Posts Tagged White House

Clinton Campaign Set To Air First Campaign Ads in Iowa & New Hampshire

Hillary ClintonHillary Clinton’s campaign is set to launch its first set of ads on air Tuesday in Iowa and New Hampshire as her campaign tries to get ahead of a much expected Republican attacks come the fall.

The campaign is spending about $1 million in each state over the next five weeks to air two 60-second biographical spots aimed at telling voters why Clinton is running for president. One features Clinton speaking directly to camera about her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, and the other focuses on how Rodham’s rough childhood inspired Clinton’s work over the last four decades.

Clinton’s team had long planned to begin TV advertising this summer, a campaign official said, pointing to the earliest ads Clinton that aired during her last White House bid, in August 2007, and noting that the footage of Clinton in both spots was filmed two months ago.

But the buy also comes as the Democratic front-runner is beginning to feel more pressure in her bid for the nomination, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders polling at less than 10 points behind in some New Hampshire surveys, and with a new round of speculation about whether Vice president Joe Biden will get into the race.

The campaign’s media buyers estimate that Republican campaigns and super-PACs have already spent or reserved $34 million in airtime and anticipate that much of it will include negative messaging about the Democratic front-runner. The Clinton team has already reserved some airtime, too—a combined $7.7 million for in Iowa and New Hampshire between the beginning of November and early February. The Iowa caucuses are set for Feb. 1 and the New Hampshire primary is scheduled for Feb. 9.

The ads will air in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s two largest markets, and in the Boston/Manchester and Burlington, Vt., markets, which together reach all of New Hampshire.

In the ad that focuses on Dorothy Rodham, Clinton discusses her mother’s childhood at length, noting that she was abandoned by her parents but encountered a few kind adults who cared for her. “When she needed a champion, someone was there. I think about all the Dorothys all over America who fight for their families, who never give up,” Clinton says. “That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’ve always done this. For all the Dorothys.”

The other spot, titled “Family Strong,” includes Clinton telling an abridged version of her mother’s story before shifting into a narrated list of Clinton’s work experience and achievements, including working at the Children’s Defense Fund after graduating from law school and fighting for kids while serving as first lady of Arkansas and first lady of the United States. “You probably know the rest,” the narrator says in a nod to Clinton’s well-known recent history, before offering some highlights: “The senator who made sure the heroes and families of 9/11 got the care they needed” and, with a picture of Clinton and President Barack Obama on screen, “the secretary of state who joined the Cabinet of the man who defeated her, because when your president calls you serve.”

The narrator continues, with a photo of the candidate and former President Bill Clinton holding baby Charlotte in the hospital 10 months ago: “And now a new title: grandma.”

Finally, Clinton returns to screen and closes. “I believe that when families are strong America is strong,” she says. “It’s your time.”


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Obama Fundraises as White House Panics Over Lack of Progress on Immigration

ImmigrationIn yet another sign that Congress will leave town next week without addressing the influx of young migrants at the southern border, a senior White House official acknowledged there are major doubts that lawmakers will approve President Barack Obama’s request for emergency funding to deal with the crisis.

“Alarming if Congress leaves for the August recess without acting,” the official told reporters ahead of the visit of three Central American presidents to the White House on Friday.

The official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, conceded that demands, mainly from Republicans, to change immigration policy enacted in a 2008 law could scuttle efforts to pass Obama’s $3.7 billion funding bill by the end of next week, when members of Congress leave Washington until after Labor Day.

The law entices unaccompanied minors from Central America by granting special legal status in U.S. immigration courts.

“If it is an impediment to getting resources, then that is a problem,” the official said of calls to change the 2008 law.

House Speaker John Boehner called on Obama to get more engaged.

“This is a problem of the President’s own making. And then he tries to say he wants to solve the problem so that we can stop this influx, but then he changes his mind,” he said Thursday. “We’ve got a President that’s AWOL. And the President ought to get engaged in this if he actually wants something to happen.”

The 2008 law was an effort to combat human trafficking. A leading bipartisan proposal to change it, advanced by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, is not supported by the administration, a senior White House official said.

