I’m pretty sure that when Barack Obama first talked to his wife about his crazy idea of running for president, being the pragmatic woman that she is, Michelle must have given him an earful about the treatment he’d receive as the nation’s first Black chief executive.
She probably warned him that he’d be depicted as a watermelon-eating thug from Chicago’s inner city, and that their family would become targets — both literally and figuratively.
What the first couple couldn’t have imagined in even their most cynical moments is the hardened, ingrained hatred of the man based solely on his ethnicity — a hatred that would subsist almost solely on outright lies repeated often enough, and loudly enough, to pass as truth.
The lies started shortly after he declared his candidacy — he’s a Muslim, he’s a Communist, he’s secretly an anti-American terrorist. He hates America, he hates white people, and he was born in Kenya. Those lies gained momentum, and we all heard them repeated ad nauseum on the nightly news and cable talking heads shows.
Sure, it seemed pretty ridiculous at the time. Many of us were willing to laugh off the silliest of the charges, and ignore the rest. After all, we figured, the truth would come out, the lies would be exposed, and he would assume the presidency without having one speck of mud stick to him.
We were right about that, but dead wrong in thinking the hatred would die down or the lies would slow to a trickle. If anything, the president’s sworn enemies have doubled down on the untruths since 2009, and there’s no reason to believe an entirely new pack of lies won’t manifest themselves by the time he’s inaugurated for a second term.
Here are a few highlights of the past four years, just in case you needed a reminder.
He’s giving out free cell phones to Black people!
I’m Black, and no one has offered me a free cell phone. In fact, I don’t even know anyone who got a free cell phone from the president. And I’m from the generation that remembers Black folks lined up three deep and around the corner for a block of government cheese in the 1980s. Do you think if there were free phone giveaways somewhere, you wouldn’t hear about it?
There’s a government program called Lifeline, which, since the Clinton administration and through the G.W. Bush years, provided free or low cost telephone service to Americans who already qualify for benefits under other programs such as welfare, SSI, Medicaid and the like. And according to the statistics kept by the Department of Welfare, there are more white people receiving government assistance than any other ethnic group, so if anyone’s getting free phones, it’s not us. Even though the program started years before Obama became president, they simply attached the Black man’s name to it, and viola! Obamaphones for Black people, and instant controversy.
He’s coming to take your gun!
The president has not made a single move to deny legal gun owners their sacred right to be a trigger-happy lunatic, even in the wake of unspeakable national tragedy and polling data that suggests Americans are more than ready for common sense firearms regulations. He hasn’t said he’d be interested in taking away even one gun from NRA supporters, and hasn’t insisted we finally pry that musket from Charlton Heston’s cold, dead hands.
Yet, there’s a national run on gun stores like Black Friday at Walmart. Folks are scooping up assault rifles, high capacity magazines and boxes of ammunition — genuinely expecting Obama’s FBI or ATF or whoever to take their small town by siege like Waco or Ruby Ridge. It’s a lie, of course, but one told loudly enough and often enough to make believers out of the small minded.
Then there’s the lie involving the made-up controversy surrounding the deaths at our embassy in Bengazi, the lie about the extravagant multi-million dollar trips and my personal favorite, that Obama didn’t order the death of Osama Bin Laden — that was George W. Bush.
Don’t worry, though — they’re not done. You can bet your last dollar that before the president has finished reciting his oath of office for the second time, the GOP spin machine will be spitting out lies faster than they can get bookings on Fox News.
If we’re lucky, the lies will be even more creatively ludicrous and outlandish in his second term. I certainly hope so. As a columnist, I’m actually looking forward to it.
Daryl Gale is the city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune.
From sex scandals to revolutions and natural disasters, the top ten national and international stories of 2011 had it all. The Tribune compiled a synopsis of its top ten stories.
9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden killed by U.S.
A Navy SEAL team shot and killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden on May 1 at his hideout in Pakistan. He’d been the world’s most-wanted terrorist for nearly a decade, ever since a team of his al-Qaida followers carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne special operations squad on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders, and within hours his body was buried at sea.
Penn State sex abuse scandal topples Joe Pa
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing 10 boys over a 12-year period. He has been charged with 52 counts related to the abuse and is currently free on bail.
The scandal rocked the university, leading to the firing of iconic coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier. Both men were fired by the board of trustees on Nov. 9.
Paterno led the Penn State Nittany Lions for 46 seasons and had amassed 409 career victories — a Division I record. His dismissal led to riots in State College, as students protested his removal.
Sandusky, 67, who since 1977 headed up a charity for trouble children called the Second Mile, has maintained his innocence.
Occupy Wall Street spread inequity protests to more than 200 cities worldwide
Demonstrators first gathered Sept. 17, in Zuccotti Park, located in New York City’s Wall Street financial district to protest against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations — particularly from the financial services sector — on government. Under the slogan “We are the 99 percent,” the protests in New York City have sparked similar protests and movements around the world.
