Mitt Romney Gets Specific on Social Security Plans

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave specifics Wednesday morning on how to shore up Social Security, a government program that continues to emerge as the number-one issue between Romney and his chief rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Speaking at a hotel near the Miami airport where two screens displayed the Romney campaign’s “Six Questions to Ask Rick Perry about Social Security” fact sheet, Romney told the crowd, “There are one of two ways you can make Social Security work forever.

“One of course is to raise the retirement age by a year or two,” said Romney. “The other is having slower growth in inflating the benefits of higher income of Social Security recipients. Again, not current recipients but those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and early 50s."

“Those, combined, represent the best course for us to be able to permanently solve our Social Security shortfall,” said Romney.

GOP frontrunner Perry’s campaign immediately attacked Romney’s remarks.

“Mitt Romney’s own book compared Social Security to a criminal enterprise,” the Perry campaign said in a statement.  ”Now Mr. Romney is again sounding like a Democrat, distorting the truth and trying to scare senior citizens.  As he has so many times in the past, Mr. Romney seems to forget he’s a Republican.

In his book No Apology, Romney provides an example of what might happen if an average citizen were to do what he says the government is doing with Social Security – effectively “defrauding” the American public by spending the surplus raised by Social Security taxes on the budget and not what they should be spending it on: retirement security.

The example given by Romney in his book is this: Two grandparents go to their bank and create a trust fund to provide for their grandchildren’s education. As the kids grow up, the bank is spending the money from the trust fund on something else. When the kids are ready to go college, there is no money in the trust fund.

“What would happen to the bankers responsible for misusing the money?” Romney writes. “They would go to jail.”

“But what has happened to the people responsible for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security?” he writes. “They keep returning to Congress every two years.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Addresses the UN, Maintains Opposition to Palestinian Bid

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, President Obama tried to answer critics who suggest he helped pave the way towards the current diplomatic kerfuffle over the pending UN resolution that would prematurely, in the president’s view, make Palestine a sovereign state and member of the UN.

The president cautioned United Nations members that peace will only come “if we can encourage the parties to sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears. …And that is what the United Nations should be focused on in the weeks and months to come.”

The president made clear his opposition to the expected UN Security Council resolution. For weeks, American diplomats have been furiously lobbying the Palestinians to drop their bid, which the U.S. has publicly stated it will veto.

Granting Palestine membership in the United Nations as a sovereign state before any peace treaty with Israel has been worked out, the U.S. believes, could be a diplomatic hornet’s nest, with Israel all of a sudden occupying a sovereign nation, the Palestinians given access to the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council, and any future peace negotiations thrown into disarray.

The U.S. also does not want to be put into the position of vetoing the resolution, which could inflame passions in the region and throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.

The president did not renew his call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders with mutually agreed upon land swaps, a call he made in May that angered Israeli officials. Wednesday Mr. Obama said that “ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and security; on refugees and Jerusalem.”

The president offered a detailed and passionate defense of Israel’s “very real security concerns,” invoking the Holocaust and noting that the Jewish state “is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it,” that its “citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses” and that Israeli children “come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them.”

“These are facts!” the president said, deviating a bit from his prepared text. “They cannot be denied.”

The president addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after heralding successes in South Sudan, Tunisia, the Ivory Coast, Libya, and Egypt.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


W. Virginia Governor’s Race Tightens in Weeks Before Special Election

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) -- While the nation begins to focus its collective microscope on the 2012 presidential race, West Virginians have set their sights on the state’s gubernatorial special election, for which early voting begins Wednesday.

In a state that voted Republican in the past three presidential elections, the Democratic candidate, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, still has a slight edge in the polls over his Republican rival, businessman Bill Maloney, although Ray’s lead has been cut in half in the past month.

Tomblin, the president of the state Senate, became the acting governor last November after former Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin won a special election for the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat.

Republican Governors Association spokesman Mike Schrimpf said that for Democrats to lose the governor seat that Manchin gave up would be “devastating on its face.”

But as the race enters the home stretch before the Oct. 4 election, Maloney’s campaign has stepped up its efforts to link Tomblin with the national branch of his party. The Republican Governors Association has dropped almost $770,000 on the West Virginia race, according to the West Virginia Gazzette.

Democratic Governor Association spokesman Lis Smith said Republicans’ attempt to tie Tomblin to national Democrats is “a real stretch.” The DGA has spent upward of $630,000 on the race, according to the Gazzette report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Perry Calls Obama ‘President Zero’ in New Campaign Video

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Texas governor and GOP presidential contender Rick Perry released a new campaign video Wednesday, blasting President Obama for a lack of leadership in creating jobs and pointing to Perry as the leader who could turn the economy around.

The video, called “Rick Perry -- Proven Leadership,” dramatically juxtaposes Obama’s speeches on the economy against statistics and soundbites from news clips, and at one point even calls Obama “President Zero.”