Making things more complicated is resistance by congressional Democrats to changing the law.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who authored it, said she’s received draft language from the administration with suggested changes. She said she’s looking at them but doubts there’s any way they can happen before the recess.

“This bill is very complicated and we have to know what we’re doing and I think the important thing is to get the supplemental,” the California Democrat said.

As for House Republicans who signal they won’t pass any bill until the law is changed, Feinstein cautioned, “I think that’s a big mistake,” noting there is also money in the bill to battle wildfires in the West.

Sen. Richard Durbin, one of many powerful Democratic opponents of changing the law, said that the Senate Democratic caucus was at first split on the issue but now the “overwhelming majority” thinks it would be a mistake to make changes.

Asked if the administration is pushing aggressively, if at all anymore, to make the changes that they say they want, Durbin pointed to the draft changes that Feinstein received.

“Many of us are very wary of that,” he said. “First we think the President has all the authority he needs, number one, and number two, when the door is cracked open we think Cornyn and Cuellar and (Ted) Cruz and the whole gang of anti-immigrant opponents are going to walk through it.”

Other senior White House officials said Obama will encourage the Central American leaders from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to do more to disrupt human smuggling networks in their countries.

The presidents of those countries are seeking financial assistance in return. But that money could also be in jeopardy as officials at the briefing noted the supplemental bill offers $295 million to Central America to deal with the crisis.


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Iraq Provides Legal Assurances to Protect US Forces Operating in Iraq

US Forces IRAQIraq has offered legal guarantees to shield US special forces operatives sent to the country as advisers to help its forces battle Sunni radicals who have seized tracts of territory.

The White House said Monday that the guarantee had been provided by the Iraqis in a diplomatic note to Washington.

The failure of Iraq’s parliament to endorse a Status of Forces deal with Washington led to the complete exodus of all American troops from Iraq at the end of 2011.

Many of Obama’s political opponents say their exit fostered a power vacuum which the Sunni group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has exploited in a rapid advance across the country.

“The commander in chief would not make a decision to put our men and women in harm’s way without getting some necessary assurances,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“We can confirm that Iraq has provided acceptable assurances on the issue of protections for these personnel via the exchange of diplomatic note.”

Obama last week announced the dispatch of up to 300 advisors to Iraq to assess the needs of the country’s forces as they struggle to contain the advance of the Islamist fighters.

Earnest said the current situation differed from prevailing conditions at the end of 2011, making the less formal assurance of legal protections from Iraq more acceptable.

“We’re dealing with an emergency situation … there is an urgent need for these advisers to be able to do their work on the ground in Iraq,” he said.

Earnest said the number of advisers contemplated for this mission was much smaller than the several thousand that had been contemplated for a post-Iraq force.

The new agreement struck with Baghdad via diplomatic note is far less sweeping and appeared far less formal than the SOFA. But the U.S. government said the assurances were enough, given the scope and size of the mission.

“With this agreement, we will be able to start establishing the first few assessment teams,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. The Pentagon said on Friday the first teams would be drawn from forces already in Iraq under the U.S. embassy mission, and that additional teams would arrive from outside the country shortly after.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the agreement would give protections similar to the ones already enjoyed by U.S. diplomatic personnel in Baghdad.

“Our troops will have the legal protections they need to perform their mission,” Harf said.

“They would, were something to arise, face due process for violations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad on Monday, said U.S. support for Iraqi security forces will be “intense and sustained” to help them combat the Islamist insurgency that has swept through the country’s north and west.


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ISIL Forces Overrun Tikrit and Eye Baghdad Offensive

ISIL forcesAl-Qaeda-inspired militants pushed deeper into Iraq’s Sunni heartland Wednesday, swiftly conquering Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts and yielded ground once controlled by U.S. forces.

The advance into former insurgent strongholds that had largely been calm before the Americans withdrew less than three years ago is spreading fear that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, struggling to hold onto power after indecisive elections, will be unable to stop the Islamic militants as they press closer to Baghdad.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militant group took control Tuesday of much of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, sending an estimated half a million people fleeing from their homes. As in Tikrit, the Sunni militants were able to move in after police and military forces melted away after relatively brief clashes.

The group, which has seized wide swaths of territory, aims to create an Islamic emirate spanning both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.

