Obama: Republican attacks on Susan Rice ‘outrageous’

US President Obama has lambasted top Republicans for attacking the diplomat tipped as a possible replacement for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Republicans said UN Ambassador Susan Rice should not be promoted, citing her response to September’s deadly attack on the US consulate in Libya.

Mr Obama said the attacks on Ms Rice were “outrageous” and challenged her critics to “go after me” instead.

Republicans called for a committee to investigate the Libya attack.

In the wake of the 11 September assault on the US mission in Benghazi, Ms Rice framed it as a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic film made in the US.


The Obama administration later blamed the attack on al-Qaeda-linked militants, adding that the earlier account was based on the best information available at the time.

Sen John McCain vowed on Wednesday to block any move to appoint Ms Rice to replace Mrs Clinton as America’s top diplomat.

He introduced a Senate resolution calling for the establishment of a special committee to investigate the Benghazi attack, which left four Americans dead, including the US ambassador.

“This administration has either been guilty of colossal incompetence or engaged in a cover-up,” he said on the Senate floor.

Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator, said he did not trust Ms Rice and called for “Watergate-style” hearings into the Libya incident.

In his first White House news conference since last week’s election, President Obama said: “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me.

“But when they go after the UN ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”

“To besmirch her reputation, is outrageous,” he added.

Nomination showdown

Shortly after Mr Obama’s remarks, Sen Graham showed no sign of backing down.

“Mr President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi,” he said in a statement.

“I think you failed as commander in chief before, during and after the attack.”

Mr Obama would not be drawn during Wednesday’s news conference on possible cabinet appointments.

But the president insisted he would nominate Ms Rice if she was the best choice to lead the Department of State. Mrs Clinton plans to return to private life.

Wednesday’s political showdown raised the prospect of a prolonged nomination for Ms Rice, who would be the second female African-American secretary of state, if she is picked by Mr Obama.

Another name mentioned for the post is Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Democrat, who would be expected to breeze through a Capitol Hill confirmation hearing.

But picking Sen Kerry would create another headache for Mr Obama’s Democrats – fending off a Republican challenge for his open Senate seat in Massachusetts.

During his news conference, Mr Obama also said he was not aware of any leak of classified information by former CIA Director David Petraeus, who quit last Friday because of an extramarital affair.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said Gen Petraeus would testify about the Benghazi attack in a closed-door hearing on Friday.

Source: BBC


Romney: Obama gave ‘gifts’ to win elections

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is telling top donors that President Barack Obama won re-election because of the “gifts” he had already provided to Blacks, Hispanics and young voters and because of the president’s effort to paint Romney as anti-immigrant.

“The president’s campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift,” Romney said in a call to donors on Wednesday. “He made a big effort on small things.”

Romney said his campaign, in contrast, had been about “big issues for the whole country.” He said he faced problems as a candidate because he was “getting beat up” by the Obama campaign and that the debates allowed him to come back.

In the call, Romney didn’t acknowledge any major missteps, such as his “47 percent” remarks widely viewed as denigrating nearly half of Americans, his lack of support for the auto bailout, his call for illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” or his change in position on abortion, gun control and other issues. He also didn’t address the success or failure of the campaign’s strategy of focusing on the economy in the face of some improvement in employment and economic growth during the months leading up to Election Day.

Obama won the popular vote by about 3.5 million votes, or 3 percent, and won the Electoral College by a wide margin, 332-206 electoral votes. Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks showed that Obama led Romney by 11 percentage points among women and won better than 7 of 10 Hispanic voters and more than 9 of 10 black voters.

Romney called his loss to Obama a disappointing result that he and his team had not expected, but he said he believed his team had run a superb campaign. He said he was trying to turn his thoughts to the future, “but, frankly, we’re still so troubled by the past, it’s hard to put together our plans for the future.”

Romney’s finance team organized the call to donors. A person who listened to Romney’s call provided details about it to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the call was private. The Los Angeles Times first reported Romney’s remarks.

