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Obama Says Clinton’s Strengths Also Weaknesses As Sanders Surges

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said that while Hillary Clinton has the most experience among candidates vying to succeed him, her strengths can sometimes be her weaknesses, allowing Bernie Sanders to appeal to the main concerns of the Democratic Party’s core voters.

“Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete long shot, and just let loose. I think Hillary came in with the both privilege and burden of being perceived as the front-runner,” Obama said in an interview with Politico released Monday morning. “If you are a front-runner, then you’re under more scrutiny and everybody’s going to pick you apart.”

The president said Sanders would likely be subjected to more rigorous vetting if he wins early nominating contests in Iowa or New Hampshire.

“The longer you go in the process, the more you’re going to have to pass a series of hurdles that the voters are going to put in front of you,” he said. “This job, right here, you don’t have the luxury of just focusing on one thing.”

Obama didn’t give an endorsement to either of the candidates for the Democratic nomination. Still, he said Sanders, who has largely campaigned on addressing economic inequality, as president wouldn’t have luxury of only focusing on that issue. He described Clinton as experienced, “wicked smart, knows every policy inside and out.”

Obama rejected the assertion that the 2016 Democratic primary contest is a rerun of 2008, where he as insurgent candidate defeated Clinton, who began as the front-runner. He told Politico that the gulf between the Democratic and Republican candidates has widened since 2008, when he won the presidency. He said the real contrast in the 2016 race isn’t between Clinton and Sanders but between them and the Republican candidates, particularly Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

©2016 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks to members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in the East Room at the White House in Washington January 21, 2016.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Obama Says Scott Walker Would Be Foolish To Revoke Iran Deal

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said his successor would be unwise to scuttle a nuclear deal with Iran, rebuking potential Republican candidates who oppose an agreement.

Obama referred directly to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has said he would revoke an accord on the first day of his presidency.

“It would be a foolish approach to take,” Obama said in an interview with National Public Radio that aired Tuesday. “Perhaps Mr. Walker, after he’s taken some time to bone up on foreign policy, will feel the same way.”

Obama’s comments come as his administration has been defending a framework agreement reached with Iran amid growing opposition from Republican lawmakers and the party’s potential 2016 presidential candidates. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, one of those possible contenders, also has said the next president should revoke the deal.

Forty-seven Republican senators, including at least four potential White House aspirants, sent a letter to Iranian leaders last month warning that any deal they reached with Obama could be undone by the next president.

As a bipartisan coalition in Congress is seeking a vote on any deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program, Obama defended his administration’s ability to negotiate an agreement without lawmakers’ approval.

“There is long precedent for a whole host of international agreements in which there’s not a formal treaty ratified by Congress,” he said.

Negotiators have until the end of June to finalize the pact, ironing out technical features including the number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to keep and how quickly economic sanctions will be lifted.

Obama said the deal is the best option to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and will be valuable even if Iran doesn’t back away from its anti-Israel rhetoric.

“The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms,” the president said. “And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.”

The comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any deal must require Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel,” and “would not block Iran’s path to the bomb,” Netanyahu said in a Twitter post last week.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Obama Orders 40 Percent Reduction In Carbon Emissions By U.S. Agencies

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama ordered the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 2008 levels over the next ten years by shifting to renewable energy sources such as solar power.

The executive order signed by Obama Thursday builds on a 2010 directive from the White House requiring 35 U.S. agencies to limit their energy consumption to help combat climate change. Private companies that contract with the federal government have also agreed to pursue emissions reductions in concert with the most recent directive.

As the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S., the federal government can help create a “virtuous cycle,” driving down costs and reducing environmental damage, Obama said. With little support in Congress for his environmental initiatives, Obama has used executive orders to try to limit U.S. gas emissions.

“We thought it was important for us to lead by example,” Obama said Thursday while meeting executives from International Business Machines Corp., Honeywell International Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., and other companies at the Energy Department. “We’re proving that it is possible to grow our economy robustly while at the same time doing the right thing for our environment and tackling climate change in a serious way.”