Arab Spring spreads across the Middle East
A wave of protests rolled across the Middle East, leading to revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and civil war in Libya. In addition, there was major civil unrest in Bahrain, Syria and Yemen along with protests in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Oman.
Demonstrators shared frustration at growing economic inequity in all of those countries and well as oppressive regimes. The most famous of the protests took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tens of thousands of protestors forced out dictator Hosni Mubarak with largely peaceful demonstrations.
Boxing legend Joe Frazier dies
Former Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier died from liver cancer at 67 on Nov. 7.
Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, and long a fixture in Philadelphia, Frazier became the only American fighter to win a gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Turning pro, he beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title in 1971, the first man to do so. But, Frazier held the title for just four fights.
The two men battled it out three times, twice in the heart of New York City and once in the morning in a steamy arena in the Philippines in an epic battle dubbed “the Thrilla in Manila.” They went 41 rounds together. Neither gave an inch, and both gave it their all.
In their last fight in Manila in 1975, they traded punches with a fervor that seemed unimaginable among heavyweights. Frazier gave as good as he got for 14 rounds, then had to be held back by trainer Eddie Futch as he tried to go out for the final round, unable to see.
In the end, the two sworn enemies forgave each other. Both are members of the Boxing Hall of Fame.
Black Republican Herman Cain flames out as possible Republican nominee
Pizza mogul Herman Cain, briefly considered the likely Republican nominee for president, dropped out of the campaign on Dec. 4, as charges of sexual impropriety grew.
In his announcement, Cain said he decided to drop out to avoid news coverage that was hurtful to his family.
His decision came five days after an Atlanta-area woman claimed she and Cain had an affair for more than a decade, a claim that followed several allegations of sexual harassment against the Georgia businessman.
The businessman had surged in polls until news surfaced in late October that he had been accused of sexual harassment by two women during his time as president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.
Casey Anthony declared innocent in death of her daughter
The Florida mom on trial for killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008 was acquitted July 5 after the jury deliberated for 11 hours. The 25-year-old had been charged with first-degree murder, which could have brought the death penalty if she had been convicted.
Instead, she was convicted of only four counts of lying to investigators looking into the June 2008 disappearance of her daughter Caylee. The tot’s body was found in the woods six months later and a medical examiner was never able to determine how she died.
Jailed since August 2008, Anthony was sentenced to four years but left jail July 17 for time served.
Steve Jobs, Apple founder dies
Apple founder, technological and business guru Steve Jobs died Oct. 5 at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer. He had been fighting the disease since 2004.
Jobs’ death created a huge outpouring of emotion with mourners who lauded him as a visionary and turned Apple stores across the country into impromptu memorials.
Earthquake strikes Japan
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on March 11, triggering a deadly tsunami that washed far inland, swamping towns, sweeping away a train and sparking massive fires, including one at a major nuclear plant.
The quake ultimately claimed nearly 20,000 lives and caused an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, after waves knocked out the cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing it to spew radiation that turned up in local produce. About 100,000 people evacuated from the area have not returned to their homes. Traces of radioactive materials linked to the accident were detected as far away as Massachusetts.
The offshore quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time at a depth of 24 kilometers about 125 kilometers off the coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. representative from Arizona
Forty-one-year-old Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including the lawmaker and members of her staff. Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner, who was quickly captured and imprisoned while being evaluated to determine if was mentally incapable of participating in his defense.
It took more than seven months for her recovery. She returned to Congress on Aug. 1.
This story has been compiled from Associated reports.
The war drums are beating louder for a possible military attack against Iran.
If you listen to most of the Republican candidates for president, and many members of Congress there is a possibility of another U.S. military action in the Middle East.
In several debates, Republican presidential candidates have promised to go to war to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and have strongly criticized President Obama’s handling of Tehran as his most serious foreign policy failure.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would direct U.S. forces to pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if sanctions failed.
“If all else fails, if after all of the work we’ve done, there’s nothing else we could do besides take military action,” Romney said at a debate on foreign policy in South Carolina earlier this month.
“You have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its capacity to have nuclear weapons,” said Romney who also proposed covert action such as “taking out their scientists.”
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said the U.S. should support an Israeli military strike against Iran. There has been speculation in Israeli media that Israel might strike Iran’s nuclear sites.
With the exception of Congressman Ron Paul of Texas all the other Republican candidates for president support a possible U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran.
Paul warned against an American overreaction to the perceived threat of a nuclear Iran.
Paul’s stance is in stark contrast to his Republican rivals who have criticized Obama for not being aggressive enough against Iran.
However the president has said the United States was considering all options on Iran to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
On Iran, Obama said: “No options off the table means I’m considering all options.”
