Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama slumps among business owners: Gallup

    President Barack Obama waves upon arriving at the White House late Wednesday (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

    If the November election were held today, and only business owners could vote, President Barack Obama would lose in a landslide, according to a new Gallup poll. The survey, released Thursday, found that 35 percent of that relatively small minority of Americans approve of the job he's doing, while 59 percent disapprove.

    The figure slipped from 41 percent approval in the first quarter of 2012, Gallup said. The organization underlined that the decline came in March and April, well before the Republican onslaught on his remarks about small businesses owing some of their success to government investments in things like infrastructure and education.

    "Thus it is not yet clear whether those comments have led to further deterioration in Obama's standing among small-business owners," Gallup said.

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  • Obama urges tighter background checks on gun buyers after Aurora massacre

    President Barack Obama pauses as he talks about the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting as he addresses the National Urban League convention (Susan Walsh/AP)In his broadest remarks on gun control yet in the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater, President Barack Obama called late Wednesday for tougher background checks designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

    "A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals -- that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities," the president, who has called for reimposing the Assault Weapons Ban, said in a speech to the National Urban League.

    "I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone's criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily," he said. "These steps shouldn't be controversial. They should be common sense."

    [Yahoo's complete coverage of the Colorado shooting]

    But Obama also offered a nod to the difficult politics of gun control, portraying himself as a believer in the individual right to bear arms, and acknowledging that calls to action after an incident like the one in Aurora often fade.

    "When there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there's always an outcry immediately after for action. And there's talk of new reforms, and there's talk of new legislation," Obama said in his speech.  "And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere."

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  • Report: White House, Obama campaign, tighten ties

    In this picture from November 2010, then-Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina (left) and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro, right, listen as President Barack Obama speaks to reporters. To the right of Obama is Pete Rouse, then White House Chief of Staff. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    With President Barack Obama in the fight of his political life against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, top White House aides are increasingly shuttling to the Democrat's campaign headquarters in Chicago, the Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday.

    Those making the trip from Washington to the Windy City includes senior advisor David Plouffe, who managed Obama's history-making 2008 campaign, and Pete Rouse, who has been with the president since his earliest days in the Senate, the daily said in a piece that cited unnamed officials at the White House and the campaign. Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer is expected to spend one day a week at the HQ through election day, the Journal said.

    Obama aides, the newspaper reported, denied that there was "discontent with the campaign's operations" and that the purpose was to improve coordination on things like schedules and messaging.

    "But others close to the campaign say Mr. Rouse in particular has been on hand to support campaign manager Jim Messina, who hasn't before run an organization as large and complex," the Journal said. The paper also reported that Messina asked Rouse to widen his role in order to enable the campaign chief to focus on swing-state strategy.

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  • White House: Aleppo attack shows Assad’s ‘depravity’

    Israeli Aviv Levy tries on a gas mask in a shopping mall near Jerusalem. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

    The White House accused Syria's Bashar Assad on Wednesday of unleashing helicopters, airplanes and tanks on civilians in the city of Aleppo, calling the assault evidence of his willingness to sink to "the depths of depravity."

    Press secretary Jay Carney, speaking aboard Air Force One, confirmed that Syria's ambassadors to the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus had defected from the regime.

    "This is another indication, we believe, that senior officials around the Assad inner circle are fleeing the government because of the heinous actions taken by Assad against his own people, and the recognition that Assad's days are numbered," Carney said.

    The spokesman highlighted Assad forces' onslaught on Aleppo and cited "credible" but unconfirmed reports that the regime in Damascus had deployed airplanes in the attack.

    "We condemn that. And it's just another indication of the depths of depravity that Assad has demonstrated himself capable of achieving," Carney said.

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  • Kim Jong Un’s wedding: No Americans invited, State Department says

    North Korean media on identified the woman seen accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently as his wife, Ri Sol Ju. They are seen (in foreground) Tuesday July 24, 2012, attending a ceremony to mark the completion of an amusement park facility in Pyongyang. (KRT TV/AP)

    "Un" is no longer the loneliest number that you'll ever do since Stalinist North Korea's supremo Kim Jong Un has tied the knot. What do you send the leader of the world's most secretive regime? If you're the State Department, you send concerns about the people living under his rule.

    "We would always wish any kind of newlyweds well as they embark," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at her daily briefing. "But obviously, our concerns first and foremost are for the North Korean people, and our hope that conditions for them will improve and that the new DPRK leadership will make the right choice about opening the country and providing more for their people."