The capture of Mosul, along with the fall of Tikrit and the militants’ earlier seizure of the western city of Fallujah, have undone hard-fought gains against insurgents in the years following the 2003 invasion by U.S.-led forces.

The White House said the security situation has deteriorated over the past 24 hours and that the United States was “deeply concerned” about ISIL’s continued aggression.

There were no reliable estimates of casualties or the number of insurgents involved, though several hundred gunmen were in Tikrit and more were fighting on the outskirts, said Mizhar Fleih, the deputy head of the municipal council of nearby Samarra. An even larger number of militants likely would have been needed to secure Mosul, a much bigger city.

The militants gained entry to the Turkish consulate in Mosul and held captive 48 people, including diplomats, police, consulate employees and three children, according to an official in the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish officials did not make any public comment on the seizure, but the state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Erdogan convened an emergency Cabinet meeting.

While the insurgents have advanced southward, Baghdad did not appear to be in imminent danger from a similar assault, although Sunni insurgents have stepped up car bombings and suicide attacks in the capital in recent months.

So far, ISIL fighters have stuck to the Sunni heartland and former Sunni insurgent strongholds where people are already alienated by the Shiite-led government over allegations of discrimination and mistreatment. The militants also would likely meet far stronger resistance, not only from government forces but by Shiite militias if they tried to advance on the capital.

Mosul, the capital of Ninevah province, and the neighboring Sunni-dominated province of Anbar share a long and porous border with Syria, where the Islamic State is also active.

Mosul’s fall was a heavy defeat for al-Maliki. Shiite powerhouse Iran has strong ties with Iraq’s government

Tikrit residents said the militant group overran several police stations in the Sunni-dominated city. Two Iraqi security officials confirmed that the city, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad and the capital of Salahuddin province, was under ISIL’s control and that the provincial governor was missing.

The major oil refinery in Beiji, located between Mosul and Tikrit, remained in government control, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk to reporters. There were clashes and gunmen tried to take the town but were repelled in a rare success for Iraqi government forces protecting an important facility, the officials said.

In addition to being Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit was a power base of his once-powerful Baath Party. The former dictator was captured by U.S. forces while hiding in a hole in the area and he is buried south of town in a tomb draped with the Saddam-era Iraqi flag.

Violence raged elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday. Police and hospital officials said a suicide bomber struck inside a tent where tribesmen were meeting to solve a dispute in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighborhood, killing 31 and wounding 46.

Car bombs in Shiite areas elsewhere claimed another 17 and maimed dozens, officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Car bombs and suicide attackers are favorite tools of the ISIL.


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Clinton Launches Book Tour Ahead Of Likely Presidential Run

Hillary Clinton Hard ChoicesHillary Clinton kicked off her “Hard Choices” book tour on Monday by doing what most high-profile politicians considering a presidential run do: Sit down for an interview to talk about well known issues – tenure, past achievements, presidential aspirations – and some issues that haven’t been addressed in years.

Clinton honed what is likely to be her book tour message in the interview with ABC, one of a thoughtful diplomat who is prepared to re-introduce herself to voters, especially women.

“When you’re in the spotlight as a woman, you know you’re being judged constantly,” Clinton said about sexism. “I mean it is just never ending. … Your natural tendency is how do you bring people together so that you can better communicate. I’m done with that, I’m just done.”

But as Clinton begins to hone her message, Republicans have seized on how the former first lady described the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack and the reportedly $5 million she has made on the speaking circuit since leaving the State Department.

The interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer – the first of her tour – comes just as Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” about her years as Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, hits bookstores on Tuesday. It’s the latest look at her storied career in the global spotlight as first lady, U.S. senator, presidential candidate and top diplomat.

For the first time in years, Clinton was asked during a television interview about Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern who had an affair with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Lewinsky has resurfaced in the last month because of a Vanity Fair essay where she reflects on her infamy and her life after the Clinton affair.

“She is perfectly free to do that,” Clinton said about Lewinsky’s essay. “She is, in my view, an American who gets to express herself however she chooses.

But that is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about.”

Clinton added that she has “moved on” and if she had the chance to talk to Lewinsky she would “wish her well.”

