Review Category : Poltics

Carney Gets Candid: White House Press Secretary Opens Up to Students

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — With his press briefing book sitting closed next to him, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn’t have much to refer to when a person asked if he wanted to take a “selfie.”

“Absolutely,” Carney said, after an audience member at George Washington University promised it wouldn’t be taken on a Samsung device — referring to the recent controversy with Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz’ selfie with President Obama.

Carney opened up Thursday in a rare “conversation-style” interview, with a noticeably more candid tone at times than most White House reporters have grown accustomed to.

Here are seven takeaways from the event:

1.) He never had aspirations of being a White House Press Secretary:

“I was a reporter for 21 years — 20 of them at Time Magazine. I loved being a reporter,” Carney said, adding that he’d been recruited by Vice President Joe Biden after the 2008 election to be his communications director. That’s when, Carney said, “I woke up every morning for probably six months wondering whether I could do what I was doing or if I was cut out for the job.”

2.) The story behind deciding to accept the ‘Between Two Ferns’ interview:

“We obviously look at ideas and we have some crazy ones that we don’t take. But I think that there’s an advantage to pushing the envelope. There was a conversation about wanting to help, it was their idea. Four of us presented it to the President and he has a pretty good compass on his own,” Carney said. “We knew there was some risk associated with it but it was a smart thing to do. We were trying to reach you [young people], and more people watch Funny or Die and click on ‘Between Two Ferns’ interviews than watch the Evening News or the morning shows.”

3.) He thinks Jon Stewart probably gave the hardest interview during the President’s re-election cycle:

“I remember we were having the discussion during 2012 about whether it was appropriate for the sitting President to give interviews to Jon Stewart and others,” Carney recalled. “I think if you look back at 2012 and the sitting interviews that the President of the United States gave, probably the toughest interview we had was with Jon Stewart. Probably the most substantive, challenging interview that Barack Obama had in the election was with the anchor of The Daily Show.”

4.) Not surprisingly, the Healthcare.gov rollout was the toughest moment of his tenure (so far):

“This was something that was entirely on us. It was our fault. We built the system, it was supposed to work far better than it did,” Carney said. “That made this unique because a lot of the more challenging times that we face have to do with external events or bogus charges or things like that. This was something that we controlled, that we didn’t get right at the start.”

5.) He disagrees with reporters who say President Obama deserved Politifact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ for his “If you like your health care, you can keep it” promise:

“I think that a lie is one of intent, and that the president believed that is what the policy would deliver. When it didn’t, it became clear that if there was anything we could do to fix, or help those individuals, then it ought to be done,” Carney said.

6.) He might not be 100 percent behind the Pulitzer Prize board’s decision to honor the Washington Post and the Guardian on the stories from Edward Snowden’s leaks:

“I’m not going to comment on specific prize winners. My view, in general, is that the best of those awards go to reporters who break new ground through the shoe-leather reporting of the past and who develop sources, find information, devote hours, days, weeks and months to getting a story right,” Carney said. “I think year after year you see the Pulitzers and other similar awards — [the] work held up that meets those standards.”

7.) Responding to complaints of a non-transparent White House, he said the Obama White House is the most transparent ever:

“I’ve covered the previous two administrations and know a thing or two about ones before that. There’s never been a more transparent administration,” Carney said. “It is absolutely the case today, and will always be the case that the White House Press Corps will not be satisfied with the level of access it has to the President or the rest of the President’s team. There will always be meetings, there will always be a limit on the number interviews or press conferences because it simply is impossible for the President or any White House to function otherwise. But the press should keep pressing for more access.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Hails Health Care Enrollment: “This Thing Is Working”

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Obama has many times declared victory with the Affordable Care Act, including the announcement earlier this month of 7 million sign-ups in the law’s first year. On Thursday, with a slight grin, he added an exclamation point.

Eight million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges, Obama announced Thursday. “This thing is working,” he declared.

The White House says 28 percent of sign-ups are between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly below insurers’ expectations but not low enough to break the bank. Millions more signed up for coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. What is still not known is how many people were previously uninsured – and how many have paid for their policies to seal enrollment.

Obama on Thursday made a case for why Democrats should be confident, embrace health care and try to turn the tables on Republicans in the fall campaign.

The GOP “is going through, you know, the stages of grief, right? Anger and denial and all that stuff,” he said.

“I think what the other side is doing and what the other side is offering would strip away protections from those families and from hundreds of millions of people who already had health insurance before the law passed,” he said.

“I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people…we’re helping because of something we did. I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think is a strong, good, right story to tell.”

