Politics http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics The latest Politics news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers including Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos and more. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 21:03:44 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Christie Calls Accusations Office Culture Inspired Lane Closures ‘Factless’ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/christie-calls-accusations-office-culture-inspired-lane-closures-factless/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/christie-calls-accusations-office-culture-inspired-lane-closures-factless/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:49:22 +0000 Shushannah Walshe http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880878 ap chris christie kb 140424 16x9 608 Christie Calls Accusations Office Culture Inspired Lane Closures Factless

Chris Christie gave some advice to a constituent today and sent a message to his critics about how he views the George Washington lane closures scandal, calling the accusations that a culture is his office allowed it to happen “factless.”

An attendee at his town hall today from Point Pleasant Beach asked Christie how he should “defend to my friends and relatives” allegations that say the New Jersey governor was behind a negative “culture” in his office that would have “approved of such behavior” that led to the lane closures known as “Bridgegate.”

“I think the best way to defend against factless accusations is to answer it with the facts,” Christie told the man at a middle school in Brick, New Jersey, adding that the same people who originally accused him of being behind the lane closures are now saying he “created the culture.”

Christie then launched into a lengthy defense of the “culture” of his office saying it “produced unprecedented bipartisan cooperation.”

“If in fact I created a culture where people were going after each other than how did we do all these things together with Republicans and Democrats?,” he asked. “The allegation that somehow this was a culture that was created just doesn’t have any basis in fact. These folks who are making these allegations are folks who couldn’t get a political advantage out of one tactic so now they are trying to get a political advantage out of the other.”

Christie even cited the over 60 mayors and other Democrats who endorsed him in his re-election bid as evidence that he did not create a “culture of divisiveness.”

Emails released in January indicated top Christie aides closed down lanes leading to the world’s busiest bridge as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who chose not to endorse Christie in his re-election bid.

In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer last month he also stressed he “did nothing to create the environment” that prompted some of his former top aides to cause the traffic nightmare.

Wearing a bright blue t-shirt Thursday that read “man enough to be a Girl Scout” given to him earlier in the town hall by a Girl Scout leader, Christie told the crowd he expects the criticism though and they won’t “hear me complain about it.”

“I am a big boy and I understand this business and I understand when you are the guy, you are the governor, you are the guy carrying the ball, you are the guy they are going to try and tackle and I get that and I have to live with it, that’s the way it goes,” Christie said, noting sometimes it does not bother him, but acknowledging “some days it really gets me upset.”

He said that he has taken responsibility for it happening on “his watch,” but he won’t “take responsibility for every fantasy that somebody who wants to be partisan is going to come up” with, promising again he had no prior knowledge of the closures and if he did he would have stopped them.

“We will cooperate with all the appropriate investigations anybody wants to do because in the end what I know is the truth which is it was a stupid thing to have done, I knew nothing about it, had nothing to do with it and if anybody had ever come to me and said to me they were going to do this I would have stopped it,” he said.

He added that since the scandal broke concerned supporters have come up to him to ask if he is “OK,” but despite the “bumps in the road” there has not “been a day I regret having the job I have.”

“I never told you that I was going to be perfect or all the people who worked for me were going to be perfect,” Christie said. “We are all human beings and that means inherently we are imperfect and mistakes will be made, what matters when mistakes are made no matter what they are is how do you react to them…we are always judged not by the fall, but how we get up.”

A Christie-ordered internal review released earlier this month cleared him of any wrongdoing. Two other investigations: a state legislative panel and the U.S. Attorney’s office are ongoing. The state investigation subpoenaed four current and former officials to testify next month.

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Excerpt: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ‘A Fighting Chance’ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/excerpt-sen-elizabeth-warrens-a-fighting-chance/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/excerpt-sen-elizabeth-warrens-a-fighting-chance/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:21:14 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880840 HT elizabeth warren fighting chance sk 140424 v16x9 16x9 608 Excerpt: Sen. Elizabeth Warrens A Fighting Chance

Rick Pracher

From the Book A FIGHTING CHANCE by Elizabeth Warren. Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Warren. Reprinted by arrangement with Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company LLC.

Prologue
A Fighting Chance

I’m Elizabeth Warren. I’m a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. For nearly all my life, I would have said I’m a teacher, but I guess I really can’t say that anymore. Now I’d have to introduce myself as a United States senator, though I still feel a small jolt of surprise whenever I say that.

This is my story, and it’s a story born of gratitude.

