There are lots of unwelcoming headlines for President Obama as he heads to Louisiana on the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune: "Louisiana needs its share of offshore oil revenue now, Mr. President"; "Jury still out on top kill as spill surpasses Valdez"; "Local officials struggle with what they say is an unwieldy command structure"; "Obama suspends drilling at 33 wells"; "Sand berm approved as oil barrier."
And inside the paper, another editorial: "Federal response to oil spill should be more nimble." From the article: "President Barack Obama will find a region clamoring for more effective government action when he arrives in Louisiana today. President Obama's presence here is reassuring. But Louisianians also hope his visit will help refocus government efforts to speed up the cleanup and to better protect our coast. It's urgent for the government response to become more nimble. As oil began soiling our marshes in recent weeks, local and state officials complained of delays in getting the Coast Guard and BP to deploy protective measures and cleanup crews."
The New York Times’ analysis of yesterday’s press conference: “President Obama uttered three words on Thursday that many of his 43 predecessors twisted themselves into knots trying with varying degrees of success to avoid: ‘I was wrong.’… He was wrong, he said, to assume that oil companies were prepared for the worst as he tried to expand offshore drilling. His team did not move with ‘sufficient urgency’ to reform regulation of the industry. In dealing with BP, his administration “should have pushed them sooner” to provide images of the leak, and “it took too long for us” to measure the size of the spill.”
By a 234-194 vote last night, the House of Representatives repealed the military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The New York Times: “It was adopted as an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The repeal would be allowed 60 days after a Pentagon report is completed on the ramifications of allowing openly gay service members, and military leaders certify that it would not be disruptive. The report is due by Dec. 1.”
The Senate Armed Service Committee, by a 16-12, approved a similar amendment repealing DADT.
President Obama released this statement last night: “I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight… Our military is made up of the best and bravest men and women in our nation, and my greatest honor is leading them as Commander-in-Chief. This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity.”
"The votes," the Washington Post says, "came after fierce debates on both sides of the Capitol. 'We're saying, "We're shoving this down your throat, we don't care,"' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), arguing that Congress should have waited to hear from the military before taking action. He added, 'The military is not a social experiment.'”
ALABAMA: Ahead of Tuesday's primaries, the AP dives into the AL-5 GOP primary with party-switcher Parker Griffith: "You would think U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith's decision to switch to the Republican Party would endear him with the GOP. Instead, he finds himself in a three-way primary, being branded a 'flip-flopper,' and continues to battle lingering hard feelings over his win two years ago that left the coveted seat in Democratic control."
CALIFORNIA: California Republican Meg Whitman, the former boss of eBay, wanted to make it clear this week that she’s not playing hot-button politics with the divisive issue of immigration in her gubernatorial primary battle against Steve Poizner. 'You haven’t seen an ad from me with the border fence,' Whitman told Politico. 'That has been Steve’s campaign. My campaign has been around jobs and spending and education.' Actually, the reporter reminded Whitman, her campaign ads do feature a shot of the fence -- a potent image used by lots of Republican ads this year to show they are ready to crack down on illegal immigrants. 'I don’t think so,' Whitman replied. It fell to the candidate’s press secretary to settle the dispute, correcting the boss and confirming the fence image."
FLORIDA: The St. Pete Times: "In an apparent nod to Democrats, Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday he would support repealing the policy that bars openly gay people from serving in the military -- reversing what he told reporters three days ago."
The St. Pete Times also reports on a poll conducted for a Libertarian Party candidate that shows Crist with a big lead: 40%-32% over Marco Rubio; Kendrick Meek gets less than 10%.
From msnbc.com's Carrie Dann
President Obama today said that his administration will “shortly” release an official response to allegations that the White House offered Rep. Joe Sestak a job in exchange for not challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. “I can assure the public that nothing improper took place,” Obama said.
Sestak first publicly made the claim last February, but he has refused to elaborate on whom in the administration he spoke to, or what particular job was discussed.
With details of the alleged exchange still unknown, a prevailing question remains about the issue that some Republicans hope to cast as a ruinous scandal for the White House: Could an actual crime have been committed?
From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Ron Paul, father not only of Senate candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) but also of Ron Paul Nation, leaps to his son's defense in an e-mail fundraising solicitation.
Paul, who was dismissed by the establishment during his 2008 White House bid, showed a prowess for raising money. And he's trying to go back to the well for Rand.
His full e-mail after the jump...
From NBC’s Ken Strickland
The Senate Armed Services Committee will vote on an amendment to repeal “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” in a closed session today. It appears supporters of repealing the ban on gays and lesbians serving opening in the military have the votes to prevail.
A spokesman for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an amendment's primary sponsor, said late yesterday, "We are increasingly confident about the Lieberman compromise and that this could very well be a historic week in the United States Congress."
(The full House could vote on the same measure as early as today)
West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd was the most recent uncommitted Democrat to indicate his willingness to support the measure. Byrd said he worked with the administration and the proponents of the amendment to delay the repeal for 60 days after a Pentagon review and determination of the proposed policy and regulation changes.
From NBC's Mike Viqueira
The director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service, Elizabeth Birnbaum, has been fired, the White House confirms.
The MMS, an agency within the Department of the Interior, oversees regulation of the oil industry. It has been accused of having an all-too-cozy relationship with the industry it was supposed to regulate.
*** UPDATE *** NBC's Shawna Thomas reports that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Birnbaum resigned.
"She did it on her own terms and own volition," Salazar said, adding that she was a "strong and very effective person. ... She is a good public servant."
*** UPDATE 2 *** NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports that just fired or "resigned" MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum was scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill again today. The House Appropriations Committe was notifed before 10:00 am ET that the Department of Interior requested a change of witnesses so that Deputy Secretary David Hays could testify in Birnbaum's place.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Here are statement from Salazar and Birnbaum.
At his press conference today, “President Obama will announce on Thursday a suspension of all applications for offshore oil drilling in the Arctic through the remainder of the year, an Alaska senator said late Wednesday,” the New York Times says. The decision essentially extends an informal moratorium that Mr. Obama had set shortly after the BP accident on April 20 that led to the spewing of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The new restrictions would suspend new offshore drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico and off the North Slope Alaska until the cause of the accident is determined and stricter safety and environmental safeguards are imposed.”
The AP: “Struggling to seize control of a disastrous oil spill on his watch, President Barack Obama is rolling out tougher rules for oil rigs, accepting questions about his own leadership and heading back to the Gulf Coast to reassure the country of every effort to ‘put a stop to this thing.’ Even as the White House insists it has been engaged in halting the crisis since it began, Obama is raising his public profile in an attempt to show he is in command. He has been pounded not just by Republican critics but by Democrats as well as the mess spills into a sixth week of pollution and hard feelings.”
Roll Call on today’s presser: "When President Barack Obama faces reporters Thursday before heading to Louisiana on Friday, he’ll be going for a hat trick, trying to neutralize attacks on three of the biggest crises facing the nation: illegal immigration, federal spending and the Gulf Coast disaster."
The Washington Post has five questions for Obama on the oil spill.
USA Today asks if this has become Obama’s Katrina. “A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds that six out of 10 adults say the federal government is doing a "poor" or "very poor" job handling the spill. A majority — 53% — say the same about Obama. And 50% of those polled say protecting the environment now should be a higher priority than promoting economic growth. Those choosing the economy: 43%.”