Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama’s ‘Crusades’ controversy highlights war on terrorism’s rhetorical minefield

    New skirmish over language as White House summit on combating extremism gets underway

    U.S. President Barack Obama takes the stage to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, February 5, 2015. Flanking Obama are Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey (L) and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)U.S. President Barack Obama takes the stage to speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, February 5, 2015. Flanking Obama are Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey (L) and Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
    President Barack Obama this week hosts a White House summit on combating violent extremism, searching for strategies beyond just military action for countering terrorist groups like the so-called Islamic State or al-Qaida. The long-planned event arrives right as Obama is emerging from his latest skirmish with critics who say his reluctance to tie terrorists publicly and directly to Islam shows he does not understand the threat — and therefore cannot adequately respond.

    At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, Obama suggested people get off of their “high horse,” reminding his audience that the West had its own history of “terrible deeds” in the name of religion, including the Crusades, the Inquisition and slavery. The remarks touched off a predictable firestorm, and his critics pounced.

    “There’s a set of words, it’s almost as if they’re given a card — a do-not-speak card,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) said last week at the conservative Center for Security Policy think thank.

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  • Obama predicts Super Bowl will ‘be close,’ says ‘deflate-gate’ did not help Patriots

    After controversy, Obama predicts NFL will put officials in charge of footballs

    President Barack Obama refused Sunday to forecast whether the Seattle Seahawks or the New England Patriots would win Super Bowl XLIX, but he predicted the big game “is going to be close.” In an interview with NBC, Obama also dismissed “deflate-gate,” saying underinflated footballs had nothing to do with the outcome of the AFC title game.

    “The Patriots were going to beat the Colts regardless of what the footballs looked like,” said Obama, who expressed surprise that each team provides its own footballs.

    “I’m assuming one of the things the NFL is going to be doing, just to avoid any of these controversies, is figure out how the officials are in charge of the footballs from start to finish,” the president said.

    Asked what could happen if an ongoing investigation finds that New England cheated, Obama largely sidestepped the issue, saying: “I think that if you break the rules, you break the rules.”

    President Barack Obama leans on a football while making a call in the Oval Office. (White House Photo)President Barack Obama leans on a football while making a call in the Oval Office. (White House Photo)

    The president’s comments came during what has become his traditional interview with the

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  • Obama won't meet with Netanyahu during controversial U.S. visit

    White House says it's too close to Israel's elections

    President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
    President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter's controversial March 3 visit to Washington, the White House announced Thursday, saying a meeting could be perceived as an attempt by the administration to influence Israel's March 17 elections.

    "The president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a emailed statement.

    “As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country," she said.

    Netanyahu's visit has further strained already difficult relations between the Israeli leader and Obama. Republican House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of

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  • In executive 'amnesty' move, Obama pardons turkeys 'Mac' and 'Cheese'

    Jokes about the controversy over his immigration policy

    Joking that “some will call this amnesty,” President Barack Obama on Wednesday took part in one of the oddest traditions in American politics: The pardoning of two turkeys, “Mac” and “Cheese,” who will be spared from a Thanksgiving roasting.

    “I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month,” Obama declared with a smile in a thinly veiled reference to the controversy over last week's immigration announcement.

    “Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority, the same kind of action taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me, to spare the lives of two turkeys.”

    “Some will call this amnesty, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around,” Obama said at the ceremony, which was driven indoors by bad weather.

    Profile of Mac.  One of the two turkey's pardoned by President Barack Obama on Novermber 26, 2014 at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Whitehouse.gov)Profile of Mac.  One of the two turkey's pardoned by President Barack Obama on Novermber 26, 2014 at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Whitehouse.gov)
    As it has in past years, the White House posted an online poll and asked the public to decide which gobbler would be named "America's Next Top Turkey."  The poll reads like an online dating profile and

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  • John Cleese: U.S. politics are funny but ‘dangerous’

    'Monty Python’ star talks ‘Ministry of Silly Walks,’ the ‘Fish Called Wanda’ musical, the horror of selfies and his new autobiography

    Actor/comedian John Cleese signs copies of his book So, Anyway at Barnes & Noble, 5th Avenue on November 4, 2014 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)Actor/comedian John Cleese signs copies of his book So, Anyway at Barnes & Noble, 5th Avenue on November 4, 2014 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

    So John Cleese walks into a bar…

    At 6 feet 5 inches, the “Fish Called Wanda” star and “Monty Python” mainstay would be a head-turner even if he weren’t one of the most recognizable comic writer/actors of the last 40 years. He’s in Washington to promote “So, Anyway,” 375 pages of autobiographical recollections, packed with one-liners.

