One-on-One With President Obama
PHOTO: President Barack Obama

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By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • THIS WEEK ON "THIS WEEK": In an ABC News Sunday exclusive, GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS goes one-on-one with President Obama at the White House, in his first interview since his major address on Syria. The interview comes at a pivotal moment in the Obama presidency, as he confronts both the crisis in Syria and turmoil at home, with coming showdowns with Congress over the budget and Obamacare. Plus, President Obama answers questions on the state of the economy and financial reform five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the 2008 financial crisis. See the full interview Sunday morning, followed by full analysis from the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable.
  • KERRY CALLS GENEVA TALKS 'CONSTRUCTIVE': The meetings in Geneva, Switzerland will continue throughout the day, with technical experts from both sides talking about the nuts and bolts of a plan to disarm Syria's chemical weapon. So far, Secretary of State Kerry called the discussions "constructive," ABC's KIRIT RADIA reports. He and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said little more about how the talks were going when they spoke briefly to reporters this morning. The two sides have been divided over things like lifting America's threat of force. Kerry made it clear yesterday the Obama administration has no plans to let up. The Russians think if there is progress here, such a threat is unnecessary. Lavrov told reporters today that Syria must quickly join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but it remains to be seen if he will endorse Kerry's call for Assad to forgo the customary 30-day period before submitting technical data about his stockpiles. "We are working hard to find common ground to be able to make that happen. And we discussed some of the homework that we both need to do. I'm not going to go into it in any detail today," Kerry said. "Much of which will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next days, hours, days on the subject of the chemical weapons."
  • WHITE HOUSE SAYS RUSSIA'S 'CREDIBILITY AND PRESTIGE' IS AT STAKE: The White House yesterday raised the stakes for Russian President Vladimir Putin, making it clear they want him to "own" the success or failure of any plan to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports. "What Russia has committed itself to and put its credibility and prestige on the line in doing so, is the proposition that it supports and will help bring about the removal from Assad's control of a substantial stockpile of chemical weapons, the transfer of that stockpile to international control for the ultimate destruction of that stockpile," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at yesterday's press briefing. Even as the U.S. and Russia discuss how to work with the Syrian regime to secure chemical weapons stockpiles, Carney said American aid to the rebels is flowing. "It's important to note that both the political and the military opposition are and will be receiving this assistance," he said. The administration's policy, Carney told ABC's JONATHAN KARL, remains the same: Assad "must go." "It is still our policy and our view that Syria's future cannot have Assad in the picture," Carney noted "It's inconceivable given what he has done to his own people. But this is something that we have said all along needs to be decided in a political settlement. It is not something that will be decided militarily."

THE SYRIA SCOREBOARD by the ABC News Political Unit:


TOTAL GOP DEM IND SUPPORT MILITARY ACTION 22 6 16 0 LIKELY SUPPORT 2 1 1 0 24 7 17 0 OPPOSE MILITARY ACTION 34 26 8 0 LIKELY OPPOSE 5 3 1 1 39 29 9 1 UNDECIDED 37 10 26 1 UNKNOWN 0 0 0 0 37 10 26 1 TOTAL 100 46 52 2


TOTAL GOP DEM SUPPORT MILITARY ACTION 21 7 14 LIKELY SUPPORT 22 3 19 43 10 33 OPPOSE MILITARY ACTION 139 116 23 LIKELY OPPOSE 125 83 42 264 199 65 UNDECIDED 116 20 96 UNKNOWN 10 4 6 126 24 102 TOTAL 433 233 200


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The ominous threat of a government shutdown has become so commonplace in recent years, it barely raises eyebrows across the nation's capital. But inside the Capitol, the threat is very real. There is no obvious solution at the end of the tunnel before the government runs out of funding on Oct. 1. Speaker John Boehner is in a pickle: He can't solve the problem without Democratic support because too many of his fellow House Republicans believe a government shutdown is preferable to approving new spending bills. And Democrats are unwilling to throw him a lifeline, particularly one that goes anywhere near delaying or defunding President Obama's health care law. It's still too early to brace for a shutdown, but there's no obvious escape hatch, which is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday had this to say of the speaker: "I do feel sorry for him."

