Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama hits out personally at Romney ads on ‘you didn’t build that’

    In a new campaign ad, President Barack Obama hits back personally at Republican charges that he thinks entrepreneurs don't deserve credit for building their own businesses. Obama's direct-to-the-camera appeal may be a sign that the latest onslaught from his opponents has rattled re-election strategists in Chicago.

    "Those ads taking my words about small business out of context--they're flat-out wrong," the president says in the 31-second pitch. "Of course Americans build their own businesses. Every day, hard-working people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs and make our economy run."

    "And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has, by investing in education and training, roads and bridges research and technology," he says. "I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message because I believe we're all in this together."

    For days, Mitt Romney has led Republican attacks on Obama over his defense of the role government plays in fostering a climate in which entrepreneurs can thrive. At a July 13 campaign rally in Roanoke, Va., the president pointed to spending on education and infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as "this unbelievable American system" and declared "if you've got a business—you didn't build that." Romney and the Republican National Committee have used those words as ammunition to charge that Obama scorns personal enterprise in favor of a government-knows-best approach.

    The Republican ads take Obama's words out of context. But the attacks seem potent at a time when each candidate is trying to paint his opponent as out of touch—or worse—on the issue that matters most to voters: the economy, which is still sputtering three and a half years after Obama took office vowing to fix it.

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  • Obama has ‘no tolerance for leaks,’ White House insists as Romney attacks

    President Barack Obama waves upon arrival at the 142nd Fighter Wing Oregon Air National Guard Base, in Portland, Ore. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

    The White House insisted on Tuesday that President Barack Obama "has no tolerance for leaks" of national security secrets as Mitt Romney accused the Administration of disclosing sensitive information for political gain.

    "There are two experienced federal prosecutors investigating the leaks in question," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama pursued a West-Coast campaign swing.

    "I can't comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation," he said, but "as a general matter, the president has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks, and he thinks leaks are damaging to our national security interests."

    "The kinds of decisions he has to make every day depend upon the ability to keep our secrets secret, and he feels extremely strongly about this," Carney said. "No one depends more on that information to make extremely difficult and significant decisions on a regular basis than the president of the United States."

    In the aftermath of news reports throwing back the curtain on major national security operations — including an unprecedented cyber-assault on Iran's nuclear program -- Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two U.S. attorneys to look into the potentially unlawful disclosure of national security secrets.

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  • Obama says Romney camp is ‘over the edge’ with its ‘you didn’t build that’ attacks

    President Barack Obama in Oakland, Calif. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

    In a sharply worded counterattack, President Barack Obama is accusing Mitt Romney of having gone "over the edge" by distorting his recent remarks about small businesses—his by-now-notorious "you didn't build that" comment.

    "Look, in politics we all tolerate a certain amount of spin," Obama told supporters in Oakland, Calif., late Monday. "I understand these are the games that get played in political campaigns, although when folks just omit entire sentences of what you said, they start kind of splicing and dicing, you may have gone a little over the edge there."

    The fight centers on a snippet of Obama's remarks at a campaign stop in Roanoke, Va., where the president sang the praises of government investment in infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as in education and concluded: "If you've got a business—you didn't build that."

    Team Romney and the Republican National Committee have pulled the remark out of context to argue that Obama was dismissing the role of personal initiative in creating jobs and saying that the government, not the private sector, deserves the credit. The full remarks (included at the bottom of this post) make it abundantly clear that the president wasn't denigrating entrepreneurs. (In Roanoke, Obama concluded his argument by saying: "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.")

    "Frankly, the other side knows they can't sell their ideas, so what they're going to do is try to distort my vision," Obama said in Oakland, accusing Romney of "knowingly twisting my words around." "I believe with all my heart that it is the drive and the ingenuity of Americans who start businesses that lead to their success," the president said. "I always have and I always will." 

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  • Obama: Sally Ride taught girls to ‘reach for the stars’

    Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died Monday. She was 61. (NASA/AP)

    President Barack Obama mourned the death of NASA astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, calling her "a national hero and powerful role model" -- especially for young girls.

    Obama said he and first lady Michelle Obama were "deeply saddened" by Ride's passing from pancreatic cancer at age 61.

    "As the first American woman to travel into space, Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model," the president said in a written statement. "She inspired  generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools."

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  • Obama lays out ‘The Choice’ for voters in new ad

    Looking directly at the camera, President Barack Obama lays out "the choice" voters face in November in a new ad scheduled to run in the key battlegrounds of Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The minute-long message won't air in Colorado until Saturday, an acknowledgement of the tragic mass shooting at a movie theater there.

    "Sometimes politics can seem very small. But the choice you face, it couldn't be bigger," Obama says in the ad. The commercial echoes one of his campaign's main messages on the economy, accusing Romney of favoring "the very top" of American earners and wanting to "roll back regulations on big banks."

