Obama Honors a President 'Who Showed Us What Is Possible' 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, President Obama said were it not for “unfinished life” and “vision” of the nation’s 35th president, he would not be standing up as the 44th president.

“We cannot forget we are the heirs of this president who showed us what is possible,” President Obama said from the Kennedy Center Thursday evening. “Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect.  Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as president of the United States.”

The president said that he knows JFK less as a man and more as an icon. The memories of Kennedy’s inauguration he learned through the adoration of others.

“I confess, I don’t have my own memories of that day," President Obama said. "I wasn’t born until later that year.  What I know of that day and the 1,000 days that followed -- what I know of President Kennedy -- came from a mother and grandparents who adored him; from books I read and classes I took; from growing up in a country still mourning its beloved leader whose name was spoken with reverence.”

The president said that so often people born into wealth, like Kennedy, could easily seek a life of luxury and ease -- but not Kennedy.

“He chose a life of leadership," the president said, "fired not by naïve optimism, but committed realism; ‘idealism,’ as his wife Jackie put it, ‘without illusions.’  That is the idealism -- soaring but sober -- that inspired the country and the world one half century ago.”

As the president marked the anniversary, he also noted with sadness the passing of Sargent Shriver.

“His legacy is written in the villages around the world that have clean water or a new school through the Peace Corps,” Obama said. “It’s written into the lives of all the children in our own country whose fortunes have been lifted through Head Start.  And it will endure in the work of his children who are living out his legacy of service -- and our thoughts and prayers are with them tonight.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iowa Social Conservative Group Says They Can’t Reach Mitt Romney

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Leaders of a prominent social conservative group in Iowa that is organizing a series of forums with potential GOP presidential candidates said that they have been getting the cold shoulder from Mitt Romney.

The Family Leader announced on Thursday that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will headline the first installment of its Presidential Lecture Series on Feb. 7 and that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and businessman Herman Cain will also take part in the series over the next few months.

The group also invited former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate, was not listed as one of the invitees.

“We have made several attempts to reach Gov. Romney or those close to him in order to extend an invitation to our Presidential Lecture Series.  None of those attempts have been successful as of today,” said the group’s spokesman Chris Nitzschke.

Political observers have been speculating about whether Romney, who finished second behind Huckabee in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, would skip the state altogether in 2012. He has traveled infrequently to the state since his presidential bid -- a contrast to some of his potential competitors like Pawlenty and Gingrich who have spent considerable time in the Hawkeye State in recent months.

Romney’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but his approach to the Family Leader event is likely to set off renewed speculation about how seriously he plans to compete in the state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hawaii Gov. Says Proof of Obama's Birth Certificate Exists

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HONOLULU) -- Officials in Hawaii say they have located President Obama's birth certificate indicating that he was born in the state, but have yet to produce the document at the heart of a long-simmering conspiracy theory.

"Our investigation is showing, it actually exists in the archives written down," Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie told Honolulu's Star-Advertiser.

"What I can do, and all I have ever said, is that I am going to see to it as governor that I can verify to anyone who is honest about it that this is the case," he told the paper.

Abercrombie said the controversy over publicly producing the document "has a political implication for 2012 that we simply cannot have."

It remains unclear if the document found in the archives was Obama's actual long-form birth certificate, which "birther" activists have clamored for, or if it was simply a record that such a document exists.

Since the 2008 election, conspiracy theorists and political opponents have suggested the president was not actually born in Hawaii and is therefore not a U.S. citizen eligible for the office.

The newly elected Democrat governor, and a college friend of Obama's parents, vowed soon after taking office in December that he would track down the birth certificate and lay the rumors to rest.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Lawmakers Unveil $2.5-Trillion Spending Cuts Package

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Less than a week before President Obama is set to deliver his State of the Union address next Tuesday, a group of House Republicans Thursday introduced a proposal to cut spending from more than 100 federal programs and cut back spending levels by $2.5 trillion over the next decade.

The bill, known as the Spending Reduction Act, would hold non-security discretionary spending for Fiscal Year 2011 to FY 2008 levels, and freeze non-defense discretionary spending to FY 2006 levels for a 10-year budget window -- saving almost $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

Rep. Jim Jordan, Chairman of the RSC, said if the Congress does not act soon to make serious cuts to spending, the growing national debt could spark a new financial crisis.

The national debt has nearly doubled over the past four years, from $8.6 trillion to $14 trillion. Compared to current projections from the Congressional Budget Office, Jordan said the bill would save taxpayers an estimated $2.5 trillion through 2021.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner: Permanently Ban Federal Abortion Funding

Photo Courtesy - Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner expressed support Thursday morning for a new bill that would permanently ban federal funding for abortions and called the measure one of the House’s “top legislative priorities” in the 112th Congress.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said that by enacting the ban, House Republicans would fulfill a promise from the Pledge to America to “[ensure] that tax dollars are never used to fund elective abortions.”

“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land,” Boehner said. “The current law, particularly as enforced by this administration, does not reflect the will of the American people. Last year, we listened to the American people through America Speaking Out. They spoke on this issue loudly and clearly. So we have included it in our Pledge, and today we're making good on that commitment.”

Boehner said the legislation, known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, would codify the Hyde Amendment and other similar policies by permanently applying a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions across all federal programs.

“This common sense legislation reflects the will of the people and deserves the support of the House,” Boehner said. “It's one of our highest legislative priorities, and as such, I've directed that it receive the designation of H.R. 3.”