My daddy was a maintenance man and my mother worked the phones at Sears. More than anything, my parents wanted to give my three older brothers and me a future. And all four of us have lived good lives. My oldest brother, Don Reed, served twenty years in the military, with 288 combat missions in Vietnam to his credit. In good years, my brother John had a union job operating a crane, and in leaner years he took whatever construction work he could get. My brother David had a special spark; he started his own business, and when that didn’t work out, he started another business, because he couldn’t imagine a world where he wasn’t living by his wits every day. I went to college and became a teacher, first for special-needs kids and then for law students; only much later did I get involved in politics. My brothers and I all married and had children, and my parents plastered their walls, their refrigerator, and their tabletops with pictures of their much-loved grandchildren.

I will be grateful to my mother and daddy until the day I die. They worked hard—really hard—to help my brothers and me along. But we also succeeded, at least in part, because we were lucky enough to grow up in an America that invested in kids like us and helped build a future where we could flourish.

Here’s the hard truth: America isn’t building that kind of future any longer.

Today the game is rigged—rigged to work for those who have money and power. Big corporations hire armies of lobbyists to get billion-dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in their favor. Meanwhile, hardworking families are told that they’ll just have to live with smaller dreams for their children.

Over the past generation, America’s determination to give every kid access to affordable college or technical training has faded. The basic infrastructure that helps us build thriving businesses and jobs—the roads, bridges, and power grids—has crumbled. The scientific and medical research that has sparked miraculous cures and inventions from the Internet to nanotechnology is starved for funding, and the research pipeline is shrinking. The optimism that defines us as a people has been beaten and bruised.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

I am determined—fiercely determined—to do everything I can to help us once again be the America that creates opportunities for anyone who works hard and plays by the rules. An America of accountability and fair play. An America that builds a future for not just some of our children but for all of our children. An America where everyone gets what I got: a fighting chance.

My story seems pretty unlikely, even to me. I never expected to run for office—but then again, I never expected to do a lot of things in my life. I never expected to climb a mountain. I never expected to meet the president of the United States. I never expected to be a blonde. But here I am.

The story starts in Oklahoma, where I grew up, and it tumbles through a life built around husbands and babies and setting the kitchen on fire. I made my way to a commuter college, a teaching job, a public law school, and, eventually, a professorship. As I started weaving in academic research, I became more and more worried about what was happening to America’s families, and the story shifted to Washington, where I picked my first public fight. In 1995, I agreed to take on what I thought would be some part-time public service for a couple of years, and I quickly got caught up in a battle over our nation’s bankruptcy law. I know that sounds a little obscure, but underneath it was a clash about whether our government exists to serve giant banks or struggling families.

The battle lasted much longer than I’d expected—a full ten years, in fact. My own life threaded through, of course, with graduations and funerals and grandchildren of my own. When that battle ended, I picked up another, and then another and another—a total of five big fights in all. They ranged from fighting for a fresh start for families who had suffered a job loss or a serious illness, to trying to force the government to be transparent about what was really going on with the bank bailout, to tangling with the big banks over dishonest mortgages. But the way I see it, even as they took me this way and that, all five battles were about a single, deeper threat: America’s middle class is under attack. Worse, it’s not under attack by some unstoppable force of nature. It’s in trouble because the game is deliberately rigged.

This book tells a very public story about fraud and bailouts and elections. It also tells a very personal story about mothers and daughters, day care and dogs, aging parents and cranky toddlers. It’s not meant to be a definitive account of any historical event—it’s just what I saw and what I lived. It’s also a story about losing, learning, and getting stronger along the way. It’s a story about what’s worth fighting for, and how sometimes, even when we fight against very powerful opponents, we can win.

I never expected to go to Washington. Heck, for the most part I never even wanted to go. But I’m here to fight for something that I believe is worth absolutely everything: to give each one of our kids a fighting chance to build a future full of promise and discovery.

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Warren

Listen to the prologue of “A Fighting Chance” below. Audio courtesy of Macmillan Audio.

Like “This Week” on Facebook. You can also follow the show on Twitter.

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Why the Koch Brothers Are Tangling With ‘Jungle’ Jack Hanna http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/why-the-koch-brothers-are-tangling-with-jungle-jack-hanna/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/why-the-koch-brothers-are-tangling-with-jungle-jack-hanna/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 20:09:33 +0000 Ryan Struyk http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880870 ABC jack hanna jef 140424 16x9 608 Why the Koch Brothers Are Tangling With Jungle Jack Hanna

(Heidi Gutman/ABC)

Hold your horses, Jack Hanna: the Koch brothers just threw a monkey wrench into a May ballot proposal to increase funding for the Columbus Zoo in Ohio.