Among the “gifts” Romney cited were free health care “in perpetuity,” which he said was highly motivational to black and Hispanic voters as well as for voters making $25,000 to $35,000 a year.

Romney also said the administration’s promise to offer what he called “amnesty” to the children of illegal immigrants — what he termed “the so-called DREAM Act kids” — helped send Hispanics to the polls for Obama.

Young voters, Romney said, were motivated by the administration’s plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and being able to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans. Young women had an additional incentive to vote for Obama because of free contraception coverage under the president’s health care plan, he said.

“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” he told donors. “I know that you expected to win. We expected to win. We were disappointed; we hadn’t anticipated it.”

Romney said he and his team were discussing how his donor group could remain connected and have an influence on the direction of the Republican Party and even the selection of a future nominee — “which, by the way, will not be me.”

Asked about Romney’s remarks, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a potential contender for the GOP nomination in 2016, strongly condemned those in the GOP who classify voters based on income, race or age and said the party cannot concede wide swaths of voters and expect to win elections.

“We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” Jindal told reporters in Las Vegas, where the Republican Governors Association was meeting. “We need to go after 100 percent of the vote, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote.”

Source: AP


Pressing issues loom for Obama

Even before he takes the oath of office for a second time, President Barack Obama has a crisis on his hands.

On January 2, 2013, America will begin a long fall off the “fiscal cliff” — unless the White House and Congress can agree on a deal to avert the plunge.

And that’s not going to be easy.

“It’s going to be tough to govern” with Congress still split and the Republican majority in the House intact, noted CNN political contributor David Gergen, who urged the president to heed the words of Winston Churchill: “In victory, magnanimity.”

Americans demand more from Obama’s second termBeyond the domestic agenda, the global economic slowdown threatens an anemic U.S. recovery — while Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s implosion will also demand urgent attention after the rigors of the campaign trail.

The in-tray may not seem as daunting as the one that greeted Obama on his first day in office in 2009, but he’ll have little time to savor his latest victory.

In fewer than 60 days, arbitrary spending cuts and tax increases will begin to kick in unless the president and Congress — half of which is still controlled by the Republicans — can find a better way to manage debt reduction.

The challenge for Obama and the divided Congress is to come up with a credible consensus that tackles the deficit and doesn’t smother the fragile roots of recovery.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire means an average tax increase of almost $2,000 for middle-class Americans. Sucking that much money out of circulation could push unemployment above 9%, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Obama has declared that the estimated $109 billion worth of automatic budget cuts to defense spending, social services, education and other discretionary federal spending won’t happen. And White House officials — but not the president himself — say he will preserve the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class but veto any bill that extends the cuts for households with incomes over $250,000.

The expiration of those tax cuts would raise some $500 billion in revenues, according to the latest CBO data.

If the United States doesn’t address the impending fiscal cliff, ratings agency Moody’s has warned of a further downgrading of U.S. sovereign debt.

Foreign governments are watching the situation with trepidation. Sustaining the U.S. recovery is vital to the health of the global economy — with most of Europe mired in recession, Japan facing its own version of the fiscal cliff — its public debt is twice the size of its $5 trillion economy — and growth in China slackening, though most countries would love to have its 7% expansion rate.

Deferring judgment day

Now that the hyper-partisan presidential campaign is out of the way, there may be a window for compromise. But with Congress due to be in session for only 16 more days in 2012, that may extend only as far as a deal to kick the can down the road once more — resulting in a Band-Aid rather than a grand bargain.

House Speaker John Boehner told CNN last weekend that was the most likely path.

“I think the best you can hope for is some kind of bridge,” he said. Boehner and other Republicans have demanded spending cuts and other measures that would exceed any increase in the federal borrowing ceiling.

Deferring the day of judgment is unlikely to impress the markets. Nor will another bout of protracted wrangling over raising the debt ceiling, something that will likely become necessary early in the new year.

