Colin Powell Not Sold on Obama in 2012

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who famously crossed party lines to vote for President Obama in 2008, said on Sunday that he’s not necessarily supporting the president for reelection in 2012.

“I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for,” Powell said on CBS’ Face the Nation.  “Just as was the case in 2008, I am going to watch the campaign unfold.  In the course of my life I have voted for Democrats, I have voted for Republicans, I have changed from one four-year cycle to another."

“I’ve always felt it my responsibility as a citizen to take a look at the issues, examine the candidates, and pick the person that I think is best qualified for the office of the president in that year.  And not just solely on the basis of party affiliation,” he said.

Asked about the Republican field, Powell said there are some “interesting candidates,” but no one who has “emerged into the leading position.”

“So let’s see if anybody else is going to join, and we’ve got a long way to go,” he added.

Powell, the nation’s first African-American secretary of state, praised Obama’s leadership style in 2008 in endorsing him, saying shortly before the election that Obama “has a definite way of doing business that will serve us well.”  He also said at the time that he didn’t think the GOP vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, was “ready” to be president.

In his interview Sunday, Powell also had a strong reaction to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s new memoir.  He said Cheney took “cheap shots” in his book and seemed to be chasing “tabloid” headlines by saying his book would make “heads explode” in Washington.

“I haven’t heard anything that explosive,” Powell said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Let the Vetting Begin: Rick Perry under the Microscope

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Earlier this month, just days after he jumped into the presidential race, Rick Perry told an Iowa crowd why he liked their caucus process.

There’s going to be “a lot of probin’ and lot of feelin’ and touchin’ and talkin’ and vetting the candidates and asking questions,” Perry predicted at a county GOP event in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 16.

The Texas governor was back in Iowa over the weekend and it was apparent the vetting was well underway.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs reported that Perry “dodged questions from two farmers at an Iowa Corn Growers Association meeting,” who were hoping to pin the governor down on ethanol policy.  Not satisfied that Perry would do enough to protect his livelihood, one corn and soybean grower told the Register that while he loves what Perry says on other issues, “I just could not support him.”

It’s hardly just Iowans that are taking a closer look at the Republican contender, who last week leapfrogged Mitt Romney as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.  A series of media headlines make clear that Perry, who has never had to endure the spotlight of a national campaign, is about to see his record in Texas, his comments on the campaign trail and even his personal life, picked over like never before.

“Rick Perry's 'Texas miracle': a demographic quirk?” reads a recent headline in the Christian Science Monitor.  This weekend the liberal website, ThinkProgress, which dispatched a reporter to Iowa to cover Perry’s events on Saturday, ran a story titled: “Perry Says He Hasn’t ‘Backed Off Anything’ In His Book, Still Thinks Social Security Is Unconstitutional.”

On Monday, a front-page story in The New York Times declares: “As a States’ Rights Stalwart, Perry Draws Doubts.”  Monday morning, the Washington Post notes, “Rick Perry has distanced himself from George W. Bush’s brand of conservatism.”  And the coup de grace: the headline of the article leading Politico’s website Monday morning, asks pointedly and simply: “Is Rick Perry dumb?”

As proof that Perry, the longest-serving governor in his state’s history, is not, in fact, “dumb,” a spokesman for his presidential campaign offered up evidence to the reporter.

Spokesman Mark Miner told Politco that Perry is "currently reading Henry Kissinger’s recent China book -- On China."  He added that the governor "is also reading Charles Stanley’s Turning the Tide, and that Perry "carries an Apple laptop as well as an iPad with him on the road."

As the new kid on the block, Perry’s getting tons of ink -- not all of it flattering.  But will it matter?  A GOP electorate hungry for a fighter and one with a record on job creation to boot may give Perry the benefit of the doubt they wouldn't give other GOP hopefuls.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


After Hurricane Irene, Obama to Spend Day in White House Meetings

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- After spending the weekend bracing for Hurricane Irene, President Obama will return to a schedule of closed-door meetings at the White House Monday.

The president will, however, take a moment to make an on-camera appearance at 11 a.m., when he is expected to announce his intent to nominate Alan Krueger to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.

Obama spent the weekend meeting with his emergency response team and preparing for the storm, which was ultimately weaker than expected.  Having learned from disasters of the past, the president made the case Sunday that his administration was well-prepared for Irene.

"This has been an exemplary effort of how good government, at every level, should be responsive to people’s needs, work to keep them safe, and protect and promote the nation’s prosperity,” Obama said in a Rose Garden statement.

The president also offered his condolences to the families of victims whose lives were claimed by the storm.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by the storm.  You need to know that America will be with you in your hour of need," he said.

Now that the storm has passed, Obama will meet with his senior advisors Monday morning and will have a private lunch with Vice President Joe Biden.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama's Labor Problem: Union Scales Back Support

The White House/Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- As if dismal economic growth, high unemployment and natural disasters weren't enough to dampen President Obama's vacation, the nation's largest labor union has announced that it will scale back support of the Democratic Party for the 2012 elections.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka -- who has met with Obama frequently -- said Thursday that the union will spend more of its money to "build our own structure" and give less money "to build structures for others."

