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Feb 102013
 

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., pushed for more congressional oversight of the Obama administration’s drone program, saying a legal architecture needs to be put in place on the use of drone strikes against potential terrorist targets overseas.

“I’ve looked into this, I haven’t found one public hearing on drones,” Ellison said Sunday on the “This Week” roundtable. “Now, we had the Brennan hearings, but, you know, Congress has an oversight responsibility here… The president has invited the conversation. He said we need a legal architecture around this thing, so why don’t we go do it?”

Ellison also questioned the legal rationale cited in a leaked Justice Department white paper that applied a wide definition to what constituted an “imminent” terrorist threat. “This is the broadest use of the term ‘imminent’ I’ve ever heard,” Ellison said.

President Obama’s pick for CIA Director John Brennan faced tough questioning at his Senate confirmation hearing last week on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes, which have greatly increased during Obama’s time in office.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., called the hearings “very helpful,” but agreed with Ellison that there needs to be more discussion of the drone program. Cole questioned whether some of the strikes are hurting intelligence efforts by killing instead of capturing terrorist targets.

“I really do think we are losing a lot of opportunities out there to actually extract people and – and get information, and human intelligence is really much more important than taking out individual targets,” Cole said.

Republican strategist and ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace said former President George W. Bush would have been judged much more harshly for using the same measures.

“It’s slightly hilarious that people have all this patience for a legal architecture to be crafted after the fact,” Wallace said. “If this had been President George W. Bush’s administration revealing that this many drone attacks are going on, there would be impeachment hearings underway. So the hypocrisy sort of has Republicans steaming.”

But Wallace added that many Republicans have been pleased that President Obama has continued many of the counter-terrorism efforts of the previous administration.

“I think the actual policy and the fact that President Obama has continued almost the entire basket [and], in the case of drone killings, [has] greatly accelerated their use, has Republicans feeling pretty satisfied that the counter-terrorism policies put in place by the Bush administration, which Dick Cheney was the architect of many of them, have been continued by this president,” Wallace said.

Former Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter countered that the Obama administration has tried to be transparent on the drone program, while ending the use of torture to gather intelligence.

“Mr. Brennan, the president, the administration has said that they want transparency, accountability, and a process to ensure that… everybody’s aware of what we’re doing going forward,” Cutter said.

While the debate over the drone strike program continues in Washington, ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, who just returned from the Middle East, noted how poorly received the strikes are in countries impacted by them.

“I’ve been in all the places they’re used, in Yemen, in Pakistan, and people there do not like them,” Raddatz said. “John Brennan is able to say, ‘look, it’s very effective, and it’s certainly been effective taking out core leadership, but when you talk to people on the street, you wonder what the long-term strategy is.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Oct 282012
 

Richard Ellis/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Sunday morning on “This Week,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended the controversial comments made by Richard Mourdock, in which he suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape were “intended” by God. Gingrich said that the Indiana Republican Senate’s candidate’s words reflected the position of “virtually every Catholic” in the United States.

“My response is, if you listen to what Mourdock actually said, he said what virtually every Catholic and every fundamentalist in the country believes, life begins at conception,” Gingrich said. “Now, this seems to be fixated by the Democrats, but the radical on abortion is Obama, who as a state senator voted three times in favor of allowing doctors to kill babies in the eighth and ninth month who were born, having survived late-term abortion.”

Gingrich further defended Mourdock and asked why some people, including President Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, could not “get over” the comments.

“He also immediately issued a clarification saying he was referring to the act of conception, and he condemned rape.  Romney has condemned — I mean, one part of this is nonsense.  Every candidate I know, every decent American I know condemns rape.  OK, so why can’t people like Stephanie Cutter get over it?  We all condemn rape.”

Gingrich appeared on “This Week” following Cutter, who criticized Mitt Romney for not asking Mourdock to pull an ad featuring the GOP presidential nominee.