In September, Moody’s indicated it would downgrade the U.S. sovereign rating from its “AAA” rating without “specific policies that produce a stabilization and then downward trend in the ratio of federal debt to GDP over the medium term.” Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. rating in 2011 after the first bout over the debt ceiling.

And as more baby boomers begin retiring and adding to the burden on Medicare and Social Security, it won’t be long before entitlement programs come under even greater pressure.

Meeting in Mexico over the weekend, G-20 finance ministers cited the U.S. fiscal cliff as the biggest risk to global growth. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty warned of “dire consequences” if it’s not tackled.

If the fiscal cliff is the most immediate problem, the consequences of a eurozone break-up could be equally as damaging. The G-20 ministers voiced concerns about the “complex implementation” of much-needed reforms.

The potential for the events in Europe to add to the president’s woes is probably underestimated because that situation seems interminable and impossible to unravel. It’s only been a month since the International Monetary Fund warned of “a downward spiral of capital flight, breakup fears and economic decline” in Europe.

Given that EU-U.S. trade was worth $636 billion in 2011 and U.S. investment in the EU was about $150 billion, Europe’s economic health is hardly marginal to America.

The European Union has averted imminent crisis by putting the European Central Bank on steroids, allowing it to use massive financial firepower to buy the bonds of troubled members. But Spain is not yet ready to accept bailout terms, Greece is already dangling off a fiscal cliff and several of Europe’s largest economies are either in or on the edge of recession.

While getting a deal on deficit reduction is the top domestic priority, Iran’s nuclear program will likely be the president’s main foreign policy headache.

Obama has said repeatedly that Iran will not be allowed to obtain or build a nuclear weapon on his watch. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a different threshold: that Iran cannot be allowed to achieve the capability to build a bomb. As long as Iran continues to install centrifuges, expand its nuclear facilities and add to its stockpile of enriched uranium, that threshold comes closer to being met.

Israel is as consumed with its own election campaign as the United States has been. For whoever takes office in January — and Netanyahu is favored to win — the Iran issue will again be front and center.

Asked in an interview Monday whether he would “pledge that Iran won’t have a nuclear program” by the end of his next term, Netanyahu said, “Yes.”

Despite the lack of personal rapport between Obama and Netanyahu, Washington will try to restrain Israel in the hope that the damage inflicted by trade and financial sanctions against Iran will bring about a change of heart in Tehran.

Netanyahu has said he won’t be restrained by anyone if Israel’s existence is threatened. “When David Ben-Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel, was it done with American approval?” he asked Monday.

The United States will want to delay any military action for as long as possible, given the unpredictable consequences in a Middle East already torn by revolution and Islamist renaissance, and the fear that striking Iran’s nuclear facilities might actually rally support for the regime rather than undermine it.

Sanctions — the favored weapon of the United States and European Union — have curbed Iranian oil exports and other trade, causing a dramatic devaluation in the Iranian rial. High inflation and growing hardship, so the argument goes, will eventually force the Iranian leadership to come to the table for productive talks on its nuclear program.

Several rounds of multilateral talks this year made no headway, giving some credence to Romney’s jibe that Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon than when Obama took office. But with the election over, another stab at dialogue is possible without exposing the president to accusations that he’s soft on the ayatollahs.

With Russia adamantly opposed to stiffer United Nations sanctions and a new leadership in China, building an international consensus on Iran will be difficult.

On the other hand, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is weakened as a political force as his second and final term draws to a close. Cliff Kupchan of the Eurasia Group says that unlike in 2009, when a possible deal was sabotaged by regime bickering, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “is probably strong enough to make a deal stick should he so choose. But a recalcitrant and bucking Ahmadinejad would make that outcome more difficult.”

For the White House — a delicate balancing act will demand a close reading of Iran’s and Israel’s intentions.

But Iran is not the only overseas crisis that needs urgent attention. With every passing week, the revolt in Syria becomes more difficult to influence and more likely to spill into neighboring states.

