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September 22, 2014

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September 10, 2014

Obama Speech Excerpt: We’re Going to (Air) War Against ISIS

President Barack Obama will call for a new war to “destroy” ISIS in his speech tonight — one that will include air strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria.

The excepts make clear Obama will no longer merely engage in strikes against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, just in Iraq.

“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama will say, according to the excerpt.

Obama also is expected to draw a contrast with the ground wars he inherited. Air strikes yes, ground troops, no:

“But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

The White House has previously said Obama believes he has the authority to implement his strategy without new authority from Congress, but would welcome Congress’s support.

Obama also has been lobbying lawmakers today for authorization for arming and training Syrian rebels.

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By Steven Dennis Posted at 6:30 p.m.

September 9, 2014

Obama Asserts Authority to Take on ISIS Without Congress

President Barack Obama told Congressional leaders that he already has the authority he needs to take on ISIS but would welcome the support of Congress, according to a White House readout.

“The President told the Leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night. He reiterated his belief that the nation is stronger and our efforts more effective when the President and Congress work together to combat a national security threat like ISIL. The President told the Leaders that he would welcome action by the Congress that would aid the overall effort and demonstrate to the world that the United States is united in defeating the threat from ISIL. The President and his team look forward to continuing extensive consultation with Congress.” Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 5:44 p.m.

September 2, 2014

Fox News Radio Reporter Mike Majchrowitz Remembered at White House

MIKEM 222x335 Fox News Radio Reporter Mike Majchrowitz Remembered at White House

(Courtesy of Fox News Radio)

Updated 4:26 p.m. | Fox News Radio White House reporter Mike Majchrowitz has died following a long struggle with throat cancer, and the White House and his colleagues are marking his passing.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest mentioned him at the top of Tuesday’s briefing.

“I did want to extend my condolences both personally, but also on behalf of everybody here at the White House, including the first family, to the family of Mike Majchrowitz. … I got to know Mike a little bit when he was covering — started covering the White House here in 2010. He was a tough reporter, but he was also somebody who showed a lot of respect for the journalistic process, certainly for his listeners, but also for those of us that he covered. And that is something that is very admirable and a quality that I certainly admire in a professional journalist.”

White House Correspondents Association President Christi Parsons also remembered Majchrowitz in an email to fellow White House reporters on behalf of the WHCA board.

“We all remember Mike’s vigorous questions in the briefing room, so hard to ignore with that booming voice of his. He made a mark immediately after joining our press corps in 2010.

“He was a true inspiration in the last years of his life, soldiering on in the Fox Radio booth while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Sometimes he was even doing chemo while grilling administration officials in the briefing room or serving with us on pool duty.

A friend told me he asked Mike why he didn’t just take it easy. ‘I have a job to do,’ he replied.

He was proud to be a White House correspondent. We’re proud to have served alongside him. … Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

In an email, Parsons also recalled Majchrowitz often talking about his wife and family. “I competed against him in selling Girl Scout cookies for our daughters, and he always won. That job meant a lot to him, too,” she said.

Mitch Davis, the vice president of Fox News Radio, also put out a statement.

“Mike was an original — a solidly tenacious reporter, a thoughtful anchor and a good man. He earned the respect of his colleagues for many things, not the least of which was his kindness. From our earliest days he helped Fox News Radio  grow into what we are now. His voice was unique, as was his courage. Throughout his struggle, he remained positive and was an inspiration to us all. We will miss him.”

Majchrowitz had been with Fox News Radio since its beginning in 2005, first covering Congress and then the White House.

Fox News Radio also shared memorial arrangements. The funeral will be Friday at 11 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church at 12805 Valleywood Dr. in Woodbridge, Va.

A viewing will be held Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Miller Funeral Home in Woodbridge. At 8 p.m. there will be a prayer service.

Majchrowitz is survived by a wife and three children. His family has set up a memorial fund and a Facebook page.

Fox News Radio posted a remembrance with more photos and audio from some of Majchrowitz’s stories, well worth a look, along with this 2011 story on what it’s like to ride on Air Force One.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 4:17 p.m.

August 28, 2014

Obama on ISIS: ‘We Don’t Have a Strategy’ (Updated) (Video)

492587929 445x296 Obama on ISIS: We Dont Have a Strategy (Updated) (Video)

Obama said he hasn’t finalized a strategy for dealing with the jihadi insurgents who control parts of Syria and Iraq. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File Photo)

Updated 6:26 p.m. | President Barack Obama said Thursday it’s premature to go to Congress to authorize a strategy to defeat ISIS — because he doesn’t have one yet.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama told reporters after being asked about striking ISIS in Syria, saying he didn’t want to “put the cart before the horse.”

The line — sure to be repeated often by his critics — came as Republicans have been repeatedly demanding a strategy to defeat ISIS.

Obama said he’s asked the military for options to take on ISIS, but a decision to expand strikes into Syria isn’t imminent and he suggested it would not happen before Congress returns from recess.

He said there was a role for Congress to play once that strategy is in place. But he said that he didn’t wait for Congress before launching airstrikes in Iraq because he had a responsibility to protect the American people and could not wait. He said that he has consulted with Congress on his actions to date and that feedback has been positive. Full story

August 18, 2014

Obama Dispatches Holder to Ferguson, Cites Progress in Iraq (Video)

492587929 445x296 Obama Dispatches Holder to Ferguson, Cites Progress in Iraq (Video)

Obama sends Holder to Ferguson, reports progress in Iraq. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Updated 7:03 p.m. | President Barack Obama, back in Washington for a day of meetings in the midst of his August vacation, on Monday reported “progress” in the expanded campaign of U.S. airstrikes on Iraqi insurgents near Mosul, and again called for calm in the riot-torn streets of Ferguson, Mo.

