White House defends tone on Syria
February 15th, 2012
04:52 PM ET

White House defends tone on Syria

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama has not publicly condemned Syria in the way that he applied pressure on Egypt and Libya, but the White House dismisses criticism that the U.S. resolve in Syria is any less forceful.

“We continue to work with all friends of the Syrian people to mount pressure on Assad to get him to step aside and allow a peaceful political transition to go forward immediately,’ NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor told CNN.

But that hasn’t happened yet even though the Obama administration seems convinced that the writing is on the wall for President. Bashar Assad.

“It’s clear Assad is on his way out. His single-minded brutality has made the end of his rule of Syria inevitable,” Vietor said.

Regime insiders are already moving assets out of the country, U.S. officials said and some are making plans to send their families abroad too.

The White House approach to “squeeze the regime” relies on imposing what one official described as “all possible sanctions.” The administration is also focused on bolstering the Syrian opposition and working to provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrians.

In the coming days, Vietor said the U.S. would be involved in discussions with allies and partners to “crystallize next steps to halt the slaughter of the Syrian people.”

The so called “Friends of Syria” meeting to ensure the political transition to democracy moves forward is set for February 24th in Tunisia.

Meantime, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama was “very engaged” in this issue.

In his meeting with China’s Vice President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Mr. Obama expressed disappointment with their veto [along with Russia] of the United Nations Security Council’s resolution on Syria, according to a senior administration official. The two leaders also discussed the need to move to a transition there.

The brutal government crackdown in Syria and almost daily scenes of violence in the streets only bolsters the international case for Assad’s exit.

“The longer he is permitted to deny this political reality, the greater the risk that he will foment chaos that will destabilize the whole region,” Vietor said.

Topics: President Obama • Syria • The News
Obama campaign mines gold out west
President Obama leaves the White House Wednesday for a midwest and west coast swing.
February 15th, 2012
03:15 PM ET

Obama campaign mines gold out west

It’s a whirlwind tour for the president this week as he travels west to continue pressing his message about strengthening the nation’s sputtering economy – at the same time he will also press some big money supporters to fill his campaign coffers. In the end, after 8 campaign events in 3 days, the bottom line will be an impressive $8.5 million dollars raised, split between the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Obama starts the tour by focusing his message on keeping jobs in America during a visit to a Milwaukee lock factory Wednesday. But it’s only a 2 and a half hour pit stop. The president then heads to the gold coast of California for some serious fundraising and hobnobbing with some serious star power.

The Foo Fighters, winners of five Grammys this week, headline Wednesday evening’s outdoor campaign event for about a thousand of the president’s Gen44 –or young professional supporters. It’s at the private L.A. home of soap opera producer Bradley Bell and co-hosted by comedian Will Ferrell a Democratic official tells CNN.  Most tickets for this event sold for $250, though some went as high as $500. But the big money comes later in the evening when the president stays for dinner with 80 high rolling donors paying $35,800 each for the pleasure of his company according to a Democratic official. FULL POST

Topics: 2012 Election • Campaign • President Obama
Yes, Obama is following Linsanity
February 15th, 2012
02:35 PM ET

Yes, Obama is following Linsanity

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was naturally asked Wednesday if the president is keeping tabs of breakout New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin. The answer: you bet.

The president is an avid sports fan and a particularly avid basketball fan. We were speaking about Jeremy Lin on Marine One as we flew here to Andrews Air Force Base this morning. If anybody caught the highlights from last night, they were pretty breathtaking. It’s just a great story and the president was saying as much this morning. Obviously it’s terrific for the New York Knicks, but it’s the kind of sports story that transcends the sport itself. It involves people who don’t necessarily pay attention. I got my wife to watch the highlight this morning. She was pretty amazed and she doesn’t watch basketball. It’s a great story and yes, he is very impressed and fully up to speed.

The comments came during a quick press gaggle with reporters on Air Force One.

Topics: The News
Celebrating Valentine’s Day like a president
February 15th, 2012
08:25 AM ET

Celebrating Valentine’s Day like a president

(CNN) - Hours after President Obama advised men everywhere to “go big” this Valentine's Day, he himself treated the first lady to a dinner out Tuesday evening at a top-notch Washington-area restaurant.

The restaurant of choice was Vermilion, an Alexandria, VA establishment that has consistently ranked among the capital’s best. It no doubt offers a menu suited for a president (and a presidential salary), featuring such dishes as Garlic Crusted Fluke and Slow Braised Grass-fed lamb.

The first couple departed to the unannounced locale around 7:00 p.m. last night, arriving back about two yours later. Earlier in the day, the president hinted he had something special planned.

"I've gotta take my wife out to dinner. And I would advise anybody watching to make sure they don't miss out on this,” the president said during an interview with Atlanta-based Fox 5.

The special day also resulted in a rare presidential appearance on Twitter:

"Hey, @MichelleObama: Happy Valentine's Day,” the president tweeted himself yesterday, according to his campaign.

Morning Briefing
February 15th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Morning Briefing

The 1600 Report's daily roundup of what the White House is reading this morning online and in the papers:

Obama seeks $5b grant for teachers [NYT]

Will defense cuts hurt Obama in November? [Politico]

Tentative payroll tax cut deal reached [CNN]

Poll shows Romney becoming less likeable [CNN]

Is Santorum more than just ‘not Mitt’? [WashPost]

Xi likely to get chillier reception from Congress than White House [Bloomberg]

POTUS' Day Ahead: Getting out of town
February 15th, 2012
07:45 AM ET

POTUS' Day Ahead: Getting out of town

It's back to the Wild West for President Obama Wednesday - the first day of a three-day swing that will net millions of dollars of campaign cash and involve a few policy speeches as well.

Before reaching the left coast this evening, President Obama touches down in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he will tour the Master Lock factory and deliver an economic address. Then, it's off to Los Angeles where the president has two high dollar fundraisers planned at private residences.

Full schedule:

Topics: Daily Schedule