Some analysts expect a more muscular U.S. approach now that the election is out of the way — one that might include setting up a zone in northwest Syria that is beyond the reach of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already foreshadowed a change in approach — saying the United States will engage more with the country’s internal opposition and less with the exiled and largely ineffectual Syrian National Council (SNC), which is Turkey’s preferred representative.

“There has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines, fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom,” Clinton said October 31.

On another front, managing the military drawdown in Afghanistan — something that was rarely discussed in the presidential election campaign — will be another challenge.

Afghan security forces have been stood up; they are more numerous and more capable than four years ago. But two years before the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops, the Kabul government looks fragile and the Taliban undaunted. Critics have voiced concerns that the publicly announced withdrawal date only lets the Taliban know how long it must hold out before it can make another bid for resurgence.

Efforts to wean the “good” Taliban off the battlefield and into negotiations has so far gone nowhere. For Obama, whose first campaign stressed winning the war in Afghanistan and getting out of Iraq, the collapse of a government supported by so many billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars would be a humiliating reverse.

Last month, the International Crisis Group said the outlook was far from assuring.

“Demonstrating at least will to ensure clean elections (in Afghanistan in 2014) could forge a degree of national consensus and boost popular confidence, but steps toward a stable transition must begin now to prevent a precipitous slide toward state collapse. Time is running out,” the group said.

Different problems, same solution

Whether it’s Syria, Iran or the fiscal cliff, Obama must use the same principles to find a solution: develop a dialogue, find common ground, exploit opportunities and occasionally employ a well-calibrated threat.

That’s what happened in 1997, when the Clinton administration reached a deal with the Republican congressional leadership to reduce the federal deficit and achieve a balanced budget in five years. The deal cut spending, and it cut taxes by $91 billion over five years — while allowing the debt ceiling to rise to $5.95 trillion.

“We have come to an agreement that will lead us to less Washington spending, to tax relief for working Americans, to security for our senior citizens, and less dependency on government, more responsibility, and opportunity for individuals, communities, and states,” said former Sen. Trent Lott, then the Republican leader in the Senate.

Ahhh, the good old days.

Now the statutory debt ceiling is at $16.4 trillion, with no sign of a deal on taxes or spending.

Source: CNN


Obama re-elected as US president

President Barack Obama has been re-elected to a second term, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

America’s first black president secured the 270 votes in the electoral college needed to win the race.

In his victory speech before supporters in Chicago, Mr Obama said he would talk to Mr Romney about “where we can work together to move this country forward”.

Mr Obama prevailed despite lingering dissatisfaction with the economy and a hard-fought challenge by Mr Romney.

His Democrats also retained their majority in the Senate, which they have held since 2007, while Republicans kept control of the House.

The BBC’s Mark Mardell in Chicago says the president is challenging his opponents, asking them to work with him.

With Florida’s 29 electoral votes still undecided, Mr Obama won 303 electoral votes to Mr Romney’s 206.

The popular vote, which is symbolically and politically important but not decisive in the race, remains very close.

Mr Obama greeted jubilant supporters and congratulated Mr Romney and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan on their hard-fought campaign.

“We have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come,” he said.Mr Obama said he was returning to the White House “more determined, and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do, and the future that lies ahead”.

He pledged to work with Republican leaders in Congress to reduce the government’s budget deficit, fix the tax code and reform the immigration system.

“We are an American family and we rise and fall together as one nation,” he said.

In Boston, where his campaign was based, Mr Romney congratulated the president and said he and Mr Ryan had “left everything on the field” and had given their all in the campaign.Referring to the struggling economy, Mr Romney said that now was not the time for “partisan bickering and political posturing”, and that Republicans and Democrats must “put people before politics”.

“I so wish that I had been able to fulfil your hopes to lead the country in a different direction but the nation chose another leader and so I join with you to earnestly pray for him and for this great nation,” he said.

Under the US constitution, each state is given a number of electoral votes in rough proportion to its population. The candidate who wins 270 electoral votes – by prevailing in the mostly winner-takes-all state contests – becomes president.

