On Tuesday President Obama used his State of The Union address to call on politicians on both sides of the aisle to get work done and to work towards compromise on a host of issues from the economy to immigration. The most emotional moment of last night's address came when Obama asked for an up-or-down vote on gun legislation. This morning Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a democrat from Maryland joins “Starting Point” to provide reaction to the president’s speech.
Van Hollen says when it comes to Obama’s proposals for a package of measures intended to reduce gun violence, “the president’s right.” He adds that the president’s proposals are saying, “Let’s see if you have a criminal record, let’s see if you have mental stability before you have a gun and at the very least lets have a vote on it.”
The congressman says, “If speaker Boehner and others want to vote no go ahead and do it but do it in the light of day. Don’t try and hide from the American people.”
Mitt Romney continues to attack President Obama’s foreign policy and his handling of the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya. But, with 36 days till the election, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, believes Romney's mistaken, arguing that Americans “trust” the president and that he has “established real credibility and strength on national security.”
Jen Psaki, the Obama campaign’s traveling press secretary, argues that the violent protests in Benghazi, Libya broke out in response to the American-made anti-Islamic film despite claims of several politicians that the attack was a premeditated and coordinated effort.
“Unfortunately, this is a response to a video that we had nothing to do with that is disgusting and we have repudiated strongly,” Psaki says. “And now we're working every day to make sure that we can address this, and make sure we can ensure the security of our people serving abroad.”
While Republicans criticize the president’s policies, Psaki further argues that the United States under President Obama remains capable of protecting its interests and embassies abroad.
“The president is someone who said, 'I'm going to go after Osama bin Laden.' And he did. And he's dead. He said, 'I'm going to go after al Qaeda.' And he's decimated them. He's restored our place in the world. This is a crisis we're dealing with, the president is focused on every single day,” argues Psaki, who also worked as the White House deputy communications director for the Obama administration.
Anti-American protests continued to flare up in countries around the world overnight, and U.S. embassies are bracing for more violence as the day progresses.
Amb. Richard Williamson, Romney campaign senior foreign policy adviser, responds to how the Obama administration is handling the situation on Starting Point this morning.
"I think what we're seeing in Yemen and Egypt and Libya is turmoil that's very disturbing, that crowds U.S. interests and, frankly, is part of a pattern where they see less resolve and strength of the United States," Williamson says.
Regarding the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Libya, Williamson says that "there are things that can and should have been done" by the government to prevent the violence against the embassy.
"We should have learned the lessons of the Baltics, of Timor Leste, of Sierra Leone, and that is we go in to help during reconciliation and reconstruction. The administration chose not to do that," Williamson explains. "Second, 9/11 is 9/11. It's not a surprise that this is a day where bad things might happen and it's disturbing to get some reports of intelligence that may have not been followed up."
When pressed to explain how Mitt Romney would have handled the various protests differently, Williamson explains that while Obama "cut assistance to democracy and civil society groups in Egypt dramatically when he came into office," Romney would "be more active, trying to work with civil society and reform movements so we would be partners in this evolution."
The United Nations is pressing the U.S. to accept Iran into the talks about the violence in Syria. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believes Iran should be part of the broad discussion about the country and the fate of the President Bashar al-Assad. Iran has previously been sanctioned by the United Nations.
Ban's comments came after President Obama and Russian President Putin came down in tense fashion talking about the Syrian conflict. Russia has blocked the U.N. Security Council resolutions against Assad's regime. The Two leaders insist progress was made during the talk and they agreed to work with all "interested parties."
This morning on "Starting Point," fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte weighs in on whether bringing Iran into Syria talks makes sense, what role Russia should be playing in discussions and if the Obama Administration is to blame for failing to take a lead on quelling the violence.
Daniel Klaidman's new book "Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency" reads more like a page-turning drama than a documentation of the time inside the White House.
The book looks at how the Obama Administration has handled the war on terror, and shares one story of a screaming match between Presidential adviser David Axelrod and Attorney General Eric Holder, at one point coming face to face after a cabinet meeting back in 2009.
Author Daniel Klaidman writes that Axelrod says, "'Don't ever, ever accuse me of trying to interfere with the operations of the Justice Department.' Axelrod warned Holder after confronting him in the hallway. 'I'm not Karl Rove.' The two men stood chest to chest. It was like a schoolyard fight."
White House staffers caught in the crossfire allegedly averted their eyes. According to the book, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett squeezed between them, broke it up and everyone back to their offices.
Klaidman tells Soledad on "Starting Point" that the administration had a hard time working between fulfilling campaign promises and committing to ongoing initiatives.
"What was going on is in mid-2009, early 2009 really, the White House was obviously preoccupied with the economy," Klaidman says. "We were still deep in recession. They were trying to push health care. Meanwhile, the Attorney General is doing his job. He's trying to fulfill the President's promises on some of these hot button counterterrorism issues. And so, there is an inevitable clash here."
"I was surprised how personal it got, the level of tension and animosity," Klaidman adds. "But in some ways, you know, there may be something healthy about battling it out."
See another clip from the interview below.
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