Americans keep behaving in ways that baffle the liberal mainstream media. Two examples figured prominently -- or should have -- in last week's news.One is the runoff primary for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Texas. Former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz thumped incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, 57 to 43 percent.Cruz won even though the Texas Republican establishment, from Gov. Rick Perry on down, endorsed Dewhurst. So did the Austin lobbying community, since Dewhurst as lieutenant governor has run the state Senate for the last 10 years (and, having lost this race,...
NEW YORK -- One afternoon in July, President Barack Obama sat down for eight interviews with local TV anchors -- the same number he's had with the national media all year.
They say all politics is local. And in running for reelection, Obama has taken that political maxim to heart by speaking more with journalists who are outside the Beltway and whose states' electoral votes matter most this November.
In 2012, Obama has done 58 local media interviews and eight national media interviews, according to information provided by CBS News' Mark Knoller, the White House press corps' "unofficial keeper of presidential data." More than half of those local interviews were with journalists located in swing states.
For instance, Obama met that July afternoon with anchors from New Hampshire, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa and Wisconsin. He spoke to different anchors from Florida, Iowa and Wisconsin a month earlier, as well as anchors from Virginia and Colorado.
In addition to news interviews, Obama could be found last Thursday calling into a Columbus, Ohio, sports radio show, talking for eight minutes on the '92 Dream Team versus the current men's Olympic basketball team, the White Sox and Cubs, the Penn State scandal, the Jets' quarterback situation and, of course, Ohio State football.
Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University professor who studies the relationship between the White House and the press, said Obama focused more on national media interviews (96) than local interviews (17) during his first year in office. "What you're doing at the beginning is introducing yourself and you need a national audience to do that," Kumar said.
But Obama doesn't need cable and broadcast networks to introduce himself to the public anymore. Now, when he sits down for a major TV interview, it's typically to discuss a specific topic, such as the anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden (with NBC's Brian Williams) or to endorse same-sex marriage (with ABC's Robin Roberts).
When asked about the reelection campaign's media strategy, Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt said that "it's no secret that Americans are getting their information from a more diffuse body of media sources, and we always work to ensure that we’re reaching them where they’re getting their information."
"Some of those means are traditional -- like national and regional drivetime radio, or interviews with networks and their affiliates across the country -- the President has done interviews at almost every campaign stop," LaBolt continued, in an email to The Huffington Post. "The President has sat down with reporters from major publications and the major networks and outlined his case for reelection and will continue to do so.
"But it’s also important for us to engage digital and social media platforms, from online chats to blogger conferences (like his appearance at the BlogHer conference this week), and platforms accessed by growing constituencies to reach as many Americans as possible."
While any sophisticated campaign media operation needs to engage across media platforms, both Democratic and Republican strategists told The Huffington Post that local media can be especially beneficial as the election nears.
"Local media is much better strategically," said Mark McKinnon, global vice chair of Hill + Knowlton Strategies and chief media adviser for George W. Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns.
"Because they are generally so thrilled to have the access, local media [is] more likely to ask friendlier and easier questions," McKinnon continued via email. "Much better chance of controlling your message. Bottom line, you can usually drive local media like a truck."
Paul Begala, a former Clinton White House adviser, CNN analyst and media consultant for pro-Obama Super Pac Priorities USA Action, said he endorses a strategy with increased local media outreach, but with one tweak. "They have to put him on the Sunday shows more," Begala said.
Obama hasn't appeared on any of the four Sunday morning public affairs shows -- NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week," CBS's "Face the Nation" and CNN's "State of the Union" -- since Sept. 20, 2009, when he argued for health care reform. The president hasn’t appeared on "Fox News Sunday" since the 2008 campaign (and only after host Chris Wallace started a weekly "Obama Watch" segment).
Begala said the lengthy Sunday shows, where candidates are grilled on a number of different issues, would be good preparation for the fall debates against Mitt Romney, a candidate who spent much of the Republican primary on the debate stage. Obama, he said, "needs to hit against major league pitching."
While Romney avoided the Sunday shows early on in his fight for the Republican nomination, he has recently appeared on both "Fox News Sunday" and "Face The Nation." In April, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told The Huffington Post that the campaign hopes for the Republican nominee "to do them all over the course of the campaign."
Obama is no stranger to doing interviews, a format he seems to prefer over other ways of engaging with journalists. He's done 464 interviews through May 2012, according to Kumar's research, which is significantly more than predecessors George W. Bush (159), Bill Clinton (181), George H.W. Bush (232), and Ronald Reagan (197) at the same point in their presidencies.
