Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Bucking Obama, senior Democrat seeks limits on war against Islamic State

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 2 days ago

    Frustrated with White House inaction, a senior House of Representatives Democrat will introduce legislation Wednesday formally authorizing President Barack Obama’s war on the so-called Islamic State nearly six months after it began. Rep. Adam Schiff’s Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) would impose strict limits that the Pentagon publicly opposes, forbidding the use of U.S. ground troops to carry out combat missions and limiting military action to Iraq and Syria.

    Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News that he is “frustrated generally because we haven’t had any movement on an authorization and we’ve been at war almost half a year.

    “I’m frustrated with the White House, but I have the most discomfort with the Congress itself, because it’s our constitutional responsibility to declare war,” the California lawmaker said. “We’re the institution that has the strongest interest in moving and exercising our prerogative under the Constitution.”

    Asked about Dempsey’s comments, Schiff told Yahoo News that the administration is always free to come back to Congress to seek wider authorization.

  • Obama won't meet with Netanyahu during controversial U.S. visit

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 8 days ago

    "The president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a emailed statement.

    “As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country," she said.

    Netanyahu's visit has further strained already difficult relations between the Israeli leader and Obama. Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress for the express purpose of challenging the president's approach to Islamist extremism and negotiations with Iran over that country's nuclear program. The White House, which found out about the visit from Boehner's office, accused Israel of breaching diplomatic protocol under which foreign leaders advise host leaders of pending visits.

  • Congresswoman to lead Charlie Hebdo tribute during State of the Union

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 9 days ago

    Rep. Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat, and other lawmakers will hold up yellow pencils during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday, to honor the memory of those killed in the attack on satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, her office said. Spokesman Eric Harris told Yahoo News that the pencils won’t be sharpened, as a result of a conversation with the House sergeant-at-arms responsible for security at the high-profile event.

    “They didn’t specifically stipulate not to sharpen them, but we are certainly aware of certain security concerns,” Harris said by telephone. “We will be sure to keep it a safe, secure environment for the president.”

    In a written statement emailed to reporters, Harris said that Moore would raise her pencil during the applause break “to honor those who lost their lives in the pursuit of open ideas and free expression.”

    The White House has not specifically said whether Obama plans in his speech to invoke the attack on Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 dead, including two police officers.

  • Why Obama’s State of the Union still matters in the Twitter era

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 10 days ago

    It’s 2015. We live in the era of tablets, smartphones, live-streams, online interactives, listicles, viral content and social media. So why is President Barack Obama, whose White House uses those tools expertly to get its message around traditional news outlets and directly to the public, preparing to trudge through the stodgy yearly ritual that is the State of the Union?

    “Is ‘the fact that it’s in the Constitution’ too cheeky an answer?” senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer replied with a laugh when Yahoo News asked him last week.

    Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution does say that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It doesn’t specify that he should do so in a primetime TV speech sometimes lampooned as “I come to you tonight to speak in ringing tones and gaze into the middle-distance.”

    But “it will be the largest audience we speak to in the year by far, absent some major, major, major event,” Pfeiffer said.

  • How President Obama unwinds

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    It was September 2012, and President Barack Obama’s inner circle was stressed. Obama’s aides thought his Sept. 6 speech to the Democratic National Convention had gone well — but media accounts panned it and focused instead on Bill Clinton’s address the day before.

    “We all thought his speech had gone really well, but all you a------s said it was horrible and that Bill Clinton was amazing and blah blah blah,” a senior aide recalled, pointedly referring to the political news media.

    Aboard Air Force One, chief speechwriter Jon Favreau was in the middle of doing a derisive, dramatic reading of some of the more annoying reviews, when the president stopped him.

    “Hey, man, how do you think I feel?” the aide recalled Obama telling Favreau. “I wake up every day knowing that at least half the country thinks I’m bad at my job.”

    “You can and should listen to and learn from criticism, but you can ’ t let it paralyze you,” the president went on. “You have to just make the best decisions you can and keep moving forward."

    But the president, once elected, is there until he is replaced by his elected successor.

