First Family Arrives in Hawaii for 16-Day Vacation

Posted on: December 20th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The president and first family have arrived in Hawaii, for a 16-day tropical vacation that’s become their annual tradition over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“The president himself is eagerly looking forward to” the time away, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last week.

They will remain on the island until after the New Year.

While there’s no such thing as a work-free vacation for an American president, Obama will likely spend plenty of time soaking up the sun, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, hiking and biking with his daughters, and enjoying the local cuisine.

He’s also expected to play several rounds of golf and squeeze in a few workouts at the Marine Base Kanehoe.

The White House says he plans to hold no public events. But as with past years, there’s the possibility Obama’s two-week getaway will be punctuated with breaking news around the world to which he’ll need to respond.

It will be the Obamas’ sixth trip to Oahu for family vacation since moving into the White House. The president has deep roots on the island, which is where he was born and spent most of his childhood.

The first family typically rents a multi-million dollar beach-side home in the town of Kailua, on the east side of the island, footing the several thousand-dollar per night bill with personal funds, the White House says.

Obama has taken fewer vacation days overall outside Washington than his predecessor, according to unofficial White House chronicler of presidential travel Mark Knoller of CBS News. While the meaning of “vacation day” is a matter of debate, by one measure, Obama had taken at least 140 days of R&R through August, per Knoller.

That compares to 533 days in George W. Bush’s two terms, including trips to his Crawford, Tex., ranch; 174 by Bill Clinton; and 390 for Ronald Reagan.

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Obama Highlights America’s Progress in 2014, the Future in Weekly Address

Posted on: December 20th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama reflected on the progress America has made since his first election in 2008, and more specifically the steps forward the country has taken this year.

Obama called 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s, and highlights the decreasing cost of gas and the nation’s leadership in containing the spread of Ebola, combating ISIS and addressing climate change, as well as the recent policy changes involving Cuba.

“Pick any metric you want — America’s resurgence is real,” Obama says. “And now we ahve the chance to reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes. We just have to invest in the things that we know will secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.”

Obama then discussed the need to “make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us.”

He also touched on the incoming Republican majority in the Senate, saying that “we’ll disagree on some things. We’ll have to compromise on others. I’ll act on my own when it’s necessary. But I will never stop trying to make life better for people like you.”

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody.  As 2014 comes to an end, we can enter the New Year with new confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.
 
The steps we took nearly six years ago to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  Over the past 57 months, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.
 
Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth since the ‘90s.  America is now the number one producer of oil and gas, saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  The auto industry we rescued is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone.  And since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two-thirds.
 
Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  We’re leading the global fight to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  We’re leading global efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China.  We’re turning a new page in our relationship with the Cuban people. 
 
And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over, and our war there will come to a responsible end.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than at any time in over a decade.  Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend this Christmas in harm’s way.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I want our troops to know:  your country is united in our support and gratitude for you and your families.
 
The six years since the financial crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everyone’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve got to show for it.  More jobs.  More insured.  A growing economy.  Shrinking deficits.  Bustling industry.  Booming energy.
 
Pick any metric you want – America’s resurgence is real.  And we now have the chance to reverse the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes.  We just have to invest in the things that we know will secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  We have to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not only for a few, but for all of us.  And I look forward to working together with the new Congress next year on these priorities. 
 
Sure, we’ll disagree on some things.  We’ll have to compromise on others.  I’ll act on my own when it’s necessary.  But I will never stop trying to make life better for people like you. 
 
Because thanks to your efforts, a new foundation is laid.  A new future is ready to be written.  We have set the stage for a new American moment, and I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure we seize it. 
 
On behalf of the Obama family, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.
 
Thanks, and have a wonderful holiday season.

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GOP Address: Rep. Mike Kelly Issues a Call for Coal

Posted on: December 20th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican Address, Rep. Mike Kelly called for energy reform and increased reliance on coal — offering President Obama a lump of coal, though he avoided calling the commander in chief “naughty.”

“Coal is our most abundant and valuable resource,” Kelly says. “It lights our home, keeps our electric bills low, and puts food on the table for countless families.”

Kelly criticizes the president’s “all of the above” strategy for energy, saying that Obama is “leaving out everything that is below.”

“Instead of forcing our workers to live with less, the president should let us use our God-given resources and talents to help Americans get back to work and make our nation the energy superpower it can be – and quite frankly, that it needs to be,” Kelly adds.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Good morning, I’m Mike Kelly, and I have the tremendous privilege of representing Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District.

Today I’m offering President Obama a lump of coal for Christmas.

Not because he’s been bad this year – though I’ll get to that.
 
No, I’m offering the president a lump of coal because this product right here holds the potential for a 21st-century economic revival.

You see, coal is our most abundant and valuable resource.  It lights our homes, keeps our electric bills low, and puts food on the table for countless families.  More than 40,000 jobs in my state alone are tied to coal.

But this isn’t just about coal country – no, it’s about our whole country.

Because no other nation in the world has been blessed with such abundant, affordable, and accessible resources.

And with all that God has given us, we shouldn’t be just trying to keep up with the pack.  My goodness, we should be leading the world.

Now if only we had a president willing to seize this opportunity.

He tells us he’s for ‘all of the above’ but then he leaves out everything that’s below.

The president said he would bankrupt the coal industry and he’s spent his presidency trying to do just that.  Federal regulations have already forced two coal-fired power plants in my district to close over the past two years.  Hundreds more are set to shut down around the country.

He’s put up so many roadblocks to American energy that all our production is coming from state and private lands.

Now even when the president’s own party stopped him from imposing his cap-and-trade tax, he said it was ‘just one way of skinning the cat’ and then he directed the EPA to do his bidding for him.

Instead of forcing our workers to live with less, the president should let us use our God-given resources and talents to help Americans get back to work and make our nation the energy superpower it can be – and quite frankly, that it needs to be.

So whether it’s stopping these regulations, expediting infrastructure, or expanding production, there’s so much we can do to encourage the development of all forms of American energy.

These aren’t just Republican solutions – these are common-sense American ideas that have support in both parties.  You’re going to see them again in the new Congress, starting with a vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Because manufacturing things, making things – and doing it better than anyone else in the world – that’s what America’s always been about.  That’s how we’ve built such a robust and dynamic economy.  If we all pull together, we can make 2015 the year we restore our nation of builders.  

But that’s next year.  Right now, we are getting ready to celebrate Christmas.  And as we do, I hope you’ll set aside a moment to remember all those who gave their lives this year for the cause of freedom, and pray for those spending this holiday season away from their families and loved ones.

Merry Christmas everyone, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. 

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First Family Off to Hawaii for 16-Day Vacation

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(HONOLULU) — Aloha, Obama family!

The president and first family are heading off to Honolulu for a 16-day tropical vacation that’s become their annual tradition over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“My presidency is entering the fourth quarter,” President Obama said at his final press conference of the year. “Going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a time-out. I am now looking forward to a quiet time-out, Christmas with my family.”

While there’s no such thing as a work-free vacation for an American president, Obama will likely spend plenty of time soaking up the sun, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, hiking and biking with his daughters, and enjoying the local cuisine.

He’s also expected to play several rounds of golf and squeeze in a few workouts at the Marine Base Kanehoe.

The White House says he plans to hold no public events. But as with past years, there’s the possibility Obama’s two-week getaway will be punctuated with breaking news around the world to which he’ll need to respond.

It will be the Obamas’ sixth trip to Oahu for family vacation since moving into the White House. The president has deep roots on the island, which is where he was born and spent most of his childhood.

The first family typically rents a multi-million dollar beach-side home in the town of Kailua, on the east side of the island, footing the several thousand-dollar per night bill with personal funds, the White House says.

Obama has taken fewer vacation days overall outside Washington than his predecessor, according to unofficial White House chronicler of presidential travel Mark Knoller of CBS News. While the meaning of “vacation day” is a matter of debate, by one measure, Obama had taken at least 140 days of R&R through August, per Knoller.

That compares to 533 days in George W. Bush’s two terms, including trips to his Crawford, Tex., ranch; 174 by Bill Clinton; and 390 for Ronald Reagan.

The president, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and dogs Sunny and Bo are expected to arrive on Air Force One Friday just before midnight local time. They will remain on the island until after the New Year.

“I’m going to go on vacation. Mele Kalikimaka, everybody,” Obama said at the end of his press conference.

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Supreme Court Denies Stay in Florida Same-Sex Marriage Case

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

 

Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Same-sex couples in Florida could get married as soon as next month after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to issue a stay.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi had filed for a stay while awaiting an appeal hearing before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court, however, decided by a 7-2 margin not to grant the stay. Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, saying that they would have granted the application for a stay.

In a statement on Friday night, Bondi said that “regardless of the ruling it has always been our goal to have uniformity throughout Florida until the final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage.”

Despite her application for a stay being denied, Bondi said that “the Supreme Court has now spoken, and the stay will end on January 5.”