"Obama likes doing interviews because he can speak at length on individual issues," Kumar said, adding that "short question and answer sessions is not something he's good at."
Indeed, Obama generally avoids taking questions from reporters before, say, a cabinet meeting or after a bill signing. He has taken fewer such questions than all four previous presidents -- 99 through May 2012 compared to Clinton's 538 at the same time in his presidency.
It's not so uncommon for an incumbent president to try and steer clear of the national media stage in the months before an election, a reluctance that may only increase given reporters' obsession with covering candidate gaffes in 2012.
"Bush was equally or even more distant from reporters during 2004," Knoller said in an email. "Unless you had an authorized interview, we rarely if ever got a chance to question him about anything."
Obama has only had one formal, solo news conference with the national media so far in 2012, the same as Bush at this point during his reelection year.
Peter Baker, a New York Times reporter who has covered the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations, said in an email that there's "no question incumbents tend to go further into the bubble the closer they get to elections, and that’s certainly the case here."
"But it seems to me candidates for the highest office in the land ought to make themselves more available for questions, not less, as voters are evaluating them," Baker added. "I realize that’s probably quaint and old fashioned."
The victims of the January 8th shooting included then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was speaking to constituents at public event. Loughner had previously pleaded not guilty.
According to the Associated Press, a court-appointed psychiatrist will testify on Tuesday that Loughner is fit to stand trial. Loughner's guilty plea would result in a sentence of life in prison, a source told the AP.
Loughner has been charged with 49 counts, including murder and attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Among those killed was a federal judge, an aide to Giffords and 9-year-old girl.
Giffords suffered severe brain injuries that damaged her abilities to speak and move. After months of rehabilitation, she returned to Congress in August 2011 to vote on the debt ceiling bill. In January 2012, she announced her resignation.
The shooting has sparked a debate about gun laws in Arizona and across the nation. Critics say that Loughner, who had two previous offenses and a history of unusual behavior, should never have been able to purchase a gun. One survivor called the incident an "extremely tragic example of what is at stake each and every time a gun falls — or is placed — in the wrong hands."
Loughner is currently receiving treatment for mental illnesses at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility, where he will remain until a judge decides he is fit to stand trial. He is expected to enter his plea on Tuesday.
'We're talking about weapons that are made for war," said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee. "An AK-47 is a Russian-made weapon that is made for war. An AR-15, which is an answer to the AK-47 . . . these high-capacity [guns] . . . you can shoot 50 to 60 rounds within a minute. Within a minute you can literally shoot through brick, shoot through steel."
Speaking at a news conference with Rep. John Conyers and myself, Chief Godbee expressed dismay that there has been no action to revive the assault-weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004 when George W. Bush was president.
In the Aurora, Colo., movie theater slaughter, the number of victims likely would have been much higher -- except James Holmes' assault weapon apparently jammed, limiting his ability to spray the audience with deadly rounds of bullets.
An assault weapon is not useful for hunting game. It isn't easily available, like a handgun, for self-defense. It is designed for one purpose: war. These are weapons for domestic, homegrown terrorism. Aurora is close to Denver International Airport. A gunman at the end of a runway could shoot bullets through an airplane. Bullets were shot from the street into the back porch of the White House last year.
Leaders calling for a renewed ban are, not surprisingly, those most exposed to them on the streets: America's police chiefs. Many of them are NRA members, but they know assault weapons put the lives of their officers and citizens at risk.
According to Miami Police Chief John Timoney, assault weapons have become "the weapon of choice among gangs here. . . . The guns keep coming in, their prices are dropping." In Miami, assault weapons were used in about 4 percent of all homicides in 2004 as the weapons ban expired. Now, Timoney says, the number is about 21 percent.
This month, Police Chief magazine reprinted a letter from Chief Joseph M. Polisar, then head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, originally published in 2004 as the assault weapons ban expired. Polisar vowed that the chiefs would continue to push for the ban, noting it had proved "remarkably effective in reducing the number of crimes involving assault weapons. Since
1994 the proportion of assault weapons traced to crimes has fallen by a dramatic 66 percent."
But politicians are more intimidated by the gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association than they are moved by the police chiefs or by common sense. The result is that gun ownership is less well-policed than driving. There is no required training to own or use a gun, even an assault weapon. And as Holmes showed, in Colorado and many states, you can build an arsenal overnight capable of bringing down an airplane or shooting up a baseball crowd without any meaningful checks or accountability.