“I hope that she is able to think about her future and construct a life that she finds meaning and satisfaction in,” Clinton concluded.

Much of the interview focused on Clinton’s tenure at State, including her relations with Russia, sanctions imposed on Iran and the 2012 terrorist attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi.

Clinton, as she has done before, portrayed herself as someone who moved the ball forward on diplomatic issues, not someone who fixed everything. On Iran, she said the United States is in a “better [position] than what we inherited,” acknowledging that prospects of a deal were long, and later added that no secretary of state can “eliminate every threat, every danger.”

“Lets talk about what was accomplished and then talk about the continuing threats,” Clinton said when pressed about her State Department record.

On Benghazi, Republicans contend that the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four Americans illustrates Obama administration foreign policy failures. Democrats say ongoing Republican-led scrutiny is political and designed to undercut any potential Clinton candidacy.

“I view this as really apart from – even a diversion from – the hard work that the Congress should be doing about the problems facing our country and the world,” Clinton said, noting that the United States should be “in the majors” on world affairs.

Clinton has taken responsibility for the attack in the past and she did so again in the interview. But the former secretary of state also defended herself by saying she “was not making security decisions” for the Benghazi compound.

“Well, I certainly would give anything on earth if this had not happened,” she said. “And I certainly would wish that we had made some of the changes that came to our attention to make as a result of the investigation. But I also am clear in my own mind that we had a system and that system, of course, ended with me.”

Clinton also argued that while security in Benghazi was an issue, the security issues at the compound were “maybe in the top upper 10” of threats and that “there were places where we had much more concern.”

In possibly the most eyebrow raising comment of the interview, Clinton told Sawyer that her family was “dead broke” and in debt when they left the White House more than a dozen years ago. Clinton made the comments in defense of the hefty speaking fees she commands since stepping down as secretary of state last year.

Clinton later added, her family had “no money” at that time and “struggled to piece together the resources” for mortgages and her daughter Chelsea’s college education.

“You know, it was not easy,” she said.

The Clintons departed the White House in debt due to enormous legal fees. By the end of 2000, their debt totaled somewhere between $2.28 million to $10.6 million. But former presidents and first ladies have the ability to make a lot of money, and the Clintons were no exception and have done so. Their assets grew quickly.

Bill Clinton made more than $9.2 million in speaking fees in 2001 and more than $9.5 million in 2002. They paid off their legal fees by 2004. An analysis of the family’s financial records in early 2013 showed that Bill Clinton had earned $106 million from paid speeches since leaving the presidency behind. In 2012 alone, he earned $17 million in fees.

Although she regularly speaks for free at certain events, Mother Jones reported earlier this year that Clinton made roughly $5 million on the speaking circuit since stepping down as America’s top diplomat. Clinton did not dispute the figure when Sawyer asked about it.

Though not as profitable as her husband – who has made as much as $750,000 in one speech – Hillary Clinton reportedly commands $200,000 per speech. The two also have received hefty advances for their books.

Hillary Clinton said the former first family eventually turned around their finances, noting that her husband has “worked really hard and it has been amazing to me.”

She noted that they had to pay off debts, get their houses arranged and “take care of family members.”

American Rising, the pro-Republican opposition research shop that, along with the Republican National Committee, takes the lead in criticizing Clinton, was quick to ping her over her comments to ABC, saying they “reveal someone who is extremely out of touch with financial reality facing Americans.”

On its website, America Rising said the two homes the Clintons purchased in Chappaqua, New York, and Washington after leaving the White House cost around $4.5 million combined.

Clinton’s memoir and subsequent book tour have garnered a great deal of attention, largely because the former first lady is considering a presidential run in 2016.

“I am going to decide when it feels right for me to decide,” Clinton said, adding that it is “probably likely” that she won’t announce until next year.

A world of pro-Clinton groups have sprung around the prospect that she will run for president. A handful of super PACs, many headed by longtime Clinton aides, have started to urge the former senator to run.

What does Clinton think about them? “I am so appreciate of everyone who is encouraging me, I am grateful that they have that confidence in me, but this is a really personal decision,” she said.

Clinton also entertained the idea that she may not run, citing the top reasons that she “really” likes her life.