Dennis Ross, who just retired as the White House’s top Iran policy official, said President Obama was committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“The administration prides itself on a certain reality that it does what it says,” he said, referring to Obama making good on his promise to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
The president who had inherited a war that he opposed from the start was right to end the Iraq war. He would be making a mistake to begin a new war with Iran.
Despite hysteria from many of our political leaders and mainstream media there is no concrete evidence of an existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh, wrote in the November 18th issue of The New Yorker that: “I’ve been reporting on Iran and the bomb for the New Yorker for the past decade, with a focus on the repeated inability of the best and brightest of the Joint Special Operations Command to find definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons production program in Iran.”
On a newly published International Atomic Energy Agency Report, Hersh concluded: “The new report, therefore, leaves us where we’ve been since 2002, when George Bush declared Iran to be a member of the Axis of Evil — with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.”
An attack on Iran would cause oil prices to soar which would harm the still recovering U.S. economy and the struggling global economy.
A military attack on Iran could have catastrophic consequences and only strengthen Tehran’s determination to make an atomic weapon, said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services.
“Such an act I think would make the Iranians more determined to produce an atomic bomb. It will rally support for the government among the population, and it will not end the program. It will merely delay if anything.”
The prince said that while Saudi Arabia did not favor a military option, it would continue to press Iran publicly.
“We fully support tightening of the sanctions, assertive, assertive diplomacy and concerted action via the United Nations,” he said.
Many of the same Washington media and political establishment calling for President Obama to attack Iran were the same ones calling for an invasion against Iraq because Saddam Hussein allegedly had weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong then. They are wrong now.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats beckoned Americans to return Barack Obama to the White House despite the agonizingly slow economic recovery as they opened their national convention, casting the president as someone who understands the struggles of ordinary Americans while depicting Republican rival Mitt Romney as privileged and out-of-touch.
The opening of the three-day convention on Tuesday was effectively a rebuttal to last week's Republican convention in which Obama was depicted as driving down the U.S. economy by favoring a welfare state over private enterprise.
The star speaker, Michelle Obama, played up her husband's strong suits, declaring that after nearly four years as president, he is still the man who drove a rust-bucket car on early dates, rescued a coffee table from the trash, and knows the struggles of everyday Americans because he lived them in full.
"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are," the first lady said to huge cheers Tuesday night in a deeply personal, yet unmistakably political testimonial highlighting the Democratic National Convention's opening night.
Bill Clinton, the last president to preside over sustained economic growth and a balanced budget, gets the star turn Wednesday night in a speech placing Obama's name into nomination — a high point in a checkered relationship between two men who sparred, sometimes sharply, in the 2008 primaries, when Clinton was supporting wife Hillary's campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Romney, a businessman and former Massachusetts governor, appeared nowhere in Mrs. Obama's remarks. But there was no mistaking the contrast she was drawing when she laid out certain values, "that how hard you work matters more than how much you make, that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself."
Such subtleties were otherwise missing from the stage as speaker after speaker blasted Romney and the Republicans. The party's up-and-coming Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, captured the tone in branding Romney a millionaire "who doesn't get it." Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said, "If Mitt was Santa Claus, he'd fire the reindeer and outsource the elves."
Delegates cheered as a parade of speakers extolled Obama's support for abortion rights and gay marriage, for consumer protections enacted under his health care law and for the successful auto industry bailout he pushed through Congress in his first year in office.
Polling gives Obama a consistent advantage over Romney as the more empathetic and in-touch leader. But the sputtering economy is the topmost voter concern and Obama's toughest mountain to climb after more than 42 months of unemployment surpassing 8 percent, the longest such stretch since the end of World War II. No president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with joblessness so high.
A new report found manufacturing activity declined for a third straight month. The Treasury Department announced Tuesday that the government's debt passed $16 trillion. And the latest unemployment report, coming Friday, offers more potential fodder for Romney's case against his rival's stewardship unless it shows marked improvement. Romney took a few days off from the campaign trail, preparing in Vermont for three fall debates with Obama that could prove pivotal in this close election.
Mrs. Obama described a marriage of kindred spirits, built from humble roots, and said the president's work on health care, college loans and more all come from that experience. "These issues aren't political" for him, she said. "They're personal."
"Barack knows what it means when a family struggles," she said. "He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids."
The first lady took the stage as the most popular figure in this year's presidential campaign. Michelle Obama earns higher favorability ratings than her husband, Romney, his wife, Ann, or either candidate for the vice presidency, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. And views of Mrs. Obama tilt favorably among independents and women, two focal points in her husband's campaign for re-election.
Democrats looked to use the convention and its national television coverage to help Obama recapture the hearts of Americans once drawn to his message of hope and change, but now weary after years of economic weakness and political squabbles.
Castro's selection to deliver the prestigious keynote address during prime viewing time was a sign of his rising stardom in the party and the increasing importance of the Hispanic vote, which Democrats are relying on to win several battleground states in the West.
