Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama clarifies: ‘The economy’s not doing fine’

    On defense over the defining issue of his reelection fight, President Barack Obama clarified Friday that "the economy is not doing fine" and accused Republicans of playing "political games" by turning his own earlier words against him.

    Obama had triggered the onslaught a few hours beforehand by telling reporters that "the private sector is doing fine" and that "where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy" is in cash-strapped states and cities that are cutting jobs for teachers, firefighters, police and other workers.

    Republicans, including Mitt Romney, pounced on the remark, saying it showed the president was out of touch.

    So, in a brief photo opportunity, Obama revisited the issue.

    "It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That's the reason I had the press conference," said the president, who had called reporters together to press Congress to pass his stalled jobs program.

    "That's why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger," he said.

    "The economy is not doing fine. There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak and too many homes underwater. And that's precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference," Obama said. But he also insisted that "we've actually seen some good momentum in the private sector."

    And the president renewed his criticisms of Republicans, underlining their rejection of his jobs plan.

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  • Giants Coach Coughlin knocks Congress as team visits White House

    If President Barack Obama plans to run against Congress this year, he might be able to enlist Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who poked fun at squabbling lawmakers as his Super Bowl champion team visited the White House on Friday.

    Coughlin paid homage to his players, saying they set aside "pettiness" and came together as a team when it counted.

    "Offense, defense, and special teams doing their job, each group having different objectives and motives but playing in harmony for each other for the good of everyone — wouldn't it be nice if Congress operated the same way?" the coach said on the South Lawn of the White House, to laughter and cheers from the crowd.

    Obama didn't completely skate. Coughlin wrapped up his remarks by noting: "We both have a goal to get back here next year. We have a lot of work to do."

    The coach and the president paid tribute to wounded warriors and America's armed forces, with Coughlin hailing them as "the real heroes."

    And Obama suggested he might be able to learn something about dealing with Congress from the team's final pre-Super Bowl session.

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  • Obama vows ‘zero tolerance’ for national security leaks

    Obama at the White House Friday (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    President Barack Obama indignantly hit back Friday at "offensive" charges that his administration disclosed vital national security secrets to beef up his image in an election year, insisting he has a "zero tolerance" approach to leaks that endanger America's interests.

    And Obama, speaking at a hastily called session with reporters in the White House briefing room, defended his handling of the weak economy, insisting that "the private sector is doing fine." He blamed cuts in government spending and "head winds" from Europe for sluggish growth.

    That drew an immediate rebuke from Mitt Romney, who declared at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that the president was "defining what it means to be distracted and out of touch."

    "For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history. It's an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who is out of touch," Romney said.

    Obama weighed in publicly for the first time on congressional anger at a series of news reports packed with details about programs like America's targeted assassination of suspected extremists and its covert cyberwar on Iran's nuclear activities.

    "We have mechanisms in place where, if we can root out folks who have leaked, they will suffer consequences. In some cases it's criminal, these are criminal acts when they release information like this. And we will conduct thorough investigations as we have in the past," he said.

    "We're dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people, our families, or our military personnel, or our allies. And so we don't play with that," the president said.

    Obama faces escalating pressure from Congress to ferret out the sources of the revelations.

    In a rare and sharply worded rebuke, the top Democrats and Republicans on Congress' intelligence committees said this week that the disclosures endanger national security and vowed to get to the bottom of who was behind them. Some Republicans, like Sen. John Cornyn, have pushed for an independent investigation, saying that the Obama administration can't be trusted to police itself. Obama's remarks about existing mechanisms appeared to be a rejection of that idea, which his spokesman also dismissed on Thursday.

    Asked about the news reports, Obama said he would not confirm "the details of what are supposed to be classified items."

    "The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong," he declared.

    "They're classified for a reason: because they're sensitive, and because the people involved may in some cases be in danger if they're carrying out some of these missions," the president said.

    "And when this information—or reports whether true or false—surface on the front page of newspapers, that makes the job of folks on the front lines tougher, and it makes my job tougher, which is why since I've been in office my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation," he said.

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  • Obama campaign chief: ‘We got beat,’ so let’s ‘fight like hell’

    President Barack Obama's reelection campaign manager bluntly urged the incumbent's supporters to "fight like hell and win this thing" after Mitt Romney out-fundraised the president in May.

    "For the first time in this campaign, we got beat in fundraising," Jim Messina said in an email to Obama supporters, urging them to open their wallets after Romney and the Republicans hauled in $76.8 million, compared to $60 million for the president and the Democrats.

    "We knew this moment would come when Romney secured the nomination. What happens next is up to you. Help close the gap right now — make a donation of $3 or more," Messina says in the message.

    Campaign aides have told Yahoo News in the past that the dollar amount requested in fundraising emails is based on prior giving. Giving nothing, apparently, yields a request for three bucks.

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  • Obama spokesman: ‘No’ to independent probe of national security leaks

    President Barack Obama opposes the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether vital national security secrets were improperly disclosed in a wave of news reports detailing sensitive operations, the White House said Thursday.

    "No," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One when asked whether Obama would support such a move. Carney referred reporters to government agencies already tasked with ferreting out leakers. Some Republicans, like Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, have said the administration cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

    Carney also declined to say whether the administration would cooperate with congressional investigations into the disclosures. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees have said they will be looking into the matter.

