'Remarkable for a Black Man': Rick Santorum on Obama, Abortion

Photo Courtesy - Brendan Smialowski/ Getty Images(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a potential 2012 Republican presidential contender, injected race into the debate about abortion rights, saying that President Barack Obama’s stance on the issue is “almost remarkable for a black man.”

In a recent interview with the Christian News Service, Santorum argued that because of his race, Obama should be able to say definitively that the life of unborn children is protected under the Constitution.

“The question is -- and this is what Barack Obama didn't want to answer -- is that human life a person under the Constitution?  And Barack Obama says ‘no,’” Santorum said in a televised interview.  “Well if that person -- human life is not a person -- then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘we're going to decide who are people and who are not people.’”

Santorum was referring to comments, now more than two years old, that Obama made as a candidate for president in which he said that the question of whether a baby should have human rights was “above my pay grade.”

Obama offered that answer in August 2008 at a forum on religion and politics organized by California pastor Rick Warren.

“Just about everything else in the world he’s willing to do -- have the government do -- but he can’t answer that basic question which is not a debatable issue at all,” Santorum told CNS News’ Terry Jeffrey.  “I don’t think you’ll find a biologist in the world who will say that is not a human life.”

The mingling of race and the abortion debate -- two extremely volatile issues -- is likely to present problems for Santorum’s presidential ambitions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Draft Mike Pence Movement Gaining Steam Among Conservatives

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Less than two weeks before Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana is expected to make an announcement about his political future, conservative leaders are urging him to jump into the 2012 presidential race.

Within the last week, at least two draft Mike Pence groups have sprung up, including an effort spearheaded by former Rep. Jim Ryun of Kansas and former Reagan administration official Ralph Benko.

"Seize this moment, Mike," Ryun, along with conservative leaders L. Brent Bozell, Dick Armey and Morton Blackwell, wrote in a letter they sent to Pence on Thursday.  "Now is the time for you, as one of this generation's leaders, to take your rightful place in the pantheon of American leadership, to cast aside personal considerations, and defend this God-blessed nation that has given us, and the world, so much."

Pence has said he is considering whether or not to pursue a presidential run and that he plans to make a decision by the end of January.  But political observers in Washington and in Pence's home state have speculated that he could end up skipping the presidential contest and run for governor of Indiana instead.

In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Pence landed fairly low on the list of potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates favored by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.  Just two percent of them said he was their choice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP War Horses Lead the 2012 Parade

Photo Courtesy - Rick Gershon/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A year from the first votes, three Republican war horses of the 2008 campaign are bunched in initial preferences for the 2012 presidential nomination, but none exceed about 20 percent support, indicating a wide-open contest for the right to challenge President Obama.

Twenty-one percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in this ABC News/Washington Post poll favor Mike Huckabee for their party’s nomination; 19 percent back Sarah Palin and 17 percent prefer Mitt Romney.  The numbers don’t change significantly when results are narrowed to registered voters: Huckabee with 20 percent support, Romney with 18 and Palin with 16.

All other potential candidates score in the single digits -- 14 were tested in this national poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates.  The election season’s just more than a year away, with the Iowa caucuses currently scheduled for Feb. 6, 2012, and the New Hampshire primary tentatively set for eight days later.

Among other potential candidates tested in this poll are Newt Gingrich with nine percent support and Chris Christie with eight percent.  The rest of the candidates all have below five percent support.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


POTUS Toasts US-China Relationship, Announces Panda Agreement

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Raising his glass to President Hu and the Chinese delegation at the state dinner capping Wednesday’s events, President Obama gave a warm and fuzzy example of progress made in the U.S.-China relationship: pandas.

“Today, we’ve shown that our governments can work together, as well, for our mutual benefit,” Obama said Wednesday evening in the State Dining Room. "And that includes this bit of news: Under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas."

Under the new agreement, pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian will continue to stay in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. for another five years. Both pandas were on loan from China under an original agreement for a 10-year stay that ended in December.

Speaking more broadly of the relationship, the president said that while sometimes it is easy to focus only on the differences of cultural or perspective, he hopes both countries never will forget their shared values -- “a reverence for family; the belief that, with education and hard work and with sacrifice, the future is what we make it; and most of all, the desire to give our children a better life."

With that, the president raised his glass and toasted the people of China and the United States.

“May they grow together in friendship,” Obama said. “May they prosper together in peace.  And may they realize their dream of the future for themselves, for their children and for their grandchildren.”

Hu raised his glass to “the health of President and Mrs. Obama; to the health of all friends present here; to the stronger friendship between the people of China and the United States; and to the steady growth of China-U.S. relations.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Passes Bill Repealing Health Care Law 

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After two days of lively debate, the House of Representatives Wednesday voted to repeal the health care law, even as Democrats and Obama administration officials used the renewed debate to highlight its benefits.

On Thursday, the House will hold another vote calling on four committees to begin work on crafting a replacement bill that will yank some of the most contentious parts of the bill, such as the changes to Medicare Advantage and the requirement that all Americans must purchase health insurance by 2014. In nearly two days of debate, Republicans argued against the idea that the bill would create jobs and cut costs, while Democrats touted the benefits of the new law and the negative impact on Americans were it to be repealed.

The bill has little chance of being taken up in the Democratically-controlled Senate, but GOP lawmakers said their vote was still important.

"This is not symbolic. This is why we were sent here," Rep. Michelle Bachman, R-Minn., founder of the Tea Party caucus said on the House floor Wednesday.

The House Republican leadership instead challenged the Senate Democratic leadership to bring it up for debate.

But President Obama is unlikely to sign any bill that would repeal the $1 trillion health care law.

"I'm willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can't go backward," the president said in a statement Tuesday.

A majority of Americans continue to oppose the law, which will bring a myriad of changes to the U.S. health care system in the next few years.

Forty-six percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, released Tuesday, think the law is likely to cut jobs, eight points more than those who think it will create them. Even more, 54 percent, think the law is more apt to hurt than help the economy, and 62 percent see it as increasing rather than decreasing the federal deficit.

Yet, most Americans do not want to see the law repealed. Only 37 percent of those polled favored repealing all or parts of the law. The rest either support it, or want to wait and see its effects.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ala. Gov. Robert Bentley Apologizes for Christian-Only Comments

Governor dot Alabama dot gov(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama met with religious leaders and issued an apology Wednesday for saying after his inauguration Monday that he wished non-Christians would become his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Several civil rights groups said the comments Bentley, a Republican, made at church service following his inauguration were offensive and tantamount to proselytizing.

"If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way," Bentley said outside his office at the state capitol.

Bentley was supposed to meet with members of the Birmingham Jewish Federation later this month, but moved the meeting to Wednesday and included leaders of other religious groups.

Addressing a crowd Monday at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church in Montgomery, the new governor said, " Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

Following the initial comments many civil right groups objected to the comments and called on the governor to apologize.

"It is stunning to me that he'd make those remarks. It's distressing because of the suggestion that he feels that people who aren't Christian are not entitled to love and respect," said Bill Nigut, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Following the meeting, Montgomery Rabbi Elliot Stevens said, "I do not think the governor meant anything negative," according to WSFA-TV.

"The governor had intended no offense by his remarks. He is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike," a spokesman for the governor told ABC News following the meeting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Supreme Court: NASA Can Ask Employees about Drug Use

Photo Courtesy - NASA(WASHINGTON) – The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the government's right to ask federal contract employees about past drug use.

Twenty-eight employees of the California Institute of Technology, who work at a multi-billion dollar research and development facility owned by NASA, filed suit against the government arguing that its background checks violate their constitutional right to privacy.

In an 8-0 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court said that the background check was constitutional because of the government's interest as an "employer and proprietor" to manage its internal operations.
"The Government has good reason to ask employees about their recent illegal-drug use," Justice Alito wrote. “Like any employer, the Government is entitled to have its projects staffed by reliable, law-abiding persons who will efficiently and effectively discharge their duties."

It was only in 2007 that NASA changed its policy and required the contractors -- many of whom had worked for years in the facility -- to undergo the same background checks as federal employees.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Democrat Compares Republicans to Nazis

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The newfound civility didn’t last long.  Political rhetoric in Congress doesn’t get much nastier than the words of one House Democrat during the debate on repealing the health care law.

In an extraordinary outburst on the House floor, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) invoked the Holocaust to attack Republicans on health care and compared rhetoric on the issue to the work of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels," Cohen said. "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it.  Like blood libel.  That's the same kind of thing. And Congressman Cohen didn’t stop there.

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it -- believed it and you have the Holocaust.  We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.  Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," Cohen said.

Cohen made his comments late Tuesday night, but they have attracted no attention because his speech was made to a virtually empty House chamber with no reporters around to watch.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New RNC Chairman Taps GOP Vets To Run Transition Team

Photo Courtesy - Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Less than a week after taking over as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus has named two powerful GOP operatives, Ed Gillespie and Nick Ayers, to lead his transition effort.

Gillespie, who served as RNC chairman from 2003-2004, and Ayers, who most recently served as executive director of the Republican Governors Association, will help Priebus navigate a 30-day transition period.

Ayers will serve as transition director and Gillespie, a former counselor to President George W. Bush, will be chairman. Both are veterans of Republican politics.

“When I ran for Chairman of the RNC, I promised to make changes and begin the outreach process with key Republican donors,” Priebus said in a statement on Wednesday. “Today, I am honored to announce the team that will help ensure Republicans have a top-notch ground game in the 2012 election cycle. Together, we will build on our success in 2010 and take back the White House and the United States Senate.”

Priebus also appointed Wisconsin RNC National Committeeman Steve King, Mississippi National Committeeman Henry Barbour and Montana National Committeewoman Betti Hill to RNC’s Executive Committee. Barbour helped orchestrate Priebus' successful campaign for chairman.

The transition effort signals that Priebus is attempting to make good on his promise to clean house at the RNC following his election last week after seven rounds of balloting at the committee’s winter meeting.

Gillespie said that he would focus on helping Priebus “reach out to GOP donors and grassroots in the coming weeks and months." It's a point of particular concern for a party that is staring at debt in the $20 million range and a deflated major donor program.

The new chairman also named a 20-member transition team that includes RNC leaders and committee members from across the country.

Priebus prevailed over the controversial incumbent party chairman, Michael Steele, and defeated four other high-profile contenders last Friday.

“We have to get on track, and together we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012 -- together unified as a committee,” he said last week. “I want you to know that I am here to earn the trust and support of each and every one of you, and I'm going to start working right now as your chairman.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Clinton on Cheney’s Terror Comments: 'Unfortunate Language'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Almost biting her tongue, Hillary Clinton told ABC News Wednesday that Dick Cheney should not worry about President Obama’s “absolute commitment” to fighting terrorism.

“I was certainly taken aback by it. I don't know how anyone who was in the White House, before or now, could doubt any president's absolute commitment to stopping the terrorists from attacking us,” the secretary of state said.

In an interview with NBC News the former vice president said he hopes Obama has the same level of commitment to preventing another 9/11 as the Bush administration did, but “we might never find out until there's actually another attack."

Clinton said she “completely” rejected Cheney’s “unfortunate language,” adding that President Obama’s “entire team is single-mindedly focused” on preventing another terror attack.

“We've had some successes in preventing terrorists from you know, wreaking havoc on our country and working with our friends and allies around the world.  I don't think it's useful to make such a statement,” she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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