It’s not clear whether Florida clerks will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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Sen. Rand Paul Criticizes Marco Rubio’s Stance on Cuba

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: US Senate(WASHINGTON) — In an unusual series of events, a Republican Senator on Friday called out one of his fellow party members online on Friday.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-S.C., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have publicly shared differing viewpoints on President Obama’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba. Paul has stated his interest in engaging Cuba, while Rubio is staunchly against the decision.

On Friday, Paul posted a series of messages on both his Facebook and Twitter pages criticizing Rubio’s stance.

“[Rubio] believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies,” the Facebook post began. In it, Paul calls himself “a proponent of peace through commerce” and stated his belief that “engaging Cuba can lead to positive change.”

He went on to call Rubio an “isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat.”

Paul then sent a series of tweets, mentioning Rubio’s handle, asking questions such as “what about the majority of Cuban-Americans who now support normalizing relations between our countries?” and “The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?”

Hey @marcorubio if the embargo doesn't hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

Senator @marcorubio is acting like an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. So @marcorubio why not Cuba?

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

.@marcorubio what about the majority of Cuban-Americans who now support normalizing relations between our countries? http://t.co/0qhSOeD9Va

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) December 19, 2014

Both Paul and Rubio have been mentioned as possible candidates for the 2016 presidential election.

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Sunday on ‘This Week’: Sen. Marco Rubio

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ap marco rubio mt 141219 16x9 608 Sunday on This Week: Sen. Marco Rubio

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Following President Obama’s historic opening with Cuba, “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sunday on “This Week.”

And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, ABC News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, ABC News contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and ABC News’ Cokie Roberts.

See the whole political picture, Sunday on “This Week.”

Like “This Week” on Facebook here. You can also follow the show on Twitter here.

Go here to find out when “This Week” is on in your area.

 

Obama Determined to ‘Chip Away’ at ‘Hermetically Sealed’ Cuba

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama’s decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba will “chip away” at the island’s “hermetically sealed society,” the president said Friday at what is likely his last press conference of the year.

“This is still a regime that represses its people,” the president acknowledged. “But what I know, deep in my bones, is that if you’ve done the same things for 50 years, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.”

“Suddenly Cuba is open to the world in way’s that it hasn’t been before,” he continued. “Over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society and, I believe, offers the best prospect of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination of the Cuban people.”

In the wide-ranging press conference, Obama also touted his economic accomplishments this year.

“Pick any metric you want, America’s resurgence is real,” President Obama said. “We are better off.”

“In terms of my own job, I am energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years,” Obama said, adding he wasn’t going to be “stopping for a minute” in his quest to make life better for all Americans.

“My presidency’s entering the fourth quarter,” he said. “Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”

The president leaves Washington on a high note, having made progress on several top priorities as he heads into the final two years of his presidency. In recent weeks, the president negotiated an unprecedented climate deal with China, took unilateral actions to reform the nation’s immigration system and announced a historic thawing of relations with Cuba.

Despite these successes, the president’s approval rating remains dismally low, hovering around 40 percent.

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Sony Hacking: Obama Says Sony Made ‘Mistake’ in Canceling "The Interview"

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama says Sony made a “mistake” in canceling its planned release of the movie The Interview following a destructive cyber attack the U.S. government says was launched by North Korea.

“Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I’m sympathetic to the concerns that they faced,” Obama said. “Having said all that, yes I think they made a mistake.”

“We cannot have a society where some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the U.S.,” Obama said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The FBI formally fingered North Korea as being responsible for the attack, which successfully forced Sony to cancel its planned release of The Interview, which depicts the fictional assassination of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The FBI said the Sony attack was unprecedented given its “destructive” and “coercive” nature, saying it disabled “thousands” of Sony’s computers and “significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.”

The White House has declared the Sony hacking case a “serious national security matter” but has been trying to walk a fine line with its reaction. Administration officials say they are acutely aware that a public act of retribution could further give the hackers and the North Korean regime the kind of attention they seek. Some U.S. actions, they suggest, could be covert.

“I don’t anticipate that we’ll be in a position where we’re gonna be able to be completely forthcoming about every single element of the response that has been decided upon,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday.

“North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior,” the FBI said.

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Aloha, Obamas! First Family Off to Hawaii for 16-Day Vacation

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Aloha, Obama family!

The president and first family are heading off to Honolulu, Hawaii, for a 16-day tropical vacation that’s become their annual tradition over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“The president himself is eagerly looking forward to” the time away, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last week.

While there’s no such thing as a work-free vacation for an American president, Obama will likely spend plenty of time soaking up the sun, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, hiking and biking with his daughters, and enjoying the local cuisine.

He’s also expected to play several rounds of golf and squeeze in a few workouts at the Marine Base Kanehoe.

The White House says he plans to hold no public events. But as with past years, there’s the possibility Obama’s two-week getaway will be punctuated with breaking news around the world to which he’ll need to respond.

It will be the Obamas’ sixth trip to Oahu for family vacation since moving into the White House. The president has deep roots on the island, which is where he was born and spent most of his childhood.

The first family typically rents a multi-million dollar beach-side home in the town of Kailua, on the east side of the island, footing the several thousand-dollar per night bill with personal funds, the White House says.

Obama has taken fewer vacation days overall outside Washington than his predecessor, according to unofficial White House chronicler of presidential travel Mark Knoller of CBS News. While the meaning of “vacation day” is a matter of debate, by one measure, Obama had taken at least 140 days of R&R through August, per Knoller.

That compares to 533 days in George W. Bush’s two terms, including trips to his Crawford, Tex., ranch; 174 by Bill Clinton; and 390 for Ronald Reagan.

The president, first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and dogs Sunny and Bo are expected to arrive on Air Force One Friday just before midnight local time. They will remain on the island until after the New Year.

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Obama’s Presidency in 2014 by the Numbers

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Fresh off his announcement about normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama on Friday will hold what will likely be his final press conference of the year before the first family jets off to Hawaii for 17 days of R and R.

Here’s a look at how the commander-in-chief has fared this year:

  • He has a 41 percent job approval rating in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll out this week, a single point from his career low, with 54 percent disapproving.
  • His approval rating averaged just 43 percent in 2014, making it his worst year by a significant margin.
  • His rating on the economy is essentially flat; 52 percent disapprove, despite recent economic gains. Fifty-four percent disapprove of his work on international affairs, a steadily negative majority since September. He’s gained 9 points on handling immigration, but only to 38 percent approval, with 55 percent disapproving. And for only the second time, numerically more disapprove than approve of his handling of terrorism, 48-43 percent.
  • He’s presided over the steepest drop-off in Democratic self-identification we’ve ever seen. Just 26 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Democrats, down 6 points from late October to the fewest on record since the start of ABC/Post polling in 1981. (More are independents; Republican Party ID is flat, but the GOP’s favorability rating has risen sharply.)
  • Obama’s career-long job approval rating, 50 percent on average, lags all three of his immediate two-term predecessors at this point in their tenure.
  • He’s at 29 percent approval among whites, the lowest of his presidency; not only do 67 percent disapprove, but a majority, 53 percent, does so strongly. Nearly two-thirds of nonwhites, by contrast, approve of Obama’s work in office.
  • Previous results also have indicated the president’s problems: He reached career lows in both favorability and empathy — understanding the problems of people like you — in a pre-election ABC/Post poll. His career low job approval, 40 percent, was Oct. 12.

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President Obama to Close the Year with Annual Press Conference

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

The White House(WASHINGTON) —  President Obama will hold his annual year-end press conference Friday afternoon at the White House before taking off on his annual Hawaiian holiday vacation.

Obama last fielded reporters’ questions the day after the mid-term elections and there’s a lot of new ground to cover since then.

The president is expected to face tough questions on relations with Cuba, cyber-terrorism, torture, immigration, the economy, and race relations. Many also are watching closely to see whether the president will refer to the Sony hack as “terrorism” and how the U.S. is going to respond to North Korea.

President Obama will also likely tout his strong finish to the year — in recent weeks he’s announced a major climate deal with China, unilaterally reformed the nation’s immigration system and seen a boost in job growth.  

This will be President Obama’s seventh solo news conference of the year, according to the American Presidency Project at University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s the 46th time in six years he will take questions in a solo session with reporters. George W. Bush held 34 solo pressers by this point in his presidency.

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The Gingriches’ Guide to Surviving a Presidential Campaign

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News/Yahoo! News(WASHINGTON) — As the wife of a former presidential candidate, Callista Gingrich has some advice for the spouses of 2016 presidential hopefuls.

“Focus on the positive, try not to let the negativity get you down, because you really have to keep your [attention] on those issues that are most important to the future of this country. And some days that’s a challenge,” Gingrich said. “But just be open-minded and appreciate the moment.”

Gingrich, who is out with a new children’s book, From Sea to Shining Sea, said that part of staying positive means steering clear of reading the news if you’re the subject of the report.

“Probably avoid that,” she told ABC News/Yahoo! News in a joint interview with her husband, Newt Gingrich.