Less than two weeks from a vote on the proposal, Americans for Prosperity, an interest group financed in part by the conservative Koch brothers, is reaching into the debate over a local tax levy in Franklin County, Ohio.

The move is expected to keep Jack Hanna — the safari-tanned director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and commonly-known media figure “Jungle Jack” — and his allies busy as a bee in this dog-eat-dog political face-off.

“It’s the most curious thing I’ve ever seen in Franklin County politics,” John Kulewicz, co-chair of the movement to pass the tax hike, told ABC News. “Everyone I know is wondering why [the Koch brothers] are getting involved. What does this have to do with anything?”

Much to the chagrin of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional Democrats, Americans for Prosperity has been a major player in U.S. Senate races across the country, taking particular aim at President Obama’s signature health care law and Democrats who supported it.

But Eli Miller, the Ohio state director of Americans for Prosperity, said his organization works at the local, state and federal level, and this involvement wasn’t uncommon for the interest group.

“A lot of our activists in Franklin County reached out to us on the issue that their voices were not being heard on this tax increase,” said Miller. “If you’re going to raise taxes at any level, you’re going to hear from us.”

Americans for Prosperity mailed out ads urging voters to “stop the money grab,” featuring a gorilla hand holding a $100 bill. Miller said the group has also gone door-to-door with its campaign.

But Kulewicz said that he doesn’t understand why the conservative group is getting involved with an issue that pertains to the zoo’s well-being.

“All we know is it’s an outside special interest group from northern Virginia with deep pockets,” Kulewicz said. “I’m not aware that they have any interest in the zoo at all. I know people in Franklin County are up in arms about it.”

Miller wouldn’t comment on how much the group has spent so far on the initiative, but said that they “are going to spend as much as it takes to educate Franklin County constituents.”

“We decided to help educate the public on this issue so Franklin County residents can decide,” Miller said. “As with any tax increase, this is really going to hurt those who can’t afford it.”

 

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Girl Surprises Michelle Obama With Unemployed Dad’s Resume http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/girl-surprises-michelle-obama-with-unemployed-dads-resume/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/girl-surprises-michelle-obama-with-unemployed-dads-resume/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 17:47:31 +0000 Erin Dooley http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880842

When it comes to the job hunt, they say, it’s all about who you know.

And one little girl, a guest at the White House’s annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day,” seized the opportunity to get her father’s resume into some powerful hands on Thursday.

When Michelle Obama called on her during a question-and-answer session in the East Room, instead of asking a question, the child gave the first lady a copy of her dad’s resume.

“My dad’s been out of a job for three years and I wanted to give you his resume,” said the girl, who the Associated Press identified as 10-year-old Charlotte Bell.

“Oh my goodness,” murmured Mrs. Obama as she wrapped the little girl in a hug.

“Well, it’s a little private, but she’s doing something for her dad, right?” the first lady said to the audience, children of Executive Office employees.

“Got it,” she said to Charlotte, brandishing the resume.

Mrs. Obama took the resume with her when she left the event.

RT michelle obama jef 140424 16x9 608 Girl Surprises Michelle Obama With Unemployed Dads Resume

First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Charlotte Bell, 10, who gave the first lady her father's resume and said he had been out of work for three years, at the White House's annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in Washington, April 24, 2014. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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Three Women (Start to) Run on Obamacare http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/three-women-start-to-run-on-obamacare/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/three-women-start-to-run-on-obamacare/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:32:32 +0000 MaryAlice Parks http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880828 Something unusual is brewing in Pennsylvania: A Democrat is running on – not from – Obamacare.

As she seeks to emerge from a crowded Democratic primary field in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Allyson Schwartz is among the first prominent Democrats to take President Obama’s advice and defend the new health care law.

“It’s a major accomplishment of the president’s,” Schwartz told reporters on a call Wednesday. “It is something I think all of us should be proud of.”

In a new television ad that debuted Tuesday, Schwartz not only celebrated the Affordable Care Act, but highlighted her role in passing it.

“I worked with President Obama on the Affordable Care Act and getting health coverage to call Americans,” the ad said.

Schwartz served on the House Ways and Means Committee during the initial construction of the health care legislation, and the ad included photographs of the president and Schwartz together.

“It was my legislation that said insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions,” the ad continues.

Watch the ad here.

This week, Schwartz called on other Democrats, particularly in her race, to “speak up” about the successes of the law and criticized them for “vagueness” on the issue.

“[They should] express their pride and commitment to implementing this law,” she said on the call.

