Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • 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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  • Obama campaign mocks Romney use of Bill Clinton

    Bill Clinton speaks to the ReSource 2012 conference on July 13, 2012, in Oxford, England. (Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images for ReSource 2012)

    President Barack Obama's re-election spokeswoman mocked the Mitt Romney campaign for using Bill Clinton in its latest ad, joking that the Republican standard-bearer must have run out of supporters in his own party.

    "If that's the best validator they can find—someone who thinks President Obama is a far better choice on the economy and on other issues—perhaps his bench is a little shorter than we thought it was," campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One.

    "This isn't the first time that they have attempted to use President Clinton," she underlined. "It's interesting because President Clinton is not only a strong supporter of President Obama—he'll be speaking about him at the convention—but he has said time and time again that President Obama is the right person to lead the country forward, to help our economy continue to move forward."

    Romney's campaign invoked Clinton in an ad attacking Obama's approach to welfare reform, an overhaul crafted by the former two-term Democratic president and his Republican foes in Congress in the 1990s over the objections of many liberal Democrats. But Clinton released a statement late Tuesday siding firmly with Obama and against the commercial.

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  • Obama campaign: Don’t blame us for ad blaming Romney for cancer death

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign distanced itself on Wednesday from a harsh—and misleading—ad that effectively ties Mitt Romney's business decisions to a woman's cancer death. But neither the campaign nor the White House passed judgment on the vicious commercial, which emerged from a super PAC backing Obama.

    "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.

    "As you know, campaign finance rules in that regard are in place for a reason," she said, referring to laws forbidding outside groups from coordinating with the presidential campaigns.

    White House press secretary Jay Carney, who ducked questions about the ad on Tuesday but invited reporters to "ask me tomorrow," declined to discuss it.

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  • Hollywood’s Elizabeth Banks: I’m for Obama. Period.

    With President Barack Obama set to emphasize women's health care on a swing through Colorado, Hollywood star Elizabeth Banks warns in a new campaign ad that Mitt Romney's opposition to Planned Parenthood would take away cancer screenings. Banks also describes her reliance on Planned Parenthood in unusually personal terms, describing how she got birth control to ease discomfort associated with her "heavy flow" cycle.

    Banks, looking to help Obama tilt the odds ever in his favor, praises Planned Parenthood for providing "essential services all over this country." She says that 95 percent of the care the organization provides is noncontroversial and sharply criticizes Romney, who has said he would cut off its federal funding.

    "For that little 5 percent that Mitt Romney decides he doesn't agree with, he's going to take away cancer screenings. What is he doing?" she says. "He's going to take away people's access to health care close by. We're talking about working-class ladies who need health care. That's it. That's Planned Parenthood."

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  • White House, Obama camp, blast Romney’s ‘blatantly dishonest’ welfare charge

    (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)The White House denounced Mitt Romney's "blatantly dishonest" charge that President Barack Obama is looking to "gut welfare reform" enacted under Bill Clinton by erasing a requirement that recipients actively seek work.

    "This advertisement is categorically false, and it is blatantly dishonest," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

    A new Romney ad seizes on a mid-July memo from the Department of Health and Human Services that signals the administration is open to waiving certain work requirements. "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job," the ad says. "They just send you your welfare check." (The ad opens with a photo of Clinton, who worked with a Republican Congress to impose the work requirement, over the objections of liberal allies.)

    But the memo says "HHS will only consider approving waivers relating to the work participation requirements that make changes intended to lead to more effective means of meeting the work goals of TANF" and requires states seeking waivers to submit to a "federally-approved evaluation plan."

    "This administration's policy will strengthen the program by giving states the opportunity to employ more effective ways to help people get off welfare and into a job," Carney said. 

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  • White House on Syria: We learned from Iraq

    Majed Aldin Ghazal of the Syria Olympic athletics team carries his country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games (Lars Baron/Getty Images)The White House urged Syrian rebels on Tuesday to leave key governmental institutions "intact' when they topple President Bashar al-Assad. Press secretary Jay Carney said the plea was partly rooted in what is widely considered one of the worst errors of the Iraq War.

    Amid high-level defections from Assad's regime and opposition forces seemingly gaining ground, "it is certainly the case that contingency planning is the responsible thing to do," Carney told reporters at his daily briefing. The spokesman declined to discuss "specifics" like possible aid.

    "We have to think about what we can do to support a Syrian-led democratic transition that protects the rights of all Syrians," he said. "We have to figure out how to support the return of security and public safety and how to get the Syrian economy up and going.

    "I can say that in this transition we think it's essential to make sure that the state's institutions stay intact and that we send very clear expectations about avoiding sectarian warfare," he said.

    After the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer banned members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from holding influential government posts and disbanded Iraq's military—a pair of decisions widely blamed for fueling what became a bloody insurgency.

    Asked whether that example had shaped the message to Syria's rebels, Carney replied: "That precedent is useful to look at."

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