Will the laws change now? Speaking on ABC News, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was skeptical, and he was worried that outrage will "fade into the background" and nothing will be done: "We talk about this constantly, and absolutely nothing happens, because many of our legislators, unfortunately, at the federal level, lack the courage to do anything."
To change that, Americans must stand up and face down the gun lobby. Police chiefs -- Republicans, Democrats, NRA members -- will help show the way. The national debate is not about the Second Amendment, a gun for housekeeping or guns for hunting. We are talking about guns for terror that threaten national security and aid domestic and foreign terrorists.
Let's lift the conversation from gun control to guns out of control and ban assault weapons to protect national security and domestic tranquility.
Our national security should be a common note for all of us.
Barack Obama: Mitt Romney is proposing a tax plan "that would give millionaires another tax break and raises taxes on middle class families by up to $2,000 a year."
You comparison shop for cans of tuna. Mitt Romney rides on Donald Trump’s jet. A new Obama campaign ad shows those scenes to hammer at the lifestyle differences between struggling middle-class Americans and the Republican presidential candidate. Then it takes aim at Romney’s economic proposals. "Now he has a plan," the ad says, "that would give millionaires another tax break and raises taxes on middle-class families by up to $2,000 a year." We know from our previous reporting on Romney’s tax plan that it offers across-the-board cuts, including ...>> More
Republican Jewish Coalition: "One out of every two kids who are graduating college right now can't find a job."
The Republican Jewish Coalition recently launched a $6.5 million series of ads targeting voters who have "buyers remorse" about voting for President Barack Obama in 2008. Florida will be seeing these ads in heavy rotation: About a quarter of the ad spending is being earmarked for the Sunshine State, which is home to a large population of Jewish senior citizens whose support is highly sought after by both political parties. One of the ads features comments by Michael Goldstein, who is identified on screen as a "Democrat. Jewish. Voted for Obama." Goldstein criticizes several ...>> More
Both political parties are talking about cronyism and insider dealing.Â Â But it's only talk,Â because they are unwilling to take the steps necessary to clean up their own houses.Begin with the Obama administration. Its leaders are quick to embrace the rhetoric of attacking Wall Street, the wealthy, and their insider deals. But they refuse to acknowledge that with taxpayer dollars, they gave stimulus money to projects funded by some of their biggest donors. Look, for example, at the great reportingÂ done by CBS News on the subject of 12 clean energy projects and who is connected with...
With Americans paying close attention to the London Olympics, two leading figures in the conservative movement -- Grover Norquist and Marco Rubio -- have launched an effort to lighten the tax burden for athletes who win medals. A July 31, 2012, blog post on the website of Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, had the headline, "Win Olympic Gold, Pay the IRS: U.S. Olympic medal winners will owe up to $9,000 to the IRS." The ATR blog post continued, "American medalists face a top income tax rate of 35 percent," ATR wrote. ...>> More
President Barack Obama’s campaign intends to keep the pressure on Mitt Romney to release more of his tax returns. The campaign released a Web ad Wednesday hammering that point and asking, "When will he release his tax returns?" Romney has provided his 2010 return and his preliminary return for 2011. He said he will release the final version for 2011, but no additional years. Former President Bill Clinton said the usual standard is much higher. "You know, it's typical, I think, that we all release 10, 11 years," Clinton said on NBC’s ...>> More
Bernie Sanders: "Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America."
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, tweeted a startling statistic to his followers on July 22, 2012: "Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America." Sanders speaks and writes frequently about wealth distribution in the U.S., a hot-button issue among liberals and a rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The Waltons, of course, are members of the proverbial 1 percent. But are they really sitting on that much wealth? We decided to check it out. First, ...>> More
Mitt Romney: President Ronald Reagan sent troops into conflict "only in one circumstance, which was in Grenada … We were in a peacekeeping setting in Lebanon."
Mitt Romney’s trip to Europe and Israel gave him the opportunity to talk about foreign affairs, a subject that has received relatively little attention so far in the campaign. During the trip, Romney praised the military strategies of President Ronald Reagan. "(He) was able to accomplish extraordinary purposes for our country," Romney said in an interview on Face the Nation. "Without having to put our military forces into conflict. Only in one circumstance, which was in Grenada, did our forces go in a conflict setting. We were in a peacekeeping setting in Lebanon." ...>> More
Mike Huckabee: "The White House has three staff calligraphers making between $86,000 and $97,000 each, and just one National Security Director. She makes $55,000."