After highlighting the humble roots of his Mexican-born grandmother, Castro ridiculed the advice Romney gave at a campaign event that students could borrow money from their parents to start businesses.
"Gee, why didn't I think of that?," Castro said. "Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams."
The president closed a pre-convention tour of battleground states in Norfolk, Virginia, summoning a crowd at Norfolk State University to resist apathy and make sure to vote.
Republicans are "counting on you, maybe not to vote for Romney, but they're counting on you to feel discouraged," he said. "And they figure if you don't vote, then big oil will write our energy future, and insurance companies will write our health care plans, and politicians will dictate what a woman can or can't do when it comes to her own health."
Obama later returned to the White House to watch his wife's speech with their two daughters, two nights before his own convention-closing speech in the 74,000-seat Bank of America football stadium.
That speech will seek to recreate some of the grandeur of Obama's acceptance address in a Colorado stadium four years ago. At the time, the United States was in the midst of a devastating financial crisis while unpopular wars were dragging on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama — young, magnetic and eloquent — captured the imagination of many Americans as the first black nominee of a major party. He promised a fresh start after eight years of George W. Bush's presidency and new hope for the economy.
Obama did withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq and the United States emerged from the recession. But economic growth has been tepid. Though he stepped up drone strikes on suspected terrorists and gave the order that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Republicans cast him as a weak leader. He won congressional approval of an overhaul of the U.S health care system, but his plan remains largely unpopular.
The two conventions highlight the contrasting visions of government that voters will face in the Nov. 6 election. Romney's Republicans, increasingly guided by the anti-tax tea party movement, want to minimize the role of government, which it sees as an obstacle to enterprise and liberty. Obama's Democrats see government as a potential force for good, helping the downtrodden and providing the education and infrastructure needed to help the country prosper.
Candidates traditionally get a bounce in the polls from political conventions, though there is little sign that Romney improved his standing after the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida. Once dramatic events for selecting candidates and debating issues, political conventions are now carefully scripted shows put on by the parties, making them less compelling television programming. -- (AP)
HOUSTON — Vice President Joe Biden rallied support for President Barack Obama before the nation's largest civil rights organization on Thursday, telling the NAACP that Obama has the "character of his convictions."
Biden drew cheers as he credited Obama for championing a landmark health care law, launching the mission that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and stepping in to rescue the financial system and U.S. automakers General Motors and Chrysler.
"He has put country first," Biden said.
Biden addressed the NAACP convention a day after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he'd do more for African-Americans than Obama, the nation's first black president. Romney was booed when he said he'd repeal Obama's sweeping health care reform law but otherwise got a polite reception as he reached out to a traditionally Democratic voting bloc.
The vice president never directly responded to Romney's argument that he could serve blacks better than Obama, choosing instead to dissect Romney's policy proposals. Biden said the former Massachusetts governor's agenda would hurt black working families, and he outlined detailed differences between Obama and Romney on health care, education, energy, women's rights and research.
"I believe this election will come down to character, conviction and vision. And it will not surprise you — I don't think it's even a close call," Biden said. "So it's time, it's time for the NAACP to do what it's always done ... To stand up. Make our case. Stand our ground. And make real our vision for America."
Obama did not speak to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People this year, appearing instead in a taped video message. In the brief remarks, Obama said: "I stand on your shoulders and at the NAACP you have always believed in the American promise." He reiterated many of the themes of his re-election campaign, saying the nation needs to "build an economy where everyone can have the confidence that the hard work will also pay off."
The president said he was sorry he couldn't be there in person. Obama had no public events scheduled Thursday but was to be interviewed at the White House, along with first lady Michelle Obama, by Charlie Rose of CBS News.
White House officials noted that Obama spoke to the NAACP convention during the 2008 presidential campaign and in 2009, while Mrs. Obama spoke to the group in 2010. The president is scheduled to address the National Urban League in New Orleans on July 25.
Black voters are a key part of Obama's re-election strategy, with about 95 percent supporting him in 2008. Polls have shown black voters supporting Obama at comparable levels this year but Romney could undercut the president in states such as North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Florida, all of which have large black communities, if he can persuade some black voters to support him or if they stay home on Election Day.
Romney said Wednesday that much more must be done to improve education in the nation's cities and noted that the 14.4 percent unemployment rate among blacks is higher than the 8.2 percent national average.
"If you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African-American families, you would vote for me for president," Romney said.
In Obama's absence, Biden offered a fiery defense of administration policies while warning of what a Romney presidency would bring to civil rights. He asked attendees to "imagine" what the Justice Department would be like under a Romney administration and "imagine when his senior adviser on the Constitution is Robert Bork," the Republican Supreme Court nominee who was defeated by Democrats in 1987. Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.
Biden received sustained applause throughout his address. When he spoke about civil rights and administration efforts to expand voting rights and not diminish them, the crowd stood up and loudly cheered. When Biden said, "Did you think we'd be fighting these battles again?" people in the crowd answered in unison, "No."