The campaign video then turns to Perry, touting his ability to “get America working again,” and uses a speech in which he says, “We don’t need a president who apologizes for America.  I believe in America.  I believe in her purpose and her promise.  I believe her best days have not yet been led.  I believe her greatest deeds are reserved for the generations to come, and with the help and the courage of the American people, we will get our country working again.”

Text appears on the screen that reads “In 2012 … America will discover … a new name for leadership … an American … who served for freedom … a president … who will lead a nation.”

This is the second video -- which was made by former governor and Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty’s filmmaker Luca Baniano, according to Politico -- from the Perry campaign.  The first video was a biographical sketch that introduced Perry to the American people, released on the day he announced his run.

Perry is set to make a swing through Florida, holding fundraisers in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach Wednesday.  He’ll also take part in a series of events organized by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Conservative Political Action Conference and Presidency 5.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poll: Obama’s Favorability Slips; Perry, Romney Do No Better

The White House/Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- President Obama’s basic popularity has slipped to its lowest of his presidency, but his top two Republican challengers -- Rick Perry and Mitt Romney -- are no better off.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, found that 47 percent of Americans see Obama favorably overall.  That percentage is fewer than half for the first time in ABC/Post polling since Obama announced his candidacy in February 2007 and down dramatically from his peak -- 79 percent -- days before he took office in January 2009.   Essentially, as many adults -- 46 percent -- now also see Obama unfavorably.

Perry, the Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, has hurdles of his own.  Thirty-one percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Perry overall, exceeding the 23 percent who see him favorably.  That’s marked by a shortfall in the political center: Independents see him more unfavorably than favorably by a 13-point margin.

Customarily, it’s a troubling sign for a political figure’s unfavorable rating to exceed his or her favorable score.  What helps Perry is the very large number of adults -- 46 percent -- who’ve yet to form an opinion of him one way or the other.  Perry also has an advantage in the Republican base -- greater strength of support than Romney’s among conservative Republicans and among Americans who call themselves “very” conservative.

Romney, for his part, has a 33-31 percent favorable-unfavorable rating, splitting the country much as Obama does.  Thirty-seven percent have yet to form an opinion of Romney, despite his unsuccessful campaign for the GOP presidential nomination four years ago.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Campaign Adviser: Perry Proposal 'Endangers' Israel’s Security

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Obama 2012 campaign lashed back at Texas Gov. Rick Perry after the Republican frontrunner Tuesday blamed the Palestinian statehood crisis playing out at the United Nations on the president.

Perry, campaigning in New York City, said the world was “at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naïve, and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.  The Obama policy of moral equivalency, which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a very dangerous insult.”

Asked for a response, Obama campaign adviser and former Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla, said, “Apparently Gov. Perry needs to do some homework on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and particularly on Israeli security needs.  His speech was riddled with misunderstandings of the conflict and with falsehoods about President Obama’s superb record on Israel.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and President Peres have all praised President Obama publicly for his work on Israel’s behalf and unprecedented US-Israeli security cooperation under Obama’s leadership.  With all due respect to Gov. Perry, what does he know about Israel’s interests that Netanyahu, Barak, and Peres dont know?”

Wexler, currently the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, charged that “Perry misrepresented Obama’s statements on the 1967 lines -- as Netanyahu and Barak have both affirmed, the president said that Israel should not have to return to those lines.  President Obama has consistently embraced the principles in support of Israel that Gov. Perry outlined in his speech -- publicly calling for the disarming of Hamas, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish people, and the direct negotiations to resolve the conflict.  In fact, it is ironic that Perry chooses this week to level these unfounded criticisms at the president -- since President Obama and his administration have been working tirelessly to head off the Palestinian’s unilateral statehood declaration at the U.N. this week.”

Wexler continued, saying that “Perry’s demand that the U.S. defund the Palestinian Authority would effectively dismantle the Palestinian security forces, forces that America built and trained -- which would significantly endanger Israel security and the safety of ordinary Israelis.  Perry’s demand is also in direct contradiction with an Israeli report that defunding the PA would not be in Israel’s interests.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Meet with Israeli, Palestinian Leaders; Address United Nations

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With Palestine’s bid for statehood at the United Nations looming, President Obama will hold separate meetings Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

While the U.S. and its allies had been scrambling to convince Abbas to abandon his bid for recognition in the United Nations Security Council on Friday, they have now pivoted instead to mitigating its effect and establishing a path back toward negotiations with Israel.

The issue is just one of the many that President Obama will tackle during his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday morning.

“Right now, we could not be clearer that we have for some time now opposed Palestinian efforts to pursue statehood on a unilateral basis through the United Nations.  And it’s the United States that is working very aggressively to make that case and to make that clear to all the parties involved,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, peace is going to have to be made between the parties; that it can’t be imposed from the outside, that it can’t be accomplished through actions at the United Nations,” he said.