Every year, the White House releases a list of its employees and their salaries. When the 2012 list came out, Mike Huckabee found fodder there to take a jab at the Obama administration. Huckabee, a former presidential candidate and now a talk show host, wrote on on his Facebook page, "If you want a good job, you should’ve gone into government." He noted that the total White House payroll went up $700,000 from the year before; it now stands at $37.8 million. Then, commenting on the timing of the administration’s data dump -- late on ...>> More
Prosecutors filed formal charges on Monday against James Holmes, the lone suspect in the fatal shooting of 12 moviegoers during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo.
Holmes, who was represented by a public defender at the hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center, was charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder.
His attorneys asked for more time before entering a plea. For each of the 12 fatally shot moviegoers, Holmes faces one count of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder with "extreme indifference." The maximum penalty is death, the Denver Post reported.
A 24-year-old former doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Denver, Holmes was held on suspicion of first-degree murder charges since the July 20 shooting spree during a midnight screening of the new Batman movie. Holmes, dressed in ballistic gear and armed with an assault rifle and three other guns, set off gas canisters before opening fire in the sold-out theater, police said.
Holmes spoke just once Monday morning. When asked if he agreed to waive his rights to a preliminary hearing within 35 days, he answered "yes."
Prosecutors were expected to file the charges last week, but at a July 23 hearing they requested and were granted a continuance. District Court Judge William Sylvester issued an order forbidding Holmes from having contact with victims or witnesses. He also barred law enforcement and attorneys from speaking publicly about the case, in an effort to protect Holmes’ constitutional right to a fair trial.
Prior to the media gag order, 18th Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers said her office was considering the death penalty against Holmes. It remains unclear if a decision has been made.
In contrast to Holmes' first appearance in court last week, no cameras were permitted in the courtroom. His arrival Monday was kept largely out of sight as officials brought him to court through an underground tunnel. For the past week, images of his bright orange hair and facial expressions appeared repeatedly in the news media.
Holmes allegedly told his Colorado jailers that he does not know why he is behind bars. According to the Daily News, an employee of the Arapahoe County Detention Center said the jailers believe Holmes is faking amnesia.
Holmes is being detained without bond.
WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is trying to distinguish his Afghan policy from that of President Barack Obama.
Romney tells ABC News in a Sunday interview that he supports Obama's plan to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But he doesn't agree with Obama's plan to order 23,000 troops out by Sept. 30, a timeline some military experts warn could complicate next year's efforts to stabilize the war-torn country.
The former Massachusetts governor says his position could change depending on the counsel of military commanders. He says he's leaving open the possibility of keeping combat troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 should conditions change.
Romney is in Israel as part of his first overseas trip as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
JERUSALEM -- Mitt Romney says that if he paid more taxes than were required, he wouldn't be qualified to be president.
The U.S. presidential candidate tells ABC News that American voters expect candidates to pay "only what the tax code requires." He says he hasn't calculated what percentage of his income was paid in taxes but says that he's been audited.
Romney's vast personal wealth has been an issue in the campaign.
Democrats have criticized him for paying only 13.9 percent of his income in taxes during the one year his taxes have been made public.
Romney says he will release an additional year of returns before Election Day. That has left some questioning whether Romney pays a smaller share than other Americans.
Priorities USA Action: Says Romney had the uniforms for the 2002 Winter Olympic games made in Burma.
With the Olympics about to begin, Priorities USA Action, a super PAC aligned with President Barack Obama, released an ad that used Olympic images to attack Mitt Romney. The ad shows a beaming Romney at the Olympic opening ceremonies. As each national team enters the stadium, an announcer provides a corresponding quip. "China, home to a billion people. Thousands owe their jobs to Mitt Romney’s companies ... And Burma, where Romney had the uniforms made for the 2002 games." Olympic authorities moved swiftly to get Priorities USA Action to withdraw the ad because of unauthorized ...>> More
Small businesses are caught in a riptide of red tape. The overwhelming onslaught of rules and regulations coming from Washington is making it nearly impossible to start or stay in business, let alone grow, succeed, and create jobs.Since the president took office, his administration has had under review more than 400 regulations that cost the economy $100 million or more. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses are facing annual regulatory costs of up to $10,000 per employee.