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Maybe the Obama administration could work out a regular gig for him? Russian President Vladimir Putin did the improbable: He brought Congress together. His New York Times op-ed, while crafted to push American hot buttons, pressed a few that are little too hot for him to want to go near. The bipartisan condemnation of Putin, particularly over his sharp critique of "exceptionalism," shows that it came off as unwelcome lecturing from the president of Russia - one with his own mixed history when it comes to the very issues he's lecturing on. If the disarmament process plays out smoothly, this moment may not be remembered. But if President Obama needs to go back to the country and the Congress after something breaks down, Putin might have made his job a little easier.


HOW TO DISARM A DICTATOR: CHEMICAL WEAPONS EXPERT EXPLAINS STEPS TO STRIPPING ASSAD'S ARSENAL. When chemical weapons expert Joe Cirincione first heard that the United States and Russia were working on an agreement to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, his reaction was shock. "Nobody thought this was possible," Cirincione, the president of the global securities foundation Ploughshares Fund, told "On the Radar's" MARTHA RADDATZ. "On Monday morning, Syria was denying having chemical weapons, and by Monday evening, they were saying they were going to turn them over," he said. "By Tuesday, they said they were going to sign the treaty banning all chemical weapons." Though the United States and Russia have yet to negotiate the precise terms of a plan to strip Assad of his chemical weapons - and with Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with Russian counterparts in Geneva to test the veracity of Russia's proposed diplomatic solution - Cirincione said that if Assad does, in fact, turn over his weapons, it would be a "huge step.""The mere act of turning them over and getting them under international control takes them away from Assad," he said. "You've accomplished one of your major strategic objectives."


REPUBLICAN'S SPENDING BILL DEFUNDS OBAMACARE AND IRKS DEMOCRATS. Hoping to avert a possible government shutdown at the end of the month, Rep. Tom Graves introduced a bill Thursday that he and dozens of his conservative colleagues believe could solve a looming fiscal fight facing Congress, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. But his proposal, which defunds the president's health care law, is likely to draw intense opposition from Democrats should it come up for consideration. With current government funding set to run out Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, Graves' legislation would fund the government just below post-sequester levels for the next 12 months while delaying and defunding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, completely until 2015. "After weeks of working with and listening to members on how to approach the government funding deadline, it's clear that House Republicans are united around two goals: keeping the government open and protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare," Graves, R-Ga., wrote in a statement. "Today, my 42 cosponsors and I are putting forward a plan that achieves both goals." The measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, includes House-passed spending levels outlined in the Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills for FY2014 while fixing the spending rates for nine remaining non-security bills at a post-sequestration number of $967.4 billion. Democrats, on the other hand, have called for the CR to be funded at a $1.058 trillion level consistent with the Budget Control Act had sequestration been averted.

-BACKSTORY: Many Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have fought to delay implementation of the health care law throughout the summer after President Obama announced a delay to the business mandate in July. Now, the House appears ready to take another legislative crack at disrupting the president's signature law.

BIDEN TWEAKS 'NEANDERTHAL' REPUBLICANS ON WOMEN'S ISSUES. Joe Biden knows how to throw himself a party - and dish up red meat to liberal Democrats who could be useful to a run for president in 2016, ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. Last night at the vice president's residence, Biden hosted a celebration in honor of his signature legislative achievement, the Violence Against Women Act, which he drafted in the Senate in the early 1990s and Congress reauthorized earlier this year. His remarks had the quality of part campaign stump speech, part political pep rally, rousing the crowd of 140 guests - including leaders of the major national women's groups, members of Congress, and administration officials - according to the pool reporter on scene. Biden blamed a "sort of Neanderthal crowd," alluding to some House Republicans, for objecting to reauthorization of VAWA because of new provisions added by Democrats to extend protections to Native American, immigrant and LGBT abuse victims. Those measures were ultimately included. "I think I understand the Senate better than any man or women who's ever served in there, and I think I understand the House," he said. "Did you ever think we'd be fighting over, you know, 17, 18 years later to reauthorize this?"