“We kept begging her,” her husband, the former speaker of the House and 2012 GOP presidential hopeful, chimed in. “Margaret Thatcher had a ground rule: That she never read stories about her. And I think there’s a certain virtue to don’t get the Google Alerts. …If you look at the Twitter, for example, as we both do a lot of, there’s a group of people on Twitter who really like to get all their anger out; so if you pay too much attention, it can really get you down.”

But don’t expect the Gingriches to put their advice to personal use again come 2016: He’s not running. They said their days on the frontlines of a presidential campaign are in the past.

“We had an opportunity, and I think we worked very hard,” Callista Gingrich said. “There is a new crop of candidates, and we will help as much as we can and be involved in the process.”

“There is a new generation coming down the road, and there are a couple of people who have been around for a while,” added Newt Gingrich, who rattled off a roster of nearly a dozen Republicans whom he expects will run in 2016.

From that list, Gingrich said he doesn’t consider anyone a frontrunner — not even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“I don’t think he is,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think anyone is a frontrunner. I think if you go back and look at his brother in 1999, the amount of money he raised, the dominance he had over the field, no one has anything like that. I mean, Hillary arguably is a frontrunner, although I think she’s a very fragile one.”

The problem for Clinton, Gingrich predicted, will be the same one she had in 2008.

“She’s gotten her candidacy ahead of her cause, which is what she did in ’08,” he said. “We’re ready for Hillary, but for what? I mean, I think that’s the real problem, and I think that’s what all Jeb Bush and the others are going to have to answer for us is ‘So, why? …Why are you running and what would you do?’”

Callista Gingrich said some moderate Republican women voters might gravitate to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, if she runs. She said it was time for Republicans to nominate a woman on their ticket.

“Oh, I think we’re more than ready, but I think somebody needs to step forward that’s able to handle the job,” she said. “Right now, we’re not hearing about any of those likely people. So, I’m very hopeful that we’ll see a woman run from the Republican Party in the very near future.”

Callista Gingrich also discussed her newest children’s book, which is the fourth edition of a history series that follows a time-traveling elephant, Ellis, through major events in U.S. history.

“My books are really meant to serve as an introduction to the key moments that have shaped our nation,” Callista Gingrich said of the series. “And unfortunately, today, many of our kids are failing to learn our American history, including our founding principles and values and instead learning revisionist or politically correct history.”

She went on to add that the books are applicable to households across the political spectrum.

“These books are not meant to be Republican books or conservative books, but really they’re pro-American books,” she said.

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Obama’s Year To Remember — And To Forget (The Note)

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama holds his annual year-end press conference at 1:30 pm ET in the White House briefing room. Obama last fielded reporters’ questions the day after the mid-term elections and there’s a lot of new ground to cover since then, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. The president is expected to face tough questions on relations with Cuba, cyber-terrorism, torture, immigration, the economy, and race relations. As ABC’s JONATHAN KARL noted on “Good Morning America,” many are watching closely to see whether the president will refer to the Sony hack as “terrorism” and how the U.S. is going to respond to North Korea. The president will also likely tout his strong finish to the year — in recent weeks he’s announced a major climate deal with China, unilaterally reformed the nation’s immigration system and seen a boost in job growth.  This evening, the president departs for his 17-day holiday vacation in Hawaii. WATCH Karl’s take on “Good Morning America” today: http://abcn.ws/1wsq08P
  • BY THE NUMBERS: This will be President Obama’s 7th solo news conference of the year, according to the American Presidency Project at University of California, Santa Barbara. ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes it’s the 46th time in six years he will take questions in a solo session with reporters. George W. Bush held 34 solo pressers by this point in his presidency.
  • THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: Following President Obama’s historic opening with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, comes to “This Week” Sunday. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, ABC News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, ABC News contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and ABC News’ Cokie Roberts. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. TUNE IN SUNDAY:  http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek

 

ANALYSIS

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What’s a war? What’s terrorism? And what do you do about it? President Obama is logging on to a new kind of debate in confronting the Sony hacking affair, with the Justice Department moving toward outright blame of North Korea for an attack that’s clearly illegal — and much closer to an outright act of terrorism, given the actions it ultimately brought about. The White House has labeled it a “national security matter,” with Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying a “proportional response” was warranted. But that’s for the president to figure out, with no clear set of precedents. Does the United States respond by hacking them back? Threatening to shut down a North Korean movie release (!)? It’s very possible that, for as huge as this week’s Cuba news was, the hacking incident could have more severe geopolitical implications.

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

OBAMA SURPRISED WITH ‘CUBAN’ CIGAR ON HISTORIC DAY FOR U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS. Turns out President Obama capped off Wednesday — a day that marked the dawn of a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba — with what else: A cigar. And, according to the gift giver, it was a Cuban. ABC’s ALI DUKAKIS reports, when a guest at one of two White House Hanukkah receptions handed one to Obama, he gave it a sniff. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/13hE2hq

–THE GINGRICHS’ GUIDE TO SURVIVING A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. As the wife of a former presidential candidate, Callista Gingrich has some advice for the spouses of 2016 presidential hopefuls. “Focus on the positive, try not to let the negativity get you down, because you really have to keep your [attention] on those issues that are most important to the future of this country. And some days that’s a challenge,” Gingrich said. “But just be open-minded and appreciate the moment.” Gingrich, who is out with a new children’s book, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” said that part of staying positive means steering clear of reading the news if you’re the subject of the report. “Probably avoid that,” she told ABC’s JEFF ZELENY, host of “The Fine Print,” in a joint interview with her husband, Newt Gingrich. WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW: http://yhoo.it/1v7C8Ye

 

THE BUZZ

2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE: WHERE THINGS STAND. So, now that the midterm elections are over — in case you missed it, the GOP did pretty well — we can now focus on the 2016 presidential race. Get excited! ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE breaks down the latest on the 2016 presidential race. http://abcn.ws/13hrpCO

NOTED — OBAMA: ‘I HAVE A LOT OF DISAGREEMENTS’ WITH JEB BUSH. In an exclusive interview on ‘World News Tonight’ with ABC’s DAVID MUIR, President Obama says he “loves” the Bush family personally and that former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has “every right” to run in 2016. Obama made sure to praise his former secretary of state as well, adding that Hillary Clinton would make an “excellent president.” http://abcn.ws/1DQtp6c

CUBAN EMBASSY EASY TO SET UP, CIGARS HARDER. What does the U.S.  have to do in order to officially establish an embassy in Cuba? Not much more than change the sign on the door, ABC’s ALI WEINBERG notes. But just because establishing an embassy is so casual doesn’t mean it will happen quickly. All the changes that go into normalizing relations take a while to be implemented. So Americans looking to get their first legal Cohibas back to the states will still have to wait a few weeks. http://abcn.ws/1C49PS4

PHOTOS: WORLD LEADERS IMAGINED AS HIPSTERS. It’s exactly as it sounds. See JFK, Winston Churchill and Vladimir Lenin in subculture garment. http://abcn.ws/1wIqqaV

5 SWEEPING CHANGES RECOMMENDED FOR SECRET SERVICE. A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House is recommending sweeping changes at the agency. ABC’s MIKE LEVINE reports on the panel’s recommendations, which includes building a taller, “better” fence. http://abcn.ws/1zBwSQJ

WIKILEAKS RELEASES CIA REPORT ON HIGH VALUE TARGETING. Wikileaks has released a CIA document from 2009 analyzing the positive and negative effects of strikes against high value targets. The 18 page secret document is dated July 7, 2009 and is entitled “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool.” According to ABC’s LUIS MARTINEZ, the anti-secrecy Wikileaks posted the report on its website Thursday. A press release accompanying the release said the report was compiled by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues and “weighs the pros and cons of killing “insurgent” leaders in assassination plots.” http://abcn.ws/1z1O3Z3

3 SENIOR ISIS LEADERS KILLED IN US AIRSTRIKES IN IRAQ. Three senior ISIS leaders have been killed in recent weeks by U.S. airstrikes inside Iraq, including the terror group’s right-hand man, the Pentagon confirmed. ABC’s LUIS MARTINEZ reports that the news comes as the American commander leading the U.S. effort against ISIS in Iraq and Syria says coalition efforts are having a “significant impact” on the terror group’s operations. http://abcn.ws/1wQsV9R

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@PounderFile: Politico: Bill and Hillary Clinton’s midterm travel expenses top $1.5 million http://politi.co/1DRoaDc 

@ByronYork: Romney run still totally unlikely. But there are scenarios. ‘I wouldn’t say there is zero chance of it,’ says one. http://ow.ly/Gap1S 

@joshgerstein: Just heard farewell salute to @petermaercbs on CBS 8AM ’round-up.’ Great WH colleague and pro. And to his mom & Obama, always just ‘Pete

@danbalz: What Obama can do about Cuba, and how Congress can interfere http://wapo.st/1GZdHSr 

@WestWingReport: On This Day. 1998: Bill Clinton was impeached; House charged him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice

Obama’s Year To Remember — And To Forget

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama holds his annual year-end press conference at 1:30 pm ET in the White House briefing room. Obama last fielded reporters’ questions the day after the mid-term elections and there’s a lot of new ground to cover since then, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. The president is expected to face tough questions on relations with Cuba, cyber-terrorism, torture, immigration, the economy, and race relations. As ABC’s JONATHAN KARL noted on “Good Morning America,” many are watching closely to see whether the president will refer to the Sony hack as “terrorism” and how the U.S. is going to respond to North Korea. The president will also likely tout his strong finish to the year — in recent weeks he’s announced a major climate deal with China, unilaterally reformed the nation’s immigration system and seen a boost in job growth.  This evening, the president departs for his 17-day holiday vacation in Hawaii. WATCH Karl’s take on “Good Morning America” today: http://abcn.ws/1wsq08P
  • BY THE NUMBERS: This will be President Obama’s 7th solo news conference of the year, according to the American Presidency Project at University of California, Santa Barbara. ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes it’s the 46th time in six years he will take questions in a solo session with reporters. George W. Bush held 34 solo pressers by this point in his presidency.
  • THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: Following President Obama’s historic opening with Cuba, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, comes to “This Week” Sunday. And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, ABC News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, ABC News contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro, and ABC News’ Cokie Roberts. Be sure to use #ThisWeek when you tweet about the program. TUNE IN SUNDAY:  http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek

 

ANALYSIS

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What’s a war? What’s terrorism? And what do you do about it? President Obama is logging on to a new kind of debate in confronting the Sony hacking affair, with the Justice Department moving toward outright blame of North Korea for an attack that’s clearly illegal — and much closer to an outright act of terrorism, given the actions it ultimately brought about. The White House has labeled it a “national security matter,” with Press Secretary Josh Earnest saying a “proportional response” was warranted. But that’s for the president to figure out, with no clear set of precedents. Does the United States respond by hacking them back? Threatening to shut down a North Korean movie release (!)? It’s very possible that, for as huge as this week’s Cuba news was, the hacking incident could have more severe geopolitical implications.

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

OBAMA SURPRISED WITH ‘CUBAN’ CIGAR ON HISTORIC DAY FOR U.S.-CUBA RELATIONS. Turns out President Obama capped off Wednesday — a day that marked the dawn of a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba — with what else: A cigar. And, according to the gift giver, it was a Cuban. ABC’s ALI DUKAKIS reports, when a guest at one of two White House Hanukkah receptions handed one to Obama, he gave it a sniff. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/13hE2hq

–THE GINGRICHS’ GUIDE TO SURVIVING A PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN. As the wife of a former presidential candidate, Callista Gingrich has some advice for the spouses of 2016 presidential hopefuls. “Focus on the positive, try not to let the negativity get you down, because you really have to keep your [attention] on those issues that are most important to the future of this country. And some days that’s a challenge,” Gingrich said. “But just be open-minded and appreciate the moment.” Gingrich, who is out with a new children’s book, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” said that part of staying positive means steering clear of reading the news if you’re the subject of the report. “Probably avoid that,” she told ABC’s JEFF ZELENY, host of “The Fine Print,” in a joint interview with her husband, Newt Gingrich. WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW: http://yhoo.it/1v7C8Ye

 

THE BUZZ

2016 PRESIDENTIAL RACE: WHERE THINGS STAND. So, now that the midterm elections are over — in case you missed it, the GOP did pretty well — we can now focus on the 2016 presidential race. Get excited! ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE breaks down the latest on the 2016 presidential race. http://abcn.ws/13hrpCO

NOTED — OBAMA: ‘I HAVE A LOT OF DISAGREEMENTS’ WITH JEB BUSH. In an exclusive interview on ‘World News Tonight’ with ABC’s DAVID MUIR, President Obama says he “loves” the Bush family personally and that former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has “every right” to run in 2016. Obama made sure to praise his former secretary of state as well, adding that Hillary Clinton would make an “excellent president.” http://abcn.ws/1DQtp6c

CUBAN EMBASSY EASY TO SET UP, CIGARS HARDER. What does the U.S.  have to do in order to officially establish an embassy in Cuba? Not much more than change the sign on the door, ABC’s ALI WEINBERG notes. But just because establishing an embassy is so casual doesn’t mean it will happen quickly. All the changes that go into normalizing relations take a while to be implemented. So Americans looking to get their first legal Cohibas back to the states will still have to wait a few weeks. http://abcn.ws/1C49PS4

PHOTOS: WORLD LEADERS IMAGINED AS HIPSTERS. It’s exactly as it sounds. See JFK, Winston Churchill and Vladimir Lenin in subculture garment. http://abcn.ws/1wIqqaV

5 SWEEPING CHANGES RECOMMENDED FOR SECRET SERVICE. A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House is recommending sweeping changes at the agency. ABC’s MIKE LEVINE reports on the panel’s recommendations, which includes building a taller, “better” fence. http://abcn.ws/1zBwSQJ

WIKILEAKS RELEASES CIA REPORT ON HIGH VALUE TARGETING. Wikileaks has released a CIA document from 2009 analyzing the positive and negative effects of strikes against high value targets. The 18 page secret document is dated July 7, 2009 and is entitled “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool.” According to ABC’s LUIS MARTINEZ, the anti-secrecy Wikileaks posted the report on its website Thursday. A press release accompanying the release said the report was compiled by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues and “weighs the pros and cons of killing “insurgent” leaders in assassination plots.” http://abcn.ws/1z1O3Z3

3 SENIOR ISIS LEADERS KILLED IN US AIRSTRIKES IN IRAQ. Three senior ISIS leaders have been killed in recent weeks by U.S. airstrikes inside Iraq, including the terror group’s right-hand man, the Pentagon confirmed. ABC’s LUIS MARTINEZ reports that the news comes as the American commander leading the U.S. effort against ISIS in Iraq and Syria says coalition efforts are having a “significant impact” on the terror group’s operations. http://abcn.ws/1wQsV9R

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@PounderFile: Politico: Bill and Hillary Clinton’s midterm travel expenses top $1.5 million http://politi.co/1DRoaDc 

@ByronYork: Romney run still totally unlikely. But there are scenarios. ‘I wouldn’t say there is zero chance of it,’ says one. http://ow.ly/Gap1S 

@joshgerstein: Just heard farewell salute to @petermaercbs on CBS 8AM ’round-up.’ Great WH colleague and pro. And to his mom & Obama, always just ‘Pete

@danbalz: What Obama can do about Cuba, and how Congress can interfere http://wapo.st/1GZdHSr 

@WestWingReport: On This Day. 1998: Bill Clinton was impeached; House charged him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice

White House Considering ‘Range of Options’ in Responding to Sony Hack

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Jim Dorian/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House will consider a “range of options” in dealing with the Sony hack, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

Earnest would not speculate on the eventual White House response, saying, “I would acknowledge that an appropriate response is something that is not always obvious, but it’s something that’s worthy of careful consideration.” The president’s national security team continues to consider their options carefully, Earnest said.

“I don’t anticipate that we’ll be in a position where we’re going to be able to be completely forthcoming about every single element of the response that has been decided upon,” Earnest added.

Earnest would not discuss who would eventually be deemed responsible for the hack, though he did say that Obama “considers it to be a serious national security matter.”

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Obama Signs Order Creating Task Force on 21st Century Policing

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama signed an order on Thursday that officially created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Obama had announced on Dec. 1 that he would take this step. The task force will convene sessions where they will hear testimony and accept proposed recommendations from invited witnesses. By March, the task force is expected to present a report and recommendations to the president.

According to the White House, the chairpersons of the task force will be Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, profesor of Criminology, Law and Society and George Mason University. Robinson is also a former assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs.

The task force will also include 10 other members, including attorneys, leaders of non-profit organizations and law enforcement officers.

Obama created the task force after weeks of protests over the police-involved shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Mo., and the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York police officer in recent months.

Congressmen Write Letter to 18 Universities Urging Them to End Use of University Debit Cards for Student Tanning

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Five congressmen on Thursday wrote a letter to 18 universities urging them to disallow the use of university debit cards by students for indoor tanning.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that the 18 universities allow the use of student debit cards for tanning services, an agreement that the reps. say “constitute an endorsement and even encourage indoor tanning,” which they note “has been designated a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.”

The letter was sent to Indiana University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Southern New Hampshire University, the universities of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pittsburgh, Texas at Austin, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vermont, Virginia Tech, Western Kentucky University, Clemson University and Georgia Southern University.

“We believe your university should not be offering incentives to students to engage in activities that put their health at risk,” the congressmen wrote.

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Obama Surprised With ‘Cuban’ Cigar On Historic Day for U.S.-Cuba Relations

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) –  Turns out President Obama capped off Wednesday, a day that marked the dawn of a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba, with…what else: a cigar.

And, according to the gift giver, it was a Cuban.

