Following a declaration by President Obama, American flags at the White House and U.S. Capitol have been lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of last night's shootings in Aurora, Colorado.
This afternoon, Mr. Obama ordered flags to be flown at half-staff or half-mast at the White House, all public buildings, military posts, naval stations, naval vessels, and U.S. facilities abroad until July 25. In his proclamation, the president said the action was being taken "[a]s a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on July 20, 2012."
The president led a moment of silence for the victims earlier today.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from wounds sustained during a January 2011 shooting spree in her Arizona district, was "horrified" to hear about the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado overnight, according to a Tweet from her husband, Mark Kelly.
"Gabby and I were horrified to hear of the tragedy in Colorado last night," Kelly wrote. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."
Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery.
Are Mitt Romney's charges that President Obama engaged in "crony capitalism" fair?
Romney - who has been fighting off attacks on his tenure at Bain Capital and refusal to release more of his tax returns - went on the offensive this week against what he cast as the president's practice of using taxpayer dollars to pay off his donors.
"I am ashamed to say that we're seeing our president hand out money to the businesses of campaign contributors, when he gave money, $500 million in loans to a company called Fisker that makes high end electric cars, and they make the cars now in Finland," he said in Pennsylvania Tuesday." That is wrong and it's got to stop. That kind of crony capitalism does not create jobs and it does not create jobs here."
Fisker is just one of the examples Romney and Republicans have cited. They include:
- Solar power company Solyndra, which went bankrupt after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the government. One of the lead investors in the company was a fundraiser for the president named George Kaiser. Another Obama fundraiser who oversaw the loan guarantee program, Steven Spinner, pushed for the guarantee.
- Steve Westley, who raised more than $500,000 for Mr. Obama in 2008. Republicans complain that Westley, who has close ties to the Department of Energy, benefited from $500 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of energy department loans. They have called on the Obama administration to release a conflict of interest review related to Westley's service on an Energy Department advisory board.
- BrightSource Energy, which received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee after hiring a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden to lobby the administration.
- And then there's Fisker Automotive, which Republicans suggest received $500 million in loan guarantees because Obama fundraiser John Doerr had connections to the company.
Romney and his allies say all this adds up to a clear pattern: Mr. Obama using taxpayer dollars to reward the people who raised money to help him get elected.Continue »
Fifty-four percent of adults nationwide say the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should provide further returns to the public. That includes three in four Democrats, more than half of independents, and 30 percent of Republicans.
Thirty-seven percent say Romney should not release additional returns. The remaining nine percent had no opinion.
Romney has released his 2010 returns and promised to release his 2011 return when it is completed. Democrats and some Republicans say that Romney should release further returns, noting that Romney's father George released 12 years of returns when he ran for president.
Romney and his surrogates have insisted that two years of returns conforms to standard practice, noting that Sen. John McCain only released two years of returns when he ran for president four years ago. But most recent nominees have released far more information: John Kerry released 20 years of returns, George W. Bush and Al Gore released nine years of returns, and President Obama released seven years of returns.
Romney has also suggested that releasing more returns will allow his political opponents to twist the truth.Continue »
CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.(CBS News) President Obama and Mitt Romney are effectively tied in the race for the presidency, according to a new CBS News/New York Times survey.
Forty-seven percent of registered voters nationwide who lean towards a candidate back Romney, while 46 percent support the president. Four percent are undecided. The 1 percentage point difference is within the survey's three-point margin of error.
Romney leads by eight points among men; the president leads by five points among women.
The president's supporters are more likely to strongly back their candidate. Fifty-two percent strongly favor Mr. Obama, while just 29 percent of Romney voters strongly back the presumptive Republican nominee.
More than one in three Romney voters say they are supporting Romney primarily because they dislike Mr. Obama. Only eight percent of Obama supporters say their support for the president is tied to their dislike of Romney.
Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats when it comes to voting in this election, though just one in three registered voters overall are more enthusiastic than they were in the past. Roughly half of Republicans say they are more enthusiastic compared to past elections - up from 36 percent in March - while just 27 percent of Democrats say they same.
One in five registered voters with a candidate choice said they still might change their mind. The percentage of those willing to switch was essentially the same for both candidates.Continue »
CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
(CBS News) Nearly two out of three registered voters believes that President Obama's policies contributed to some degree to the economic downturn, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
Thirty-four percent say Mr. Obama's policies contributed significantly to the downturn, and another 30 percent say they contributed to some degree. Thirty-five percent say the president's policies contributed little or not at all to the downturn.