The president has signaled this week – and said explicitly Thursday – that the White House plans to spend the next few months rejuvenating its messaging on jobs and the economy, and on immigration.

“If Republicans want to spend all their time talking about repealing a law that’s working, that’s their business,” he said. “I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive, but we need to move on and focus on the things that are really important to the American people right now. “

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton revealed on Thursday that she is pregnant.

She made the announcement during a speech in New York City with her mother, Hillary Clinton, at her side.

“Marc and I are very excited that we have our first child arriving later this year,” she said at the Lower East Side Girls Club at the end of a Clinton Foundation event dedicated to empowering young girls.

Clinton did not say if she and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, are having a boy or a girl.

“I certainly feel all the better whether it’s a girl or a boy that she or he will grow up in a world full of so many strong, young female leaders,” she told the audience full of young women. “So thank you for inspiring me.”

Grandmother-to-be Hillary Clinton connected the announcement to the focus of the day’s event, telling the crowd that she is not only excited for her family but for the future generations who may not have to face the same glass ceilings as she did.

“Obviously we are very excited about what’s happening in our family,” she told the young women. “But we’re also very excited because of what we’re doing that we hope gives confidence and support to so many of you across our country as you make decisions about the lives you want to lead and try to make sure there are no ceilings that are stopping you from going as far and as high and as fast as you can.”

Actress America Ferrera, who was moderating the event, noted Hillary’s happiness: “I don’t think anyone was smiling as big as your mom at that announcement.”

“I just hope that I will be as good a mom to my child — hopefully children — as my mom was to me,” Chelsea replied.

Bill Clinton responded on Twitter shortly after the announcement Thursday afternoon.

Excited to add a new line to my Twitter bio…grandfather-to-be! @hillaryclinton and I are so happy for Chelsea and Marc!

— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 17, 2014

The news shouldn’t come as a complete shock. In an interview with Glamour magazine last year, Clinton said that she and her husband were planning to make 2014 “the Year of the Baby.”

“We sat down and said, ‘Here’s what we want to do.’ The first thing on the list was simple: We want, God willing, to start a family,” Clinton told the magazine. “So we decided we were going to make 2014 the Year of the Baby.”

At the time Clinton added, “Call my mother and tell her that. She asks us about it every single day.”

Indeed, Hillary Clinton has made no secret of the fact she’s been eager to become a grandmother.

“I will certainly tell you, that’s a title I would be proud to have,” Clinton said last fall.

And in September, former President Bill Clinton was asked the question by Charlie Rose: Would his wife prefer the title “president” or “grandmother”?

“If you ask her, I think she’d say grandmother,” Bill Clinton said, “but I have found it best not to discuss that issue…. My goal is to live to be a grandfather.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Conferees Agree to No Violence in Ukraine but Little Else

US Mission/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(GENEVA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday the lengthy four-way meeting on Ukraine had produced metrics for measuring how quickly the situation there de-escalates, but added that there is still more work to be done.

“All of this, we believe, represents a good day’s work,” he said after the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. “But on the other hand, this day’s work has produced principles. And it has produced commitments.

“And it has produced words on paper. None of us leave here with the sense that the job is done because the words are on the paper,” he added.

Kerry repeated that all sides had committed to refraining from the use of violence, to getting all “illegal” forces within Ukraine to vacate and to supporting an international monitoring mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is already under way.

And Kerry said that if Russia does not show demonstrable progress in these arenas by the weekend, the United States and European Union will start imposing further sanctions on the country.

“This is just the beginning. It depends on the good faith of the parties in following through. And we’re going to watch that very, very closely,” he said.

Kerry added that Ukraine had agreed to an inclusive constitutional drafting process that maintains respect for minority groups and takes into consideration the possibility for more autonomy within Ukrainian regions, some of the chief requests that Russia had made of Ukraine before the meeting, which included the United States, Russia, Ukraine and European Union.

“Ukraine’s leaders indicated that they are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to address regional demands for more autonomy, for local self-government, for the protection of minority rights,” Kerry said.

But in an indication of how Russia may seek to skirt the red lines laid out in Thursday’s agreement, Kerry also criticized Russia’s takeover of the Ukrainian region of Crimea as “illegal.” Russia continues to insist, however, that the annexation was done in the name of defending the Russian-speaking population of that area.

And Kerry added that while the parties convened in Geneva to “move away from what is a spiraling-downwards confrontation,” he noted that Crimea was not a topic of discussion Thursday.