Nationwide and in Pennsylvania, the health care law remains largely unpopular, though public opinion is trending – slowly – in the law’s favor. According to Gallup’s most recent data from earlier this month, 43 percent of Americans now approve of the law, the highest percentage since last October. In addition, the number of respondents who said the law has helped them in their own lives rose to 15 percent, up from 9 percent in November. According to Schwartz, she hears stories of people “every day on the campaign trail” who have been helped by the law.

More importantly for her campaign right now, Democrats still overwhelming support the law. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from March, 76 percent of Democrats nationwide approve of the law.

With the hope of appealing to Democrat primary voters, the ad will run only in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, both Democratic Party strongholds.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, another Democratic candidate is on the health care offensive. Elisabeth Jensen, who hopes to oust freshman Republican Andy Barr and become the state’s first female Democrat in Congress, released her own radio ad earlier this month attacking Barr for his votes to repeal the law.

Jensen’s ad equated the federal health care law with Kentucky’s own health insurance marketplace, Kynect, one of the most successful state-run marketplaces launched last fall, with 400,000 enrollees, according to the governor.

Listen to the ad here.

“I learned congressman Andy Barr voted 19 times to repeal health care reform. I was disappointed,” Jensen’s ad said. “Thanks to Gov. Beshear, Kentucky Kynect provides health care to Kentuckians who had no insurance.  But Barr, along with Mitch McConnell, voted to end Kynect and let insurance companies drop coverage, deny care and charge women more.”

An anti-repeal message could be a safe compromise for Democrats still struggling to talk about Obamacare. A Kaiser Family Foundation Poll from March found that only 29 percent of Americans were in favor of repealing the law, including both those that favored repealing and replacing the law with a GOP alternative (18 percent) and repealing the law and not replacing it with new legislation (11 percent).

Another strategy among Democratic candidates has been to attack Republican governors for hampering the law’s implementation. Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election, repeatedly has said while campaigning that “the law is not perfect.” But she is also vocal about her support for pending legislation in the state that would obligate Louisiana to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid under the new law, a move the  governor so far has rejected.

Similarly, Schwartz’s ad directly criticized incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, who has also chosen not to expand Medicaid in Pennsylvania. On the press call, Schwartz said Pennsylvanians are “outraged” that the governor refused the federal funds to expand coverage. In the ad, she promised to reverse that decision.

“As governor I will take the Medicaid expansion, because 500,000 Pennsylvanians need health care coverage,” she said in the ad.

Corbett’s campaign was quick to respond, saying Schwartz had “embraced an extreme liberal agenda.”

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Scenes From A Foreign Trip http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/scenes-from-a-foreign-trip-the-note/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/scenes-from-a-foreign-trip-the-note/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:01:18 +0000 Michael Falcone http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880807 By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • OBAMA WARNS RUSSIA (AGAIN): In Japan today President Obama warned more U.S. sanctions on Russia are “teed up and ready to go,” signaling that if Russia does not reverse course in eastern Ukraine it will face additional consequences “in days not weeks.” But even as he threatened further sanctions, Obama acknowledged it is “entirely possible” that new economic penalties will not work to change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus on Ukraine, according to ABC’s JONATHAN KARL and DEVIN DWYER. “So far the evidence doesn’t make me hopeful,” Obama said.  “Assuming they don’t follow through, then we’ll follow through on what we said… which is tighter consequences on the Russians.” Further sanctions, he said, are ready go. “We have been preparing for the prospect that we have to engage in further sanctions. Those are teed up,” he said. “The fact I haven’t announced them yet, doesn’t mean they aren’t teed up and ready to go,” the president said. http://abcn.ws/1f8YDd9
  • OBAMA ALSO HAD TOUGH WORDS FOR CHINA: Obama made it clear that the U.S. security commitment to Japan extends to the Senakaku Islands, claimed by both China and Japan but currently administered by Japan, KARL and DWYER report from Tokyo. The Japanese fear China could move to militarily take over the islands. But a few minutes later, President Obama bristled at the suggestion that he was drawing yet another red line as he had done with Syria on chemical weapons and Russia on Crimea. “The treaty between the U.S. and Japan preceded my birth. So obviously this isn’t a red line I’m drawing,” Obama said.  “This is an interpretation that has stretched multiple administrations about alliance. No shift in position, no red line that’s been drawn. Simply applying the treaty.” http://abcn.ws/1f8YDd9
  • OBAMA’S LIMO GETS JAPANESE PLATES: As President Obama’s motorcade rumbled onto the Imperial Palace grounds in Tokyo today for a state visit, the U.S.-Japan bond was evident on the bumper of his U.S.-made limousine. The black Cadillac, shipped in from the United States by Secret Service, donned blue plates with a Japanese insignia. On the hood, U.S. and Japanese flags flittered in the morning sun. Obama greeted Emperor Akihito and his wife, lowering his head ever so slightly to shake hands with both royal highnesses, though it was a far cry from his full bow at the waist in 2009 that sparked much controversy. http://abcn.ws/1ro668l

 

CAROLINE KENNEDY TALKS TO ABC NEWS ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON, LIFE AS AN AMBASSADOR AND TWITTER.