Biden said there was a lot more he could say on protecting voting rights but that he was "preaching to the choir." ''Say it, say it," many in the crowded responded. As Biden was wrapping up, he said, "Let me close, my friends," prompting members of the audience to boo and yell, "No!" -- (AP)
WASHINGTON — The killing of Osama bin Laden, first presented as a moment of national unity by President Barack Obama, has become something else: a political weapon.
Obama's re-election campaign is portraying his risky decision to go after America's top enemy as a defining difference with his Republican presidential opponent, suggesting Mitt Romney might not have had the guts to order a mission that put lives and perhaps a presidency at stake.
Obama himself is opening up on the raid again — and opening the secretive White House Situation Room as an interview stage — to hail the one-year anniversary.
The broader goal for Obama, whether through campaign web videos or the trappings of the White House, is not to just to remind voters of an enormous victory on his watch. It is to maximize a political narrative that he has the courage to make tough calls that his opponent might not.
"Does anybody doubt that had the mission failed, it would have written the beginning of the end of the president's first term?" Vice President Joe Biden says in laying out Obama's foreign policy campaign message. "We know what President Obama did. We can't say for certain what Governor Romney would have done."
The strategy underscores the fact that the Obama who ordered the raid as commander in chief is now seeking a second term as president. The risk is the political blowback that can come if he is seen as crossing a line into politicizing national security.
"Sad," said a Romney spokeswoman. "Shameless," said 2008 Obama election foe John McCain.
Biden even combined the killing of the al-Qaida leader and Obama's support for a failing auto industry into what he called a re-election bumper sticker message.
"It's pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," the vice president said in a speech on Thursday.
Obama's campaign followed that Friday with a new web video questioning whether Romney would have taken the same path Obama did. If features a quote from a 2007 Romney interview in which he said it was not worth "moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."
That prompted Obama's 2008 opponent, Arizona's McCain, to issue a scathing statement in which he accused Obama of playing politics with the bin Laden killing and "diminishing the memory of September 11th."
"This is the same president who said, after bin Laden was dead, that we shouldn't 'spike the ball' after the touchdown," he said. "And now Barack Obama is not only trying to score political points by invoking Osama bin Laden, he is doing a shameless end-zone dance to help himself get re-elected."
The president's initial words on the bin Laden mission — a raid for which he received wide praise, including from Romney — were ones of sober thanks. Addressing the nation late that night of May 1, 2011, in Washington, Obama said: "Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11."
So much for that, the Romney campaign said Friday.
"It's now sad to see the Obama campaign seek to use an event that unified our country to once again divide us, in order to distract voters' attention from the failures of his administration," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt declined comment for this story, saying Biden's speech and the new campaign video speak for themselves.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the bin Laden raid is a part of Obama's foreign policy story, and "I think the way that we've handled it represents exactly the balance you need to strike."
President George W. Bush, when seeking re-election in 2004, faced criticism that he was politicizing the memory of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including with a video at the Republican National Convention that credited him with "the heart of a president."
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman and strategist for that Bush campaign, said the bin Laden killing is fair game as a campaign message for Obama.
"It was a courageous political decision to launch the raid where bin Laden was killed. The stakes were enormous," Schmidt said. "Had it gone south, there would have been tremendous political ramifications for the president. It's a real event that happened on his watch, by his command."
In perspective, Schmidt added, the issue won't be a determining factor in an election to be driven by the economy.
Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs. The terror leader was living in a compound in one of Islamabad's suburbs, having evaded capture for nearly 10 years.
The episode is featured prominently in a longer Obama campaign video, narrated by actor Tom Hanks, as an example of decisive leadership.
Obama sent in the U.S. forces with no assurance that bin Laden was at the site, leading to a heart-pounding scene in the Situation Room, captured in one of the most famous photos of Obama's presidency.
From that room, Obama will relive the moment in prime time. The White House granted NBC News' Brian Williams access to the Situation Room, and interviews with Obama and top members of his security team, for a special that has been taped and will air on Wednesday.
It is unclear if the room has been used before as the setting for such an interview. NBC News called it a first for network television. White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said the room itself is only classified if the topic being discussed is, and that reporters have been inside the room before.
Said Schmidt: "It's part of the advantage of being an incumbent president." -- (AP)
KABUL, Afghanistan — President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan Tuesday night on an unannounced visit on the anniversary of the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Obama is signing an agreement cementing a U.S. commitment to the nation after the long and unpopular war comes to an end.
The partnership spells out the US relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, covering security, economics and governance. The deal is limited in scope and essentially gives both sides political cover: Afghanistan gets its sovereignty and a promise it won't be abandoned, while the U.S. gets to end its combat mission but keep a foothold in the country.
The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending. But it does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan after the war ends for two specific purposes: continued training of Afghan forces and targeted operations against al-Qaida, which is present in neighboring Pakistan but has only a nominal presence inside Afghanistan.