Obama is also expected to address the ongoing democratic transitions around the world, including the revolutions in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria, the nonproliferation agenda and the drawdown of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama’s UNGA address is just his first speech of the day.  The president will also deliver remarks Wednesday afternoon at the Clinton Global Initiative.

In addition to Abbas and Netanyahu, the president will also meet Wednesday with Prime Minister Noda of Japan, UNGA President Al-Nasser, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Sarkozy.

Finally, the president and first lady will attend a UNGA reception in the evening before returning to the White House late Wednesday night.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin Says There’s ‘Still Time’ to Get in ‘Unconventional’ Race

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- According to Sarah Palin, there’s still time to jump into what’s bound to be an “unconventional” presidential race.

“There is still time, Sean, and I think on both sides of the aisle I think you’re going to see people coming and going from this race,” she said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Tuesday night. “And I’m still one of those still considering the time factor.”

When Hannity said the former Alaska governor would have to decide by November, at the latest, for legal reasons, she agreed -- to an extent.

“You do, I mean legally you do,” she said. “But I do think Sean, this is going to be such an unconventional election cycle...Mark my word, it is going to be an unconventional type of election process.”

She also weighed in on the Solyndra controversy, calling it one of “more and more” examples of the president’s “crony capitalism” “that will surface."

She talked about her hopes for Thursday’s Republican presidential debate on Fox News, the network for which she’s a paid contributor.

“We have to make sure that our candidates are really articulating what their governing philosophy is. I want to know what these candidates’ records are. What have they been able to show on a local and a state level that they have done to create jobs?” she said. “I don’t want to just hear rhetoric about them putting up their dukes and fighting for the right things.”

One candidate that appears to be in her good graces: Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“Perry is right when he talked about Obama’s foreign policies as it relates to Israel,” she said. “It’s been misguided, it’s been weak.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gary Johnson Invited to Participate in His First National GOP Debate

Comstock/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign got a big break Tuesday.

Over the objections of the Florida Republican Party, the former New Mexico governor is invited to participate in Fox’s GOP presidential debate this Thursday, a source at Fox News confirmed.

Candidates needed one percent of the vote in at least five national polls in order to qualify.

The Johnson campaign had not been officially informed of the decision by 6 p.m. on Tuesday, but they hoped to get Johnson on stage with the rest of his contenders this week.

Up to now, the lesser-known candidate has gained little national recognition, though not for lack of appearances. In addition to stops in New Orleans and Iowa, Johnson is one of the most ardent pursuers of early-primary state New Hampshire.

His stumping often deviates from the traditional hand-shaking and baby-kissing.

On Oct. 5, the former New Mexico governor plans to start a six-day, 458-mile bike ride across the Granite State.

Johnson is arguably the fittest candidate in the race. Sure, Sarah Palin popped up in a half-marathon in Iowa this summer, but from taking a jog with employees at a running store in Manchester to cycling in a 51.6-mile road race in Lincoln, and now this race that will take him from the Lakes Region in the middle of the state to Nashua in the south, Johnson makes getting his name out there a sport.

It’s all part of what Johnson calls "The New Hampshire Path." In an open letter to Johnson supporters posted on the campaign’s website, senior adviser Ron Nielson acknowledges his candidate’s lack of recognition and finances. He writes that New Hampshire gives Johnson the opportunity to “create momentum.”

“Being the site of the first primary of 2012, New Hampshire is the center of attention for much of the nation’s media coverage of the campaign, and as Gary gains measurable support there, it will translate into broader support throughout the country.”

Campaigning in New Hampshire is not a new strategy, but focusing almost exclusively on the state sets Johnson apart in the 2012 Republican field.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Bill Clinton Praises Two GOP Candidates

William J. Clinton Foundation(NEW YORK) -- GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman received some unsolicited praise from a former president Tuesday, though it might not be from the one they were hoping for. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, former President Bill Clinton lauded the two former governors for addressing climate change on the stump.

When Blitzer asked Clinton to list the candidates he liked and the ones he was concerned about, the former president said, "Well, it appears that Gov. Huntsman and Gov. Romney, at least, have not come out in just flat-out denial of climate change. It appears that Gov. Huntsman said he supported the compromise to raise the debt ceiling because America couldn’t afford the economic consequences."

“So what I hear you saying is you’d be happier if Romney or Huntsman got the nomination than Rick Perry?” Blitzer asked.

Clinton said, “Well, it’s not up to me to pick. They’ll both lose if anybody thinks I’ve endorsed them. I’m just saying that I appreciate the fact that, that they’re trying to navigate a landscape that bears almost no relationship to what’s produced successful economies in the world. And there are lots of countries that are now doing better than we are in some areas because of the very ideas that apparently you have to support to get the nomination.”

Last month on ABC’s This Week, Huntsman told Jake Tapper, “When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.”

Romney has been less decisive on his global warming stance. In June, Romney said, “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And No. 2, I believe that humans contribute to that....So I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.”

At a New Hampshire town hall the following month, he told the audience, “Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans. What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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