From Joe Scarborough's Politico blog last night:
The takeaway of President Obama's speech tonight is simple. The neocons won, the troops lost and the endless war grinds on in a land that humbled the Soviet Union, the British Empire and Alexander the Great. Good luck with that, Mr. President.
Read the full post here
Watch videos of President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan today and read the transcript of his address to the American people tonite inside the blog.
"As we move forward, some people will ask why we need a firm timeline. The answer is clear: our goal is not to build a country in America's image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban. These objectives would require many more years, many more dollars, and many more American lives. Our goal is to destroy al Qaeda, and we are on a path to do exactly that. Afghans want to fully assert their sovereignty and build a lasting peace. That requires a clear timeline to wind down the war. Others will ask why we don't leave immediately. That answer is also clear: we must give Afghanistan the opportunity to stabilize. Otherwise, our gains could be lost, and al Qaeda could establish itself once more. And as Commander-in-Chief, I refuse to let that happen.
"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war. As President, nothing is more wrenching than signing a letter to a family of the fallen, or looking in the eyes of a child who will grow up without a mother or father. I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan, and end this war responsibly."
~ President Obama speaking to the nation from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan
President Obama on today's National Day of Prayer, from the White House:
Prayer has always been a part of the American story, and today countless Americans rely on prayer for comfort, direction, and strength, praying not only for themselves, but for their communities, their country, and the world.
On this National Day of Prayer, we give thanks for our democracy that respects the beliefs and protects the religious freedom of all people to pray, worship, or abstain according to the dictates of their conscience. Let us pray for all the citizens of our great Nation, particularly those who are sick, mourning, or without hope, and ask God for the sustenance to meet the challenges we face as a Nation. May we embrace the responsibility we have to each other, and rely on the better angels of our nature in service to one another. Let us be humble in our convictions, and courageous in our virtue. Let us pray for those who are suffering around the world, and let us be open to opportunities to ease that suffering....
A year ago today, I read a Tweet that President Barack Obama was interrupting primetime TV to address the nation regarding terrorism. My heart dropped. All I could think about was that terrifying feeling 10 years earlier while watching 9-11 coverage. It only took about half an hour of speculation on 24-hour news stations, Twitter, Facebook, etc., before reports came out that Obama would be announcing the death of public enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden.
My first reaction was relief. The second, I confess, was one of pride—shared by the nation at the time and many still. But at some point in the aftermath, I read a friend’s post that convicted me and brought me back to reality.
President Barack Obama landed in Afghanistan this afternoon on an unannounced trip. He will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and sign a strategic partnership agreement pledging U.S. support for Afghanistan for a decade after 2014 when the U.S. combat role is set to end.
Obama will then deliver a live, televised speech to the American people on live television at 7:30 this evening (Tuesday). He is expected to give an update on Afghan withdrawal plans.
Presidents Obama and Karzai have signed in Kabul a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries.
The Associated Press reports:
“The partnership spells out the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, covering security, economics and governance. The deal is limited in scope and essentially gives both sides political cover: Afghanistan is guaranteed its sovereignty and promised it won't be abandoned, while the U.S. gets to end its combat mission in the long and unpopular war but keep a foothold in the country. The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending. But it does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan after the war ends…”
“At a signing ceremony in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, Obama said the agreement paves the way for 'a future of peace’ while allowing the United States to ‘wind down this war.’ Karzai said his countrymen ‘will never forget’ the help of U.S. forces over the past decade.”
Movers, shakers and policy makers convened over the weekend for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner (aka Nerd Prom) at the Washington Hilton. Late-night personality Jimmy Kimmel hosted the gala evening, which showcased President Obama's much lighter (and snarkier) side in the company of some of his closest friends, allies and at least a couple of frenemies.
Inside the blog we've assembled for you five memorable moments from the 2012 Nerd Prom that you don't want to miss.
Over the weekend, the (seemingly) perennial fire-starter and certifiable wingnut Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., a 50-member self-proclaimed Christian congragation, made good on his threats to burn a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in what he said was a protest of the ongoing incarceration of a Christian pastor in Iraq.
You may recognize Jones from his infamous 2011 Quran burning, one that federal authorities and President Obama personally attempted (in vain, sadly) to prevent the wrong-headed from what many critics feared would only serve to perpetuate further anti-American violence by so-called Islamic extremists and terrorists around the world.
This time, Jones claimed to be stoking his fires of unrest on behalf of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who has been imprisoned by the Iranian government for nearly three years on charges of apostasy and reportedly is facing execution for his "crimes."
The Gainesville Sun newspaper reports that this weekend's Quran burning, which also included an effigy of Islam's Prophet Muhammad set aflame, took place in front of 20 spectators outside Jones' church, and the whole incident was broadcast live on the Internet.
In his weeky address, President Obama said in part:
"For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand. Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus. And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.
"These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago. They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future. And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.
"For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice...."
In a move that surprised many in the world of economics and politics, on Friday morning President Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim, the South Korea-born physician, anthropologist and president of Dartmouth College, to be the next president of the World Bank.
Prior to taking the helm at Dartmouth in 2009, Kim, 52, led the global health and social medicine department at Harvard Medical School, of which he is a graduate. Widely considered one of the leading minds in world health, Kim also has served as a director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization, where he focused on helping developing countries improve treatment and prevention programs.
Obama called Kim, “an innovative leader whose groundbreaking work to fight disease and combat poverty has saved lives around the globe.” The President said Kim is exceptionally well qualified for the position but brings “more to the role than an impressive record of designing new ways to solve entrenched problems.
