Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama on Akin: ‘Rape is rape’

    (Olivier Knox)President Barack Obama on Monday condemned Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments about rape and pregnancy as "offensive" and "way out there" but stopped short of suggesting the lawmaker quit the race.

    "The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape," Obama told reporters during an unannounced question-and-answer session in the White House briefing room.

    "And the idea that we should be parsing, and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me," the president said.

    Obama noted that Mitt Romney and other Republicans have criticized Akin's comments that women rarely get pregnant from "legitimate rape." But he underlined that he is pro-abortion rights while Romney and running mate Paul Ryan oppose abortion.

    "What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians—a majority of whom are men—making health care decisions on behalf of women," he said.

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  • Democrats tie Akin ‘legitimate rape’ comments to Romney-Ryan

    Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri (Orlin Wagner/AP)Democrats are trying to tie Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to GOP Rep. Todd Akin's claim that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant, accusing Republicans of trying to drag women back to "the Dark Ages."

    "Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here," Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a fundraising email. "The real issue is a Republican Party—led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan—whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong."

    "I'm outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the Dark Ages—if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women," she said.

    [Related: Obama - 'rape is rape']

    Akin—who claimed rape-induced pregnancies are rare because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"—later said he misspoke.

    And the Romney campaign put out a statement distancing itself from the remarks. "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.

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  • AARP bristles at new Obama ad on Medicare

    President Barack Obama greets audience members at a campaign event in Iowa (Larry Downing/Reuters)

    The AARP plays a starring role in President Barack Obama's new ad defending his record on Medicare. But that doesn't mean the group has to like it.

    Hours after the Democrat's campaign released its new commercial, AARP Senior Vice President John Hishta bluntly denied any involvement in the ad and scolded Obama (as well as Republican challenger Mitt Romney).

    "The next president and Congress will decide the future of Medicare, and the candidates owe voters straight talk—not just 30-second ads—about what their plans will mean for today's seniors and future retirees," Hishta said in a statement.

    "We were not aware of nor have any involvement with this campaign ad. AARP is a nonpartisan organization and we do not endorse political candidates," Hishta said. "For the last 26 years, we've been providing voters with balanced information, without all the political jargon and spin, so they can make their own decisions on Election Day."

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  • Obama spokesman condemns ‘disproportionate’ prison term for Russian punk band members

    Members of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" sit in a glass-walled cage after a court hearing in Moscow (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

    The White House on Friday condemned the "disproportionate" two-year prison sentence a Russian judge imposed on members of the punk band Pussy Riot, found guilty of "hooliganism" for an event mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    "The United States is disappointed by the verdict, including the disproportionate sentences that were granted," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

    "While we understand the group's behavior was offensive to some, we have serious concerns about the way these young women have been treated by the "Russian judicial system," Earnest said. He did not use the band's name.

    At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland bluntly urged Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld."

    "The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia," Nuland said in a written statement.

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  • Obama admits he’d like a ‘weird superpower’

    President Barack Obama admitted Friday in a radio interview broadcast that he yearns for a "weird superpower"—the ability to speak any language. But flying might be cool, too.

    Obama, speaking to the "Morning Mayhem" crew on 93.3 KOB FM in Albuquerque, also came out in favor of red chili over green, said the best advice he ever got was "be persistent" and revealed that he has never heard the original version of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" but has watched a gone-viral video of himself performing it. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s an incumbent president in a tough fight for re-election! (Larry Downing/Reuters)

    So what superpower would the most powerful man in the world like to have, one of his questioners asked, noting that parts of "The Avengers" were filmed in New Mexico.

    "It's kind of a weird superpower, but if I had something that I could immediately wish for, I would love to be able to speak any language," the president said.

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  • Obama defends Medicare approach from Romney, Ryan assault

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign released a new ad Friday aimed at defending his approach to Medicare, which has come under withering, preemptive attack by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

    The 30-second ad, set to run in New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada, enlists AARP to counter the Republican charge that Obamacare loots Medicare for part of its funding.