–’TWO YEARS IS A REALLY LONG TIME IN POLITICS’: Caroline Kennedy is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 – “if she runs.” The new U.S. ambassador to Japan endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, calling him an inspirational figure for a “new generation of Americans” akin to her father in 1960. “I think he’s been a great president. And I think that this rebalanced Asia is a really good example of somebody who’s taking the long view, advancing the United States interest,” Kennedy told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL in an interview in Tokyo. If Clinton decides to make a bid to succeed him, Kennedy says she’s on-board. “If she runs,” she said. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but two years is a really long time in politics,” she said. “I’m sure she’s looking forward to being a grandmother, I know she’s got to decide soon. So, so you know I hope so.” http://abcn.ws/1mCOTYs

–’AN UNBELIEVABLE TRIBUTE TO THE UNITED STATES’: Kennedy is bringing history full circle. “I think that my story in a way is a great metaphor for the US-Japan alliance,” Kennedy said. “Countries that were once adversaries and enemies in war are now the best of friends and allies. “That I could be here and receive the kind of welcome that I did, I think is an unbelievable tribute to the United States,” she added. http://abcn.ws/1jFD7IO

–’THE REACTION WAS MIXED’: Shortly after arriving in Japan, she stirred up controversy with a Twitter condemnation of the annual dolphin hunt, a Japanese tradition. She called the slaughter “deeply concerning” for its “inhumanness,” raising eyebrows among many Japanese. “The reaction was mixed,” she said of the spat, but “think that the whole point of being allies is that we can you know express our disagreements.” http://abcn.ws/1jFD7IO

–KENNEDY ON DREAMY SUSHI: After a sushi dinner with President Obama and Prime Minister Abe at the best shop in town, Kennedy revealed that Jiro’s nigiri are incomparable. More from ABC’s DEVIN DWYER: “Travels With Obama: Behind-The-Scenes On The President’s Asia Trip” http://abcn.ws/1f4TIdp

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: It’s the Ted and Sarah show – and it’s coming just in time for the tea party. Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Sarah Palin are teaming up today at a rally in Oklahoma, to support the Senate candidacy of T.W. Shannon. Cruz and Palin – along with Sen. Mike Lee – then head to Nebraska tomorrow, to boost the Senate candidacy of Ben Sasse. Shannon and Sasse are both in competitive Republican primaries; those mark Cruz’s first two endorsements in races with multiple GOPers vying for the same seat. It’s fitting way to curtain-raise a defining month for tea partiers: The first big wave of primaries take place in May. Can the establishment reclaim the party from a restive activist base? North Carolina and Kentucky will answer that question even more than Oklahoma or Nebraska.

 

BUZZ

with ABC’s ALINA KLEINEIDAM

HILLARY CLINTON HAS A PROBLEM WITH THE MEDIA. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her frustrations about the current state of media on Wednesday night, describing what she sees as an “entertainment-driven” approach to news that is “not good for the country and not good for journalism,” according to ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ. The potential 2016 frontrunner, 66, made her less-than-flattering comments during a Q&A session at her first-ever appearance at the University of Connecticut following her keynote address at the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum. Using questions submitted by students, University President Susan Herbst asked Clinton about the role journalists could play in resolving the gridlock in Congress. “I think journalism has changed quite a bit in a way that is not good for the country and not good for journalism,” Clinton said, venting about her concern that a more ratings-driven approach to television has led to theatrics over facts.  ”A lot of serious news reporting has become more entertainment-driven and more opinion-driven, as opposed to factual. People book onto the shows political figures, commentators who will be controversial, who will be provocative, because it’s a good show. You may not learn anything, but you might be entertained.” http://abcn.ws/QHCKGy

BASHAR AL-ASSAD’S DEADLY LOOPHOLE IN SYRIA DEAL. The Obama administration’s top accomplishment on Syria — a deal in which President Bashar al-Assad would surrender his chemical weapons — risks being undermined by substantial, potentially deadly loopholes in the agreement, according to ABC’s ALI WEINBERG. Secretary of State John Kerry touted on Tuesday the fact that Syria had given up almost all its declared chemical weapons and would finish the process by the end-of-April deadline. “We now have the majority percentage of chemical weapons moved out of Syria, and we’re moving on schedule to try to complete that task,” he said at a State Department event. But events in Syria paint a more complicated picture of Assad’s continued ability to kill civilians with chemical weapons. http://abcn.ws/1fpkLur

