The Obama Roundup - June 3rd Part 1
by Mark Ivy
In case you missed it, here is Part 1 of the latest Roundup of news about President Barack Obama.
When Ex-Presidents Come to Visit:
At the unveiling of the official portraits of George W. Bush and Laura Bush, President Obama has some kind words for his predecessor.
Said Obama: "Finally, on a personal note, Michelle and I are grateful to the entire Bush family for their guidance and example during our own transition. George, I will always remember the gathering you hosted for all of the living former presidents before I took office. Your fine words of encouragement. Plus you also left me a really good TV sports package. I use it."
President Barack Obama is confiding to Democratic donors that he may have to revisit the health-care issue in a second term, a position at odds with his publicly expressed confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the Affordable Care Act, according to three Democratic activists.
Obama said he may be forced to try to revise parts of his health-care plan, depending on how the court rules later this month, said one activist, who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s comments.
The president has made similar remarks, usually in response to questions, at other fundraising events since the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case during the last week of March, according to two other activists, who also requested anonymity.
Obama’s answers, which begin with the president repeating his contention that the high court will uphold the law, have led some contributors to conclude the White House is making contingency plans should the justices strike down parts of the law, which would give Republicans a powerful talking point about one of his signature issues.
On Foreign Affairs:
Syria - As the pressure grows on President Obama to take action in Syria, it’s worth going back to re-read the March 2011 speech he gave explaining his intervention in Libya. In it, Obama made clear that that he was not raising the curtain on a new era of humanitarian intervention—that the criteria for U.S. action should depend on an intersection of our interests and our values. (Or, as he put it: “we must always measure our interests against the need for action.”)
Obama went on to explain why Libya passed that test. The country, he said, was at risk of “violence on a horrific scale”—specifically because of what he described as an impending slaughter in the city of Benghazi. Allowing that slaughter, he said, would have “stained the conscience of the world.” That was the values part. The reason that taking action met our interests, Obama said, was because the U.S. enjoyed “a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.”
The Obama administration argues that the same criteria don’t apply in Syria.
The "Kill List" - "You never know who is going to be president four years from now. I have to think about how Mitt Romney would use that power."
-- President Obama, quoted in Kill or Capture by Daniel Klaidman, at the start of his presidency discussing a policy of indefinite detention for terror suspects.
The nation learned details this week of a new and deadly presidential duty: The 'kill list."
Early in his term, President Obama, counterterrorism adviser John Brennan and Gen. James Cartwright formed what author Daniel Klaidman calls "a kind of special troika on targeted killings" of suspected al-Qaeda members and other terrorists.
"The three men were making life-and-death decisions, picking targets, rejecting or accepting names put forward by the military, feeling their way through a new kind of war -- Obama's war," Klaidman writes in his forthcoming book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency.
Cyberattacks - From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.
Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium.
This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts. None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.
The Polish Gaffe - President Barack Obama has written a letter to the Polish president expressing “regret” for an inadvertent verbal gaffe that caused a storm of controversy in Poland this week.
Obama on Tuesday used the expression “a Polish death camp” while honoring a Polish World War II resistance hero rather than wording that would have made clear that he meant a death camp that Nazi Germany operated on Polish soil during its wartime occupation of Poland.
Warsaw has been waging a campaign for years against phrases such as “Polish death camps” or “Polish concentration camps” to refer to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other German killing sites. The language deeply offends Polish sensitivities because Poles not only had no role in running camps such as Auschwitz, but were considered racially inferior by the Germans and were themselves murdered in them in huge numbers.
“In referring to `a Polish death camp' rather than `a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland,' I inadvertently used a phrase that has caused many Poles anguish over the years and that Poland has rightly campaigned to eliminate from public discourse around the world,” Obama wrote. “I regret the error and agree that this moment is an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth.”
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski made the letter, dated Thursday, available to journalists in Warsaw today, expressing satisfaction at Obama's words.
Komorowski called Obama's letter “a very important moment in the battle for historical truth.”
From the Cornfield, in case you missed it on your favorite news channel, news site or newspaper, that is Part 1 of the latest Obama Roundup.
Part 2 will cover: The Bain Issue and Dealing with Republicans.
Part 3 will cover: The Economy and Going Home - Chicago