“I like what I am doing,” she said.

Clinton’s book tour continues on Tuesday, when she sits down for a live interview with ABC, a radio interview with NPR, attends her first book signing in New York and headlines a conference at night in Chicago.


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Obama to defend foreign policy in West Point Speech

Obama foreign policyStung by criticism, President Barack Obama will use a speech on Wednesday to launch a sweeping defence of his approach to foreign policy, one that he will say is reliant on multilateral diplomacy instead of military interventions.

Obama is to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, the first in a series of speeches that he and top advisers will use to explain U.S. foreign policy in the aftermath of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and lay out a broad vision for the rest of his presidency.

The president has come under withering fire in recent months for what his critics say is a passive approach to foreign policy, one that has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to flex his muscle in Ukraine, and left the Syrian civil war to fester and China to threaten its neighbours in the South China Sea.

Shortly after a trip to Asia late in April during which he strongly defended his incremental approach, he directed aides to frame a speech to explain his foreign policy and how he plans to handle world hot spots during his remaining two-and-a-half years in office.

“You will hear the president discuss how the United States will use all the tools in our arsenal without over-reaching,” a White House official said on Saturday. “He will lay out why the right policy is one that is both interventionist and internationalist, but not isolationist or unilateral.”

Obama, determined not to repeat what he views as the mistakes of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush – U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has leaned heavily on diplomatic activity instead of military force.

In the case of Ukraine, he has ordered sanctions against some of Putin’s inner circle and businesses associated with the Kremlin power structure but has made clear he will not threaten military force for Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.

The fear among some in Washington is that Obama’s handling of Russia will prompt China to flex its muscles in the South China Sea, where tensions have already been rising over such actions as the placement of a Chinese oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam.

On Syria, Obama backed away from a threat to use military force over the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians by the Syrian government. While a deal struck with Russia is leading to the disarming of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, the three-year-old Syrian civil war rages on and President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

Obama will emphasize that Syria remains a counter-terrorism threat as a haven for militant groups. U.S. officials have debated whether to supply heavier weapons and increase covert aid to Syrian rebels.

“We do see Syria as a counter-terrorism challenge. However, the right policy approach continues to be strengthening the moderate opposition, which offers an alternative to both the brutal Assad regime, and the more extremist elements within the opposition,” the White House official said.

The official said Obama will say the United States is the only nation capable of galvanizing global action and why “we need to put that to use in an international system that is sustainable and enduring, and that can address challenges from traditional ones, like maritime and trade issues, to emerging ones, like climate change.”


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Hillary Clinton “absolutely” satisfied with what she knows about Benghazi terror attack

HillaryFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she is “absolutely” satisfied with what she knows about the Benghazi terror attack, and cast doubt on the intentions of House Republicans spearheading a select committee to investigate it.

“I mean of course there are a lot of reasons why, despite all of the hearings, all of the information that’s been provided, some choose not to be satisfied and choose to continue to move forward,” Clinton said in an appearance in New York.

“That’s their choice and I do not believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to call the shots in the Congress,” she said.

The remarks were her first public comments on the formation of a select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012, terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Benghazi has become a partisan flashpoint over President Barack Obama’s conduct of foreign policy and is likely to dog Clinton as she considers launching another White House run.

Republicans have held her culpable since she led the State Department at the time, and some have said the attack should disqualify her from holding elected office.

At multiple events this year, Clinton has said Benghazi was her “biggest regret” from her tenure as America’s top diplomat.

“It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans, two diplomats and now it is public so I can say two CIA operatives,” she said previously in New Orleans.

A Senate report earlier this year said the attack was “likely preventable” based on known security shortfalls and prior warnings that the security situation there was deteriorating.

The decision to launch a new investigation follows the disclosure of information last week that Republicans say supports their contention the White House politicized its public response to the armed assault.

Democrats have bristled at the formation of a select committee since other congressional panels have been investigating the matter since it occurred. They counter that Republicans have politicized the investigation.

“My biggest regret is what happened in Benghazi,” Clinton said in New Orleans. “It was a terrible tragedy losing four Americans, two diplomats and now it is public so I can say two CIA operatives.”



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