Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama defends ‘entirely appropriate’ attacks on Romney

    President Barack Obama defended his blunt, frequently personal attacks on Mitt Romney as an "entirely appropriate" effort to highlight the choice voters face in November. The embattled incumbent told CBS News in an interview broadcast Monday morning that his campaign has run "a whole slew of positive ads."

    "What is true is that there's sharp contrast, probably as sharp a contrast as we've seen, philosophically, between myself and Mr. Romney," Obama told CBS. "Politics are about choices."

    The president's campaign has spent months hammering away at Romney—on everything from his time at Bain Capital, to his refusal to release the customary number of years of tax returns, to his financial holdings in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, to some of his verbal missteps on the stump. In a recent conference call, deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter even suggested that Romney might be a felon. The former Massachusetts governor has been no slouch in the attack ad department himself.

    In the two-week stretch ending July 9, 89 percent of Obama's ads attacked Romney, while 94 percent of Romney's attacked Obama, Bloomberg News reported, citing data from Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. Obama's campaign ran 37,022 negative ads over that period, compared to 13,962 for Team Romney.

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  • Obama staffer dies after collapsing at campaign’s Chicago HQ

    Late Obama staffer Alex Okrent's Twitter picture. https://twitter.com/HeyAok

    Tragedy struck President Barack Obama's campaign on Friday as a young staffer, 29-year-old Alex Okrent, collapsed in the Chicago headquarters and died, according to campaign officials.

    Obama, campaigning in Virginia, telephoned Okrent's family to express his condolences and later spoke with other campaign aides by conference call. The aide had been with Obama since 2004 and was working in the "paid media" department of the reelection effort, which handles advertising, a campaign aide said.

    Mitt Romney quickly expressed sorrow over Okrent's passing. "Ann & I were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Alex Okrent," he said on Twitter.

    "Prayers are with Alex's loved ones and the entire Obama campaign team," Romney's tweet continued.

    Top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod responded: "@MittRomney Thank you, governor. Alex was a beloved member of our team. It's been a very emotional day."

    The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago paramedics were called at 10:36 a.m., after Okrent collapsed. He was given emergency treatment at the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago's Prudential Building. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Okrent was a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the paper said.

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  • Obama to Romney: Come clean on Bain role

    President Barack Obama pressed Mitt Romney on Friday to address questions about when he left Bain Capital, calling the escalating political fight over Romney's role at the firm "a legitimate part of the campaign."

    Obama's reelection campaign has accused Romney of misleading the country on when he severed ties to Bain. Romney has long said he left in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics, but news outlets have unearthed Securities and Exchange Commission documents suggesting he played a central role at the firm years afterward. The fight has played out against the backdrop of the Obama campaign's relentless attacks on Romney as someone who made a fortune while overseeing the flight of jobs overseas.

    Is Romney being dishonest, WJLA reporter Scott Thuman asked Obama in an exclusive interview.

    "As president of the United States, it's pretty clear to me that I'm responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you," Obama said.

    "My understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC, multiple times, that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital and I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does," the president said.

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  • Obama suspends measure targeting Cuba

    Cuban leader Fidel Castro, date unknown (AP)

    President Barack Obama notified Congress on Friday that he was suspending for six months a measure that would let any American whose property was seized in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 sue anyone of any nationality using the property today.

    "I hereby determine and report to the Congress that suspension, for 6 months beyond August 1, 2012, of the right to bring an action under title III of the Act is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba," Obama said in a letter to top lawmakers.

    Obama's announcement was not a surprise—every president since Bill Clinton has suspended that provision of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, better known as the Helms-Burton law. The legislation empowers presidents to waive that section for six-month intervals. Critics of the law have warned that allowing such lawsuits could pit Americans against individuals and entities from countries that are allied with the United States but who do not respect the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba.

    Several large European hotel chains have built establishments in Cuba, where tourism is critical to the economy. But Obama recently seemed to rule out the further easing of trade restrictions if he wins a second term unless the island embraces democratic reforms.

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  • Obama mocks House Republicans for health care repeal vote

    President Barack Obama campaigns in Virginia (Steve Helber/AP)

    On a campaign swing through the political battleground of Virginia, President Barack Obama on Friday mocked House Republicans for holding yet another vote against his landmark health care law. Thursday's action was the 33rd time the president's foes in the House of Representatives voted to repeal or defund Obamacare in whole or in part.

    "I notice the House of Representatives, the Republicans in the House of Representatives, they voted to repeal it again," Obama said at a rally in Virginia Beach.

    "That was the 33rd time they've done that—33 votes to repeal the health care bill. All it would take is one vote to make sure that all of you don't see your taxes go up next year. You tell me what would be a better use of time," the president said to cheers from the rowdy crowd.

    He was referring to his call to extend the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes up to $250,000. Obama wants to see the reductions for higher brackets expire, as scheduled, come Jan. 1. Republicans want to extend all of the tax cuts.

    House Republicans plan to vote the final week of July on legislation to prolong the tax cuts for all income levels. The party's majority in the chamber is expected to approve that easily. And Democrats in tough re-election battles could swing behind Speaker John Boehner.

    "The unemployment rate is 8.2%. This month Republicans will vote to stop the looming tax hike. The President would like to raise taxes," a spokesman for Boehner, Brendan Buck, said on Twitter.