For nearly two weeks, the Romney and Obama campaign have been arguing about whether President Barack Obama insulted entrepreneurs. The argument started with comments Obama made about the intersection of business and government during a July 17, 2012 campaign appearance. Romney, in comments at public events and in several ads, has argued that the remarks show a general disdain for business. The Republican National Committee and the National Federation of Independent Business are among the groups have released their own videos and statements echoing Romney that the ...>> More
A super PAC ad uses the splendor of the Olympics opening ceremonies as a backdrop to denounce Mitt Romney as an outsourcer and tax dodger. The ad, by the pro-Barack Obama group Priorities Action USA, opens with an overhead shot of an Olympic stadium packed with people, cameras flashing. Romney, who led the 2002 Salt Lake City games, strides onto a stage and waves. Olympic teams from China, India, Burma, Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands parade in as an announcer makes multiple charges that Romney sent American jobs overseas and stashed ...>> More
A Democratic mayor in the crucial swing state of Florida has no intention of helping President Barack Obama win re-election -- and he may not vote for him in November, either.
Citing a campaign promise not to get involved in partisan politics, Alvin Brown, the mayor of Jacksonville, told the Tampa Bay Times he wasn't going to support Mitt Romney, but he wasn't going to say who he would vote for, either.
"I'm not going to get involved in presidential politics. I'm not getting involved in any campaigns,'' he said, adding "I ran a bipartisan campaign, I have a bipartisan administration with Republicans and Democrats. I made a promise I would focus on governing, not politics."
Jacksonville has been a Republican stronghold for the last 20 years, and Brown won a surprising election in 2011 with an eight-tenths-of-a-percent margin of victory.
10 more election stories from beyond the presidential field:
Libertarian Announces He Will Take On Rep. Bill Cassidy In Louisiana [Houma Courier]
Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.): Challenger's Attack Ads Broke Federal Laws [Nashville News Channel 5]
Michigan's Two African-American Congressmen, Reps. John Conyers And Hansen Clarke, To Skip Congressional Candidates Forum [Detroit Free Press]
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Purchases Airtime To Oppose Independent Frontrunner Angus King [Portland Press Herald]
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Becomes Seventh Senator To Cast 14,000 Votes [Burlington Free Press]
Rep. Howard Berman Launches Negative Website Against Fellow California Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman [Los Angeles Times]
Sarah Palin And Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) To Stump With Ted Cruz [The Hill]
Unions Criticize Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad For Not Hiring Enough Corrections Officers, After Three Assaults On Officers [Des Moines Register]
Texas Sen. Candidate David Dewhurst Dismisses Freedomworks Rally For Opponent, Ted Cruz [San Antonio Express News]
New York State Lawmakers Play The Stock Market With Campaign Funds [New York Daily News]
This week, Priorities USA Action, a super PAC aligned with President Barack Obama, released an ad that uses the trappings of the Olympics to make snarky attacks on Mitt Romney. Against a backdrop of Olympic opening-ceremony footage -- including shots of Romney when he headed the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City -- the ad knocks Romney for allegedly outsourcing jobs and using offshore accounts. "Welcome to the Olympics," the voiceover says. "There’s Mitt Romney, who ran the Salt Lake City games, waving to China, home to a billion people. Thousands ...>> More
To appeal to women voters, Barack Obama's campaign has been attacking Mitt Romney about his position on abortion. The latest ad, "Jenny’s Story," opens with a woman speaking to the camera. "I’ve never felt this way before but it’s a scary time to be a woman," she says. "Mitt Romney is just so out of touch." The announcer says, "Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraception. And Romney supports overturning Roe vs. Wade. Romney backed a bill that outlaws all abortion, even in case of rape and incest." Back to ...>> More
As the nation absorbed the news about the shooting deaths in a Colorado movie theater, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was scathing in his criticism of the National Rifle Association. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Bloomberg accused the NRA of being "adamant about no controls on weapons." He said the pro-gun group leans on Congress and the White House and blocks funding for officials to enforce laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. "We don't need more laws. We need a couple of fixes," Bloomberg ...>> More
Did you get the chain email that claims the health care law will institute a new tax on home sales? Here’s the email many readers have forwarded to us: "Under the new health care bill — did you know that all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% Sales Tax? The bulk of these new taxes don’t kick in until 2013 (presumably after Obama’s re-election). You can thank Nancy, Harry and Barack and your local Democrat Congressman for this one. If you sell your $400,000 home, there will be a $15,200 ...>> More