“We have not given up but today we did not come here to talk about Crimea,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Conferees Agree to No Violence in Ukraine but Little Else

US Mission/Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(GENEVA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday the lengthy four-way meeting on Ukraine had produced metrics for measuring how quickly the situation there de-escalates, but added that there is still more work to be done.

“All of this, we believe, represents a good day’s work,” he said after the meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. “But on the other hand, this day’s work has produced principles. And it has produced commitments.

“And it has produced words on paper. None of us leave here with the sense that the job is done because the words are on the paper,” he added.

Kerry repeated that all sides had committed to refraining from the use of violence, to getting all “illegal” forces within Ukraine to vacate and to supporting an international monitoring mission by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is already under way.

And Kerry said that if Russia does not show demonstrable progress in these arenas by the weekend, the United States and European Union will start imposing further sanctions on the country.

“This is just the beginning. It depends on the good faith of the parties in following through. And we’re going to watch that very, very closely,” he said.

Kerry added that Ukraine had agreed to an inclusive constitutional drafting process that maintains respect for minority groups and takes into consideration the possibility for more autonomy within Ukrainian regions, some of the chief requests that Russia had made of Ukraine before the meeting, which included the United States, Russia, Ukraine and European Union.

“Ukraine’s leaders indicated that they are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to address regional demands for more autonomy, for local self-government, for the protection of minority rights,” Kerry said.

But in an indication of how Russia may seek to skirt the red lines laid out in Thursday’s agreement, Kerry also criticized Russia’s takeover of the Ukrainian region of Crimea as “illegal.” Russia continues to insist, however, that the annexation was done in the name of defending the Russian-speaking population of that area.

And Kerry added that while the parties convened in Geneva to “move away from what is a spiraling-downwards confrontation,” he noted that Crimea was not a topic of discussion Thursday.

“We have not given up but today we did not come here to talk about Crimea,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Tells Wounded Warriors They Are ‘Inspiration’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama welcomed Wounded Warriors on their Ride to the White House Thursday, calling the participants “an incredible inspiration to me and to our country.”

“Biking nearly 60 miles in three days would be a challenge for anybody, but for all of you, this is a lot more than a bike ride. This is a mark of how far you’ve come,” Obama said to the audience of service members and their families.

“Many of you are recovering from devastating injuries,” he said. “Some of you have had to learn the basics all over again, how to stand again, how to walk again, how to run again. And now you’re here today because that’s what Soldiers Ride is all about, seeing each other through the finish line.”

The White House says the event, which is going on its seventh year, is about encouraging awareness of wounded service members and applauding their service.

Dozens participated in the event that lasts a total of four days.

Obama commented on the soldiers’ “courage, your resolve, your resilience, your tenacity, your optimism.” Adding, “it makes me proud to be your commander in chief.”

“Every day I have the honor of serving as this country’s commander in chief. And as long as I have that honor, I will keep fighting to make sure you and your families get the care and treatment and benefits that you have earned and deserve,” he said.

“And it’s especially now, as we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan after having ended over a decade of war, that we are standing up for you. Our obligations to our veterans endure for your entire lives,” Obama said. “That’s our mission. That’s why we’re here, not just during this ride but all year long.”

Vice President Biden joined Obama for his speech and the two men high-fived riders as they completed a few loops around the South Lawn before beginning the next 17-mile leg of their journey.

Just last week first lady Michelle Obama along with former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Dr. Jill Biden, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter announced a new program for caregivers of veterans and active service members.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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PETA Enlists Kids to Tell Michelle Obama Easter Egg Policy Is Rotten

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — While the annual White House Easter Egg Roll celebration isn’t one typically embroiled in controversy, three young girls are letting first lady Michelle Obama know they aren’t happy about it.

Well, three young girls on behalf of PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed,” says one girl, in the YouTube video released by the group this week titled, “Michelle Obama, We Need to Talk.”

After some deep sighs and shaking of heads, the girls acknowledge that previous White House celebrations have involved thousands of hard-boiled eggs. The first lady’s child critics say they would prefer the use of plastic ones instead.

As one girl asks, “If all the other first lady’s jumped off a bridge, would you?”

The video is a part of a push by PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk to cut eggs from next Monday’s 136th annual Easter egg roll, which Newkirk links to in a letter to the first lady.

“I hope that after hearing their message, you will implement a new, humane tradition at the White House by using synthetic eggs that don’t require any animal to suffer,” Newkirk says in the letter.

Newkirk even takes a jab at Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative, saying “cruelly sourced, unhealthy eggs” are “primary contributors to some of our nation’s top killers, including heart disease and strokes.”

