Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • When the White House hates your tweet

    President Barack Obama uses a laptop computer to send a tweet during a Twitter Town Hall in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
    For the Obama White House, tweets from reporters are a kind of early warning system. It’s up to Jessica Allen, 24, to sound the alarm.

    Allen, whose official title is “media monitor,” tracks journalists’ tweets and flags them in mass emails that land in the in-boxes of more than 80 Obama aides, including chief of staff Denis McDonough, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, press secretary Jay Carney and senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

    The result? Reporters who regularly cover Obama have become familiar with seemingly out-of-the-blue emails or telephone calls from officials taking issue with their tweets — often thoughtfully and constructively, sometimes with obscenity-laced yelps of outrage.

    Longtime CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller estimates that he’s sent out some 77,000 tweets over the past five years and has received just a few “rockets from Carney.”

    “'Rockets’ means a few minutes after I tweet something, I’ll get an email from him” with a complaint, Knoller said. “That’s

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  • GOP senators: Arm Ukraine, hit Russian banks

    Saying President Barack Obama hasn’t been tough enough on Russia, a high-powered group of Republican senators introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at imposing new sanctions on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.

    “Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” said Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top GOP member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who drafted the measure.

    The congressional push for a harder line on Russia comes with Obama set to welcome German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of his key partners on Ukraine, to the White House on Friday.

    Republican Sen. Dan Coats, a former ambassador to Germany and current Senate Intelligence Committee member, will have dinner with Merkel on Thursday and is expected to press her to get Europe to agree on a tougher response to the crisis.

    “The lack

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  • Obama breaks promise (again) to commemorate Armenian ‘genocide’

    During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama could not have been clearer about what he thought of the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915.

    "My firmly held conviction (is) that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence," he said in a statement. "The facts are undeniable," Obama wrote. "As President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."

    Once in office, though? Not so much. Not at all, in fact.

    President Obama on Thursday called the slaughter “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.” But for the sixth straight year, he did not use the word “genocide” — a move that Armenians would have cheered but would also have risked profoundly angering Turkey, a crucial NATO ally.

    “I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed,” Obama said in his 2014 statement. “A full, frank, and just

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  • Kerry: Cold War diplomacy was ‘easier’ than today

    Secretary of State John Kerry waxed a little bit nostalgic for the Cold War on Tuesday, saying the era of civil defense drills and mutual assured destruction was an “easier” or “simpler” time in which to lead American diplomacy.

    “It may not have seemed so at the time, obviously, to great leaders, but it was easier than it is today – simpler is maybe a way to put it,” Kerry said at the State Department during remarks launching a regular review of U.S. foreign policy.

    “We could make really bad decisions and still win because we were pretty much the sole dominant economic and military power around,” the former senator declared. “That’s not true anymore.”

    Kerry’s remarks reflect a mostly academic debate about whether pursuing America’s national interest was a less high-wire affair during the Cold War between Washington and Moscow than it became after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which shifted the ground to problems like climate change, extremist groups, and so-called rogue

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  • U.S. sends 600 troops to Poland, Baltics in message to Russia over Ukraine

    In a move to reassure Russia’s neighbors, the United States will send some 600 paratroopers to Poland and the Baltics starting tomorrow as part of an open-ended military commitment prompted by Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

    “I can announce today that a company-size contingent of paratroopers from the U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team airborne, which is based in Vicenza, Italy, will arrive in Poland tomorrow to begin exercises with Polish troops,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters at his daily briefing.

    Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will get 150 American troops each. The full deployment will be complete “by the end of this weekend, maybe Monday,” Kirby said.

    Even when those U.S. forces rotate back, new ones will take their place for new exercises throughout the rest of 2014, “but beyond that, it could go beyond the end of this year," Kirby said. "We just don't know. We're just going to have to see how it goes.”

    And the exercises

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  • U.S. will block Iranian diplomat from United Nations

    The White House announced Friday that it will not grant a visa to Iran’s pick to be its United Nations ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, amid a controversy over his role in the 1979 hostage-taking at the American embassy in Tehran.

    “We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.

    It was not clear whether Iran would challenge the decision at the United Nations or whether the unusual rejection would poison President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran.

    The announcement came after Congress overwhelmingly passed a bill designed to keep Aboutalebi out of the United States because of the part he played in the crisis, in which 52 Americans where held hostage 444 days. The diplomat has said that he took part in the standoff only after the seizure of the embassy and that his role was as a translator.

    Carney would not say whether Obama would sign the legislation, citing concerns

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  • Kerry ‘betrayed and surprised’ by McCain onslaught

    Secretary of State John Kerry felt “betrayed and surprised” by Republican Sen. John McCain’s withering and highly personal criticisms at a congressional hearing, a senior administration official told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

    Kerry “felt betrayed and surprised to see McCain so angrily rooting for failure against one of the most internationalist members of the administration,” said the official, who is close to the secretary and requested anonymity to speak candidly about the top diplomat’s reaction.

    The key word there might be “internationalist.” Republicans long openly contemptuous of President Barack Obama’s cautious handling of world affairs — “leading from behind,” as one anonymous administration aide once described it — had hoped that Kerry would nudge the administration to take a more aggressive approach to problems such as the civil war in Syria.

    “I'm sure we will have our disagreements, which I know neither of us will hesitate to bring to the other's attention,” McCain declared

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  • Senator seeks ban on maps showing Crimea as part of Russia

    What can the United States do to reverse Russia’s annexation of Crimea? The short answer is, not much. Inside President Obama’s administration, it’s hard to find much unfeigned optimism about getting Vladimir Putin to give up the strategic peninsula.

    But Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., introduced legislation on Wednesday that aims to ensure that U.S. impotence doesn’t turn into complacency.

    “The American response must be much greater than a verbal slap if we want Putin to understand his actions in Ukraine are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” he said in a statement. (Coats is among the nine Americans on whom Russia slapped sanctions recently)

    Coats’ measure doesn’t read like an effort to force Moscow to pull back so much as an effort to prevent Washington from slipping back into business-as-usual mode, which is largely what happened after Russia’s brief 2008 war with Georgia.

    Some of the steps Coats is proposing are largely symbolic: One provision would tell the Government Printing

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  • White House: Iran’s controversial U.N. ambassador pick is ‘not viable’

    The White House warned Tuesday that Tehran’s choice to be Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations is “not viable” — but hedged on whether President Barack Obama would block the envoy from setting foot on U.S. soil.

    “The U.S. government has informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

    Carney’s comments came a day after the Senate approved a bill barring diplomat Hamid Aboutalebi from entering the United States on grounds that he allegedly belonged to the group that seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 American hostages for 444 days. The measure was crafted by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a potential candidate for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

    “We share the Senate's concerns regarding this case and find the potential nomination extremely troubling,” the White House spokesman said. Carney repeatedly referred to the choice as a “potential” selection, suggesting that the administration

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  • Will government ever get tech’ right? A George H. W. Bush Foundation discussion

    There was no Internet when George Bush got the keys to the White House 25 years ago. There was no Internet when he left it, either – the last president to serve an entire term without the World Wide Web.

    Now, as part of events marking a quarter-century since he took office, the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation is hosting two panel discussions focused on diplomacy and warfare in the digital age and how government and democracy have adapted to the era of social media and the demands that the high-tech environment places on communications, transparency and accountability.

    What does government get wrong about high tech? What does it get right? How are citizens using technology to pressure government, or fill in gaps in services? Why are political campaigns so often better than government at harnessing the benefits of technological progress? Can the United States win friends and discredit enemies online? Will the next war be fought on a virtual battlefield?

    Yahoo News will be

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