When a guest at one of two White House Hanukkah receptions handed one to Obama, he gave it a sniff.

“I had the unique distinction of gifting the president of the United States with one of Cuba’s finest cigars, a Montecristo Series at the White House…after a ceremony in which a Menorah was lit,” John Berzner, who offered the cigar to the president on Wednesday, told ABC News.

Berzner said when he was preparing to leave his Colorado home Tuesday for the annual White House Hanukkah Party, he selected one cigar from the box to bring with him.

Little did he know, of course, that Wednesday would be a landmark day in U.S.-Cuba relations with the freeing of American Alan Gross after five years of imprisonment in the country and the softening of long-hardened diplomatic relations with Cuba.

On Wednesday, the president announced an increase in the amount of Cuban goods authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba can bring back to the States, including tobacco. However, those revised regulations have not yet gone into effect. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.

When Berzner handed the cigar to the president, he said: “Mr. President, a Cuban cigar for you!”

“Oh, nice!” Obama replied as he lifted the cigar up from the crowd.

“The finest,” Berzner said as Obama raised the cigar to his nose to sniff.

The president approved, telling Berzner, “Pretty good!”

Nigel Savage, who was also a guest at the event and shot the video, added, “The president definitely looked like he appreciated a good Cuban cigar.”

There’s no telling what the president ultimately did with the gift.

More ABC News Videos | ABC World News

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Five Changes Recommended for Secret Service After Fence Jumper Enters WH

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Vacclav/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — A bipartisan, independent panel scrutinizing the U.S. Secret Service after a man with a small knife in his pocket jumped the perimeter fence and made it deep inside the White House earlier this year is recommending sweeping changes at the agency.

The Secret Service’s “paramount mission” of protecting the president and other high-ranking officials “allows no tolerance for error,” and a “single miscue, or even a split-second delay, could have disastrous consequences for the nation and the world,” warns the panel’s final report, commissioned by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson after the September breach.

After speaking with 50 officials from the Secret Service and as many as 70 others from other federal agencies, state agencies, and the White House, the panel’s report makes these “important” recommendations:

1. A TALLER, “BETTER” FENCE

A better fence can provide agents with “crucial” time needed to identify a threat and determine how to respond appropriately, the report concludes. “Every additional second of response time” counts, and those seconds would help agents “decide, in a split-second, whether to use lethal force on a person who may not actually pose a viable threat to the president or the White House.” The report says that “for sure, the fence must be taller.” In addition, horizontal bars on the fence that can be used like a ladder “should be eliminated,” and the top of the fence could be curved outward “to make scaling it much more difficult for most,” the report recommends. “Importantly, designers of the new fence must balance security concerns with the long and storied tradition of the White House being the ‘People’s House,’” the report says. The acting head of the Secret Service, Joe Clancy, said recently that changes to the fence, which currently stands at 7.5 feet, are already under serious consideration.

2. A “STRONG” LEADER FROM OUTSIDE
“The Panel found an organization starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence and demands accountability. From agents to officers to supervisors, we heard a common desire: More resources would help, but what we really need is leadership.” Consequently, the report concludes that “the right person” to become the next Secret Service director “should come from outside the Service.” The report says any benefits from appointing someone with “Service experience” are “outweighed” by the need for “dynamic leadership” that can “move the Service forward into a new era,” “drive change in the organization,” and “make difficult choices.” “Only a director from outside the Service, removed from organizational traditions and personal relationships, will be able to do the honest top-to-bottom reassessment this will require,” the report concludes.

3. A NEW BUDGET

“[N]o one has really looked at how much the mission, done right, actually costs.” So, the report says, a new director should “start with a zero-based budget,” determine what “is needed” to accomplish the Service’s mission, and then ask the White House and Congress for “this sum.” In the meantime, “to ensure adequate training and personnel for the White House,” the administration and Congress should find a way to let the Secret Service hire 85 more special agents and 200 more Uniformed Division officers, the report says.

4. MORE TALENT AND MORE AGENTS

“The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits,” with those protecting the White House working “an unsustainable number of hours,” the report says. So the service needs to “increase significantly in size” by hiring more agents and uniformed officers, the report concludes. In addition, the service needs to recruit “more of the best and most innovative scientists and engineers dreaming up ways to defeat the next threat,” according to the report. All that means the Secret Service needs “an administrative department that can demonstrate with rigorous precision why additional resources are necessary and knows how to budget for it,” the report says.

5. MORE ACCOUNTABILITY

“The agency’s zero-failure mission requires that its high standards be met,” so agents and officers themselves “must see that the organization itself believes in its standards and enforces them in a consistent, evenhanded manner,” according to the report. “It’s not just about morale or fairness, but about creating a “culture of performance that the Secret Service needs to meet its zero-failure mission,” the report states.

After the recommendations were released, Secretary Johnson called them “astute, thorough, and fair,” saying, “Fundamental change is needed at the Secret Service.” And the head of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said it’s “imperative that the Secret Service begin to review and implement the recommendations…as soon as possible.”

The four panelists – former top Justice Department officials Thomas Perelli and Mark Filip, and former White House officials Joseph Hagin and Danielle Gray – were directed to take a broad look at how to revamp an agency scarred by recent scandals. Two of the panelists served under the Obama administration, the other two served under the Bush administration.

A separate internal DHS probe, led by Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, detailed the multiple failings and missed opportunities that led to the Sept. 19 incursion allegedly carried out by 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez. The results of that probe were released last month.

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2016 Presidential Race: Where Things Stand

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

GTY hillary clinton jef 141212 16x9 608 2016 Presidential Race: Where Things Stand

(Lisa Lake/Getty Images)

So, now that the midterm elections are over — in case you missed it, the GOP did pretty well — we can now focus on the 2016 presidential race. Get excited! For the latest on the 2016 presidential race, we turn to ABC News’ deputy political director Shushannah Walshe.

1] So the big news this week is that Jeb Bush is going to explore the possibility of running for president. How is that different from actually running for president? It’s kind of confusing.

It is a bit confusing and it really is likely just a step before a step before an announcement. Usually candidates announce they will form an exploratory committee first, that is the traditional first step before a full-blown campaign. Instead, the former Florida governor announced essentially he’s thinking about it, saying in a statement he would “actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States” and will set up a political action committee next month. He said the PAC will help him “facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation.”

It’s a step before an exploratory committee, although it’s possible he would even skip that step since he’s already admitting to exploring the possibility. In 2008, then-Sen. Obama had only three weeks between his exploratory move and announcing his campaign, but that tends to be unusual.

An aide cautions that Bush has “not made a final decision on whether he will run,” but it would seem unlikely he would reverse course. But there are differences between an exploratory committee or what is called “testing the waters” before launching a full-fledged campaign. It’s really seen as just a coy move and there are different campaign finance laws between the two entities, but usually when you hear the words “exploratory committee” you can expect an actual presidential campaign … at some point.

Up to now, the only candidate even at that stage is former Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who announced an exploratory committee last month. There are different finance laws between an exploratory committee and an actual campaign. The Federal Election Commission says an exploratory committee is “not considered a political committee and does not have to register or file reports as long as its activities are limited to testing the waters and it does not engage in campaigning,” which means candidates don’t need to report donations until they are an actual presidential contender.

Yes, it’s fuzzy. The FEC categorizes a candidate as no longer “testing the waters” when a person makes several moves, including if they “make or authorize statements referring to him/herself as a candidate.” But remember Bush isn’t even at this stage yet.

2] So, what happens next? When can we expect more people to formally express interest in running for president? Is it still early?

It is still early! We think, “Hey, the 2014 midterm elections are over. Let’s get to 2016,” but it is still only 2014. In the 2008 race, Hillary Clinton announced her exploratory committee in January 2007, but not her official campaign until September of that year. Barack Obama announced in January 2007 and as mentioned above, his official campaign just three weeks later in February.

In the 2012 cycle, Mitt Romney announced his exploratory committee in April 2011, followed by his official campaign in June of that yearbut he already had run once and felt he could enter later because of broader name recognition. So, by early next year we will likely see some candidates get in the race, but the contenders with higher name recognition can stay out longer.

Of course, once you are in you open yourself up to much more scrutiny, so for some candidates (like Hillary Clinton) they may be thinking, “Hey what’s the rush?” And as of now, Clinton also doesn’t have a possible Democratic star nipping at her heels, like she did with Obama in 2007. Even with Jeb Bush admitting what no one else is willing to acknowledge yet — he’s thinking about it — he will face much more scrutiny, but he also has the advantage now of trying to lock in high-dollar donors before they go to another campaign or potential campaign. On the Republican side, that’s important because it will be quite a large field (keep reading for more on that).

3] There’s been some reporting that former Gov. Mitt Romney seems more open to the idea of running again for the highest office in the land? What do you make of that?

A Politico article last week said the 2012 GOP nominee is more open to the idea of another run, and Romney consistently comes in first in GOP polls he’s included in. But that’s likely due, in large part, to name recognition. I think it’s very unlikely in 2016 that a candidate that lost twice — one time as the party’s nominee — would actually run again, even if he is more open to the idea now, and had financial and voter support, especially when there will be a wide Republican field.

And now with Jeb Bush likely in, much of the establishment GOP donor and voter appetite could go to Bush over Romney. And I can tell you what Ann Romney told me in October about the 2016 talk. After two bruising campaigns she simply said “No,” saying she has “moved on.”

“We’re not doing that again. It’s a no,” she said, adding that when friends, family and former aides urge them to give it one more go, she says it’s “kind of cute.” I would trust that the answer will remain a no, but of course stranger things have happened.

5 Ways Jeb Bush’s 2016 Announcement Will Shift the Presidential Landscape

Jeb Bush Will ‘Actively Explore the Possibility of Running for President

4] What’s going on with Hillary Clinton? When is she going to decide on a run?

Well, deciding and announcing are two very different things. But, the former secretary of state told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer in June, ”I will be on the way to making a decision by the end of the year, yes.” More recently she has slid that decision timetable to the beginning of next year saying she will decide after the first of the year. A Washington Post article last week said a spring announcement is likely and we do know she has paid speeches through March, but the bottom line is we don’t know. We don’t know when she will decide and we don’t know when she could announce, but it’s looking more and more likely it will be later than the last time around.

5] So, break it down for us. Who should we be watching most carefully as we edge toward 2016? Who are the players to watch? What’s next?

There are so many possible 2016 candidates out there, especially on the GOP side. On the Democratic side, all eyes are on Hillary Clinton, but others making moves are Webb, as we said, and also Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has spent eight days each in Iowa and New Hampshire since 2012, according to an ABC News early visit tracker.

There’s also Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, technically an Independent, who was back in Iowa this week and has also spent eight days in the first caucus state. Progressive groups MoveOn and Democracy for America this week launched their draft effort to encourage Massachusetts senator and liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren to get into the race. She’s said repeatedly she’s not running, but her supporters are hoping to change her mind. And how about Vice President Joe Biden? He hasn’t ruled it out either.

On the GOP side, there is a long list of potential candidates to watch. Let’s break them in to groups. The governors: Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mike Pence of Indiana, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Senators: Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The 2008 and 2012ers who could run again: Former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Texas governor and former 2012 candidate Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania senator and 2012  presidential candidate Rick Santorum, former GOP vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, and of course eyes are still on Mitt Romney, as we mention above.

Ben Carson says he'll decide on a WH run by May 1st.

A video posted by benlbell (@benlbell) on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:28am PST

“This Week” brings you all the latest news on 2016 Sunday.

WikiLeaks Releases CIA Report on High-Value Targeting

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) –  WikiLeaks has released a CIA document from 2009 analyzing the positive and negative effects of strikes against high-value targets.

The U.S. military has used high-value targeting of insurgent leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the CIA also uses drone strikes to target high-value al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

The 18-page secret document is dated July 7, 2009, and is entitled “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency: Making High Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool.”

WikiLeaks posted the report on its website Thursday. A press release accompanying the release said the report was compiled by the CIA’s Office of Transnational Issues and “weighs the pros and cons of killing ‘insurgent’ leaders in assassination plots.”

A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on WikiLeaks’ posting of the report and its contents.

“High-value targets” is the term used to describe senior leaders in insurgent organizations. They can be targeted in airstrikes or operations where they are captured for their intelligence value.

The report is a historical analysis that found both positive and negative effects from high-value targeting. One key finding from the review “suggests that HVT operations can play a useful role when they are part of a broader counterinsurgency strategy.” More to the point, the report said the targeting is most effective when a country decides on a strategic outcome before beginning the HVT track and also integrates it into other military and civilian counterinsurgency operations.

However, the targeting can also have significant negative impacts. It could lead to more local support for the insurgency and it could also lead to other radical groups filling the power vacuum created when insurgent leaders are killed.

The report includes brief reviews of successful and unsuccessful HVT efforts in other countries and how it fit into their counterinsurgency strategies — for example, descriptions of the British fight against the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Colombian government against FARC rebels.

In addition to using open-source reporting to recount the experiences to tackle insurgencies, the CIA also interviewed U.S. officials running HVT programs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan the report said that high-value targeting had a limited effect against the Taliban because of the logistical inability to integrate it into a broader counterinsurgency campaign by the U.S. military and Afghan government. Moreover, the Taliban had “good succession planning and bench strength, especially at the middle levels,” said the report.

A few months after the report was written President Obama would approve a troop surge and counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan that would see U.S. troop levels rise to 100,000.

In Iraq, the report says that early targeting against leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq “did little to slow AQI’s momentum.” But that began to change in 2007 as the HVT operations were complemented by “broader Coalition and Iraqi Sunni actions against AQI” that cut the terror group off from its support base and have contributed to its decline since that time.

Years later, that group would push into Syria, where it would re-emerge as ISIS, which has taken over territory in both Syria and Iraq.

Clandestine reports also indicated that “the Iraqi Government has chosen not to target Muqtada al-Sadr and many of his top aides because of political sensitivities.” The CIA report said “capture or refraining from lethal operations may be warranted if the government’s goal is to integrate an insurgent group into the political process.”

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Obama: Jeb Bush Has ‘Every Right’ to Run for President in 2016

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Obama says he “loves” the Bush family personally and that former Florida governor and possible 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush has “every right” to run in 2016.

But he made sure to praise his former secretary of state as well, adding that Hillary Clinton would make an “excellent president.”

“The Bush family, I love personally,” Obama told ABC News’ World News Tonight anchor David Muir in an exclusive interview. “They are good people. Jeb’s father, George H.W. has been here many times, in some cases with Jeb. And they are a great family, wonderful people. Obviously I have a lot of disagreements with Jeb and his brother on policy. But I think they have every right to do what they think is best.”

The president said of Clinton that he “think(s) so highly of her and I’ve said before and will continue to say I think she’d be an excellent president.”

Obama added that the “great thing about democracy” is that “anybody can run, even the son of and brother of former presidents.”

Earlier this week, Bush announced he would “actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States.”

He didn’t set up an exploratory committee, a traditional first step for presidential contenders, but said he would set up a political action committee next month that would help him “facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation.”

Bush’s likely entry could set up a dynastic face off with Clinton, if they both run. Clinton hasn’t said she will enter the race, but told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in June she will be “on the way to making a decision by the end of the year.” More recently she has slid that decision timetable to the beginning of next year saying she will decide after the first of the year.

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Hillary Clinton Praises Obama’s Decision to Change Course on Cuba

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

JP Yim/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — What does possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton think of the president’s announcement Wednesday to normalize relations with Cuba?

One day after she condemned the torture revealed in the Senate’s interrogation report, Clinton released a statement saying she “support[s] President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy while keeping the focus on our principal objective — supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom.”

She said she was “deeply relieved” by Alan Gross’ release, and noted when she was Secretary of State she “pushed for his release” and “stayed in touch” with his wife and daughters, while calling “for a new direction in Cuba.”

“Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power,” Clinton said. “As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information, and material comforts of the outside world. The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people.”

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Excerpt: ‘The Professor and the President’ by Stephen Hess

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

HT professor president book jef 141217 16x9 608 Excerpt: The Professor and the President by Stephen Hess

'The Professor and The President: Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the Nixon White House'

Veteran of four presidential administrations, Stephen Hess, is out with a new book from The Brookings Institution about the unlikely relationship between Richard Nixon and his first assistant on urban affairs, Harvard professor and East Coast liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The story, full of personal, first-hand accounts, is one of chance and lucky timing that brought about a bipartisan friendship at the highest level of Washington.

“It is such a surprising story of how politics really work. What personal relationship really can mean,” Hess told ABC News. “These two are almost destined not to get along, and then they found a bond and really liked each other. By the end, Moynihan is what telling the president of the United States which books to read.”

Hess said he did not write the book with lessons in mind for Washington today. “It was not written for this moment, but for history,” Hess told ABC News. “Still, for this moment, it is awfully nice to remember that there was – and maybe there will be again – a time when people could cross party lines and find agreement.”

“It is a very much a story of what went well, and that is nice these days,” he continued.

**

Excerpted from THE PROFESSOR AND THE PRESIDENT: DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN IN THE NIXON WHITE HOUSE by Stephen Hess by arrangement with the Brookings Institution Press. Copyright Brookings Institution Press, 2014.

The Memoranda

Nixon has barely finished announcing the Moynihan appointment when Pat’s memoranda begin cascading onto his desk. The standard internal “Memorandum for the President,” as I remember from my days in the Eisenhower White House, is kept to a page, if possible. The president is a busy man, as are his staffers.

But Pat’s memos are long, at times very long, complicated, often convoluted. His style borders on the literary, more like essays, with a tad of the Britishisms he acquired when studying at the London School of Economics, filled with tasty quotations and arcane references. They are often about subjects, such as Negro-Jewish relations, that fascinate Pat and, in his opinion, should fascinate the president as well, even if they are outside presidential powers.