While a majority of voters say Mr. Obama has at least some ownership of the recession, far more blame his predecessor, President George W. Bush. The downturn began before Mr. Obama took office.
Nearly half say Mr. Bush's policies played a significant role in creating the nation's current economic problems. Another 33 percent say they played some role. Only 18 percent say Mr. Bush's policies had little to no impact.
Forty-six percent of registered voters - including more than half of independents - say Mr. Obama's economic policies will never improve the economy. Thirty-four percent, including 31 percent of independents, say his policies will improve the economy if given more time. Just 17 percent believe his policies are currently improving the economy.Continue »
CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.
(CBS News) A majority of registered voters believe that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's policies favor the rich, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
Fifty-three percent say Romney's policies favor the wealthy. Eleven percent say his policies favor the middle class, while two percent say they favor the poor. Thirty percent say Romney's policies treat all groups equally.
Americans were split on which segment of society is favored by President Obama's policies. Twenty-one percent say his policies favor the rich, while 22 percent say they favor the middle class and 24 percent say they favor the poor. One in four say his policies treat all groups equally.
Asked separately which candidate will do more to help the middle class, 52 percent pointed to Mr. Obama, including 15 percent of Republicans. Thirty-eight percent cited Romney, including five percent of Democrats. Among independents, 48 percent cited Mr. Obama while 40 percent cited Romney.Continue »
That's the message coming from Romney's Ohio campaign manager, Scott Jennings, who argued in an interview that Mr. Obama's "hostility to domestic oil production" - particularly when it comes to coal - will help put Romney over the top in this pivotal swing state. Mr. Obama is holding a campaign event in Cincinnati on Monday.
Jennings pointed to the fact that six coal-burning power plants in Ohio - three in or around Cleveland and one each near Toledo, Dayton and Cincinnati - are slated to close or have closed, taking hundreds of jobs and much-needed tax revenue with them. Republicans and many in the coal industry attribute the closures in large part to Environmental Protection Agency regulations mandating reduced mercury and other emissions. Jennings said the losses will resonate across a state where the Ohio Coal Association, citing unnamed studies, says there are up to 11 "spin-off" jobs tied to each of the more than 3,000 jobs in the state in the coal industry.
"The energy policies don't just affect a guy that's a coal miner," he said.
The notion that Mr. Obama has declared "war on coal," as his detractors put it, could have ramifications beyond Ohio. Anger toward the Obama administration is boiling over in coal mining areas of West Virginia like Mingo County, where some residents blame the president for mine and plant closures and lost jobs - an apparent factor in the strong showing by a convicted felon against the president in the Democratic primary early this year. (Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has aggressively distanced himself from the president and his policies on coal.) And while Mr. Obama has little chance of taking West Virginia regardless of his position on coal, the industry is also significant in nearby Pennsylvania, where the president holds a single-digit lead in recent polls, as well as the crucial swing state of Virginia.
Mr. Obama signed the law surrounded by construction workers and college students as well as members of Congress and other elected officials. The president had been pressing Congress to take action for months.
"These steps will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans," he said shortly before signing the bill.Continue »
(CBS News) Josephine "Ann" Harris, the owner of "Ann's Place" restaurant in Akron, Ohio, died of an apparent heart attack hours after meeting President Obama this morning, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.
Harris, 70, hugged the president when he visited her restaurant this morning as part of his "Betting on America" bus tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania. She was photographed alongside the president during his visit, as you can see below. (Harris is in the center.)
Harris' sister Frankie Adkins told the newspaper that Harris "loved Obama." Adkins said the visit would have been a "highlight" for Harris, who had reportedly been "ecstatic" about the president's visit when she spoke to a reporter Friday morning.
Mr. Obama stopped into the restaurant and had breakfast with three Goodyear Tire employees around 8:30 a.m.; Harris was reportedly pronounced dead at 11:18 a.m.
Speaking aboard Air Force One late Friday, White House Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Mr. Obama extends his sorrow and condolences to Harris' family. He said the president phoned Harris' daughter Wilma Parsons after hearing the news.
"He was honored to meet her this morning and passed on his feelings that the whole family is in his thoughts and prayers today," Carney said.