NEW POLL BUOYS SOUTHERN DEMS’ HOPE WITH TIGHT SENATE RACES. Senate Democrats in the South received some welcome news yesterday from a New York Times-Kaiser Family Foundation poll showing tight U.S. Senate races in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina, but the poll also highlighted some potential warning signs for Democrats when it comes to health care and President Obama’s sagging approval ratings, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. Sen. Mark Pryor, largely considered the most vulnerable Democrat in this year’s election, holds a 10 percentage point lead over his Republican opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.  Forty-six percent of registered voters in Arkansas said they’d vote for Pryor while 36 percent said they’d vote for Cotton. Pryor, who has served two terms in the Senate, has an approval rating of 47 percent. The poll found that the two closest races in the Southern states are in Kentucky and North Carolina. http://abcn.ws/1i9hJiV

HUMANOID ROBOT CHALLENGES OBAMA IN SOCCER. President Obama today got up close and personal with the latest in Japanese science and technology, including an encounter with a humanoid robot named “ASIMO.” During a photo op at the Miraikan museum, which showcases Japanese emerging science and innovation, Obama and the robot bowed at each other and even had a conversation in English, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER notes. “It’s nice to meet you,” ASIMO said in an electronic voice. “I can kick a soccer ball, too.” “OK, come on,” Obama said in wry disbelief. ASIMO accepted the challenge, fetching a ball, stepping back, then punting it toward the president. Obama deftly trapped the ball with his foot. “How about that, that was pretty impressive,” he said. http://abcn.ws/1k8KcF0

BROADENED CLEMENCY RULES COULD AFFECT THOUSANDS OF INMATES. Prison inmates serving sentences for nonviolent crimes have been offered broader guidelines for seeking clemency, the Department of Justice announced yesterday, ABC’s MATTHEW LAROTONDA reports. The new rules, only eligible to prisoners who have already served 10 years behind bars, will focus on people who would be handed a lesser punishment if they were charged with the same crime yesterday. It’s unclear how many of the nation’s 216,000 federal inmates will be affected. The decision is part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to reduce the U.S. prison population by turning back the use of harsh sentences for drug crimes. http://abcn.ws/1i9VfOL

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

ERIN BROCKOVICH SURFACES AT THE SUPREME COURT. Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and dozens of military veterans rallied outside the Supreme Court yesterday as the justices heard arguments that an electronics company was responsible for polluting drinking water at Camp Lejeune that sickened thousands of Marines, notes ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS. The case, CTS Corporation v. Waldburger, claims that CTS Corporation, a global manufacturer of electronics, contaminated the camp’s drinking water with trichloroethylene, a known carcinogen, between 1953 and 1987. “It’s probably one of the largest pollution problems we have in the country. We have service men and women coming home to their families who had no idea the land they were living on was polluted, that their families have been poisoned, that their children are dying,” Brockovich said at the rally. http://abcn.ws/1l2W6kC

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

MEET ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE ALIVE TODAY. Not only did Col. Joe Kittinger set the record for the highest and longest skydive in history in 1960, but the 85-year-old retired Air Force colonel was also the first person ever to observe the curvature of the Earth from the edge of outer space, and the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in a helium balloon. Kittinger sat down with “Politics Confidential’s” JONATHAN KARL to discuss his life’s many adventures and what it was like to help break his own skydiving record in 2012 as part of the Red Bull Stratos project, during which he served as a mentor and capsule communicator to the current highest skydive record holder, Austrian Felix Baumgartner. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1ho2wd1

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@MarquardtA: Follow our guys @MuhammadLila and @mattmcgarry right now in Sloviansk #Ukraine

‏@ktumulty: Congressional investigation discovers that DHS watchdog’s favorite trick was to roll over. Via @CarolLeonnig http://wapo.st/1l4H2mA 

@DavidMDrucker: In the battle for women voters, Repubs are acknowledging that Dems have been winning & trying to do something abt it: http://washex.am/1hpHKFp 

 ‏@samsteinhp: As Obama reconsiders deportation policy he faces a HUGE revolt against a key program. A must read by @elisefoley http://huff.to/1lIFdKK 

@devindwyer: Dessert on the menu at Japanese state dinner for @BarackObama — “ice cream in the image of Mt. Fuji”

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Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Advice on How to Deal With Getting Fired http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/gen-stanley-mcchrystals-advice-on-how-to-deal-with-getting-fired/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/gen-stanley-mcchrystals-advice-on-how-to-deal-with-getting-fired/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:56:27 +0000 Ali Weinberg http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880706 Having been dismissed by the nation’s most powerful boss, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal knows a thing or two about getting fired. And now he’s helping others deal with it.

