Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama: ‘I’ve got one more campaign in me’ for Obamacare

    President Barack Obama wearily pleaded late Monday with supporters of his Organizing for Action (OFA) group to fight for him through “one more campaign” — his legacy-defining drive to save Obamacare.

    “I’ve run my last political campaign, but I’ve got one more campaign in me, and that’s making sure that this law works,” Obama said on a conference call organized by OFA. “And we’re not backing off one bit.”

    Obama complained that “a lot of misinformation” about the Affordable Care Act has been “created and fed” by the failure of the federal portal for buying health insurance. He did not offer specifics.

    The president spoke for about 14 minutes — sounding utterly bone-tired but plainly trying to recapture the magic of his 2008 campaign or at least the competence of his 2012 re-election push.

    “I’m going to need your help, your energy, your faith, your ability to reach out to neighbors,” he said. “You’re going to make the difference.”

    Obama declared himself “confident” that the

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  • After JFK, a Secret Service transformed

    The date most closely associated with the Secret Service probably isn’t its founding in 1865. It’s not 1902, when it took over full-time protection of the president following William McKinley’s assassination. It’s probably Nov. 22, 1963 — when John F. Kennedy was killed, shot dead as he rode in a convertible with the top down, his government bodyguards powerless to help.

    “It isn’t something that we’re marking. It wasn’t a good day for us or for the country,” Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary told Yahoo News. “It was a dark day.”

    But 50 years later, there’s no mistaking that JFK’s death — and the June 1968 killing of Robert Kennedy, and the March 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan — utterly transformed the small agency with one of the government’s biggest jobs.

    If the White House is, in the tongue-in-cheek words of several presidents, “the crown jewel of the federal penal system,” that would make the Secret Service the country’s most elite prison guards.

    But in 1963,

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  • Obama: War can't solve Iran nuclear problem

    A blunt, rarely heard note of caution to advocates of using force

    Rejecting charges of appeasing Iran, President Barack Obama cautioned Thursday that tightening the economic vise on Tehran could be counterproductive and bluntly warned that going to war will never guarantee that the Islamic republic abandons its suspect nuclear program.

    "No matter how good our military is, military options are always messy, are always difficult, always have unintended consequences, and in this situation are never complete in terms of making us certain that they don't then go out and pursue even more vigorously nuclear weapons in the future," the president told reporters during a press conference dominated by the botched rollout of Obamacare.

    The notion might seem heretical in Washington, where successive presidents including Obama have professed that "all options are on the table" (including war) to force Iran to abandon what the United States and its partners regard as a covert effort to get the ability to build a nuclear weapon.

    But even under then-President George W.

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  • Obama, France’s Hollande paper over Iran rifts

    When last we left President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande, they were giving two rather different accounts of a conversation about American spying. Are they any closer when they talk about Iran? Yes.

    On Wednesday, Obama and Hollande spoke by telephone about the next round of world powers’ negotiations with Iran, aimed at ensuring Tehran cannot build a nuclear weapon. (Tehran says its intentions are wholly peaceful.)

    After the first round failed to yield an interim deal, France was either blamed (“Perversity,” huffed the Daily Beast) or celebrated (“Vive la France,” said Sen. John McCain), while the White House insisted that the United States and its allies were “unified” and “united” but that Iran “did not accept” the proposal. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter to blame divisions among Western powers for the setback.

    Now that the so-called “P5+1” (Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States plus Germany) are looking at another round of talks

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  • White House gets interim NSA report

    Amid shows of anger from U.S. allies and the American public over government espionage, the group of outside experts looking into National Security Agency practices has delivered its interim report to the White House, a senior aide to President Barack Obama told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

    Members of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology met at the White House with national security adviser Susan Rice, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and other National Security Council staff, White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

    “The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology has orally provided their interim report to the White House, with their final report due by December 15,” Hayden said. “We expect that the outcomes of their work will be made public in some way once the final report is submitted.”