On Tuesday, the president held the White House by assembling solid Democratic states and a number of important swing states such as Colorado, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and Wisconsin. His narrow victory in Ohio, a critical Mid-Western swing state, sealed the victory.

Billions spent

Mr Romney won North Carolina and Indiana, both of which Mr Obama won in 2008, as well as the solid Republican states. But he was unable to win in Ohio or other states needed to breach the 270 threshold.

Also on Tuesday’s ballot were 11 state governorships, a third of the seats in the 100-member US Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives.

Mr Obama’s victory came despite lingering high unemployment – 7.9% on election day – and tepid economic growth.

But voters gave him credit for his 2009 rescue of the US car industry among other policy accomplishments, and rewarded him for ordering the commando mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan last year.

He and Mr Romney, as well as their respective allies, have spent more than $2bn (£1.25bn) – largely on adverts in swing states.

Source: BBC


Obama, Romney to make final appeals

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney make a frenetic dash to a series of crucial swing states on Monday, delivering their final arguments to voters on the last day of an extraordinarily close race for the White House.

After a long, bitter and expensive campaign, national polls show Obama and Romney are essentially deadlocked ahead of Tuesday’s election, although Obama has a slight advantage in the eight or nine battleground states that will decide the winner. Obama plans to visit three of those swing states on Monday and Romney will travel to four to plead for support in a fierce White House campaign that focused primarily on the lagging economy but at times turned intensely personal.

The election’s outcome will impact a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues, from the looming “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases that could kick in at the end of the year to questions about how to handle illegal immigration or the thorny challenge of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The balance of power in Congress also will be at stake on Tuesday, with Obama’s Democrats now expected to narrowly hold their Senate majority and Romney’s Republicans favored to retain control of the House of Representatives.

In a race where the two candidates and their party allies raised a combined $2 billion, the most in U.S. history, both sides have pounded the heavily contested battleground states with an unprecedented barrage of ads.

The close margins in state and national polls suggested the possibility of a cliffhanger that could be decided by which side has the best turnout operation and gets its voters to the polls.

In the final days, both Obama and Romney focused on firing up core supporters and wooing the last few undecided voters in battleground states. Romney reached out to dissatisfied Obama supporters from 2008, calling himself the candidate of change and ridiculing Obama’s failure to live up to his campaign promises. “He promised to do so very much but frankly he fell so very short,” Romney said at a rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday. Obama, citing improving economic reports on the pace of hiring, argued in the final stretch that he has made progress in turning around the economy but needed a second White House term to finish the job. “This is a choice between two different versions of America,” Obama said in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Final swing-state blitzes

Obama will close his campaign on Monday with a final blitz across Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa – three Midwestern states that, barring surprises elsewhere, would be enough to get him more than the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. Polls show Obama has slim leads in all three. His final stop on Monday night will be in Iowa, the state that propelled him on the path to the White House in 2008 with a victory in its first-in-the nation caucus.

Romney will visit his must-win states of Florida and Virginia – where polls show he is slightly ahead or tied – along with Ohio before concluding in New Hampshire, where he launched his presidential run last year.

The only state scheduled to get a last-day visit from both candidates is Ohio, the most critical of the remaining battlegrounds – particularly for Romney.

The former Massachusetts governor has few paths to victory if he cannot win in Ohio, where Obama has kept a small but steady lead in polls for months. Obama has been buoyed in Ohio by his support for a federal bailout of the auto industry, where one in every eight jobs is tied to car manufacturing, and by a strong state economy with an unemployment rate lower than the 7.9 percent national rate.

That has undercut Romney’s frequent criticism of Obama’s economic leadership, which has focused on the persistently high jobless rate and what Romney calls Obama’s big spending efforts to expand government power.

Romney, who would be the first Mormon president, has centered his campaign pitch on his own experience as a business leader at a private equity fund and said it made him uniquely suited to create jobs.

Obama’s campaign fired back with ads criticizing Romney’s experience and portraying the multimillionaire as out of touch with everyday Americans.