    "We tried that top down approach. It's what caused the mess in the first place," the president says, adding that he wants "the wealthy to pay a little more" in taxes.

    The ad was released as Obama raced through the West Coast on a dash for cash from big donors.

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  • Obama defends handling of Iraq, hits Romney, as violence flares

    People gather at the scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, one of a wave of strikes in Iraq (Karim Kadim/AP)

    After a bloody wave of attacks unfurled across Iraq, killing more than 100 people and wounding at least 235, President Barack Obama defended his decision to pull America from that strife-torn country — a move Mitt Romney once criticized.

    "I pledged to end the war in Iraq honorably, and that's what we've done," Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual convention in Reno, Nev.

    "We brought our troops home responsibly," he said. "They left with their heads held high, knowing they gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future. And today, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq, and we are proud of all the Americans who served there."

    The president, who championed the withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2011, lashed out at critics, Romney among them, who opposed the pull-out.

    "Some said that bringing our troops home last year was a mistake. They would have kept tens of thousands of our forces in Iraq -- indefinitely, without a clear mission," Obama said. "Well, when you're Commander-in-Chief, you owe the troops a plan, you owe the country a plan -- and that includes recognizing not just when to begin wars, but also how to end them."

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  • Stolen valor: Obama vows to fight ‘contemptible’ lies with website

    President Barack Obama greets the crowd at the 113th National Convention of the VFW (Susan Walsh/AP)

    Taking aim at so-called "stolen valor" cases, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative Monday to crack down on what he called the "contemptible" practice of lying about military service. Obama's initiative came after the Supreme Court in late June struck down on First Amendment grounds a law punishing the practice in a 6-3 ruling.

    "It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes," he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual convention in Reno, Nev. "But one thing is certain: It is contemptible."

    "So this week we will launch a new Web site, a living memorial, so the American people can see who's been awarded our nation's highest honors. Because no American hero should ever have their valor stolen," he said.

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  • Obama to Syria’s Assad: Using chemical arms would be ‘tragic mistake’

    President Barack Obama speaks at the 113th National Convention of the VFW (Susan Walsh/AP)President Barack Obama warned Syria's Bashar Assad on Monday that he will be held accountable if he makes the "tragic mistake" of using chemical weapons on his own people.

    His blunt warning came shortly after Syria—gripped by deadly violence since an uprising against Assad that began early last year—threatened to use chemical and biological weapons if attacked from the outside. It was the first formal admission from Damascus that the regime, long a close partner of Iran, has weapons of mass destruction.

    "Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching and that they will be held accountable by the international community, and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," the president said in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) at their annual convention in Reno, Nev.

    Obama said he was "working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime."

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  • Obama will visit Israel if reelected

    A picture of then-candidate Barack Obama at an election party in Tel Aviv, Israel, in November 2008. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

    President Barack Obama, who hasn't set foot in Israel since a pre-election trip in 2008, would go there if he wins in November, an aide said Monday. The official, former deputy assistant defense secretary for the Middle East Colin Kahl, scoffed that Republican criticisms of Obama for not visiting Israel since taking office were "a distraction" from real policy issues.

    "We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term should he be reelected," Kahl told reporters on an Obama campaign conference call.

    Kahl underlined that former president Ronald Reagan never visited Israel and that former president George W. Bush only went in the final year of his second term. "Obviously, Republicans weren't criticizing him for his commitment on Israel as a result of that travel itinerary." Romney has said that he would make Israel his first trip abroad as president.

    "I don't really think this is a serious policy difference. I think it's basically a distraction," Kahl said. "Being a friend to Israel, at least in our view, shouldn't be judged purely by a travel itinerary."

    The Obama campaign conference call aimed to criticize Romney on foreign policy as the Republican standard-bearer prepared to make his first foray overseas as a candidate, with stops in Britain, Israel, and Poland. The incumbent has seen his support among Jewish voters drop since the 2008 election, though he still leads the challenger by better than a two-to-one margin, according to a Gallup poll in June.

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  • Obama phones Aurora police chief, vows ‘full support’ of FBI

    President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with senior advisors in the Oval Office to discuss the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. (Pete Souza/White House)

    President Barack Obama telephoned Aurora, Colorado Police Chief Dan Oates in the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting there and pledged the "full support" of the FBI and other federal agencies in dealing with the suspected gunman's booby-trapped apartment.

    Obama told Oates that he and First Lady Michelle Obama sent their "thoughts and prayers" to the people of Aurora "particularly the local first responders who have performed well under difficult and stressful circumstances," the White House said in a statement.

    "The President also told Chief Oates that he should expect the full support of the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies moving forward, including any resources they need to handle the ongoing situation at the suspect's apartment," according to the statement.

    Obama, who cut short a planned day-long reelection campaign swing through Florida, met with top aides at the White House upon his return, including Vice President Joe Biden, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Homeland

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