    It was not immediately clear which members of the group delivered the report, which was delayed from its original

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  • Bill Clinton: Obama should fulfill ‘keep your plan’ vow

    Bill “Secretary of Explainin’ Stuff” Clinton said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that President Barack Obama should fulfill his promise to Americans that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” even if it means modifying the law popularly known as “Obamacare.”

    Obama made that pledge again and again, both in the run-up to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and in the 2012 campaign — but it was false. Republicans determined to roll back Obamacare have pounded away at this broken promise, even as thousands of Americans have been receiving word that insurers are scrapping their current policies.

    “I personally believe — even if it takes a change in the law — the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Clinton told the online magazine OZY.

    Watch parts 1 and 2 of the exclusive Bill Clinton interview at

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  • Government shutdown: Killer bees win, beer exporters lose

    How much did the 16-day government shutdown cost the country? The White House’s Office of Management and Budget is glad you asked.

    In a new report released Thursday, OMB detailed the economic pain and loss resulting from the partial closure of federal facilities precipitated by House Republicans looking to roll back Obamacare.

    The White House had already warned that 120,000 fewer private sector jobs were created in October and 0.2-0.6 percentage points were shaved from Gross Domestic Product growth in the fourth quarter of 2013.

    Here are some of the shutdown’s less obvious effects, as researched and compiled by OMG:

    - Drill, baby, drill? Not so much. About 200 permits to drill on federal lands languished unapproved.

    - Booze, lose? The Treasury Department couldn’t issue export certificates for beer, wine and liquor, so two million liters due for export were stranded at ports. (Yep, they reckoned this one in liters. It’s about 528,344 gallons.)

    - Get crabby? The shutdown delayed the

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  • Amid Obamacare furor, Obama, Biden meet with Democrats facing elections in 2014

    President Barack Obama discussed the Affordable Care Act’s disastrously botched rollout with 16 Democratic senators at the White House on Wednesday, including those seen as most vulnerable in the 2014 elections.

    The president and Vice President Joe Biden addressed the lawmakers’ concerns about the implementation of the law popularly known as Obamacare, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Senators gave profoundly different accounts of the meeting, which did not appear on Obama’s publicly released schedule.

    “It was a positive, constructive discussion,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who described Obama as “engaged and responsive” and eager to show “that he has been listening to the concerns and frustrations we've shared on behalf of our constituents.”

    But Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Udall of Colorado reported back that they gave the president an earful about the embarrassing — and potentially politically crippling — rollout of the insurance

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  • U.S. (kinda) calls out Syria over chemical arms disclosures

    The White House has taken pains to portray Syria’s agreement to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision as a big diplomatic victory for President Barack Obama. But on Tuesday, his envoy to the United Nations seemed to suggest that Syria might be double-dealing — that it may still be keeping some chemical weapons facilities secret.

    Speaking at United Nations headquarters in New York, Ambassador Samantha Power said that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had inspected 21 of 23 arms sites “declared by Syria” and 39 of 41 facilities at those sites.

    Power went on to say that Syria has “completed functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing and filling plans, rendering them inoperable.”

    Got that? Solid progress at “declared sites.” But here’s the problem:

    “More work, of course, remains to be done to ensure that the Syrian government’s list of declared sites is

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  • Obama fights to recapture health care initiative

    After an initial phase of shell-shocked damage control, President Barack Obama’s efforts to save his signature health care law — and with it his second term and his place in U.S. history — are taking on an aggressive tone.

    “Let’s face it, a lot of us didn’t realize that passing the law was the easy part,” Obama told scores of supporters late Monday at a posh Washington hotel.

    The new approach — emphasizing Affordable Care Act benefits that are already in effect and don’t require navigating a botched website, promoting the law’s success stories, blaming Republicans and the news media in equal measure for the bad news — also comes with a renewed focus on issues that helped unite the winning coalition of his 2012 re-election campaign.

    The president has stepped up calls for Congress to pass, by year’s end, legislation overhauling America’s immigration policy. On Tuesday, he’ll meet with top executives to make the argument that doing so would help the economy.

    And the Democratic-held Senate

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