Obama was greeted at Bagram Airfield by Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Obama then flew by helicopter to the presidential palace in Kabul, where he was to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and sign the strategic partnership.
Officials have previously said as many as 20,000 U.S. troops may remain after the combat mission ends, but that still must still be negotiated.
The United States does promise to seek money from Congress every year to support Afghanistan.
Obama was to be on the ground for about seven hours in Afghanistan, where the United States has been engaged in war for more than a decade following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The trip carries major symbolic significance for a president seeking a second term and allows him to showcase what the White House considers the fruit of Obama's refocused war effort: the demise of bin Laden.
Air Force One touched down late at night local time at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. base here.
Media traveling with Obama on the 13-plus-hour flight had to agree to keep it secret until Obama had safely finished a helicopter flight to the nation's capital, Kabul, where Taliban insurgents still launch lethal attacks.
Obama is joining Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign the agreement that will broadly govern the U.S. role in Afghanistan after the American combat mission stops at the end of 2014 — 13 years after it began.
Obama will also give a speech designed to reach Americans in the U.S. dinnertime hour of 7:30 p.m. EDT. It will be 4 a.m. here when Obama speaks.
His war address will come exactly one year after special forces, on his order, began the raid that led to the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan.
Since then, ties between the United States and Afghanistan have been tested anew by the burning of Muslim holy books at a U.S. base and the massacre of 17 civilians, including children, allegedly by an American soldier.
Obama's overarching message will be that the war is ending on his watch but the U.S. commitment to its ally is not.
Politics, too, set the tone for what the White House hoped would be a positive message and image for Obama: the commander in chief setting a framework to end the war while reassuring Afghanistan, on its soil, it will not be abandoned.
At home, Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has retorted to the Obama campaign's suggestion that Romney might not have gone after bin Laden as Obama did.
"Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order," Romney said of the Democratic president ousted after one term.
Obama has tried to portray inconsistency in Romney's position on the merits of targeting bin Laden. Without mentioning Romney by name, Obama has said he has been consistent and if others have not, "let them explain it."
Obama aides said the anniversary of bin Laden's killing is not a focus of the trip. But they do not mind that Obama's mission will serve as a reminder, six months before Election Day.
More than 1,800 U.S. forces have been killed and 15,700 more have been wounded in Afghanistan.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined have cost almost $1.3 trillion. And public support for keeping troops in Afghanistan seems lower than ever.
Obama has gone twice before to Afghanistan as president, most recently in December 2010, and once to Iraq in 2009. All such trips, no matter how carefully planned, carry the weight and the risks of considerable security challenges. Just last month, the Taliban began near-simultaneous assaults on embassies, government buildings and NATO bases in Kabul.
Still, it would have been unusual for Obama to sign the "strategic partnership" agreement without Karzai at his side.
The deal is essential for locking in America's commitment and Afghan's sovereignty when the post-war period comes. Negotiations have dragged as Afghan officials have demanded specific assurances, financial and otherwise.
Both sides have scrambled to get a deal before the NATO conference in Chicago later this month. Negotiators seemed to clear the way for Obama and Karzai by finding agreement over the conduct of night raids and authority over detainees.
The president was to travel back from Kabul to the Bagram base to spend some time with troops.
He was then to give his speech in a straight-to-camera delivery reminiscent of an Oval Office address, before flying back to the U.S. He is expected back in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.
The United States has 88,000 troops in Afghanistan. An additional 40,000 in coalition forces remain from other nations.
Obama has already declared that NATO forces will hand over the lead combat role to Afghanistan in 2013 as the U.S. and its allies work to get out by the end of 2014.
One important unsettled issue, however, is how many U.S. troops may remain after that.
U.S. officials are eying a residual force of perhaps 20,000, many in support roles for the Afghan armed forces, and some U.S. special forces for counterterror missions. The size and scope of that U.S. force — if one can be agreed upon on at all, given the public moods and political factors in both nations — will probably have to be worked out later in a separate agreement.
Support for keeping American troops in Afghanistan is dropping all along the political spectrum, a new Pew Research poll says. And just 38 percent of people say the military effort is going well, down from 51 percent only a month ago.
Overall, polling shows, Obama gets favorable marks compared to Romney in handling terrorism, and the president's public approval for his handling of the Afghan war has hovered around 50 percent of late.
The trip allows Obama to hold forth as commander in chief in the same week he plans to launch his official campaign travel with rallies in Virginia and Ohio.
"We've spent the last three-and-a-half years cleaning up after other folks' messes," Obama said at a fundraiser last weekend. "The war in Iraq is over. We're transitioning in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida is on the ropes. We've done what we said we'd do." -- (AP)
From Mark Bowden, the preeminent chronicler of our military and special forces, comes “The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden” (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26), a gripping account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With access to key sources, Bowden takes readers inside the rooms where decisions were made and on the ground where the action unfolded. Bowden is the bestselling author of “Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War,” as well as “The Best Game Ever,” “Bringing the Heat,” “Killing Pablo” and “Guests of the Ayatollah.” He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for 20 years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and other magazines.