McChrystal’s almost-40-year tenure in the Army, culminating in his leadership of NATO forces in Afghanistan, came to an abrupt end when impolitic statements he and his staffers made about the Obama administration were published in a 2010 Rolling Stone article.

In a blog post for the professional networking site LinkedIn, McChrystal wrote about how he overcame a period of self-doubt to restart his career.

“My very identity as a soldier came to an abrupt end,” he wrote. “I’d been soldiering as long as I’d been shaving. Suddenly I’d been told I could no longer soldier, and it felt as though no one really cared if I ever shaved again. I’d caught a curveball directly on the chin; I wanted to find a corner of the dugout, away from TV cameras, to rub my head and maybe sniffle a bit.

“I’d never been more tempted to feel like a victim – an emotion that could have easily consumed me. Many would have supported, even welcomed me in the victim role; pundits would have let me rant, and a tell-all would have been an instant bestseller.”

Rather, McChrystal wrote, he re-evaluated his core skills and beliefs and, with the support of his wife, Annie, he was able to find a new career informed by his experiences in the military.

“What I’d learned, above all other lessons, was the importance of those you surround yourself with,” he wrote. “That lesson would be with me forever, uniform or no uniform.

“So in the end, the answer was simple. My business, and my life, has been people. … By focusing on this simple truth, and allowing it to guide my decisions through a difficult time, this curveball ultimately opened as many doors as it closed. From starting a company to teaching at Yale, the past few years have been full of incredible experiences shared, most importantly, with true and lifelong friends.”

McChrystal, who now runs a consulting firm, has written several posts for LinkedIn, but this was the first dealing with his dismissal from his NATO role and subsequent retirement from the Army.

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Hillary Clinton’s Problem With the Media: Too Much Entertainment, Not Enough Facts http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/hillary-clintons-problem-with-the-media-too-much-entertainment-not-enough-facts/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/hillary-clintons-problem-with-the-media-too-much-entertainment-not-enough-facts/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:33:11 +0000 Liz Kreutz http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880744 AP hillary clinton kab 140424 16x9 608 Hillary Clintons Problem With the Media: Too Much Entertainment, Not Enough Facts

Hillary Clinton holds up UConn Huskies outfits given to her by university president Susan Herbst for Clinton's future grandchild at the University of Connecticut on April 23, 2014, in Storrs, Conn.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her frustrations about the current state of media on Wednesday night, describing what she sees as an “entertainment-driven” approach to news that is “not good for the country and not good for journalism.”

The potential 2016 frontrunner, 66, made her less-than-flattering comments during a Q&A session at her first-ever appearance at the University of Connecticut following her keynote address at the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum in which nearly 2,300 students and faculty were in attendance.

Using questions submitted by students, University President Susan Herbst asked Clinton about the role journalists could play in resolving the gridlock in Congress. Clinton took the question – and ran with it.

“I think journalism has changed quite a bit in a way that is not good for the country and not good for journalism,” Clinton said, venting about her concern that a more ratings-driven approach to television has led to theatrics over facts. “A lot of serious news reporting has become more entertainment-driven and more opinion-driven, as opposed to factual. People book onto the shows political figures, commentators who will be controversial, who will be provocative, because it’s a good show. You may not learn anything, but you might be entertained.”

Clinton argued that the obligation to show “two sides” to every story can be detrimental to a viewer’s understanding of complicated issues, citing climate change deniers and the handling of the Affordable Care Act.

“It’s OK to have people who ask hard questions about what we’re going to do about climate change, who come at it in a very vigorous, scientific way, but not to have people who just basically roll their eyes and say, ‘It’s not happening,’ and, ‘I’m not going to participate.’” she said. “And the Affordable Care Act … people didn’t really understand what was happening with it because all they saw was an argument about it. So we didn’t even give them the basic facts to make up their own minds.”

Even so, Clinton said she was optimistic that the issues “plaguing” journalism today could be resolved with some “professional tweaking” on the part of journalists.

“It’s important for journalists to realize that they have to do their homework, too,” she said. “They really should be well prepared when they interview people, when they talk about issues, because audiences usually tune in to see whoever the journalist is. And so that person has a responsibility, as well.”