“Development is his lifetime commitment, and it is his passion,” Obama said. “And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”
President Barack Obama spoke out about the Trayvon Martin shooting Friday morning at a press briefing nominating Dr. Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank.
"If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon," he said. "And I think [his parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened."
A few links on some creative outdoor sculptures, the etymology of the name Spider-Man, Disney's Bible theme-park that was never made, a new form of mashups, President Obama and Entourage, and cover of Adele played on the Chinese zither.
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The Catholic bishop leading the push against the White House's contraception mandate says the bishops hope to restart contentious talks with the Obama administration, but cautioned that church leaders "have gotten mixed signals from the administration" and the situation "is very fluid."
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who chairs the religious liberty committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Religion News Service that Catholics have to stay united if the hierarchy is to have any chance of prevailing in negotiations with the White House.
Ever since President Obama bowed to growing pressure and shifted the mandate to provide contraception mandate to insurance companies and away from religious employers, the White House has been hosting talks with various religious groups about a plan to modify the regulation.
Catholic institutions like hospitals, universities and social service agencies are most directly affected by the regulation because they are the biggest faith-based employers. They have also been much more amenable to the Obama accommodation than have the bishops.
Many bishops are upset with Catholic groups that have dealt independently with the administration, and some have also accused the administration of trying to divide the church.
In the weeks since President Obama proposed a compromise on his plan to mandate free contraception coverage, the nation's Catholic bishops have appeared unified and galvanized in their thorough rejection of the accommodation.
For the hierarchy, it's been an invigorating change after years of playing defense during the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
"What (Obama) offered was next to nothing," a confident New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service.
Other prominent churchmen were even more derisive. They blasted Obama's olive branch of having insurers -- rather than employers like Catholic hospitals and universities -- pay for birth control coverage under a separate policy as an "accounting gimmick."
The Obama administration is rejecting charges by the nation's top Catholic bishop that talks to modify a controversial birth control mandate are "going nowhere" because of alleged White House intransigence and efforts to diminish the central role of the bishops.
"The White House has put nearly every issue requested by the bishops on the table for discussion and has sought the views of bishops on resolving difficult policy problems, only to be rebuffed," an administration official close to the negotiations said Tuesday (March 6).
The official was not authorized to speak publicly on the negotiations and requested anonymity to speak candidly about the sensitive talks.
In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, President Obama urged Israeli leaders to refrain from "loose talk of war" related to escalating tensions with Iran. Quoting his predecessor President Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said when it comes to the Iran situation, both the United States and Israel would do well to, "Speak softly... and carry a big stick."
Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today at the White House. Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to the AIPAC conference this evening, issued a short statement repsonding to Obama's speech Sunday, saying in part, "I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."
The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led bid to insert a broad religious exemption into a federal mandate that requires most employers and health insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage.
The largely party-line vote was 51-48 in favor of tabling an amendment that Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., had offered to a federal transportation bill.
Blunt and other Republicans had argued that the measure would protect the religious liberty of institutions such as Catholic charities and hospitals that object to contraception on moral grounds.
"It's not just the Catholic Church," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said during the floor debate on Thursday. "It's a moral and religious issue that should not be interfered with by the federal government."
Evangelist Franklin Graham has apologized to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said religion has "nothing to do" with Graham's decision not to support Obama's re-election.
Graham's Tuesday apology came after a group of prominent black religious leaders criticized the evangelist for saying he did not know whether Obama is a Christian and suggesting that Islamic law considers him to be a Muslim.
Graham, president of the relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he now accepts Obama's declarations that he is a Christian.
"I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama," he said in a statement.
Jewish leaders on Monday denounced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after he delivered a four-hour speech on Sunday that was laced with anti-Semitic statements about Jewish control of the media.
Speaking to thousands of supporters during the 82nd annual Saviors' Day celebration in Chicago, Farrakhan accused "Zionists" of trying to push America into war with Iran and dubbed Al-Jazeera, the Dubai-based news channel, as "Al Jew-zeera."
"I'm not anti-Semitic, I'm just telling the truth," Farrakhan asserted, alleging that Jews were responsible for a controversial 2008 cover of The New Yorker that depicted President Obama in Muslim garb.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's claim that U.S. colleges drive young Christians out of church is facing scrutiny from Protestant and Catholic experts.
Santorum told talk show host Glenn Beck late last week that "62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it." He also has called President Obama a "snob" for wanting more Americans to attend college.
"There is no statistical difference in the dropout rate among those who attended college and those that did not attend college," said Thom Rainer, president of the Southern Baptists' LifeWay Christian Resources research firm. "Going to college doesn't make you a religious dropout."
A 2007 LifeWay survey did find seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23.
The real causes: lack of "a robust faith," strongly committed parents and an essential church connection, Rainer said.
In fact, President Obama, himself, had a puzzled look as he said, “Hello Eugene.” So, I had to introduce myself to him and explained to him that I was a pastor here in Seattle and involved with some other work. We chit-chatted briefly about stuff but there is something I very specifically remember and I don’t know if I’ll ever forget this portion of our conversation.
I shared with President Obama that I occasionally but regularly prayed for him and this is how he responded:
“Thank you, Eugene. I really appreciate that. Can you also please pray for my wife and children? Pray for their protection.”
His demeanor changed. Perhaps, this is just me. Perhaps, I’m reading and analyzing too much into all the non-verbal cues but then again, I’m a pastor and after 21 years of doing ministry, you develop a “pastoral sense” and I genuinely sensed his gratitude for prayer and his request for prayer for his family.