Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama campaign launches ‘Rabbis for Obama’

    President Barack Obama speaks at a Jewish American Heritage Month reception in the East Room at the White House in May (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    President Barack Obama's reelection campaign unveiled "Rabbis for Obama"—a group of more than 600 rabbis from across the country—at a time when Republicans are hoping to erode the Democrat's wide lead among Jewish voters.

    "Their ringing endorsement of President Obama speaks volumes about the president's deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel and his dedication to a policy agenda that represents the values of the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community," Ira Forman, the campaign's Jewish Outreach Director, said in a statement.

    The announcement came with a state-by-state list of the rabbis backing Obama, who leads Romney 68 percent to 25 percent among Jewish voters according to a recent Gallup poll.

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  • Obama: Not my job to convince folks I’m a Christian

    First lady Michelle Obama shakes the Rev. Luis Leon's hand while leaving with President Barack Obama and their daughter Sasha after attending Sunday service at St. John's Church in March. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

    President Barack Obama says convincing doubters that he is a Christian isn't part of his job description. Mitt Romney tells skeptics of his faith: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind" and pleads for tolerance.

    The two White House contenders addressed the issue of persistent questioning of their religious beliefs as part of a wide-ranging exchange with Washington National Cathedral's Cathedral Age. The magazine asked Obama and Romney to weigh in on the role of faith in public life and politics as well as in their personal lives.

    Public opinion polls have repeatedly found large numbers of Americans who say they think Obama, a practicing Christian, is secretly a Muslim. And some conservative Christian groups reject Romney's Mormon faith.

    So "how do you respond" to those who "have questioned the sincerity of your faith and your Christianity?" the magazine asked.

    "You know, there's not much I can do about it," Obama said.

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  • Democrats plan ‘counterconvention’ as Republicans anoint Romney

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee plan a "counterconvention" push next week to try to steal some of the spotlight from Republicans meeting in Tampa, Fla., to formally anoint Mitt Romney as their nominee, the DNC announced Tuesday.

    "While the RNC will focus on burnishing Romney's biography as a so-called Mr. Fix It, the DNC/OFA [Organizing for America] will highlight how his work in the private sector and as Governor was a disaster for the middle class," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. "And the policies Romney is espousing on the campaign trail follow the same pattern: raising taxes on middle class families and ending Medicare as we know it while slashing taxes for himself and other millionaires and billionaires."

    The effort includes a media messaging "war room" in Tampa—as well as campaign surrogates outside of Tampa but in Florida, and in other pivotal up-for-grabs states, Woodhouse said. (A similar

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  • Obama: Not taking ex-SEAL ad blitz ‘too seriously’

    President Barack Obama gestures while speaking in the White House briefing room (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    President Barack Obama on Monday shrugged off an ad by a political action committee founded by a former Navy SEAL that accuses him of improperly milking the death of Osama bin Laden for political gain.

    "I don't take these folks too seriously," Obama told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

    "One of their members is a birther who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary. You've got another who was a tea party candidate in a recent election," Obama said. "This kind of stuff springs up before election time."

    The Obama campaign has accused the group responsible for the bin Laden ad, the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, of trying to "Swift Boat" the president—a reference to the attacks on Democratic Sen. John Kerry's military service when he ran for president in 2004. The organization has ties to Republican politics.

    The founder of another group, Special Operations Speaks, openly doubts that Obama was born in Hawaii despite the evidence. Here's how he put it to Foreign

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  • Obama warns Syria of military ‘red line’ on chemical weapons

    President Barack Obama warned Monday that he would consider military force if Syria's Bashar Assad either tries to relocate his regime's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons or attempts to use them on his own people in a bid to crush an uprising that could topple him from power. President Barack Obama speaks after dropping by in the press briefing room at the White House (Larry Downing/Reuters)

    "I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation," Obama told reporters during a surprise question-and-answer session in the White House briefing room.

    "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation," he said.

    Syria said in late July that it possessed chemical weapons and could use them to fend off any "external aggression" but not to crush rebels against Assad's rule.

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  • Obama: Romney not ‘responsible’ for death of woman in political ad

    President Barack Obama speaks in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington August 20, 2012. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

    President Barack Obama on Monday effectively repudiated a controversial and misleading ad, crafted by a super PAC fighting for his re-election, that essentially blamed Mitt Romney for the cancer death of the wife of a laid-off steelworker. The White House had previously resisted calls to denounce the commercial, which has run only once as a paid ad but has seized headlines and aired on news programs since its release.

    "I don't think that Gov. Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad," Obama told reporters during a surprise visit to the White House briefing room.

    "But keep in mind this was an ad that I did not approve, I did not produce and as far as I can tell has barely run. I think it ran once," the president said. And he accused Romney of personally embracing "patently false" attacks on his record on welfare.

    Obama also defended himself from charges—notably from Romney—that he is running a negative campaign.

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  • 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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