“To be honest, this is a book that I would never have ever written because if you look back at the other books that I have done, they are all about subjects that no one else was particularly interested in when I was doing them,” said Bowden. “Even though ‘Black Hawk Down’ became a very successful book and attracted a lot of interest, when I was working on the story no one was interested in the (1993) Battle of Mogadishu — I couldn’t even interest my editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the story. You know, I had to push/bully my way into doing it.”
After masterminding the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden managed to vanish. Over the next 10 years, as Bowden shows, America found that its war with Al Qaeda — a scattered group of individuals who were almost impossible to track — demanded an innovative approach. Step-by-step, Bowden describes the development of a new tactical strategy to fight this war — the fusion of intelligence from various agencies and on-the-ground special ops. After thousands of special forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right weapon to go after bin Laden had finally evolved. By spring 2011, intelligence pointed to a compound in Abbottabad; it was estimated that there was a 50-50 chance that Osama was there. Bowden shows how three strategies were mooted: a drone strike, a precision bombing, or an assault by Navy SEALs. In the end, the president had to make the final decision. It was time for the finish.
While several of Bowden’s powerful reports have easily transitioned from the book to the big and small screens, the path to his current release was just the opposite. The research began when the author was asked to write a screenplay about bin Laden. He reached out to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, whom he’d met earlier when serving as Sen. Joe Biden’s press secretary. To Bowden’s surprise, his request for an extensive interview with President Obama was the only media bid granted.
“I was very lucky,” reflected Bowden. “They weighed a lot of requests, and mine was the only in-depth interview on this subject. In fact, I’m looking at a framed picture of me sitting and talking to President Obama in the Oval Office. It was a thrill and a privilege — and he was fantastic. He was candid, I think, and thoughtful and spoke directly to the questions I asked him. I found him to be really fascinating. More than anything, it confirmed my insights about how things unfolded. You can speculate about things always — ‘Oh, the president must have thought this’ or ‘He must have made that discussion because of this, that or the other’ — but until you actually hear it from him, it’s just speculation. In fact, Jay told me they were passing transcripts of the interview around the White House because they had never heard President Obama talk about much of this stuff before, at such length.”
As a longtime investigative reporter, Bowden, 61, has interviewed countless folks around the globe. He teaches journalism and creative writing at his alma mater, Loyola College of Maryland, were he was inspired to embark on a journalistic career by reading Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” In 2010, in his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at the National Book Awards, Wolfe called Bowden one of the two “writers to watch” (along with Michael Lewis). While Bowden’s new book centered on his pivotal interview with the president, a technical glitch rattled the veteran journalist. After Obama shared an incident where a reporter spoke with him for 20 minutes before realizing their recorder had failed, Bowden found himself in the same boat.
“It is the only time in my 40 years of working as a reporter that my recorder died,” said Bowden. “And it wasn’t the battery — it was literally the micro-cassette recorder that I have been using for years just died. Fortunately, the White House records these interviews and provided me with the transcript. Believe me I was enormously relieved. You can just imagine the sense of panic you have after a 90-minute conversation — probably the key interview of the book that I’m trying to write — and you miss the whole thing because my recorder died.”
The Oval Office recording also caught the president (himself a two-time bestselling author) applauding Bowden. “I told him how grateful I was for the opportunity, and he said, ‘You write good books, so you get good opportunities,’ and that was nice of him to say.”
Mark Bowden will read and sign copies of “The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden” at a free event on Monday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street. For more information, call (215) 567-4341 or visit www.freelibrary.org
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, the top surrogates for Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, clashed mightily in a bruising give-and-take, with both men ardently trying to break open one of the closest U.S. presidential contests in recent history.
With less than a month before the Nov. 6 election, analysts on both sides of the deep partisan divide gripping the country were touting victory Friday after the one and only vice presidential debate. The confrontation ranged across a multitude of domestic and foreign policy issues facing the United States as it battles back from the deepest economic downturn in decades and scrambles to find a way forward in a newly chaotic world — especially the Middle East.
Biden was intent on reviving Democrats who were knocked off balance after Obama's dismal showing last week in his first debate with Romney. In that regard, the 69-year-old vice president appeared to have succeeded. He swarmed over Ryan, a 42-year-old member of the House of Representatives. But many wondered if Biden's aggressive style had not harmed the Democratic ticket's standing with key undecided voters. Biden was relentless in bluntly suggesting that both Ryan and Romney were not telling voters the truth or were dead wrong in their policy prescriptions.
Ryan countered valiantly and scored points.
On television's split screens, Biden's body language — a montage of pained smiles, winces, head shakes and eye rolls — often screamed incredulity when Ryan was speaking.