The administration has been trying to build momentum for an international accord on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at a summit in Paris at the end of this year. Having won an agreement from China to cap emissions, Obama has been challenging other nations to follow suit.

Obama spoke with the company leaders after touring a set of solar panels on the roof of the Energy Department in Washington.

The companies, including General Electric Co., Hewlett-Packard, and Northrop Grumman Corp., pledged to increase the use of renewable energy. IBM setting a goal of reducing carbon emissions 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. The White House released a scorecard Thursday tracking the emissions disclosures for companies that supply goods and services to the federal government.

Chris Warren, a spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research in Washington, said Obama’s move “will have no impact on global temperatures.”

“The president is clearly trying to boost his climate credentials to appease the national environmental lobby, regardless of what it means for the average American,” said Warren, whose organization supports limited government regulation of utilities.

Under Obama’s order, federal agencies will be required to obtain 25 percent of their total energy from renewable sources by 2025. The order targets the 360,000 federal buildings across the U.S., requiring a 2.5 percent annual reduction in energy use for the next decade. The federal government’s fleet of 650,000 vehicles will be required to reduce per-mile carbon emissions by 30 percent.

The goal of reducing emissions by 40 percent already includes the 17 percent reduction achieved since 2008, said Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Obama. Reaching the goal would save taxpayers $18 billion per year and would be equivalent to taking 5.5 million cars off the road, Deese said.

Photo: A coal power plant in New Mexico (Glennia via Flickr)

Obama Deputy Warns Senate Against Undermining Iran Nuclear Talks

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON –– The Obama administration moved to curb further interference with negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program, asking a U.S. senator to keep Congress on the sidelines until a deal is done.

In a letter sent Saturday to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff advised holding off on legislation that would grant lawmakers a more prominent role in the U.S.-Iran deal-making process.

“The legislation would likely have a profoundly negative impact on the ongoing negotiations,” Denis McDonough wrote. “This would complicate the possibility of achieving a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue if legislative action is taken before a deal is completed.”

The rare attempt by lawmakers to put themselves in the middle of diplomatic negotiations boiled over last week when 47 congressional Republicans sent an open letter to Iran warning it against cutting a deal with diplomats from the U.S. and five other world powers aimed at keeping Iran from making nuclear weapons. Corker, who didn’t sign the letter, co-sponsored a proposal to give Congress the final say on any deal, accusing Obama of trying to sidestep the legislative branch.

Obama would veto the bill if it passes, McDonough said.

“The administration’s request to the Congress is simple: let us complete the negotiations before the Congress acts on legislation,” he wrote.

Corker said Congress should be able to take a vote on the deal before it is final.

“On this issue where Congress has played such a vital role, I believe it is very important that Congress appropriately weigh in before any final agreement is implemented,” he said in a statement responding to McDonough’s letter.

Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said he has picked up support from Democrats for his bill and has sought to preserve a veto-proof majority.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, one of the Democratic co- sponsors of the bill, defended it Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“All our bill does is sets up the process under which Congress reviews a deal,” he said. “This is a very bipartisan and deliberative approach to looking at something that is fundamentally about our nation’s security interests, and if they’re going to unwind congressional sanctions, Congress is going to be involved.”

Democrats supporting the proposal have vowed to wait until after the March 24 deadline for the talks before voting on it. Republicans have tried to advance the bill for a vote before the deadline.

In his letter, McDonough included assurances that Congress will have an opportunity to weigh in on the deal.

“We agree that Congress will have a role to play — and will have to take a vote — as part of any comprehensive deal,” he wrote. “As we have repeatedly said, even if a deal is reached, only Congress can terminate the existing Iran statutory sanctions.”

McDonough said Corker’s bill “would potentially prevent any deal from succeeding” by undermining U.S. negotiators and “emboldening Iranian hard-liners.” Part of the bill, which would restrict Obama’s ability to lift some sanctions on Iran, would make securing an agreement more difficult and alienate the U.S. from its international negotiating partners, he said.
––––
Clea Benson in Washington contributed to this report.

Photo: Denis McDonough addresses the U.S. Islamic World Forum on May 30, 2012. (U.S.-Islamic World Forum/Flickr)