    "The nonpartisan AARP says Obamacare cracks down on Medicare fraud, waste and abuse, and strengthens guaranteed benefits," the narrator says. "And the Ryan Plan? AARP says it would undermine the market power of Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors."

    The commercial came after Romney and Ryan unleashed a barrage of attacks on the president over his landmark health care law—a perennial target of conservatives—over the way it draws some $716 billion from Medicare. The Republicans charge that this takes years off the popular but costly program's life, a criticism disputed by independent fact-checking organizations, and may reduce benefits.

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  • Obama to Romney: Release 5 years of tax returns, and we’ll shut up

    Mitt Romney campaigns in Iowa in early August (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    Looking to keep the pressure on Mitt Romney to release more tax returns, President Barack Obama's campaign offered the Republican a deal on Friday: Release five years of returns, and we'll shut up about this.

    Obama campaign manager Jim Messina pressed his case in a publicly released letter to his counterpart on Team Romney, Matt Rhoades. Messina said that the request for the tax returns covering 2007-2012 was "surely not unreasonable" but acknowledged the Republican candidate's concerns that more disclosures will merely lead to more requests for disclosure from Team Obama.

    "So I am prepared to provide assurances on just that point: if the Governor will release five years of returns, I commit in turn that we will not criticize him for not releasing more--neither in ads nor in other public communications or commentary for the rest of the campaign," Messina wrote.

    Rhoades responded quickly and in identical fashion, not explicitly rejecting the proposal but mockingly suggesting that Romney's taxes were the Obama campaign's "core issue."

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  • Obama camp: ‘Hail Mary’ Ryan pick like ‘Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle’

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign argued Thursday that Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate amounted to a "Hail Mary pass" from a campaign trying to reach its conservative base. But a new CNN poll confirmed that the race in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin had tightened into a toss-up from a Democratic edge.Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks at a campaign stop in North Canton, Ohio (Phil Long/AP)

    On a conference call with reporters, Obama campaign officials highlighted national polls suggesting that Romney got less of a "bump" from his pick than past candidates and compared Ryan to Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle.

    "Elections are about choices and about where you're going to take the country going forward," pollster Joel Benenson said on the call. Team Obama has worked to convince voters that November is a choice between two visions, rather than a referendum on the president's record.

    "They've kind of made a Hail Mary pass with this pick to try to say that they're going to make this about a choice too," Benenson said. "They're kind of playing on our turf right now. We think this choice is very good for us. They may be playing for their base, but this is an election that goes beyond just playing for your base."

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  • Obama camp to Romney on taxes: ‘Prove it’

    Mitt Romney writes on a whiteboard during a news conference at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, S.C. (Evan Vucci/AP)

    Hours after Mitt Romney said he's never paid less than 13 percent in taxes over the past decade, President Barack Obama's re-election campaign bluntly told the Republican candidate to "prove it" by releasing his returns.

    "We would say: 'Prove it, Gov. Romney," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told reporters on a conference call.

    Romney told reporters at an impromptu press conference in South Carolina that he's never paid less than a 13 percent tax rate over the last 10 years and blasted Democratic critics, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for leveling the "totally false" charge that he's paid no taxes.

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  • White House mocks McCain, Sarah Palin

    The White House scoffed Thursday at Republican Sen. John McCain's suggestion that President Barack Obama replace Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton, mocking the Arizona lawmaker's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate four years ago.

    Asked whether the Democratic ticket in 2012 would be Obama-Biden, press secretary Jay Carney replied: "Yes. And that was settled a long, long time ago."

    "And while I appreciate, have a great admiration for, and respect for, and a long relationship with Sen. John McCain, the one place I would not go for advice on vice presidential running mates" is McCain, Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

    The exchange occurred after McCain, acknowledging that his own suggestion was far-fetched, said in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday that Obama should dump Biden and replace him with Clinton.

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