“Just this past week we saw it, when he wouldn’t take down his ad for Richard Mourdock, who had — you know, it’s a now famous comment that it’s God’s will if a woman gets pregnant through rape.  He’s not willing to stand up when it matters,” Cutter said.

I also asked Gingrich about the upcoming election and he predicted Romney would win the popular vote with 53 percent. He also pushed back against the idea suggested by some that an Obama victory in the Electoral College, but a popular vote loss would cause some in the GOP to characterize the win as illegitimate.

“I mean, we’re a nation of law.  We’re going to obey the law…I think he’s actually going to end up winning around 53-47,” Gingrich said. “And I think it’s very unlikely he can win a significant popular victory vote and not carry the Electoral College.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sep 032012
 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) — After either saying “no” or refusing to give a straight yes or no answer to Sunday show anchors when asked if Americans are better off today than they were four years ago, officials from Team Obama Monday morning changed their answers and enthusiastically offered a capital-Y “Yes.”

One day ago, Democrats had a different answer to that question.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley Sunday on CBS was asked if Americans are better off than they were four years ago.  ”No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit card.”

O’Malley today on CNN: “We are clearly better off as a country because we’re now creating jobs rather than losing them.”

Clearly Sunday’s answers from O’Malley and other top Democrats were deemed unacceptable.

“Yes or no, are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?” ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos asked White House senior adviser David Plouffe on Sunday’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Plouffe, continuing to evade a direct yes or no, said that Republicans “did a good job of reciting all the statistics everyone’s familiar with. I think everyone understands we were this close to a great depression. Because of the leadership of this president, we staved that off. We’re beginning to recover. We have a lot more work to do.”

Trying to erase and change the question, Plouffe said, “the question is, we’re going to be far worse off if Mitt Romney is elected president and he gets a chance to enact the same economic policies that created the mess in the first place.”

Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace and Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod had a similar back and forth. “David, is the average American better off than four years ago?” Wallace asked. Axelrod responded: “I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it’s gonna take some time to work through it.”

But on CNN’s “Early Start” Monday morning, anchor John Berman elicited a different response from Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse.

“Brad you’ve been shaking your head, as you’ve been sitting off camera, because we’ve been playing all the sound from the last 24 hours of Democrats being asked ‘are you better off today than you were four years ago?’” Berman noted. “So, I’ll give you the chance to ask the question: Are we better off than we were four years ago?”

“Absolutely,” Woodhouse said.

On the Today Show, NBC’s Natalie Morales asked Obama campaign deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter: “Let me begin by starting with that central question on a lot of people’s minds, and that is are we better off today than we were four years ago when President Obama was elected?”

“Absolutely,” Cutter said. “Let me just walk you through what life was like four years ago.”

Cutter noted that “in the six months before the president was elected, we lost 3.5 million jobs,” and added that wages had been declining, the auto industry was on the brink of failure, and so on. “Let’s take a look where we are today… we’ve created 4.5 million private sector jobs” — note the omission of public sector jobs, which have a net loss of more than 600,000 — “the auto industry today is the number one auto industry in the world.”

Acknowledging the weak recovery, to a degree, Cutter said “it might not be as fast as people hoped. The president agrees with that. He knows we need to do more.”

Though the unemployment rate, at 8.3 percent, is currently higher than it was when President Obama took office (7.8 percent), it wasn’t that Plouffe (and others) didn’t have a case to make yesterday.

“We’ve clearly improved, George, from the depths of the recession,” Plouffe said. “We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. We’re now gaining them.”

Plouffe added that “the unemployment rate was around 10, it’s come down” — an assertion that leaves out that the 10 percent unemployment rate arrived in October 2009.

President Obama and his team have continually struggled with how to convey the news that the economy is growing, while not seeming clueless about the economic pain Americans are feeling. Sunday’s responses seem to now be viewed by the campaign as an over-correction.

Clearly senior staff from the White House and Obama campaign realized that saying Americans were worse off than they were four years ago — or at least not insisting that Americans are better off — was untenable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio