Entries in Obama Administration (46)


Pawlenty Slams Obama's Egypt Response as 'Nearly Incoherent'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is slamming the Obama administration's response to protests in Egypt over the last two and half weeks, saying mixed messages added up to something "nearly incoherent."

"They should have had one message that was clear and consistent and measured and appropriate,” Pawlenty said on an interview with ABC’s This Week.

"It's really important the United States of America speak with one voice,” the former governor said. “So, first of all, get your own team on the same page. That's lesson number one in a crisis: communicate clearly. Number two: we have to articulate, when we have that kind of an uncertain crisis unfolding, what our principles are."

"One, we don't want a radical Islamic result. Two, we favor democracy. And President Mubarak and Suleiman or anyone else who may be purporting to be leading the nation needs to embrace those principles," he added.

Asked what actions the Egyptian military, now in charge of the country, could take to make him confident that they would hold democratic elections, Pawlenty said they will need to come up with a plan and a timetable with specific commitments.

"I think none of this is really going to be reliable or trustworthy unless they're willing to embed it into constitutional, permanent changes. I think that's an important measure of how they're going to proceed and whether their beliefs and statements are going to be reliable," Pawlenty said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Donald Rumsfeld: US Response to Egypt 'Confusing'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld criticized the Obama administration’s response to the crisis in Egypt Friday, calling it “confusing” and telling ABC News the United States’ diplomatic effort “certainly doesn’t give one confidence.”

In a radio interview, Rumsfeld was particularly critical of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s description of the Muslim Brootherhood as a “largely secular” during a House Intelligence Committee testimony Thursday that Clapper's office later had to clarify. 

“That is not something that is subject to debate,” Rumsfeld said of Clapper’s contention.   “That is something that we know a great deal about.”

Rumsfeld, however, did not fault CIA director Leon Panetta for pointing to news reports, suggesting during his testimony there was a “strong likelihood” that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would step down Thursday. 

“People who think they know the answer and publicly announce what they believe to be the case are often wrong,” Rumsfeld said, saying that the outcome of a volatile situation is not always possible to predict.

But the former defense secretary said official statements from Washington urging Mubarak to step aside have differed from what the administration’s special envoy, Frank Wisner, had been saying in Cairo.   This, Rumsfeld said, has proven to be “confusing.” 

“It certainly doesn’t give one confidence,” the former secretary said of the administration’s public steps.

“One doesn’t know precisely what’s taking place with private diplomacy -- what’s really most effective -- but certainly the public diplomacy has been somewhat confusing.”

Rumsfeld, who has known Mubarak for decades, responded carefully when asked whether he is a dictator.

“He clearly has perpetuated himself in office.   He clearly has hoped that his son would succeed him.   There have been a number of things that have inhibited freer political systems,” Rumsfeld said of the Egyptian president, stopping short of offering any further criticism of Mubarak.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Biden Promotes Nationwide High-Speed Rail Service

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Obama administration is hoping the country will get on board with its proposal to provide high-speed rail service to four-fifths of the population by 2036.

To that end, the White House is sending Vice President Joe Biden around the U.S. to pitch the plan.

On Tuesday, Biden was in Philadelphia to promote the high-speed rail service proposal that he said was fundamental to the growth of the nation's infrastructure.  Biden insisted that the plan to create jobs and expand the economy is not negotiable.

While the initial budget will call for $8 billion for high-rail expansion, it's expected to cost as much as $53 billion by the projected completion in 25 years.

This spending project is expected to face a lot of scrunity by the Republican-controlled House, which is looking ways to cut the federal budget wherever it can.

GOP lawmakers say that time and effort would be better spent trying to rescue the government-funded Amtrak system that serves the Northeast corridor, which has been drowning in red ink for years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Continues to Publicly Pressure Egyptian Government

Photo Courtesy - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Biden spoke with his Egyptian counterpart, Omar Suleiman, Tuesday and pushed a detailed list of steps to be taken by the Egyptian government, including making a legal pledge of no reprisals against demonstrators, revoking the law permitting the repressive Emergency Law, and including more opposition leaders in the planning for the future of the nation.

The White House took its uncharacteristically detailed read-out of Biden’s call with Suleiman an unusual step further Tuesday by not only detailing many steps the U.S. government would like see Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Suleiman take, but also by publicly stating the Egyptian government had agreed to make those changes.

For years the U.S. has been pressing the Egyptians to rescind the 1967 Emergency Law, which gives broad powers to Mubarak and his government that they have used to essentially do whatever they want in the name of security regardless of civil liberties or constitutional protections. Mubarak has been dragging his feet, saying his government first needs to have a counterterrorism law written to take its place.

On Tuesday, Vice President Biden pushed Suleiman to “immediately” rescind the law, according to a White House statement.

The Obama administration has been trying to thread the needle by pushing for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to depart soon, but not too soon as the country descends into further chaos. Tuesday, White House secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that there was a greater risk of chaos if the Mubarak-Suleiman government proceeds too slowly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Unofficial US Envoy Wisner Works for Lobbying Firm with Egypt As Client

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration Monday downplayed the news that Frank Wisner works for lobbying and law firm Patton Boggs, which has the government of Egypt as a client.

Last week President Obama and Secretary Clinton sent Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt, to deliver a message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the White House didn’t think he or son Gamal should be on the presidential ballot this September.

“Mr. Wisner was sent to Cairo to deliver a specific, one-time message to President Mubarak," said Tommy Vietor, National Security Council spokesman. "He is not and was not a U.S. envoy. He was not sent to negotiate. He is an individual who has a long history with President Mubarak and thus could deliver a clear message. He spoke to President Mubarak once, reported on his conversation, and then came home. We are completely confident in our ability to communicate directly with the government of Egypt at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and through our embassy.”

Asked about the potential conflict of interest, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wisner "is a private citizen.  He gave generously of his time.  You know, we asked him to undertake a one-time mission, and during the course of that mission he delivered a blunt and candid private message.  And we feel he was uniquely positioned to deliver this message and have it heard by President Mubarak."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Administration Officials Discussing Scenarios for Mubarak Exit

Photo Courtesy - U.S. State Department(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials are discussing a number of possible scenarios for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with one of them being Mubarak stepping down very soon and an interim government being formed, headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman working with the military to steer Egypt toward elections, officials told ABC News.

"The president has said that now is the time to begin a peaceful, orderly and meaningful transition with credible, inclusive negotiations," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. "We have discussed with the Egyptians a variety of different ways to move that process forward, but all of those decisions must be made by the Egyptian people.”

The comment came after the New York Times published a story reporting that the Obama administration "is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military."

Mubarak rebuffed the plan, the Times reported, but "officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which, Mr. Suleiman, backed by Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform."

Officials told the Times that the proposal is "one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak, though not him directly, in an effort to convince him to step down now."

In response to the Times story, a senior administration official called it "simply wrong to report that there’s a single U.S. plan that’s being negotiated with the Egyptians."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Calls Health Care Ruling 'An Outlier'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senior White House officials called Monday’s ruling striking down the health care law “an outlier” and are confident that it will be overturned on appeal.

A federal judge in Florida struck down the Obama administration’s health care law, ruling that because a central provision of the law is unconstitutional, the rest of the law cannot stand without it. Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida ruled that the individual mandate -- which requires individuals to purchase health care by 2014 or pay a penalty -- "exceeds Congress' commerce power."

The ruling marks the first time a federal judge has struck down the entire law. "I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit," the judge ruled.

Noting that the judge did not order the government to stop implementing the law, a senior administration source said "implementation will proceed at pace."

Stephanie Cutter, deputy senior advisor to the president, issued a blog statement pushing back at the judge’s ruling that Congress cannot force individuals to buy health insurance. She said the Constitution authorizes Congress to regulate commerce.

"Individuals who choose to go without health insurance are actively making an economic decision that impacts all of us," she wrote. "As Congress found, every year millions of people without insurance obtain health care they cannot pay for, shifting tens of billions of dollars in added cost onto those who have insurance and onto taxpayers."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


David Axelrod Departs White House, Returns to Chicago

Photo Courtesy - MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod is leaving the Obama administration on Friday to begin work on the president's 2012 re-election campaign.

During the 2008 campaign, strategist David Axelrod never intended to move to the White House, but he says he's glad he did.

"This has been the experience of a lifetime," Axelrod told ABC News Radio White House correspondent Ann Compton.

Lesson learned in the West Wing?

"What you've got to do is keep your eye on the long term. I mean, three months ago we were left by the roadside for dead after the Nov. 2 elections."

David Plouffe, Obama's former campaign manager and the man who the president called the "unsung hero" of his successful presidential campaign, will assume Axelrod's White House responsibilities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


VP Biden Names Bruce Reed as New Chief of Staff

Photo Courtesy - Democratic Leadership Council(WASHINGTON) -- Bruce Reed, CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council, executive director of the Bowles-Simpson “debt commission,” and former chief domestic policy advisor to President Bill Clinton, has been named chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden.

Reed was introduced to Biden’s senior staff this morning in outgoing chief of staff Ron Klain’s office.

Biden has known Reed for 24 years. Then-Sen. Biden hired Reed to work on his 1988 campaign, and between the time that Reed accepted and started work, Reed’s boss at the time -- then-Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn. -- got in the race. So Reed never made the move to the Biden campaign.

Reed worked closely with the vice president on the Crime Bill in 1994 when Reed had a lead policy role at the Clinton White House, and Biden was the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Biden’s office announced last week that Klain would be stepping down from his position later this month to become the president of Case Holdings, the investment company of AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Klain was considered by many to be a key, powerful player in the Obama White House. He has had a long career in Washington, from his days on Capitol Hill to his tenure as Al Gore's chief of staff when he was vice president. He later served as a top Gore aide during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama Considering Bill Daley as White House Chief of Staff

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sources tell ABC News that President Obama is considering naming former Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley as his chief of staff.

Daley, an executive with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., did not return a call for comment, and White House officials would not comment.

Former White House senior adviser Pete Rouse is currently serving as chief of staff, a position he said he did not want to do on a permanent basis. Sources said he and President Obama have yet to have a conversation about what to do going forward.

Daley, the son of legendary Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Sr. and the brother of the current mayor, is known as a hard-charging, no-nonsense executive. His brother Richie’s pending retirement set the stage for President Obama’s first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to leave earlier than had been planned to run for mayor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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