    Did Kim invite anyone from the United States, which has championed ever-escalating economic sanctions meant to force defiant Pyongyang to abandon its missile and nuclear weapons programs, to see him formally become Un-available? Not so much.

    "I don't think we were invited to the wedding, nor did we have any advance information," Nuland said.

    North Korean state TV confirmed Wednesday that Kim was married, ending the mystery over the identity of a stylish young woman who has accompanied him to public events since a July 6 concert. The government-run outlet reported that Kim attended the opening of an amusement park "with his wife, Comrade Ri Sol Ju."

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  • Romney spokesman blasts British paper’s ‘false quote’ about ‘Anglo-Saxon heritage’

    A campaign sticker for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is seen on a street sign for Romney Street in London, as Romney arrives in London to meet with world leaders, hold fundraisers, and attend the opening of the Olympic games. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    Mitt Romney's campaign forcefully repudiated a quotation, ascribed to one of his foreign policy advisers and published by a leading British newspaper, suggesting that President Barack Obama does not understand America's "Anglo-Saxon heritage."

    Spokesman Ryan Williams angrily denounced the comment on Wednesday as "an anonymous and false quote from a foreign newspaper." And Williams assailed Vice President Joe Biden for using the news report to accuse the Republican standard-bearer of playing politics with foreign policy while on an overseas tour.

    "Today, the race for the highest office in our land was diminished to a sad level when the Vice President of the United States used an anonymous and false quote from a foreign newspaper to prop up their flailing campaign," Williams said in a statement emailed to reporters.

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  • Biden hits overseas Romney: ‘Politics stops at the water’s edge’

    Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the annual convention of the National Association of Police Organizations on Monday (Lynne Sladky/AP)

    Scant hours after Mitt Romney touched down in London to kick off an overseas tour, Vice President Joe Biden blasted the Republican's campaign for "playing politics with international diplomacy" by claiming President Barack Obama has let relations with Britain drift.

    Biden's comments came after the Daily Telegraph quoted unnamed Romney advisers as saying their man would restore the "special relationship" between Washington and London and one made a comment the newspaper warned "may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity."

    "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the adviser said of Romney, adding: "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."

    "The comments reported this morning are a disturbing start to a trip designed to demonstrate Gov. Romney's readiness to represent the United States on the world's stage," said Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Not surprisingly, this is just another feeble attempt by the Romney campaign to score political points at the expense of this critical partnership. This assertion is beneath a presidential campaign."

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  • Obama campaign not worried over ‘you didn’t build that’ attacks—but fighting back anyway

    President Barack Obama arrives at Boeing Field in Seattle on Tuesday (Elaine Thompson/AP)

    President Barack Obama is personally leading an all-out counterattack against the Republican assault over his "you didn't build that" remark, hitting back in his stump speech and in a new television ad as the Democratic National Committee launches a state-by-state response. But that's not because he's worried about the Republican offensive, top strategist David Axelrod insisted on Wednesday.

    Republicans have seized on Obama's comments at a Roanoke, Va., campaign event two weeks ago that "If you've got a business—you didn't build that." The context makes clear that the president was saying entrepreneurs need government infrastructure like roads and bridges, investments in education and what Obama called "this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive." But the core quote was heaven-sent for Republicans eager to portray the Democrat as hostile or ignorant when it comes to the top issue on voters' minds, the economy. And it quickly made its way into hard-hitting ads.

    "I was concerned when I saw the initial ad that it might be impactful. I've concluded that it's not all that impactful," Axelrod said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

    "But the ad that we did in response got a very good response in the kind of testing that we did," Axelrod said, stressing that Obama's response served to "brush them (Republicans) back" while making the case for his economic policies.

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  • David Axelrod: Romney, super PACs to blame for campaign’s ‘negative’ tone

    President Barack Obama (Michael Dwyer/AP)

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has waged a monthslong ad war on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, his personal finances and his economic policies overall. But top Obama strategist David Axelrod said Wednesday that Romney and "his friends in the super PAC world" are to blame for the public perception that the incumbent is trying to win ugly.

    Axelrod's comments on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" came after a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 22 percent of Americans think Obama is running a negative campaign, compared with 12 percent who say Romney is skewing negative. (The poll found that 34 percent of Americans think both candidates have gone negative. A puzzling 25 percent say neither. And 7 percent "don't know.")

    So why do Americans see the candidate of hope and change in 2008 as more of a bare-knuckle brawler in 2012? 

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  • 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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