Obama and allies said Romney’s firm, Bain Capital, plundered companies and eliminated jobs to maximize profits. They also made an issue of Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of personal tax returns.

Source: Reuters


Obama and Romney meet for private White House lunch

US President Barack Obama has met defeated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for a private lunch at the White House.

The two men discussed “America’s leadership in the world” and how to preserve it, the White House said.

The former Massachusetts governor left after just over an hour and the two said they would stay in touch.

Meanwhile, negotiations over a looming “fiscal cliff” seemed to falter in Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner said no major progress had been made on a deal to avert the looming package of tax rises and spending cuts.

‘No job offer’

Mr Obama and Mr Romney dined on white turkey chili and south-western grilled chicken salad during Thursday’s lunch meeting.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a news briefing: “Governor Romney congratulated the president for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years.

“The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future.

“They pledged to stay in touch, particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.”

Mr Obama is also said to have noted that Mr Romney’s “skills-set” could help improve the workings of the federal government.

But there was no job offer for Mr Romney in the works, Mr Carney said.

Mr Romney has spent the past three weeks mainly at his family’s California home, making no scheduled public appearances, although he was photographed on a family trip to Disneyland.

On election night, 6 November, Mr Obama pledged to meet the former Massachusetts governor for talks on how to “move this country forward”.

The pair sparred in a bitter campaign and are said to have little rapport.

On Thursday Mr Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, met Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to discuss the fiscal cliff, a raft of tax rises and spending cuts due to take effect on 1 January.

The White House reportedly asked for $1.6 trillion (£1 trillion) in higher taxes over a decade, together with money to help the unemployed and struggling homeowners.

In exchange, President Obama would back savings of as much as $400bn from Medicare and other benefit programmes over 10 years, unnamed officials told AP news agency.

‘Step backward’

The offer did not impress Mr Boehner.

He said afterwards: “Unfortunately, many Democrats continue to rule out sensible spending cuts that must be part of any significant agreement that will reduce our deficit.”

Congressional Democrats countered that Republicans had not identified specific spending cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: “We’re still waiting for a serious offer from Republicans.”

Some Republicans have said they would consider increased tax revenue as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff.

But the White House believes that simply ending tax deductions would not address the yawning budget deficit.

The fiscal cliff, which would suck about $600bn (£347bn) out of the economy, could tip the US back into recession, analysts warn.

The measures were partly put in place within a 2011 deal to curb the yawning US budget deficit, but also include the expiration of George W Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans.

Source: BBC


Obama, Romney spar over foreign policy

US President Barack Obama has forcefully attacked his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, in their third and final presidential debate.

During the tense encounter in Florida, the rivals tangled over the Arab Spring, Iran, Israel and China.

Mr Obama said his rival was “all over the map” on foreign policy. But Mr Romney said the president had allowed “chaos” to engulf the Middle East.

Two instant polls said Mr Obama won the head to head.

‘Rising tide of chaos’

The Democratic president went on the attack from the start of Monday night’s forum, trying to trip up his rival.

But there were several scathing exchanges, with the president seeking to portray his challenger as a foreign policy novice who lacked the consistency to be commander-in-chief.

Mr Obama said the former Massachusetts governor had backed a continued troop presence in Iraq, opposed nuclear treaties with Russia and flip-flopped over when the US should leave Afghanistan.

“What we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map,” said Mr Obama.

But Mr Romney charged that the president had allowed a “rising tide of chaos” to sweep the Middle East, giving al-Qaeda the chance to take advantage.

“I congratulate him on taking out Osama Bin Laden and taking on the leadership of al-Qaeda,” said Mr Romney, “but we can’t kill our way out of this. We must have a comprehensive strategy.”

Mr Obama hit back sarcastically that he was glad Mr Romney had recognised the threat posed by al-Qaeda, reminding him that he had previously cast Russia as the number one geopolitical foe of the US.

“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy,” said Mr Obama, “but every time you’ve offered an opinion you’ve been wrong.”