Rep. Chris Smith, who introduced the bill, said the measure would also address conscience protection for health care personnel to ensure that anyone opposed to abortion is not forced to participate or assist in the procedure.

“Our legislation also includes a very important conscience protection to empower the courts to ensure that conscience objectors -- doctors, hospitals, health care networks, individual health care personnel -- are not forced to participate in the taking of a human life,” Smith, R-New Jersey, said. “H.R. 3 really reflects [Boehner’s] and our profound commitment to respecting the sanctity of human life and getting rid of and making permanent -- getting rid of taxpayer funding for abortion like in the District of Columbia.”

“President Obama has said that he wants abortion to be rare,” Smith added. “If we want fewer abortions, take away the federal subsidy.”

When Boehner said that the bill would “make clear that taxpayer funding of elective abortions will not be the policy of this government,” he was asked why there is a need for the legislation if there is a safeguard already in place?

“They claim that it is, but we had an opportunity during the health care debate [last year] to include the Stupak language, which would have made clear in law that taxpayer funding of elective abortion is prohibited. That was -- that did not occur, and clearly, there's an awful lot of doubt as to where the administration really is on this issue,” Boehner said. “The will of the people is that we enact this clear-cut prohibition on the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions.”

Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Penn., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., are expected to soon introduce their own separate legislation to specifically prohibit any funding from the health care law from funding abortions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No Apology Here: Congressman Cohen Defends Nazi Comment

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., says he has no intention of apologizing for comparing Republican rhetoric with Nazi propaganda.

“I didn’t say anything that deserves an apology or requires an apology,” Cohen told ABC News.  “I would never refer to Republican colleagues in an untoward way, I was talking about political propaganda.”

Cohen’s comments on the House floor – where he said Republican arguments on health care were “a big lie just like Goebbels” and “like blood libel” that led to the holocaust -- were condemned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“No matter how strong one’s objections to any policy or to the tactics of political opponents, invoking the Holocaust and the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people is offensive and has no place in a civil political discourse,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a statement issued in response to Cohen’s statement.

“I respect Mr. Foxman greatly, we have a little difference on how we see this,” Cohen said.  “I wasn’t talking about the political philosophy or even the actions that resulted in the actions of the Holocaust, I was talking about the political propaganda, which is somewhat separate, but I understand Mr. Foxman’s sensitivities and I’m sorry that he and other people of the Jewish faith could have been offended.”

Does that mean Cohen is sorry for what he said?  Not quite.

“I’m sorry that people were offended,” Cohen said.  “I’m not sorry for what I said.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


The Obama Re-Election Effort Begins

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials tell ABC News that President Obama is closing the political office of the White House as he re-tools and prepares for the 2012 re-election campaign.

These changes include:

* Having his 2012 re-election HQ in Chicago (a search for office space in downtown Chi-town has begun)
* Filing papers with the Federal Election Commission to formally declare his candidacy in March or so
* Assigning soon-to-be-leaving White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina to be campaign manager
* Appointing as deputy campaign managers current White House social secretary Julianna Smoot (finance director of the 2008 campaign), and executive director of the Democratic National Committee Jennifer O’Malley Dillon who focused on battleground states in 2008. Smoot will focus on finances while Dillon focuses on field operations
* Moving current White House political director Patrick Gaspard to run the DNC (Tim Kaine will remain chairman) with the DNC assuming the role of the White House political office

Messina, in addition to looking for office space, has started talking to fundraisers and lining up consultants; outgoing White House senior adviser David Axelrod and outgoing press secretary Robert Gibbs will serve as two of those consultants.

White House senior adviser David Plouffe will be the key liaison between the campaign and the White House.

“There’s not going to be two dueling power centers,” Plouffe told the New York Times, which first reported the news. “The philosophy of this campaign will not be that the White House is somehow running the campaign. The people running the campaign are in charge of the campaign. That’s the way the president wants it. We’ll do it in a coordinated way, but they’re running this thing.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palin Putting out Presidential Feelers in Iowa

Photo Courtesy - Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Advisers to former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin have been making calls to activists and supporters in Iowa, and key early primary and caucus states in case she decides to run for president.

"We have supporters in Iowa that we speak with frequently. The governor is honored to have their support," said Andrew Davis, a strategist at SarahPAC, Palin's political action committee.

But the calls and outreach don't represent any major "uptick" in political activity. Palin advisers have been making these types of calls for months.

Since last year, activists have been reaching out to the Palin team to offer support. Palin aides make sure to call back to thank them and maintain the type of contact that would be needed to build a full-scale campaign operation, if needed. As of now, the Palin team is not asking for formal commitments from supporters

Despite the contact, political veterans on the ground in Iowa say they see little sign of the Palin effort.

One senior Iowa Republican told ABC News, "While it is still early, there are no indications on the ground that Governor Palin is taking the organizational steps associated with mounting a full-scale caucus campaign. Directly engaging traditional caucus-going Iowa Republicans is a must for a successful effort, and as of yet, that is not happening."

It should be noted with her extremely high profile, Palin might not need a traditional organization to achieve success in Iowa. And big organizations don't always translate into victory. Mitt Romney came in second in 2008, despite an early and expensive effort there.

RealClearPolitics was the first to report the Palin outreach in Iowa, but the effort is not limited to that caucus state. There are contacts being made in all of the early voting states. While no decision has been made, Palin has made clear that if she does decide to run, she "would be in it to win it." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'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

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