In other words, instead of giving money to boost the Democratic Party as a whole, the union plans to build its own strategy to influence specific races and highlight particular issues beyond the election season.

"Contributing money to the party had value but it didn't leave anything enduring that was independent of the party," said AFL-CIO's political media outreach specialist Jeff Hauser.  "We are much more interested in building a year-round, odd year and even year, every year political mobilization rather than gearing up ourselves six months [before the election] and relying on an external political operation."

President Obama's relationship with labor unions has been on the rocks after the president failed to achieve passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, or "card-check" bill, that would make it easier for workers to organize.

"There is broad frustration with the party and all elected officials, broad frustration with the lack of a union agenda," said Michael Monroe, chief of staff of the Building & Construction Trades Department of AFL-CIO.  "People are looking for outlets to express that frustration."

The president's support of free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea was also unpopular with labor groups like the AFL-CIO, which contributed $1.6 million to Democratic campaigns in 2010 and $1.2 million during the past presidential election.

Hauser said there is "broad discontent within the labor movement" because Washington is preoccupied with cutting deficits instead of setting its sights on creating jobs.

"The number one issue in this country is by far the jobs crisis," he said.  "We hope to encourage leaders to focus on the real issue, the jobs crisis, rather than focusing so much attention on long-run deficit issues."

The union's announcement comes on the heels of AFL-CIO's move to create their own Super PAC (Political Action Committee), which will allow the union to collect and spend unlimited funds.  The union said the Super PAC is one aspect of AFL-CIO's strategy to build a year-round political operation.

Hauser said the new structure will increase AFL-CIO's ability to impact elections and strengthen the candidates it supports.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


9/11, Remembrance and Renewal: Recalling President Bush's Reaction

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The nation is marking 10 years since the attacks of 9/11. ABC News White House Correspondent Ann Compton recalls being on the road with President Bush that tragic day.

"I was with President George Bush in a Florida classroom as an aide whispered the chilling news," Compton says.

"As soon as he was informed of the attack President Bush wanted to get back to Washington. But he could not.  Nor could those of us with him," she says.

The Pentagon had been struck too, making the nation's capital a target and challenging the White House to ensure that its Doomsday scenario can survive in a new era of powerful terrorism.  But the president would soon get his wish.

"This is Ann Compton.  We are on board [Air Force One].  Doors are shut and I am told we are flying back to Washington," Compton reported on Sept. 11, 2001, hours after the attacks.

"President Bush flew half way across the United States to find safety and communications," Compton recalls.  "Now, 10 years later, Air Force One has secure video conferencing equipment, satellite television capability, linking the President to American officials all over the globe. "

Today, Compton says, "the Doomsday scenario is still in place to protect not just the man, but the line of succession to the presidency."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama to Nominate Krueger to Head Council of Economic Advisers

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A job opening is being filled at the White House -- a specialist on unemployment.

With the economy still reeling, President Obama is once again picking a new economic adviser from someone who has been on his team. Alan Krueger was chief economist at the Treasury, and is a professor at Princeton specializing in labor and unemployment research.

"Alan has been a key voice on a vast array of economic issues for more than two decades,” Obama said in a statement issued Monday shortly before an anticipated Rose Garden announcement. “Alan understands the difficult challenges our country faces, and I have confidence that he will help us meet those challenges as one of the leaders on my economic team."

Krueger will be the third Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers -- the group that provides the president guidance on where the economy is headed -- following Christina Romer and Austan Goolsbee.

Here is the official announcement from the White House:

Today, President Obama will announce his intent to nominate Alan B. Krueger as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).  Following his confirmation, President Obama will designate Dr. Krueger as Chairman of CEA.  Dr. Krueger will be a key member of the President’s economic team, bringing a wealth of knowledge and decades of experience to the challenge of creating jobs and promoting economic growth.

“I am pleased to nominate Alan Krueger to lead the Council of Economic Advisers. As one of this country’s leading economists, Alan has been a key voice on a vast array of economic issues for more than two decades,” said President Obama.  “Alan understands the difficult challenges our country faces, and I have confidence that he will help us meet those challenges as one of the leaders on my economic team."

If confirmed, Dr. Krueger will continue the CEA’s important work of developing and offering the President economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy. The Council bases its recommendations and analysis on economic research and empirical evidence, using the best data available to support the President in setting our nation's economic policy.  

Dr. Krueger is the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, where he has held faculty appointments in the Economics Department and Woodrow Wilson School since 1987.  He is also the founding Director of the Princeton University Survey Research Center.  

Dr. Krueger previously served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury (2009-10) and as Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor (1994-95).  While serving at the Treasury Department, Dr. Krueger worked on the economic analysis of a variety of programs, including the HIRE Act, the Small Business Lending Fund, Build America Bonds and the Car Allowance Rebate System, or “Cash for Clunkers.”