"I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground," Ryan shot back at Biden at one point, "but I think people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other."
That was intended to jab Democrats who have seen Romney essentially pull even or slightly ahead of Obama in nationwide polling after their first debate. Obama, however, has managed to maintain his lead, if somewhat diminished, in some of the key swing states that are likely to decide the outcome of the election.
The U.S. president is not chosen according to the national popular vote but in state-by-state contests. That gives enormous importance to the states that are not locked in behind one or the other candidate. That's the case in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin. Ohio is perhaps the most important, a state that no Republican has lost but gone on to win the White House.
With time growing short, Romney is in Virginia on Friday before meeting up with Ryan in Ohio. Biden and wife Jill will be courting young voters at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Obama will spend a rare day in Washington, preparing for the next two debates and taking campaign contest winners to dinner.
Biden and Ryan went at each other seconds into their debate.
Ryan said the Sept. 11 death of the U.S. ambassador in an attack at the American consulate in Benghazi was evidence that the administration's foreign policy was unraveling. Biden accused Ryan and the Republicans of having cut funding for security at U.S. missions abroad and reminded that it was Obama who ordered the attack deep in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. He also quoted Romney as having said he did not believe it would be worth moving "heaven and earth" in the search for the terrorist mastermind.
On Friday, Romney returned to the issue in campaign stop in Virginia.
"The vice president directly contradicted the sworn testimony of State Department officials," Romney said. "He's doubling down on denial. And we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to just have people brush this aside. When the vice president of the United States directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony of State Department officials, American citizens have a right to know just what's going on. And we're going to find out."
The White House says Biden was speaking just for the White House, for himself and the president.
On Iran's suspected efforts to build a nuclear weapon, Biden defended current sanctions as the toughest in history. Ryan countered that Obama had allowed Iran to move four years closer to building a nuclear bomb and accused the White House of ignoring the warnings of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of not standing up for its chief ally.
The candidates disagreed on Syria, with Ryan accusing the administration of inaction and saying it was outsourcing foreign policy to the United Nations. Biden said the last thing the U.S. needed was another ground war in the Middle East, and that if Ryan and Romney want to send troops to Syria they should just say so. They have not.
Ryan agreed with Obama's plan to transition out of Afghanistan by 2014, but said that publicizing the date for withdrawal amounted to exposing weakness.
Unlike Biden, Ryan is not a foreign policy expert but stood his ground in territory that is more familiar to the veteran senator and former chairman of the Senate of Foreign Relations Committee. The two also argued over the poor state of the U.S. economy, with Biden saying Republicans must take responsibility for obstructing the economic recovery, the dominant issue in the campaign.
Twenty-three million are struggling to find work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like," the congressman said.
In turn, the pressure was on for Biden to go where Obama did not in his own debate.
He quickly did so, citing Romney's opposition to the administration's successful auto industry bailout, and noting that it was not surprising given the Republican's recent videotaped comment in which he was heard saying that 47 percent of Americans view themselves as victims who depend on the government and refuse to take responsibility for their lives.
"These people are my mom and dad," Biden said, later reminding the audience that U.S. men and women fighting in Afghanistan also are exempt from income taxes and among that 47 percent.
Romney and Obama meet again Tuesday for a town hall-style debate in Hempstead, New York. Their third and last debate is scheduled Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Florida. -- (AP)
In the third and final presidential debate President Barack Obama did an effective job of reminding voters that Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been inconsistent on foreign policy.
Unlike in the first presidential debate, Obama did not let allow Romney to flip-flop from his previous controversial statements.
He reminded voters that on foreign policy Romney was wrong for supporting the war in Iraq, for opposing the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, for being inconsistent on Afghanistan and for opposing nuclear treaties with Russia.
In the debate Monday night it was clear that Romney was seeking to appear more moderate to centrist voters.
However, the facts are that Romney has frequently changed positions on how he would have handled Iraq and Afghanistan, has previously expressed bellicose language about the Middle East and has a dated Cold War view toward Russia.
On Afghanistan, Romney agreed with Obama that U.S. forces should complete their withdrawal by the end of 2014. Previously he has criticized the setting of a specific withdrawal date.
On Osama bin Laden, Romney congratulated Obama ‘on taking him out and taking on the leadership of al-Qaida.” He has previously suggested capturing the terrorist leader was not a top priority.
Romney once again inaccurately described Obama’s trip to the Middle East early in his presidency as an “apology tour.”
He was referring to a claim repeatedly and wrongly made by conservatives against the president. Obama did not apologize for U.S. behavior during his travels, a fact pointed out by reporters and independent fact-checkers. The Washington Post gave this claim four Pinocchios, its worst rating for an inaccurate statement.
While Romney sought once again o distance himself from the failed foreign policies of the Bush administration, the fact is that several of the his campaign’s foreign policy advisers served in that administration and had advocated for the war in Iraq.