Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama defends ‘American patriot’ Huma Abedin amid Republican attacks

    WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 10: U.S. President Barack Obama acknowleges Huma Abedin, the Muslim wife of disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner, and who works as a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House August 10, 2012 in Washington, DC. The invited guests include elected officials, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, leaders of diverse faiths and members of the diplomatic corps . (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
    President Barack Obama forcefully defended trusted Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin on Friday, praising her as "an American patriot" in the face of charges from Republicans like Representative Michele Bachmann that she is secretly tied to Muslim extremists.

    Speaking at a White House Iftar dinner to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Obama hailed Abedin as "a good friend" who has "worked tirelessly in the White House, in the U.S. Senate, and most exhaustingly at the State Department — where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear."

    "Senator Clinton has relied on her expertise, and so have I," he said. "The American people owe her a debt of gratitude, because Huma is an American patriot, and an example of what we need in this country: more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace, and her generosity of spirit."

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  • Obama spokesman declines to repudiate cancer ad

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    White House spokesman Jay Carney declined Friday to repudiate an independent ad that ties Mitt Romney to the cancer death of a laid-off steelworker's wife, as the controversy over that misleading commercial dragged into another day.

    "We do not control third-party ads," Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. He had been asked whether President Barack Obama would repudiate the Priorities USA Action spot, now perhaps the most talked-about commercial of the 2012 cycle even though it hasn't actually aired—and owes its notoriety to media coverage.

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  • U.S., Israel at odds over Iran nuke program intelligence

    President Barack Obama (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office in March. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

    The White House expressed confidence Friday that American intelligence will know if Iran escalates its nuclear program in a sprint to build an atomic bomb—a day after Israel's defense minister warned that the allies might not know "in time" to prevent it.

    "We have eyes, we have visibility into the program," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. "We feel confident that we would be able to detect a break-out move by Iran towards the acquisition of a nuclear weapon."

    "We believe there continues to be the time and space to pursue this course," Carney said, referring to punishing American and international economic sanctions on the Islamic republic. "It is the best course of action to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. We take no options off the table, and we consult with our allies all the time about the situation in Iran with regards to this program."

    But Carney's professed confidence about the quality of the information regarding Iran's nuclear program, widely seen by American and Israeli officials as an attempt to acquire the ability to build a nuclear weapon, appeared to conflict sharply with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's just a day earlier.

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  • Women’s Olympic soccer gold: Vengeance is ours, saith Obama

    President Barack Obama praised the U.S. women's soccer team for winning the gold in a 2-1 defeat of arch rival Japan and "avenging" its defeat to the same foe in the World Cup.

    "We have to give a special shout-out to the women's soccer team today avenging the loss in the World Cup," Obama told reporters as he toured the U.S. Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs as part of a two-day campaign swing through Colorado. (His remarks came to Yahoo News courtesy of pool reporter Stephen Collinson of Agence France-Presse).

    The president doffed his shoes to walk onto the mat in a wrestling gym and chat briefly with some of the athletes there. After some banter and posing for pictures, Obama sat down on the edge of the mat to put his shoes back on—in front of the pool of reporters tracking his every move.

    "Very presidential, sir," quipped one.

    "Thanks. No holes in my socks," the president joked. "My grandmother would be proud."

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  • Obama: Not spoiler-in-chief of Olympic soccer

    President Barack Obama makes his way to the stage at a campaign rally in Colorado (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

    With the U.S. Women's soccer team leading Japan 2-0, President Barack Obama told a crowd of supporters in Colorado that the squad was "doing pretty good" — but made sure not to be spoiler-in-chief. Good thing, too, because a few minutes into his speech, Japan cut America's lead in half. (UPDATE: Team USA held on to win!)

    "For those of you who are curious, the women are doing pretty good right now at soccer," he said. "The game's not over, and some of you may have DVR'd it, so I'm not going to say anything more."

    "But we're making progress. Moving forward," he said in Colorado Springs, which has played host to American Olympians as they train.

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  • White House mum on reported new Iran nukes warning

    President Barack Obama steps off Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on July 25 (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

    The White House refused to comment Thursday on a bombshell Israeli media report that President Barack Obama recently received an updated intelligence assessment that Iran has made surprising strides towards being able to build a nuclear weapon.

    The Haaretz newspaper reported that Obama had received a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)—the consensus assessment of the American intelligence community—that "Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of its military nuclear program." The daily cited unnamed "Western diplomats and Israeli officials."

    Asked about the report, White House press secretary Jay Carney replied: "I don't comment on intelligence matters or intelligence reports the president may or may not have received."