Clinton also addressed immigration and her support of the bipartisan immigration bill, the situation in Ukraine and the need for more sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Edward Snowden and his “odd” decision to seek asylum in Russia.

Earlier in the day, Clinton spoke at a women’s conference in Boston, where the potential presidential frontrunner, whose critics have asked whether she is too old to run for president in 2016, suggested that advanced age was a reason to embrace older women in positions of authority.

Older women “feel like they’ve fulfilled their responsibilities, their kids are out on their own. It’s now time for them to show what they can do!” she said.

Though women may take breaks from the workforce to care for children or aging relatives, she said, “their brains have not atrophied.”

Clinton gave few hints at either event about her plans to run in 2016 – nor did she reflect on her soon-to-be title: grandma — now that her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, is pregnant.

The president of the University of Connecticut, however, presented Clinton with two UConn “Husky” onesies for the future Clinton grandchild.

ABC News’ Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

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Humanoid Robot Challenges Obama in Soccer http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/humanoid-robot-challenges-obama-in-soccer/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/humanoid-robot-challenges-obama-in-soccer/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:26:19 +0000 Devin Dwyer http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880776

TOKYO – President Obama today got up close and personal with the latest in Japanese science and technology, including an encounter with a humanoid robot named “ASIMO.”

During a photo op at the Miraikan museum, which showcases Japanese emerging science and innovation, Obama and the robot bowed at each other and even had a conversation in English.

“It’s nice to meet you,” ASIMO said in an electronic voice. “I can kick a soccer ball, too.”

“OK, come on,” Obama said in wry disbelief.

ASIMO, or Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, accepted the challenge, fetching a ball, stepping back, then punting it toward the president. Obama deftly trapped the ball with his foot.

“How about that, that was pretty impressive,” he said.

The robot, which was designed by Honda, told the president it had learned to jump and started to demonstrate.

Later, in remarks to students and civic officials at the museum, Obama joked that “the robots are a little scary. They’re too lifelike.”

During his tour, Obama also got a special taped message from Japanese astronauts aboard the International Space Station, who demonstrated on a large video screen new Global Precipitation Measurement satellites (GPM) data.

AP obama asimo kab 140423 16x9 608 Humanoid Robot Challenges Obama in Soccer

               (Photo Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

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Obama Greets Japan’s Emperor, but No Bow This Time http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/obama-greets-japans-emperor-but-no-bow-this-time/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/04/obama-greets-japans-emperor-but-no-bow-this-time/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:08:56 +0000 Devin Dwyer http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=880738 GTY obama japan ml 140424 16x9 608 Obama Greets Japans Emperor, but No Bow This Time

                           (Photo Credit: Shizuo Kambayashi/AFP/Getty Images)

TOKYO – As President Obama’s motorcade rumbled onto the Imperial Palace grounds today for a state visit, the U.S.-Japan bond was evident on the bumper of his U.S.-made limousine.

The black Cadillac, shipped in from the United States by Secret Service, donned blue plates with a Japanese insignia.  On the hood, U.S. and Japanese flags flittered in the morning sun.

Obama greeted Emperor Akihito and his wife, lowering his head ever so slightly to shake hands with both royal highnesses, though it was a far cry from his full bow at the waist in 2009 that sparked much controversy.

The full state visit honors for Obama is the first in nearly two decades for a U.S. president.  His arrival was filled with pomp and pageantry, kicking off a week-long Asian tour with an affirmation of ties with the closest U.S. ally in the region.

Obama and Akihito reviewed lines of Japanese troops in white uniforms, then they greeted dignitaries as the band played ceremonial tunes. Crowds of Japanese school children looking on waved paper flags from both countries.

After the official greeting, Obama turned quickly to official business during a bilateral meeting at the Akasaka Palace with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance is the foundation for not only our security in the Asia Pacific region but for the region as a whole,” Obama said in an opening statement seated across from Abe.

“We are looking at a whole range of issues that are challenging at this time, including the threats posed by North Korea and the nuclearaization that’s taken place in that country. But because of the strong ties of our countries confident that we will make progress in the future.”

Abe called the U.S.-Japan alliance “indispensible and irreplaceable” as a foundation for peace across the Asia Pacific region.

Obama’s visit “greatly contributes to regional peace and prosperity,” he said, “and Japan strongly supports and also certainly welcomes this.”

Both leaders were to hold a news conference after their meeting. Then they will visit Tokyo’s cultural sites, including the Meiji Jingu shrine.  Emperor Akihito hosts Obama for a state dinner later this evening.

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