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August 29, 2014

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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)

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(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)

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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

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(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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