March 21st, 2011
06:01 PM ET

Obama walks fine line on Gadhafi's future

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Santiago, Chile (CNN) - President Barack Obama repeated Monday that Moammar Gadhafi "needs to go," but he acknowledged the Libyan dictator may remain in power for some time because the allied military mission in North Africa has a more narrow mandate of just protecting innocent civilians.

"Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi's people," Obama said at a news conference here.

Obama alluded to the fact that U.N. Resolution 1973 passed on Thursday restricts the U.S. and its allies from seeking regime change and directly ousting Gadhafi from power.

But, he noted, "Now, I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go."

But Obama said he's still hopeful that other "tools" the administration has used, such as freezing billions in Libyan assets, will eventually help the Libyan people push Gadhafi out.

Obama's comments show the delicate balancing act facing the administration as he tries to adhere to the tight U.N. mandate while knowing the mission is unlikely to be seen as a true success around the world unless Gadhafi goes.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Ed Henry • President Barack Obama
February 23rd, 2011
06:10 PM ET

Hostage fear a key factor in Obama's muted Libya response

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Washington (CNN) - While President Obama has taken heat for a relatively muted response in the early days of the crisis in Libya, U.S. officials privately believe it was the best strategy because if Obama had bashed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi it could have put the thousands of Americans who are in Libya in harm's way.

U.S. officials said there was a fear inside the administration that some of those Americans could have been taken hostage by Gadhafi, who once again made his distaste for America clear in rambling public remarks earlier this week and would relish the chance to escalate the crisis and drag U.S. citizens into the crossfire.

It's no accident that aides now say Obama is planning to make his first on-camera comments about the matter late Wednesday or early Thursday, just as a chartered ferry is expected to evacuate more than 500 Americans from Tripoli to nearby Malta.

Asked by CNN if Obama was being more cautious in his public comments because of the Americans in harm's way, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney acknowledged it was an "important factor" in the calculations.

"The president is obviously concerned about the safety of American citizens - no question," Carney said at his daily briefing with reporters. "And that is an important factor in any country. And the circumstances of American citizens are different in each country. The protections they have, say, at the embassy, might be different in one country than the protections they have in another. All of those factors are important in how we approach these situations and how the president looks at them."

Carney added the president is also "extremely concerned and alarmed by the horrific violence and bloodshed that's happened in Libya" in recent days.

Obama has been blistered by some critics for being too soft on Gadhafi, with columnist Jackson Diehl writing in the Washington Post that Libya "ought to be the easy case in the Middle East's turmoil" for the White House to deal with because of Gadhafi's government killing at least hundreds of its own people.

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December 7th, 2010
04:06 PM ET

Tax deal amounts to second stimulus

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Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

The metaphorical ink is still barely dry on the long, flowery press release President Obama sent out last Friday reacting to the drastic budget cuts proposed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that he appointed.

"Jobs and growth are our most urgent need," the President said Friday. "But if we want an America that can compete for the jobs of tomorrow, we simply cannot allow our nation to be dragged down by our debt. We must correct our fiscal course."

What a difference three days make. On Monday Obama signed off on a tax deal that independent budget analysts I've spoken to - including Stan Collender of Qorvis Communications - believe will add as much as $900 billion to the national debt. That expense would be higher than the $814 billion Obama stimulus package from 2009 and could basically cost as much as a second stimulus package.

"Yes, absolutely," Collender said when I asked whether this will be a second stimulus package by another name. "Whether it will have as much of an impact [as the first stimulus] is another question," because of the fact that the tax deal largely keeps existing policy in place, rather than creating many new tax cuts to spark the economy.

But Collender's point was that even if this second package is not very stimulative (the Bush era tax cuts will stay in place rather than create new spending), it will cost taxpayers about the same or maybe more than the first stimulus due to the inclusion of items such as the social security tax holiday and estate tax exemption.

It's no wonder then that even while the president acknowledged there will need to be "hard choices" about government spending in the days ahead when he addressed reporters on Monday, he essentially said that difficult conversation will wait for another day down the road because the bipartisan tax deal was too good to resist.

"It's the right thing to do for jobs," Obama said. "It's the right thing to do for the middle class. It is the right thing to do for business. And it's the right thing to do for our economy. It offers us an opportunity that we need to seize."


Filed under: Ed Henry • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Taxes
December 6th, 2010
07:07 PM ET

Obama announces proposed deal on taxes, jobless benefits

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/06/obama.jpg]

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama on Monday announced a deal with Republican leaders that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months while also lowering the payroll tax by two percentage points for a year.

The compromise, worked out in negotiations involving the White House, the Treasury and congressional leaders from both parties, includes provisions that each side doesn't like, Obama said in a hastily arranged statement to reporters after discussing the proposed deal with Democratic leaders.