NOTED: Biden heads to the early primary state of Iowa this weekend for the Harkin Steak Fry, an annual political tradition hosted by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. Next week, Biden will visit South Carolina on official business with stops in Savannah and Charleston.

SYRIA TWISTING 2014 SCRIPTS - YES, ALREADY. There are few signs that Syria will be a major issue in the midterm congressional elections - it splits both parties along such jagged lines that at this point it's hard to know how it will play nationally. But at the state level, it's already leading to some unusual and remarkable messaging, ABC's RICK KLEIN notes. In Georgia, a Republican Senate candidate, Karen Handel, is up with a radio ad blasting a Democratic Senate candidate, Michelle Nunn, for wanting to support military action in Syria. That's a Republican, running in a red state, accusing a Democrat of being too eager to use American military might. "Michelle Nunn said she would vote for direct American military intervention, even with no imminent threat to our national security," Handel says in the ad. "But President Obama has failed to make the case. His foreign policy is a disaster. On Syria, the president is virtually incoherent, lacking consistency and failing to articulate clear goals." It's early for an ad like this. The primary - and it will be crowded on the Republican side - for the open seat of the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is eight months away.

WHITE HOUSE REVOLVING DOOR: President Obama has tapped his former acting OMB director Jeffrey Zients to be his top economic adviser - director of the National Economic Council - when Gene Sperling steps down at the end of the year. ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports that a senior administration official said the President will issue a statement making the announcement later today. The move illustrates Obama's strong preference for hiring from within his trusted circle rather than look to the outside for an infusion of new ideas. It signals the president's approach to the economy will largely continued unchanged. Zients, 46, has been part of the Obama administration since 2009. He his previous experience includes corporate management and private equity. Sperling steps down Jan. 1. The position he leaves does not require Senate confirmation.


"WASHINGTON LEADERSHIP VACUUM RAISES RISKS OF SHUTDOWN," by Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer and Michael C. Bender. "President Barack Obama couldn't get Democrats to go along on Syria. House Speaker John Boehner couldn't get fellow Republicans to go along on a budget bill. The one man who has proven he can cut deals with the White House, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is consumed with a tough re-election bid. It's enough to have Americans asking: Who's running Washington? With the chances growing of a U.S. government shutdown on Oct. 1 and the danger of debt default after that, the leadership vacuum is raising the risk that no one has the clout to head off those calamities. 'It is a scary place to be,' said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat. 'And it's bad for the country.' Time is short. The House has just five work days scheduled before a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a government funding bill. No legislation is ready, since some Republicans rejected the first try offered by their leaders. Those leaders may cancel a planned week-long break starting Sept. 23 to make time for talks. 'I don't exactly have control of the steering wheel and I'm not sure any one individual does, even Speaker Boehner,' said Representative Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican among those opposing the leadership budget proposal."


@RealClearScott: Out of office in 4 months, Mike Bloomberg's efforts to influence national policy have hit the skids. …

@brianjameswalsh: Charlie Cook column this AM - "Why Democrats Have Reason to Fear" …

@jeremybird: Extremely happy for @MarlonDMarshall - the new @WhiteHouse Dep. Dir. for Public Engagement. Great pick for the country. #pleasebelieve

@ByronYork: Now, some GOP in Gang say security/enforcement has to be strengthened. Not flying with Dems…

@SalenaZitoTrib: Sigh -> MT @PostReid: Campaign ad of the year: "I will not even go to the strip clubs anymore. Wake the f*** up!" …"

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