Dr. Krueger was the Chief Economist for the National Council on Economic Education (2003-09) and elected a member of the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association (2005-07).  In 2002 he was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Russell Sage Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the American Institutes for Research, and he has served as an editor of numerous leading economics journals.  Dr. Krueger received a B.S. from Cornell University's School of Industrial & Labor Relations (1983) and an A.M. (1985) and Ph.D. (1987) in Economics from Harvard University.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama on Irene: 'This is Not Over'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As a weakened but still dangerous Tropical Strom Irene pushes up the East Coast, President Obama urged Americans to remain vigilant.
“I want people to understand that this is not over,” Obama said in a statement delivered Sunday afternoon in the Rose Garden.
“Though the storm has weakened as it’s moved north, it remains a dangerous storm that continues to produce heavy rains,” he added.
The president expressed his condolences to the families of the victims claimed by the deadly weather.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who’ve lost loved ones and those whose lives have been affected by the storm. You need to know that American will be with you in your hour of need.”
The federal government remains concerned about the possibility of significant flooding and widespread power outages because of reports that have come in from state and local officials, the president said. “Many Americans are still a serious risk of power outages and flooding which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks.”
Obama asked that Americans listen and follow the guidance of state and local governments. He also stressed that even after the storm ends, the clean up could take a while. “I do wanna underscore that the impacts of this storm will be felt for some time, and the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer.“
Over the weekend, Obama has made the case that the government has done a good job preparing and responding to Irene, hoping to show that his government has learned lessons from the poorly handed emergency responses in the past. He did so again in his Rose Garden remarks, saying that emergency responders’ good work has saved lives.
“This has been an exemplary effort of how good government, at every level, should be responsive to people’s needs, work to keep them safe, and protect and promote the nation’s  prosperity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Engaged in FEMA Response to Irene

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has received regular briefings about Hurricane Irene's impact. During the wet and windy weekend in Washington, senior advisors and cabinet officials have updated the president on the response and recovery effort taking place along the East Coast of the United States and in U.S. territories.

Sunday morning, Obama convened a video teleconference in the White House Situation Room and plans to reconvene with his team managing the federal government's response Sunday night.

Overnight, Mr. Obama declared a State of Emergency in Delaware and Washington, DC.  Late Saturday, Obama also declared an emergency in Puerto Rico. Emergency orders for federal aid to help state and local responders had already been issued in nine states.

In the Sunday morning teleconference, the president met with Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administration Craig Fugate, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NJ Gov. Christie Praises Federal Aid in Hurricane Response 

ABC News(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said his state is facing record flooding and power outages after Hurricane Irene barreled across the Northeast Sunday morning, but successful evacuations and federal help have reduced potential loss of life in the storm.

"Early reports are very difficult," Christie told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, after the storm came ashore in New Jersey after 6 a.m. "We have over half-a-million people that are now without power. We have 15,000 people in 45 shelters across the state; 250 roads are closed; and we are going to look at a record flooding situation here, both at the shore and inland."

According to reports Saturday, some 500 seniors refused to evacuate from high rises in Atlantic City, but Christie said efforts will soon be made to ensure they have safely weathered the hurricane.

"The good news is that we evacuated over a million people from the Jersey shore in 24 hours without incident," Christie said. "And if those people had stayed at the Jersey shore, I think we'd be talking about significant loss of life. And now, hopefully, we're not going to be talking about that."

Christie urged residents to stay in their homes until the storm had passed over the state, warning that one woman in New Jersey had been swept away in flood waters after getting out of her car in high waters.

““”We are far from out of the woods on the storm itself," Christie warned. "So, please, stay in your homes until the storm has completely left New Jersey. Then we'll be able to get through this together in the aftermath, but I need people to stay at home."

Christie said the federal government has provided all the resources his state has needed to respond to the threat of Irene, praising FEMA as "very responsive" in preparing for the storm's move up the East Coast. He said he will call upon Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for additional aid after the storm has passed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Visits FEMA’s Hurricane Response Center

Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- As Hurricane Irene’s Category 1-force winds pounded the coast of North Carolina Saturday, President Obama visited FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C. 

After touring the facility, Obama told the workers there that they are doing a great job.

FEMA officials are coordinating a response to the storm with federal, state, local and private sector groups at the national command center.  FEMA has also convened daily video teleconference with states threatened by Hurricane Irene at the center that the president toured. 

Obama has declared a state of emergency in eight states so far. The move authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to provide direct assistance to the East Coast states along Irene’s projected path. 

As the storm moves up the East Coast, Obama said he wants emergency responders to keep him updated about developments.  On a conference call this morning, Obama received the latest information about Irene’s intensity, its track and the response and recovery effort from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.  The White House says the president wants fresh updates throughout the day and overnight. 

On Friday, Obama urged Americans living along the Hurricane Irene’s projected path to take the storm seriously.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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