"It's not perfect," Obama said of the plan, which also would continue tax breaks for students and families contained in the 2009 stimulus bill and allow businesses to write off all investments they make next year. "We cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking for us to solve problems."

As outlined by Obama and sources, the deal would add trillions of dollars to federal spending in coming years by extending the lower tax rates as well as the jobless benefits at a time when the president, Republican leaders and a federal deficit commission appointed by the president all say that the growing federal debt must be brought under control.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Ed Henry • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
November 12th, 2010
01:00 PM ET

Obama says he's not caving on tax cuts

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) - President Barack Obama declared Friday that his "number one priority" is preserving tax cuts for the middle class, and sharply denied that comments by his senior adviser David Axelrod suggest that his administration is about to cave in to Republicans who also want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

"That is the wrong interpretation because I haven't had a conversation with Democratic and Republican leaders," Obama said of a Huffington Post article suggesting that in advance of negotiations with lawmakers next week, the White House has calculated that giving in on tax cuts for the rich is the only way to get the middle class cuts extended too.

"Here's the right interpretation - I want to make sure that taxes don't go up for middle class families starting on January 1st," Obama said at a news conference at the conclusion of the G-20 Summit here. "That is my number one priority for those families and for our economy. I also believe that it would be fiscally irresponsible for us to permanently extend the high income tax cuts. I think that would be a mistake, particularly when we've got our Republican friends saying that their number 1 priority is making sure that we are dealing with our debt and our deficit."

Obama would not tip his hand on the discussions coming when Congress returns to work for a lame-duck session next week.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Ed Henry • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics
October 30th, 2010
03:59 PM ET

Henry in the House: Meek story shows Dem fears of Senate wipeout

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/10/29/meek.democrat.fears/t1larg.meekclinton.gi.jpg caption="Rep. Kendrick Meek, left, is still running for the Senate in Florida, despite reports former President Clinton asked him to quit." width=300 height=169]

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Washington (CNN) - The point that many people seem to be missing in the Florida Senate saga is that this whole mess actually has very little to do with Rep. Kendrick Meek or the Sunshine State - it's all about a much broader fear among senior Democrats that they may be about to lose control of the chamber.

There are some fascinating inside details I've been able to piece together about how and why this Meek story exploded into the public.

In the words of one senior Democratic Party official, the Meek story came to a head because former President Bill Clinton "flew into a purple rage" about the Democratic candidate breaking a private pledge to him to get out of the Senate race and endorse independent candidate Charlie Crist.

But a source close to Clinton said he "never saw anything close" to rage from the former president, who is at peace with how this wound up.

"He always believed this was Meek's decision,' said the source close to Clinton.

As for the Obama adminstiration's role in this, I'm told by senior Democratic officials that while White House aides were in the loop on the Clinton-Meek talks, they were not driving the conversation and were not lobbying Meek to go.

I'm also told that senior officials deliberately kept President Obama out of the loop on these behind-the-scenes conversations because they did not want to get him personally tainted by the Meek story. That came no doubt in part because they didn't want it to blow up in his face like the botched attempt to get Joe Sestak out of the Democratic primary in the Pennsylvania Senate race so many months ago. (Clinton was the intermediary then, too).

But all the jockeying and horse-trading is really just a sideshow. The real story is how bad the broader electoral map has gotten for Democrats heading into the final weekend of this midterm election: Top Democratic officials privately say they believe they are going to lose the House, but as they survey the country they are getting increasingly worried they will also lose the Senate.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Ed Henry • Raw Politics
October 22nd, 2010
10:25 AM ET

Campaign swing takes Obama to California, Nevada

Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

San Francisco, California (CNN) - President Obama will wake up in San Francisco, California, on Friday amid a five-state, four-day tour aimed at propping up embattled key Senate incumbents.

Obama will fly to Los Angeles, California, to attend a fundraiser luncheon at the University of Southern California for Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Gov. Jerry Brown, before delivering remarks at a Democratic National Committee rally at USC's Alumni Park.

Boxer has opened a slight lead against Republican Carly Fiorina, as has Brown in his effort to win his old job back in a nasty battle with Republican Meg Whitman. National Democrats are still watching these races closely to ensure they don't slip out of their hands.

By Friday evening, the president will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, to attend a DNC rally at a middle school before heading to a private residence for a fundraising event for Sen. Harry Reid and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Reid is stuck in the mid-40s in most polls, despite months painting his Republican opponent, Tea Party-friendly Sharron Angle, as an extremist.

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • Ed Henry
July 23rd, 2010
12:21 PM ET

Video: Mystery woman in Sherrod saga

Ed Henry | BIO
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

June 17th, 2010
09:51 AM ET

Video: Is the BP escrow account enough?

Ed Henry | BIO
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

Filed under: Ed Henry • Gulf Oil Spill
June 2nd, 2010
10:34 AM ET

Video: President's PR offensive

Ed Henry | BIO
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

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