    "I can tell you that the president remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," he said aboard Air Force One as Obama campaigned in the swing state of Colorado.

    "We are leading an international effort to impose upon Iran what even the Iranian president has identified as the most stringent sanctions ever imposed on any country," Carney said. "And that effort is designed of what we believe remains to be a window of opportunity to persuade Iran through these sanctions and through diplomatic efforts to forgo its nuclear weapons ambitions and live to its international obligations." He added that "hardly a week goes by" without the economic vise tightening further.

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  • Obama hits ‘Romney Tax Hike’ in 15 states

    President Barack Obama shares his strawberry pie. Nope, no connection to this story. Just liked the picture. (Official White House picture by Pete Souza)

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign is attacking Mitt Romney for his economic plan in 15 states, including pivotal battlegrounds, charging that it would result in higher taxes on small businesses and middle class families. The Romney camp said Obama was the one seeking a tax hike.

    Team Obama released "reports" on what it predicted would be "the disastrous impacts" of Romney's blueprint in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

    At the same time, the campaign highlighted "the president's vision for an economy built from the middle out—where hard work pays off, responsibility is rewarded, and everyone gets a fair shot," spokesman Adam Fetcher said in a statement emailed to reporters.

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  • Obama, in Colorado, warns women Romney would roll back their rights

    Sandra Fluke gets a hug from U.S. President Barack Obama after introducing him in Denver. ( Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

    Campaigning in the battleground state of Colorado, President Barack Obama warned women, who are vital to his re-election effort, that Mitt Romney would roll back their rights and had embraced "policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century."

    Obama got a vocal assist from Sandra Fluke, who as a Georgetown law student advocated health insurance coverage of birth control—only to be branded a "slut" by conservative talk show icon Rush Limbaugh.

    Fluke said she was "heartened" that "so many Americans … reached out to me and supported me, no matter what anyone's politics were." And she highlighted Obama's strong public support—before ripping into Romney.

    "Mr. Romney could only say that those weren't the words he would have chosen," she said, drawing boos from the crowd. "Well, Mr. Romney, you're not going to be the candidate we choose. Because if Mr. Romney can't stand up to extreme voices in his own party, then we know he'll never stand up for us."

    Fluke introduced Obama, who wasted no time in hammering home what he described as the high stakes of the 2012 campaign.

    "The direction you choose when you walk into that voting booth three months from now will have a direct impact—not just on your lives but on the lives of your children and the lives of your grandchildren," he told a cheering crowd of supporters in Denver. "That's true for everybody, but it's especially true for the women in this country."

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  • Obama camp denies knowledge of cancer tale it told in May

    Oops? President Barack Obama's re-election campaign washed its hands Wednesday of an independent group's vicious (and misleading) ad effectively blaming Mitt Romney for the death of a laid-off steelworker's wife from cancer. Campaign officials flatly denied any knowledge of the facts in the case—but it turns out the widower told the same story on an Obama campaign conference call in mid-May. (The Obama campaign responded late in the day: See update below).

    "We have nothing, no involvement, with any ads that are done by Priorities USA. We don't have any knowledge of the story of the family," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

    The ad features Joe Soptic, who lost his job and his health benefits after Romney's Bain Capital closed the GST Steel plant in Kansas City, Mo., in 2001. Soptic later told CNN that his wife had health insurance through her own employer from that point to 2002 or 2003, when she left that job because of an injury—a detail that undermines the ad's heartbreaking narrative.

    "I don't know the facts about when Mr. Soptic's wife got sick, or the facts about his health insurance," deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter told CNN on Wednesday.

    But there's a problem. As Politico first reported, Soptic told essentially the same story in a May 14, 2012, conference call hosted by the Obama campaign. Here's what he said then, according to a partial recording of the call passed along by a Republican official:

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  • Team Obama to Romney: Hey, how ’bout Gingrich or Michele Bachmann as VP?

    Mitt Romney gets GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann’s endorsement in May. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

    Pick Paul Ryan! Bobby Jindal! Rob Portman! Tim Pawlenty! When it comes to advising Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on choosing a running mate, it seems as though everyone inside the Beltway is getting in on the act—including, now, the Obama campaign.

    "Newt Gingrich or Michele Bachmann would be an excellent choice for Mitt Romney to choose," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One. Neither conservative firebrand is seen as a likely pick, in part because each has courted controversy in the past.

    Could Romney's choice force Team Obama to reshuffle its playbook? Not so much, she indicated.

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