I don’t think this is a strategy, at least not at first. It’s just Pat being Pat, saying all the things he wants to say to a president if he ever has a chance. Nixon is meeting Pat through the memoranda, his introduction to a man he had not known and yet is elevating to a position of great importance to him and his government.

On January 9, 1969, Pat writes to Nixon:

In the months ahead I will be harassing you with details of the “urban crisis.” Whatever the urgency of the matters I bring before you, I will be doing so in an essentially optimistic posture, which is to say that I will routinely assume that our problems are manageable if only we will manage them. This is the only position possible for government. Yet, of course, it does not necessarily reflect reality. It may be that our problems are not manageable, or that we are not capable of summoning the effort required to respond effectively. It seems to me important that you know that there are responsible persons who are very near to just that conclusion. (To be sure, twenty years ago in many scientific/academic circles it was taken as settled that the world would shortly blow itself up, yet we are still here.)

I had thought to summarize the views of the apocalyptic school, ranging in style as it does from the detached competence of Lewis Mumford who for forty years had foretold the approach of “Necropolis,” the City of the Dead, all the way to the more hysterical members of the New Left who assume that the only thing that can save this civilization is for it to be destroyed. However, I have just come upon a document of careful men who recently met to discuss the state of New York City. I am associated with a quarterly journal, The Public Interest, which is devoting a special issue to New York. On December 17 we assembled a group of city officials and similarly informed persons for a day-long session at the Century Club. (I could not be present owing to my new assignment.) Paul Weaver, a young assistant professor of government at Harvard, attended as a kind of rapporteur. Later he summarized his impression of the meeting in terms that seem to me persuasive, and as he himself put it, “not a little chilling.”

His central point—an immensely disturbing one—is that the social system of American and British democracy that grew up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was able to be exceedingly permissive with regard to public matters precisely because it could depend on its citizens to be quite disciplined with respect to private ones. He speaks of “private sub-systems of authority,” such as the family, church, and local community, and political party, which regulated behavior, instilled motivation, etc., in such a way as to make it unnecessary for the State to intervene in order to protect “the public interest.” More and more it would appear these subsystems are breaking down in the immense city of New York. If this should continue, democracy would break down.

Most staff memos to a president are essentially politician-to-politician or expert-to-CEO. But Pat is writing to Nixon intellectual-to-intellectual, without a bit of patronizing. Nixon has never been treated this way before. He loves it!

Now that he is finally to be president, Nixon seems to have room for knowledge other than what he has needed to get there. And for Pat, the professor, there is the delighted discovery that his student is very bright and easy to engage.

January 15, 1969

To: Bob Haldeman

From: RN

The Moynihan memorandum of January 9 on urban problems should be made available to the research team and to the Cabinet members who are on the Urban Affairs Council. It should be emphasized in distributing this memorandum and others like it, which will be coming in, that this is not a final policy paper but the kind of incisive and stimulating analysis which I think should constantly be brought to the attention of policymakers. Be sure also that Garment gets a copy of this memorandum and of others like it in the future.

The president’s practice of sharing Pat’s memos throughout his government almost guarantees that eventually there will be an embarrassing leak. But that leak—which will outrage the civil rights movement, embarrass the administration, and prompt Pat to offer his resignation—won’t happen for another year.

Liberal Groups Kick Off Their ‘Run Warren Run’ Campaign in Des Moines

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

US Senate(DES MOINES, Iowa) — A campaign without a candidate kicked off Wednesday night in the all-important state of Iowa. Progressive group MoveOn, joined by Democracy for America launched their effort to draft Elizabeth Warren at a coffee shop in Des Moines.

Warren wasn’t there, but about 80 people reportedly showed up to check out their “Run Warren Run” campaign.

DFA officially joined the effort at the event pledging $250,000, which is on top of the $1 million MoveOn has already promised to put into the first phase of the campaign. They say they will set up offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, run ads, and assemble a “national volunteer army” on behalf of Warren. A release from DFA said 87.6 of their members are supportive of the draft Warren effort.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa state senate president Pam Jochum was in attendance at the event. She praised Warren, but told the Register she isn’t ready to back Warren over Hillary Clinton, saying, “Not yet.”

Warren has said repeatedly she won’t run. These supporters are hoping to convince her to act to the contrary, even putting cash where their hopes are.

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A New Day For Cuba

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • EXCLUSIVE — OBAMA DOESN’T RULE OUT PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO CUBA: ‘LET’S SEE.’ Marking an abrupt sea change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, President Obama said he is open to visiting the communist Caribbean country before he leaves office. “I don’t have any current plans, but let’s see how things evolve,” Obama told ABC’s DAVID MUIR in an exclusive interview for ‘World News Tonight.’ ABC’s DEVIN DWYER has all the details: http://abcn.ws/1AICk3D ABC’S JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL broke the story early yesterday morning: http://abcn.ws/1Abmv7t WATCH AVILA’S debrief live from Havana on “Good Morning America” today: http://abcn.ws/1AidjOJ INSIDE OBAMA’S ‘SUBSTANTIVE,’ BLUNT CONVERSATION WITH CUBA’S RAUL CASTRO: http://abcn.ws/1wiPO72
  • AFTER FIVE YEARS IN PRISON, ALAN GROSS SAYS IT’S ‘GOOD TO BE HOME.’ For Alan Gross, the American subcontractor released after more than five years in a Cuban prison, “it’s good to be home.” “What a blessing it is to be a citizen of this country,” he said yesterday afternoon, ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY notes. Gross praised President Obama’s plan to restore diplomatic relations with the island nation, calling the move “a game changer.” http://abcn.ws/1Ad1nhj
  • HOW HIS RELEASE WENT DOWN. The agreement to release Alan Gross was reached following more than a year of secret back channel talks at the highest levels of both governments. ABC’s MICHAEL FALCONE, MARY BRUCE and ARLETTE SAENZ report there were multiple meetings with Cuban officials that took place in other countries as well as pleas from the Pope. http://abcn.ws/1whyrDJ
  • THE MOMENT ALAN GROSS ENTERED US AIRSPACE AFTER 5 YEARS IN CUBAN PRISON.  ABC News exclusively obtained video of Alan Gross’ reunion with his wife Judy after he was released from five years of imprisonment in Cuba. According to ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ and MAE JOO, the video, shot by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., shows the Gross couple embracing after Gross was released as part of a historic deal between the United States and Cuba. http://abcn.ws/1GtyjUt

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: For decades now, the politics of Cuba has largely been contained to Florida. But by restoring full diplomatic relations to Cuba, President Obama has gone where none of the last 10 American presidents have dared. The historic decision creates a fascinating political dynamic for the 2016 presidential campaign. The rhetoric from several Republican hopefuls was searing, with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio delivering particularly sharp critiques of the Obama administration. But surely there will be a Republican candidate who takes a more nuanced view, given the broad support that easing restrictions on Cuba has across business and agricultural sectors. Congress now has another issue on its plate for next year: Will the trade embargo and travel bans be fully lifted? The debate will be robust, but Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., told us yesterday after he returned from Havana that he believes the American politics have shifted considerably, with the hard-line stance against Cuba no longer the status quo for many Republicans and some Democrats. The political lines on Cuba will be drawn more by region than party, but it will be an unescapable part of the 2016 race. In Iowa, for example, will Cuba suddenly become the new ethanol as a take-a-stand question for candidates?

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Let us stipulate, for starters, that the next presidential election won’t turn on Cuba policy alone. But President Obama’s dramatic announcement rejuvenates a debate about his foreign-policy doctrine that’s been obscured by the cascading crises of the second half of his presidency. Add to that the presence of one or two Florida Republicans in the 2016 mix and you have the makings of a real discussion about America’s role in the world, and postures that – as in the case of Cuba – haven’t been seriously rethought in decades. We know where Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush stand. But the more interesting piece of the debate may be where those like Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Paul Ryan take it, given the generational and regional gaps evident in perceptions of Cuba policy. Beyond that, the president has found another new way to shake off the post-election doldrums with a bold move that resets a long-dormant debate.

ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: What does possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this of the president’s announcement yesterday to normalize relations with Cuba? Late last night she released a statement saying she “support(s) President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy while keeping the focus on our principal objective — supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom.” She said she was “deeply relieved” by Alan Gross’ release and noted when she was Secretary of State she “pushed for his release” and “stayed in touch” with his wife and daughters, while calling “for a new direction in Cuba.” “Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime¹s grip on power,” Clinton said. “As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information, and material comforts of the outside world.  The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people.” The night before Clinton condemned the torture revealed in the Senate’s interrogation report, and expect her to continue to have to weigh in on the big, pressing stories of the day–whether she’s running…or still waiting.