He announced that Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Ferguson on Wednesday to talk with local leaders about the riots that have rocked the St. Louis suburb since the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Asked about the militarization of American law enforcement that some have said is exacerbating clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Obama said it may be time to review the use of federal dollars to purchase surplus military vehicles and gear.

“There’s a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement,” he said. “And we don’t want those lines blurred.”

Some civil rights leaders have urged the president to speak out more forcefully on the shooting of Michael Brown, but on Monday, Obama instead called for restraint on the part of both police and protesters. Full story

August 14, 2014

Obama Calls for Calm, Healing in Ferguson (Video)

ferguson081414 445x296 Obama Calls for Calm, Healing in Ferguson (Video)

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama called for calm in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday, and said the FBI and Department of Justice are both launching independent investigations into the police shooting of an unarmed teenager.

Speaking from a press conference near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, Obama said DOJ officials are also talking with local authorities about how they can maintain public safety without obstructing peaceful protests. Conflicts and clashes between police and protesters have escalated in the days following the death of Michael Brown.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protestors,” Obama said. Full story

August 7, 2014

Obama Signs VA Overhaul, Dings Senate on Failure to Confirm Nominees (Video)

mcdonald 088 070814 445x296 Obama Signs VA Overhaul, Dings Senate on Failure to Confirm Nominees (Video)

Obama dinged the Senate for their failure to confirm some of his nominees to work under McDonald, pictured above with Sanders. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama signed the overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday at Fort Belvoir in Virginia — but not before dinging the Senate for failing to confirm more of his nominees for senior VA jobs.

Several members of Congress received shoutouts from the president: Sens. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., and Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Michael H. Michaud, D-Maine.

Obama called the long wait times “outrageous” and suggested the bill would help newly appointed VA Secretary Robert McDonald get rid of employees who have engaged in misconduct.

“If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired, period. It shouldn’t be that difficult,” Obama said. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:18 p.m.

July 18, 2014

Obama Pushes Putin Amid ‘Outrage’ Over Malaysian Airlines Jet (Video)

President Barack Obama sounded outrage over the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines jet, but isn’t ready to pin the blame definitively on Russian-backed separatists or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With hawks in Congress urging a tough response against Putin after the jet was shot down over separatist-controlled territory Thursday, Obama has reacted cautiously, saying he doesn’t want to get ahead of the facts.

But he said the United States believes the plane was shot down by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile from separatist-controlled territory, and noted those separatists have claimed credit for downing other aircraft.

“Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet,” Obama said. Full story

By Steven Dennis Posted at 1:08 p.m.

June 23, 2014

Progressive Caucus Trolls Obama on Drone Memo

The Congressional Progressive Caucuses trolled the White House Monday after the legal memo justifying the killing of Americans was partially released by court order:

Screen Shot 2014 06 23 at 4.49.24 PM 445x327 Progressive Caucus Trolls Obama on Drone Memo

New Press Secretary Josh Earnest defended the earlier decision not to release the memo to the public.

“We worked with — through the legal system and those who are most interested in seeing it to produce a redacted document, that redacted national security interests while at the same time trying to live up to our commitment to transparency that the president has talked about quite a bit. So I think in this case — I think even the groups that sharply criticized us would call this a win for transparency.”

The actual press release was more pedestrian, but noted the Progressive Caucus has been pushing for transparency on drones.

WASHINGTON—Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) joined CPC Whip Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) in applauding the release of a White House memo outlining the government’s authority for using drones to kill U.S. citizens overseas.

“With the release of this memo, the American people have a glimpse into decisions made in our name where lives hang in the balance,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The fact that American lives are on the line too should give all of us pause. It’s time to end the secrecy surrounding our drone policies, and I applaud the administration’s move to release this memo. It’s a far cry from outright transparency, but it is a good first step.”

“The American people have a right to know their government’s justification for the use of force abroad,” Rep. Ellison said. “We need to restrict in the use of drones in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. The American people can now learn more about a program that has claimed the lives of innocents and damaged our reputation abroad. The release of this secret memo is a victory for transparency. But more must be done to inform the public and have accountable policies.”

“The release of this secret memo is a good step toward transparency but we have a long way to go,” Rep. Lee said. “Congress must repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which is has allowed endless war with little Congressional debate, input or oversight.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has led the way on transparency in the U.S. drone program, holding an ad-hoc hearing last summer and endorsing legislation to bring the legal reasoning behind the drone program into the light.

By Steven Dennis Posted at 5:17 p.m.

May 5, 2014

Welcome to POTUS Operandi

sotu tw008 012814 445x296 Welcome to POTUS Operandi

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Welcome to Roll Call’s new White House blog, POTUS Operandi. Our organization has long covered the White House, but never in blog form, capturing the news and odds and ends as they happen.

Our focus, as you would expect from “The Newspaper of Capitol Hill,” has traditionally been on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. As such, our White House coverage has appeared in various places on our website — including on our 218 House blog and our #WGDB blog on the Senate. Now you’ll find much of it here as we examine how the White House works — or doesn’t — with Congress.

What you won’t find on POTUS Operandi is a daily tick-tock of White House events — the sports team ceremonies, sometimes newsless news conferences and other presidential flotsam and jetsam.

What I intend to provide instead is a relentless focus on and analysis of the White House’s relationship with Congress, and what the daily events might signify when it comes to congressional leadership. Or, as is often the case lately, when the president plans to bypass Capitol Hill.

Where does the president still have leverage? Where has he squandered it? What are the repercussions of a pen-and-phone presidency? What do lawmakers think about the president?

You’ll find plenty of policy here.

But you’ll also find stories and posts about the people trying to keep the trains moving relatively close to on time.

Have a good question to ask the White House or a news tip? Email me: stevendennis – at – or find me on Twitter: @steventdennis.

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