    But it’s not, strictly speaking, a comedy book. It’s not, to the probable dismay of “Monty Python” fans, even a thorough personal history of the absurdist, Ministry of Silly Walks-taking, Black Knight-maiming, you-sold-me-a-dead-parrot-I-want-to-return-it comedy troupe.

    It’s Cleese’s life story, from childhood in the tiny English town of Weston-super-Mare onwards, through high school, Cambridge, performances in London, New Zealand (where the awkward Cleese lost his virginity), New York and ultimately the process of putting together “Monty Python.” It’s also an examination of how he used humor as a means to survive life, and what, at 75, the co-creator of

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  • What the White House is planning for the next 2 years

    On tap after the election: An Iran nuclear deal, a push on trade and the battle to replace Eric Holder

    Life after the midterm elections was never going to be easy for President Barack Obama. In the best-case scenario, he would have watched his influence dwindle steadily as the fight to succeed him heated up. He would have worked to polish his legacy. There would have been work on his “library,” that traditional political-mausoleum project beloved by lame-duck presidents drifting ever closer to the day when they are forgotten but not gone.

    But now Obama finds himself pushed toward the sidelines by two potent forces. One is the Republican capture of the Senate as well as major governorships. The other is frustrated congressional Democrats’ increasing focus on what the party’s 2016 nominee – potentially Hillary Clinton – needs from them over the next two years.

    The president planned the traditional post-election press conference for 2:50 ET Wednesday afternoon, and planned to host House and Senate leaders of both parties at the White House on Friday.

    In a series of interviews over the past

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  • Obama annoyed by weak Ebola response from France, Italy and others

    U.S. pushing allies for more money, health workers for West African nations affected by the virus

    Even as the wobbly U.S. response to Ebola dominated the headlines this week, President Barack Obama ramped up a frustration-powered campaign to get reluctant major allies to shoulder more of the burden of quelling the deadly outbreak at its source in West Africa.

    Speaking to reporters after an emergency meeting with top aides on Wednesday, the president put his personal annoyance on full display as he portrayed the international response to the crisis as hesitant and shortsighted and warned that it endangered American national security.

    “This is not simply charity,” he intoned. “Probably the single most important thing that we can do to prevent a more serious Ebola outbreak in this country is making sure that we get what is a raging epidemic right now in West Africa under control.”

    Obama declared that he had convened a videoconference earlier in the day with leaders of core U.S. allies Britain, France, Germany and Italy “to make sure that we are coordinating our efforts and that we are

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  • Obama on Syria strikes: War on Islamic State will 'take time'

    Hours after plunging the United States into new warfare in the heart of the Middle East, President Obama insisted Tuesday that international support proved that “this is not America’s fight alone.”

    Obama, speaking on the South Lawn of the White House, vowed to “take the fight” to the Islamic State and other extremists groups but braced Americans for a long and difficult conflict.

    “The overall effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead, but we’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world,” he said.

    The president’s remarks were notable in part for their lack of detail and their brevity  he spoke for barely three minutes, with his Marine One helicopter visible over his shoulder, and gave no details about whether the overnight operations were successful or what the next military step might be.

    Instead, Obama seemed most eager to claim widespread support for America’s latest

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  • Obama likely to hit ISIL in Syria without Congress’s formal OK

    What do Syrian President Bashar Assad and the U.S. Congress have in common? President Obama is unlikely to ask either for a formal green light to expand the American air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from Iraq into Syria.

    White House aides underline that the debate remains academic for now because the president has yet to decide whether he will order strikes on the brutal Islamist movement’s strongholds in Syria.

    “We have not speculated about what sort of authority would be required from Congress if the president were to make a decision to authorize the use of military force in Syria,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday.

    But Earnest noted that Obama does not think he needs congressional approval for the airstrikes he launched on ISIL forces in Iraq on Aug. 7 or for the return of ground troops there to protect American personnel.

    “The current military action that has been ordered in Iraq is vested in the powers of

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  • Obama ‘heartbroken’ by Foley beheading but vows no letup in U.S. operations

    President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared himself “heartbroken” by the beheading of U.S. journalist Jim Foley by ISIL extremists but defiantly vowed to press on with American military operations to cut the group’s “cancer” out of the Middle East.

    “Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world,” the president said from the makeshift workspace for media covering his Martha’s Vineyard vacation.

    Obama said he had spoken to Foley’s parents and told them “we are all heartbroken at their loss and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.”

    His remarks came a day after the release online of a stomach-turning video showing a black-masked jihadi fighter from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) beheading Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq. The video also warned that the extremists would murder American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff if Obama did not halt the bombardments.

    “The

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Pagination

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