Mr Romney, whose tone during the debate was measured, described a trip by President Obama to the Middle East as an “apology tour” that had projected American “weakness” to enemies, while bypassing close ally Israel. Mr Obama called that claim the “biggest whopper” of the campaign.

Mr Romney also said: “We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran”, although he appeared to soften the uncompromising tone that has been the hallmark of his campaign by emphasising that military action should be a last resort.

‘Fewer horses and bayonets’

The rivals found plenty to agree on – declaring unequivocal support for Israel, voicing opposition to US military intervention in Syria, and insisting that China play by the rules in trade.

Mr Romney also backed the president’s policy of withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2014 – something the Republican has previously disagreed with.

Mr Romney barely touched on last month’s deadly assault on the US consulate. The Republican’s line of attack on that subject in the last debate was widely perceived to have misfired.

In one of the most biting exchanges, Mr Obama mocked Mr Romney’s complaint that the US had fewer ships now than it did during World War I.

“You mentioned the Navy, for example,” said Mr Obama, “and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets than we did in 1916.”

Although the debate was meant to focus on foreign policy, the two candidates repeatedly pivoted back to the fragile US economy, the issue uppermost in American voters’ minds.

A CBS News snap poll declared 53% believed Mr Obama won, versus 23% for Mr Romney and 24% saying it was a draw. A CNN poll put Mr Obama as the winner by 48% to 40%.

An NBC poll the day before the debate had put the men in a dead heat, each with 47% support.

The final debate behind them, both men will now launch a final two weeks of campaigning in swing states.

Already four million ballots have been cast in early voting in more than two dozen states.

Source: BBC


Poll: Obama, Romney tied with two weeks to go

Heading into the final two weeks of the 2012 presidential race, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are now tied among likely voters, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Sunday.

The poll–conducted between Oct. 17 and Oct. 20 among 1,000 registered voters and 816 likely voters–found Obama and Romney are each favored by 47 percent of likely voters.


However, President Obama leads Romney by five points (49 percent to 44 percent) among registered voters, according to the NBC/WSJ poll.


In the same survey conducted prior to first presidential debate, Obama held a 3-point lead (49 percent to 46 percent) among likely voters.


Among men, the former Massachussetts governor holds a 10-point lead (53 percent to 43 percent) while the president leads by 8 points (51 percent to 43 percent) among women.


“I like what I see because the trend is in our direction,” Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman said on “Meet The Press” on Sunday. “That’s where you want to be at this point in the campaign.”


“If you look at the early voting that’s going on around the country, it’s very robust and its very favorable to us,” Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod countered. “And we think that’s a better indicator than these public polls, which are frankly all over the, all over the map.”


Source: Yahoo News


Obama and Romney swap jokes at Al Smith dinner

President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have made a series of lighthearted jabs at themselves and each other at a charity fundraiser.

At the event organised by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Mr Obama said his first debate performance – which he was judged to have lost – had been a “long nap” to prepare for the second.

Mr Romney mocked his own wealth.

Referring to his Mormon faith. he said he had prepared for the debates by “not drinking alcohol for 65 years”.

Earlier, Mr Obama made an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

He said the US would “fix” security overseas after a deadly Libya attack.Stewart asked Mr Obama about the administration’s “confused” response to the attack on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 11 September.

The US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans died in the attack, which remains at the centre of the campaign debate ahead of a foreign policy debate in Florida on Monday.

Mr Obama told Stewart his administration was still piecing together the evidence.

“The government is a big operation. At any given time, something screws up and you make sure you find out what’s broken and you fix it,” he said.

Relax in a tie

Mr Obama also repeated his wish to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, a first term promise he has been criticised for not yet carrying out.

The Alfred F Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner – a traditional fixture on the presidential campaign calendar – was Mr Romney’s only public event on Thursday after several campaign stops in Virginia the day before.

Resplendent in formal white tie on stage, Mr Romney – known for his business fortune – said that after a long campaign it was “nice finally to relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house”.