 

MORE ON GROSS

MARCO RUBIO: ALAN GROSS RELEASE PUT ‘A PRICE ON THE HEAD OF EVERY AMERICAN ABROAD.’ The release of Alan Gross “set a price on the head of every American abroad,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in an interview with ABC’s JEFF ZELENY. According to Rubio, the Obama administration’s intention to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is “terrible for the Cuban people.” WATCH ZELENY’S ONE-ON-ONE WITH RUBIO: http://abcn.ws/13aZ55m

 

THE BUZZ

U.S. SAYS NORTH KOREA RESPONSIBLE FOR SONY HACK. The federal government has determined that North Korea is responsible for the hacking of computers at Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to ABC’s JONATHAN KARL and PIERRE THOMAS.  The hackers have also threatened to attack theaters screening “The Interview” – a fictional comedy about two Americans who are asked to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – leading several major chains to pull the film from their lineups and Sony to cancel its Christmas Day release date. The U.S. used painstaking cyber-sleuthing to piece together what happened, the official said, noting that the individual or group behind the hack were not in North Korea. The official said U.S. intelligence and the FBI pulled all the stops out given the unprecedented nature of the attack that destroyed files, shut down work stations and exploited company secrets and strategy. http://abcn.ws/1AIMjWz

OBAMA: SONY HACK PROVES U.S. NEEDS TO DO ‘A LOT MORE’ TO PROTECT AGAINST CYBER THREATS. The actions of hackers who released a trove of e-mails stolen from Sony Pictures executives indicates the U.S. has not done all it can do to prevent enemies from exploiting “vulnerabilities” in our technology, President Obama said yesterday, ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY notes. “We’ve made progress,” Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC “World News Tonight” anchor DAVID MUIR. “But what we just saw with Sony shows a lot more progress needs to be done. That means, by the way, that Congress also needs to take up cyber security legislation that’s been languishing for several years now.” The hackers threatened to launch a Sept. 11, 2001-style attack on theaters screening the yet-to-be-released Sony film. Yesterday Sony Pictures announced it was cancelling the film’s Dec. 25 release. http://abcn.ws/1C0u4QH

LIBERAL GROUPS KICK OFF THEIR RUN WARREN RUN CAMPAIGN IN DES MOINES. A campaign without a candidate kicked off last night in the all-important state of Iowa, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Progressive group MoveOn joined by Democracy for America launched their effort to draft Elizabeth Warren at a coffee shop in Des Moines. Warren wasn’t there, but according to reports there were about 80 people there to check out their “Run Warren Run” effort. DFA officially joined the effort at the event pledging $250,000, which is on top of the $1 million MoveOn has already promised to put into the first phase of the campaign. They say they will set up offices in Iowa and New Hampshire, run ads, and assemble a “national volunteer army” on behalf of Warren. A release from DFA said 87.6% of their members are supportive of the draft Warren effort. According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa state senate president Pam Jochum was in attendance at the event and she praised Warren, but told the DMR she isn’t ready to back Warren over Hillary Clinton, saying “Not yet.” Of course, Warren has said repeatedly she won’t run. These supporters are hoping to convince her otherwise, even putting cash where their hopes are, but how many times can she say no? They are hoping a campaign first, a candidate says yes next.

ARIZONA RECOUNT WIN GIVES GOP BIGGEST CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY SINCE 1929. Six weeks after Election Day, the lone Congressional race left uncalled has been decided. ABC’s ALEXANDRIA DUKAKIS writes, Republican Martha McSally, a former Air Force colonel, has defeated her two-time opponent, incumbent Rep. Ron Barber, by a razor-thin 167 votes in Arizona’s 2nd  district. http://abcn.ws/1AIKusR

POLLING NOTE — OBAMA AND IMMIGRATION: WHAT HE DID VS. HOW HE DID IT. A slim majority of Americans support the immigration program created by Barack Obama’s executive action – but divisions on whether he exceeded his authority impede most of the political capital he might have gained, ABC’s JULIE PHALEN writes. Overall, 52 percent support Obama’s initiative, with 44 percent opposed. http://abcn.ws/1uYMZnl

THROWBACK THURSDAY — SECRETARY CLINTON IN 2011: ALAN GROSS ‘UNJUSTLY JAILED.’ http://abcn.ws/1GPpqD9

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

–INSIDE DONALD TRUMP’S NEW DIGS ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. Donald Trump is coming to Pennsylvania Avenue, and he’s set to arrive in 2016, reports ABC’s JONATHAN KARL, JORDYN PHELPS and RICHARD COOLIDGE. Washington’s iconic Old Post Office building, located just five blocks away from the White House, is the latest addition to Trump’s expansive real estate empire. http://yhoo.it/1BYTETn

MARCO RUBIO INSISTS JEB BUSH WON’T AFFECT HIS 2016 TIMETABLE. Could the 2016 Republican presidential primary turn into a Sunshine State brawl? Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a potential GOP presidential candidate, responded to Tuesday’s announcement by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that he would “actively explore” running for president. “Bush is someone I admire greatly,” Rubio told ABC’s JEFF ZELENY. “I think he’d be a very formidable candidate.” http://abcn.ws/1uTJRIy

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@MittRomney: .@SonyPictures don’t cave, fight: release @TheInterview free online globally. Ask viewers for voluntary $5 contribution to fight #Ebola.

@KendallBreitman: Bush: Bye Barclays — http://politi.co/1uWl4na 

@nationaljournal: How normalizing relations with Cuba could reshape Florida politics http://trib.al/D4x2ona 

@KiritRadia: Putin says “they” want the “bear” to “sit quietly and eat honey.” “But they try to chain the bear and… take out his fangs and claws”

@washingtonpost: What to read and watch about North Korea instead of “The Interview” http://wapo.st/1wHJ56A 

Christie to Talk About Possible White House Run with Family During Christmas

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC/ LOU ROCCO(NEW YORK) — New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie is nearing a decision on whether he’ll run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, according to nj.com.

Christie actually made the admission to a youngster at Mendham Township Middle School Wednesday when asked if he was planning to seek the presidency.

Saying that it was something he was thinking about, Christie told the assembly that he would talk about the future with his family during Christmas and finally announce his plans during “the first part of next year.”

The governor tried to relate his situation with other families facing difficult choices, saying, “No matter what, I am still Andrew, Sarah, Patrick and Bridget’s father and they wonder what I am going to do for work, and I’m still Mary Pat’s husband and she wonders the same thing.”

If Christie decides against running for president or fails to win the nomination, his tenure as governor ends in December 2017.  Christie has already said he doesn’t want to be a senator, which would rule out a run for another elected office.

As for why Christie is likely to announce his intentions in early 2015, political pundits, including former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, says that Jeb Bush likely forced his hand by forming an exploratory committee that will ultimately determine if he’ll be in the race for the GOP nod.

Both Christie and Bush appeal to more moderate Republicans as well as the same high-end donors.

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Poll: Majority of Americans Have Unfavorable Opinion of Obamacare’s Individual Mandate

Posted on: December 17th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — A majority of Americans have an unfavorable opinion on the individual mandate aspect of Obamacare, the latest Kaiser Family Foundation says, while a minority of Americans want the law repealed.

The poll found that 64 percent of Americans find the individual mandate — which requires nearly all Americans to either have health insurance or pay a fine — unfavorable. Forty-six percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare as a whole, while 41 percent take a favorable stance.

Despite its apparent unpopularity, however, the poll shows that just 31 percent want the law to be repealed, and just 12 percent want it to be scaled back. Comparatively, 24 percent believe Obamacare should be expanded and 21 percent believe it should be implemented as is.

Other aspects of the law are actually popular — such as the employer mandate, which requires employers with 100 or more full-time workers to offer health coverage or pay a fine. About sixty percent of Americans favor the employer mandate, the Kaiser Family Foundation says.

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Obama: Sony Hack Proves U.S. Needs to Do ‘A Lot More’ to Protect Against Cyber Threats

Posted on: December 17th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The actions of hackers who released a trove of e-mails stolen from Sony Pictures executives indicates the U.S. has not done all it can do to prevent enemies from exploiting “vulnerabilities” in our technology, President Obama said Wednesday.

“We’ve made progress,” Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC World News Tonight anchor David Muir. “But what we just saw with Sony shows a lot more progress needs to be done. That means, by the way, that Congress also needs to take up cyber security legislation that’s been languishing for several years now.”

The hackers threatened to launch a Sept. 11, 2001-style attack on theaters screening the yet-to-be-released Sony film The Interview, which depicts the fictitious assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The federal government determined that North Korea was responsible for the hack.

On Wednesday, Sony Pictures announced it was cancelling the film’s Dec. 25 release.

“In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” the company said in a statement. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”

Even before Sony’s announcement, President Obama had encouraged Americans to go to the movies.

“The cyber-attack is very serious,” Obama told Muir, but added: “For now my recommendation would be that people go to the movies.”

In addition, the president said authorities saw “no credible evidence” of a “serious threat to theaters.”

More of the interview with the president will air tonight on Nightline and tomorrow on Good Morning America. In the wide-ranging conversation, Muir also asked Obama about the release of American Alan Gross after five years of imprisonment in Cuba, Fidel Castro and the 2016 presidential campaign.

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