The girls claim in the video the White House uses “over 7,000 eggs every year” in its celebration. The White House website says the actual hard-boiled eggs are collected by White House staff members and the Secret Service to “gently toss over” the White House fence to spectators after the end of the event.

The National Parks Foundation told ABC News it provides the White House with thousands of wooden souvenir eggs for visitors to take home.

PETA spokesperson Lindsay Rajt acknowledged that the organization doesn’t have any direct information from the White House on the origin of the eggs, but said, “The egg industry is inherently cruel and problematic. All animals at the end of the day want to live and the chickens that are used by the egg industry go to slaughter.”

In past years PETA has handed out pamphlets outside the White House criticizing the use of real eggs. Rajt said the girls’ video was a fresh and different way for kids to reach out directly to the First Lady.

More than 30,000 people are expected to be in attendance at this year’s egg roll, including celebrities and athletes that guide children through the day’s activities.

The first lady’s press office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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2016: A Tale of Two Bidens?

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Biden family may have two Bidens running for office in 2016.

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election as the attorney general and instead will pursue a run for governor in 2016.

“Over the past few months, as I’ve been planning to run for reelection, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for Governor in 2016. What started as a thought–a very persistent thought–has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue,” Beau Biden wrote on his website Thursday.

“After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is not right to ask for your support in 2014, knowing that my focus would be divided between doing my job as Attorney General while at the same time running as a candidate for Governor,” he wrote. “Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection as your Attorney General this November.”

Beau Biden added, “After my term is completed, I look forward to meeting with Delawareans and continuing to discuss my plans as a candidate for Governor.”

Beau Biden faced a health scare last summer when he experienced weakness and disorientation while on a family vacation. He then underwent surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Beau Biden has not discussed the health issue. In 2010, Beau Biden suffered from a mild stroke.

Vice President Joe Biden has indicated he is considering a third run for the White House in 2016.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Biden Posts Selfie with Obama on Instagram

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Hours after joining Instagram, Vice President Joe Biden posted his first selfie to the photo-sharing social network on Thursday.

The picture, which features Biden alongside President Obama, is captioned: “Found a friend to join my first selfie on Instagram. Thanks for following and stay tuned. –VP.”

Biden was in Pittsburgh with Obama Thursday to talk about expanding job-training programs to help more Americans find jobs.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Michael Bloomberg Donates $50M to Gun Violence Prevention Group

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has invested millions of his own fortune into the push for stricter gun laws. Now, he’s upping the ante by pledging up to $50 million this year alone to a newly formed gun control organization that hopes to rival the influence of the powerful National Rifle Association.

Bloomberg’s group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has joined forces with Moms Demand Action under a new umbrella group, Everytown for Gun Safety. The group’s goals are to expand background checks at the state and federal levels and drive one million gun control supporters to the voting booths in November.

“What we are building here is a counter weight to the gun lobby. The truth is that the gun lobby has had this territory to themselves both in Washington and in state houses across the country and our job is to change that,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said Wednesday during a conference call.

“I think the NRA should be very afraid of Americans, who’ve had enough of the gun violence in this country and in particular moms,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and a board member for Everytown for Gun Safety, said. “Moms are afraid our children will be taken away and in the end, I think that’s the emotion that will win the debate.”

But the new organization, whose board includes billionaire Warren Buffett and former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, has a heavy lift ahead as it looks to challenge the NRA, which carries heavy political influence with lawmakers in conservative states.

Asked to comment, NRA spokesman Andreew Arulanandam said, “See you in Indianapolis next week. We will have a lot more to say then” — referring to the organization’s annual meeting.

During the gun debate last year, Bloomberg’s group and the NRA went head to head over background check legislation.

At the time, Bloomberg even poured $12 million in advertisements into 13 states to convince senators to vote in favor of gun control legislation. Bloomberg’s return on investment was not very good. The Senate ultimately dealt gun control advocates a major blow when it failed to pass legislation expanding requirements for background checks before purchasing a firearm.

Four Democrats voted against the bill, including two senators who are up for re-election this year in conservative states — Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark. It’s those red states that could act as a major roadblock for future gun control legislation on the federal level as the NRA wields enormous influence with lawmakers in those states.

While he was handed defeat in the Senate, Bloomberg isn’t just looking at the federal level as a gauge on a return on his investment in the gun control cause. Feinblatt pointed to successes on the state level, including the states that have passed comprehensive background checks.

“We measure this in terms of lives saved and when you have 160 people in Colorado who would have gotten their hands on guns not getting their hands on guns, that has saved lives and you can’t put a price tag on that,” Feinblatt said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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