He also reminded the audience of the vice-president’s mirth-filled approach to his debate with Paul Ryan a week ago: “I was hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along because he’ll laugh at anything.”

Referring to the first presidential debate, Mr Obama said: “I had more energy in second debate. I was well-rested after the nice long nap I had in first debate.”

Mr Obama also noted he had been criticised for being too popular abroad at the beginning of his term. “I’m impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem,” he said, in a nod to a summer overseas trip that drew criticism.

The dinner was overseen by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has clashed with the administration over contraception provisions in Mr Obama’s health care law.

Cardinal Dolan has said he received “stacks of mail” protesting against Mr Obama’s invitation to the dinner, but he sought to avoid playing political favourites. The cardinal delivered benedictions at both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2012.

Battle of polls

Ahead of his reunion with Mr Obama, a daily Gallup tracking poll of likely voters suggested Mr Romney had increased his lead nationally. However, a series of other polls show a much tighter race.

Mr Romney announced on Thursday that his campaign was leaving North Carolina, believing his victory was assured there. He is currently polling an average of six points ahead of Mr Obama in the state.

Mr Obama also benefited from new polling on Thursday, with a Pew Hispanic Center poll suggesting three-quarters of Catholic Latinos back the president.

The president picked up the backing of rock star Bruce Springsteen, as he did in 2008. Springsteen campaigned for Mr Obama on Thursday in Ohio with former President Bill Clinton.

“For 30 years I’ve been writing about the distance between the American dream and American reality,” Springsteen said, reading from a statement.

“Our vote is the one principal way we get to determine that distance.”

Source: BBC


Obama says campaign goes ‘overboard’

(CNN) – Mitt Romney’s campaign took President Barack Obama to task Sunday night for a comment the president made in a CBS News interview that is posted online but did not air on the network’s broadcasts.

“You know, do we see sometimes us going overboard in our campaign, the mistakes that are made, or the areas where there’s no doubt that somebody could dispute how we are presenting things?” Obama said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “That happens in politics.”

Seizing on the comments, Romney’s campaign put out a statement late Sunday night, saying Team Obama and its allies have “repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for the truth” this cycle.

“Tonight, even President Obama himself admitted his campaign has gone ‘overboard’ and made mistakes. The real test now is whether or not the President will change course and honor his long-discarded promise to change the tone in Washington,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement.

While both campaigns push back on every ad released by their opponent, Romney’s team and other Republicans especially railed on the president and his allies over an ad released by the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action last month. The ad essentially placed blame on Romney for the loss of a steelworker’s health insurance and his wife’s eventual cancer death after the worker’s plant went bankrupt following a buy-out from Romney’s former private equity firm.

The controversial ad quickly created a firestorm of criticism against the group, run by former Obama White House officials. While the spot did not broadcast on the airwaves–with the exception of a local TV station accidentally airing the ad–news media attention gave it a tremendous amount of exposure.

The Obama campaign never officially condemned the spot. And, by law, super PACs and the campaign they support are not permitted to coordinate.

Fact-checkers, however, have called out both sides in the race for being misleading in ads and talking points. Romney especially took heat for making the case last month that Obama’s administration had “gutted” the welfare-to-work program–a claim widely disputed by independent fact-checkers and news organizations.

In August Romney faulted outlets for showing bias in their fact-checks, even though his campaign has used analyses by some of the groups, like, to bolster its own arguments. Furthermore, his pollster, Neil Newhouse, said on ABC News the campaign will not be “dictated by fact-checkers.”

In his CBS interview Sunday, Obama–who has been highly critical of negative campaign ads in his stump speeches–argued the war of words in the final 43 days of the race may be “sharp” but will provide a point of contrast for voters.

“The truth of the matter is, most of the time we’re having a vigorous debate about a vision for the country, and there’s a lot at stake in this election,” Obama said. “So is it going to be sharp sometimes? Absolutely. But will the American people ultimately have a good sense of where I want to take the country and where Governor Romney wants to take the country? I think they will.”