    "I just don't have enough information about it," Carney said.

    The spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the news reports, notably New York Times pieces on America's targeted assassination program and cyberwar on Iran's nuclear capabilities, which have triggered the often angry debate.

    But "as a general matter … the president feels very strongly that we must prevent leaks of classified or sensitive information that could risk ongoing counterterrorism or intelligence operations," Carney said. "He will not countenance the leaking of classified information that could harm our men and women in uniform, or Americans who work on our national security."

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  • Obama targets Congress in new ad about jobs airing in swing states

    One week after a grim jobs report, President Barack Obama on Thursday unleashed a new campaign ad meant to pressure Congress to pass his stalled plan to battle historically high unemployment—his biggest political vulnerability.

    "We're still fighting our way back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," Obama says. "Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months, but … we're still not creating them as fast as we want."

    The campaign said the ad, dubbed "Jobs," was airing in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—critical battlegrounds—and will start airing on national cable next week.

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  • Obama, Democrats post $60 million haul in May

    President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee hauled in more than $60 million in May—and one quarter of it may have come from his exclusive Hollywood-powered fundraiser at George Clooney's home the day after the embattled incumbent came out in support of same-sex marriage.

    The Obama campaign announced the figure in a series of staff-written messages on Twitter.

    "The campaign raised more than $60 million across committees in May," one message read. "Thanks to everyone who chipped in."

    More than 147,000 of the 572,000 donors were giving for the first time. The average donation was $54.94, and 98 percent of donations were under $250. (Obama's remarkable campaign store effectively functions as a way to solicit small donations and reward small donors—they aren't "buying" an "I Meow For Michelle" cat collar, they're making a $12 dollar donation.)

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  • House Republicans to Obama: Scrap Vegas speech, work with us on college loans

    The top Republican House leaders, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, urged President Barack Obama on Wednesday to cancel a planned speech on education in Las Vegas in favor of working with them to keep rates on a popular kind of student loans from doubling come July 1.

    "With all of the great economic challenges facing our country, there is no reason to manufacture political fights where there is not policy disagreement," they wrote Obama in a letter obtained by Yahoo News.

    [Related: Student loan standoff continues and so does finger pointing]

    House Republicans have proposed covering the legislation's estimated $6 billion price tag with savings Obama proposed in his budget, but complain that the White House has not formally responded to their proposals. The House already adopted legislation to hold the rate down, paid for by tapping a fund that provides preventive care. Democrats oppose that effort.

    "We cannot understand why you, without having responded to our latest offer, would schedule a campaign-style event in Nevada tomorrow to discuss student loan rates," Boehner and Cantor said.

    "We urge you to consider canceling tomorrow's Las Vegas rally and instead work with us so that we can extend these rates before they expire and stay focused on additional measures to help create jobs," they wrote.Obama has hit Republicans hard on the issue. The rate jump could affect loans for some 7.4 million students, who currently pay 3.4 percent interest. The Obama campaign is counting on

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  • Congressional intelligence committees vow to investigate ‘alarming and unacceptable’ leaks

    President Barack Obama's administration faced escalating pressure Wednesday over a wave of news reports detailing sensitive national security operations, as the leaders of Congress's intelligence committees vowed to investigate whether vital secrets were improperly leaked.

    In a rare and sharply worded joint statement, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss as well as Republican Representative Mike Rogers and Democratic Representative C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger warned that each disclosure "threatens imminent and irreparable damage to our national security."

    "The accelerating pace of such disclosures, the sensitivity of the matters in question, and the harm caused to our national security interests is alarming and unacceptable," wrote the lawmakers, who are the chair and ranking member of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.

    The lawmakers said they would "quickly" take up legislation to tighten security around classified information.

    "We also intend to press for the executive branch to take tangible and demonstrable steps to detect and deter intelligence leaks, and to fully, fairly, and impartially investigate the disclosures that have already taken place," they said.

    At issue, notably, were a pair of New York Times articles--one detailing how Obama ordered a cyberattack on Iran's nuclear program, another describing the president's central role in deciding when to target individuals for assassination.

    Earlier, the White House hit back hard at Republican Senator John McCain's charge that the leaks sprang from "the highest levels of the White House" to help President Barack Obama's political fortunes.

    "Any suggestion that this Administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

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  • Nothing to see here on Wisconsin recall rout, White House says

    The debate over what President Barack Obama didor didn't do — for Wisconsin Democrats is dead. Long live the debate over what the Republican romp there does for the embattled incumbent in November.

    White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday pointed to exit polls to argue that Wisconsin's voters believe the president's policies "are the right policies to protect the middle class" while working to put some distance between Obama and the results.

    How much distance? Asked for the president's reaction to the No. 1 news story in American politics, Carney told reporters: "I didn't have much of a conversation with the president about Wisconsin."

    The press secretary then played down the potential peril for Obama, who carried Wisconsin by 14 points but saw the candidate he endorsed, Tom Barrett, lose by 7 points.

    [Related: Barrett slapped by supporter after conceding race]

    "The President supported and stood by Tom Barrett, but I certainly wouldn't read much into yesterday's result beyond its effect on who's occupying the governor's seat in Wisconsin," Carney said in a question-and-answer session aboard Air Force One.

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