    Obama also defended his record on taxes, underlining that he had signed into law repeated tax cuts for middle class Americans—and got in a dig at a favorite target, Fox News Channel.

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  • Bill Clinton ‘perplexed’ and ‘surprised’ Romney hasn’t released more tax returns

    Former President Bill Clinton is defending Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's personal finances and describing himself as "perplexed" and "surprised" that the Republican standard-bearer hasn't released more of his tax returns.

    "I am a little surprised that he only released a year's worth of tax returns," Clinton said in an interview with NBC's Today Show.

    "That's kind of perplexed me, because this is the first time in, I don't know, more than 30 years that anybody running for president has only done that," he said. President Barack Obama's campaign forwarded Clinton's comments to reporters.

    Clinton defended the Obama campaign's increasingly strident attacks on Romney's personal finances—notably the former Massachusetts governor's now-closed Swiss bank account, his holdings in the Cayman Islands—saying those issues are relevant to the election.

    "Just as relevant as the going over my record as governor got when I ran for president," he told NBC, underlining that Romney has put his vastly successful history as an investor "at the forefront" of his campaign.

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  • Obama: Biggest mistake too much perspiration, not enough inspiration

    Call it "too much substance, not enough style?" President Barack Obama says his biggest mistake since getting to the White House three and a half years ago has been his tendency to tackle the job as national policy wonk rather than the inspiring figure he cut in the 2008 campaign.

    "When I think about what we've done well and what we haven't done well," the president told CBS television in an interview, "the mistake of my first term - couple of years - was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right."

    "And that's important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times," Obama said in an excerpt of the exchange with Charlie Rose.

    Presidents — politicians in general — tend to sidestep questions about their biggest mistake in office, though they sometimes stumble spectacularly over them (as George W. Bush did in April 2004), or offer up a self-serving answer that might be lampooned as "I just love America too much." Obama seems to be saying that, dagnabbit, he just took the job too gosh-darn seriously. Republicans wasted little time in mocking the answer. Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Miller tweeted "I'd go w/ utter economic failure."

    And Mitt Romney hit out hard at Obama: "Being president is not about telling stories."

    "Being president is about leading, and President Obama has failed to lead. No wonder Americans are losing faith in his presidency," Romney said in a statement.

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  • Wyoming-bound diplomats head to a different kind of summit

    A moose grazes on aquatic plants just east of Grand Teton National Park near Jackson, Wyo. (Mead Gruver/AP)

    Mitt Romney isn't the only VIP heading to Wyoming. Ambassadors from 22 countries are trading the stuffy formality of Washington for the open spaces of the country's least-populated state on Friday for a three-day trip organized by the State Department to promote America overseas. No word on whether the diplomats will cross paths with the potential future president.

    Envoys from countries like Libya, South Sudan, Georgia and Peru will visit Cody, Jackson, Moose and Moran, and tour Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, guided by U.S. Chief of Protocol Capricia Penavic Marshall.

    "By sharing Wyoming's story and landscape with these distinguished diplomats, we are strengthening America's relationship with countries around the world by providing our visitors with a deeper understanding of our nation's people, heritage, and history," the State Department said in a statement.

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  • Obama camp: Mitt Romney is ‘scared’ of Venezuela’s Chavez

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign mocked Mitt Romney late Wednesday as being "scared" of Venezuela's anti-American President Hugo Chavez "like he's ten feet tall," the latest rhetorical broadside in an escalating war of words.

    "Hugo Chavez has become increasingly marginalized and his influence has waned," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement. "It's baffling that Mitt Romney is so scared of a leader like Chavez whose power is fading, while Romney continues to remain silent about how to confront al-Qaeda or how to bring our troops home from Afghanistan."

    The rhetorical rumble began late Tuesday when Obama told a Florida television interviewer that Chavez "has not had a serious national security impact on us." Romney promptly led a chorus of angry Republican charges that Obama had failed to confront the alleged threat posed by the Venezuelan leader as part of a "pattern of weakness" in foreign policy.

    "People like Hugo Chavez want attention—and that's exactly what Mitt Romney and his supporters gave him today. Governor Romney is only playing into the hands of Chavez by acting like he's ten feet tall," LaBolt said in a sharply personal and mocking counter.

    "It's disturbing that Mitt Romney is trying to score cheap political points by blustering and misrepresenting the President's record while failing to outline any coherent foreign policy strategy," LaBolt charged.

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  • Obama spokesman: Iran won’t play helpful role in Syria crisis

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    The White House poured cold water Wednesday on international mediator Kofi Annan's plan to involve Iran in efforts to end the violence in Syria, where the government's 16-month crackdown on the opposition has left an estimated 17,000 dead.

    "We reject that it's likely that Iran could play a constructive role," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily press briefing. "I would simply point to what the Iranian role has been thus far, and I think one would be hard pressed to plausibly suggest that it's been a constructive role," Carney said.

    Iran has long been closely allied with Syria and strongly supports President Bashar Assad in the face of mounting pressure from Washington and its partners for him to end the bloodbath and quit power.

    Annan, hunting for a way to break the international diplomatic logjam that has prevented coordinated action to halt the violence, said Tuesday that "Iran has a role to play."

    "We are working very closely, obviously, with Kofi Annan," Carney said. For months, Washington has expressed support for the former U.N. secretary-general's ceasefire plan for Syria, while saying that not one of its core provisions has been implemented by the Assad regime. Republicans have sharply criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to protect Syrian civilians.

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