    Family time … while he still can

    Watching something other than political news



  • Secret Service report: White House needs a taller fence and more, better-trained agents

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    The Secret Service has too few agents, with too little training, assigned to patrolling a White House fence that needs to be at least 4 to 5 feet taller than it is to keep out intruders, according to a punishing report from an independent panel of experts.

    The unsparing assessment, commissioned after a fence-jumper at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. got past layers of security and reached deep into the presidential mansion before being stopped, also says that the Secret Service’s next director should come from outside the troubled agency.

    Here are some of the report's key findings, as laid out in an executive summary made public on the Department of Homeland Security’s web site.

    —  The fence around the White House  — currently only 7½ feet high  — needs to be taller. Much taller.

    —  The Secret Service needs more agents. Many more.

    —  … and better training. A lot more.

    The Uniformed Division as a whole did 576 hours of training over the same period, the report says, noting that this amounts to “about 25 minutes for each of over 1300 Uniformed Division officers.”

  • After Alan Gross release, Obama seeks to resume full diplomatic ties with Cuba

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    In a move to wipe away one of the Cold War’s last vestiges, President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced that the United States and Cuba will start talks on restoring full diplomatic relations for the first time in the half-century since the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

    “Today America chooses to cut loose the shackles of thepast, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for theAmerican people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world,” Obama declared at the White House.

    The stunning shift came directly after Cuba released imprisoned U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross and a U.S. intelligence asset, while the United States freed three convicted Cuban spies in a tit-for-tat that U.S. officials insisted was not a “swap.”

    Some Republicans and Democrats vowed to oppose Obama’s new policy, which will also include making it easier for Americans to travel to the Socialist-run island 90 miles from Florida beaches and return with consumer goods – including Cuba’s fabled rum and iconic cigars.

    But the outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Democratic Bob Menendez of New Jersey, was expected to deliver a full-throated denunciation of the policy.

  • Kerry to Congress: Don’t rule out U.S. ground war against Islamic State

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday asked lawmakers debating legislation to authorize the war against the so-called Islamic State not to rule out the use of U.S. ground troops in combat.

    Kerry also indicated that President Barack Obama would prefer to wait for a vote on an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) until Republicans control the Senate.

    The work of drafting an AUMF can start “over the course of the next days” but final action should wait until “we come back in early January,” the top American diplomat told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    “In the hours, days, and weeks to come, we are determined to work with you, first and foremost to develop an approach that can generate broad, bipartisan support, while ensuring the president has the flexibility he needs to successfully prosecute this effort,” he said.

    “The president has been clear that his policy is that U.S. military forces will not be deployed to conduct ground combat operations,” Kerry began.

    Waiting until Congress is entirely in Republican hands would also give the GOP some ownership of the policy, potentially insulating the Democratic Party's nominee from criticism in 2016.


  • Obama nominates Ashton Carter as defense secretary

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    Locking in a post-election shake-up of his national security team, President Barack Obama on Friday formally nominated former senior Pentagon official Ashton Carter on Friday to replace Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Carter is expected to win Senate confirmation easily in 2015.

    "We face no shortage of challenges to our national security," Obama said with Carter and Vice President Joe Biden at his side, citing the looming U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the war against the so-called Islamic State, the military's work to contain West Africa's Ebola outbreak and other issues.

    "Ash is going to be critical to all of these efforts. When we talked about this job, we talked about how we’re going to have to make smart choices precisely because there are so many challenges out there," Obama said. "We’re going to have to squeeze everything we have out of the resources that we have in order to be as effective as possible. And I can’t think of somebody who’s more qualified to do that."

  • Senate Democrats muscle big Obama donors into ambassadorships

    Olivier Knox at Yahoo News 1 mth ago

    In one of their final acts before losing their majority to Republicans, Senate Democrats confirmed as ambassadors on Tuesday two big donors to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, despite a controversy over their qualifications.

    David Bryson Mamet won confirmation as envoy to Argentina in a 50-43 vote, while senators agreed 52-42 to send Colleen Bell on her way to Hungary. No Republicans voted for either nominee, and several senators missed both ballots.

    Some of the political picks have not fared so well.