in several recent posts here at OTB that the Republican Party will return to sanity at some point. Even if it takes an election cycle or two, I hope he’s right because the one thing this country needs desperately is a strong two-party system populated by opposing parties that at least accept the idea that compromise is necessary. Right now, one of those parties has rejected that idea entirely and the current state of Congress is testament to the results of that attitude. But the blame for the current state of the Republican Party doesn’t just lie with Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum. It lies with the party leaders and conservative pundits who let them get away with what they’ve managed to do over the past five years.
7) We are not quite done yet with GOP “debates” - Mr. Huckabee will host his third presidential forum on Saturday, an executive for the Fox News Channel said on Tuesday. Huckabee, Gasparino and Mrs. Mitch McConnell! I hope those unfortunate “Ohio residents” have their affairs in order, because if a just Judeo-Christian god is ever going to smite those among His followers who have profaned His honor, this event would seem a good place to start.
8) Good thing the issues of birth control, women’s healthcare coverage and abortion never came up this month – Only four women appearied as guests on the Sunday shows. Media Matters with the sad tally: A total of 56 guests were booked on the Sunday programs to discuss national affairs in February. Of those, 52 were men. (The newsmaker tally does not include guests invited to participate in roundtable discussions this month.) And of the four women booked this month, just one, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was associated with the Democratic Party, despite the fact Democrats currently control the White House and the Senate. “We complain about this all the time,” a Democratic aide told Media Matters.
9) YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: GOP lawmaker proposes tax breaks for mustaches – A mustachioed Republican congressman from Maryland is standing up for the rights of the men (and the women) who dare to have hair above their upper lip. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has introduced the Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses Act — or STACHE Act — to give people with mustaches a $250 tax break each year. [...] “He sent it over to Ways and Means [committee] without any recommendation of any kind at all,” Wright told U.S. News and World Report on Tuesday. || Note: This is real. We have nothing at all going on right now, so why not fuck around, right? Doesn’t it cheer your heart to know that we pay the do-nothing GOP-led Congress a federal salary plus benefits — but NOW, better still, we’re paying this guy to actually tie up his time and the Ways and Means committee’s time with something like this? BOTH SIDES DO IT though, right?!?