The video, which was obtained by TMZ, is below. It shows Christie, who is wearing a short-sleeve shirt and holding an ice cream cone, pointing at someone on the boardwalk and saying, "you're a big shot. You're a real big shot."
"You're a real big shot shooting your mouth off," Christie continues, walking in the direction of the person to whom he is speaking.
According to TMZ, the person Christie is confronting had "fired off some snide comments about Christie's policy on education." The man reportedly responds to Christie's "big shot" comments by saying, "Nah, just take care of the teachers."Continue »
Ten other states and the District of Columbia have also requested waivers; their applications are currently under review. Just 14 states have not sought waivers from the law, and they are eligible to do so in the future.
In a press release announcing the latest waivers, the Department of Education made clear the Obama administration's dim view of the law. The Department said that NCLB's "rigid, top-down prescriptions for reform, while well-intentioned, proved burdensome for many states."
No Child Left Behind, which was signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush, was designed to provide greater accountability in schools when it comes to student achievement. Its most controversial provision was requirements for annual testing of elementary, middle, and high school students in reading, math and science. States were required to make every student "proficient" in reading and math by the 2013-2014 school year. The law also mandated that schools get annual "report cards" of their progress.
Critics said the law led to a misguided focus on "teaching to the test" and deemed the requirement that all students be proficient by the 2013-2014 school year unrealistic. The also noted that nearly half of schools in the country were being branded as failures under the law for not meeting targets for achievement on standardized tests.Continue »
Updated 9:48 a.m. Eastern Time
Mitt Romney's campaign for president is coming under increasing pressure to change course - or clean house - from establishment Republicans who fear the Romney campaign is squandering a prime opportunity to win back the White House.
"This latest mistake is of a piece with the campaign's insular staff and strategy that are slowly squandering an historic opportunity," the Journal wrote. "...Mr. Romney promised Republicans he was the best man to make the case against President Obama, whom they desperately want to defeat. So far Mr. Romney is letting them down."
Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor at the conservative National Review, told CBS News that the criticism and others like it is "reflective of real conservative unease about the Romney campaign strategy, and also about the campaign's at least perceived insularity."Continue »
"There are probably 15 names of people, including Kelly Ayotte," he replied.
Ayotte, who was elected in 2010, has been a consistent advocate for Romney in New Hampshire during the Republican primary process and beyond, winning positive reviews in the process.
"She has been a totally hands-on surrogate who has been like a volunteer," said former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath, a senior campaign adviser to Romney in the state. "She will do anything we ask her to, and she does it with great enthusiasm and spirit."
The appeal of Ayotte as a running mate is obvious: Youthful and articulate, the 44-year-old former attorney general can make a strong case for Romney while appealing to female swing voters, a voting bloc expected to play a major role in deciding swing states like Colorado and Ayotte's native New Hampshire. (A CNN/ORC international poll this week showed President Obama with a double-digit lead over Romney with women nationally.) A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she has staked out a reputation as strong on national security - an area where Romney has little in the way of credentials.
Yet Ayotte is rarely mentioned among the leading contenders to join the Republican ticket. That's due in part to Sarah Palin: Memories of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee - another 40-something woman with little national name recognition before she was tapped - are still fresh in many Republicans' minds. The notion that Palin was not prepared for the presidency has taken root among many in the party, and Romney's advisers have stressed that his running mate must be someone ready to step into the top job if necessary. Ayotte, who has just 18 months of Senate experience, may - fairly or not - be seen as unable to meet that criterion.Continue »
A quick recap: The high court found the law constitutional because the individual mandate central to the law includes what the court considers a "tax" on some people who don't buy health insurance - and Congress has the constitutional right to levy taxes. Suddenly deprived of their argument that the law is unconstitutional, Republicans switched their messaging, pointing to that finding to argue that President Obama had forced a massive tax increase on the American people.
The problem? The health care law Romney passed when he was governor of Massachusetts also included a "tax," by the Supreme Court's reasoning, on those who choose not to buy health care. It was even bigger, in fact, than the "tax" in the Obama-backed health care law. As Norah O'Donell put it to House Speaker John Boehner on Sunday's "Face the Nation": "The facts are that the penalty in Massachusetts under Mitt Romney for not buying health insurance was twelve hundred dollars. The penalty under the president's health care law at its highest rate would be about seven hundred dollars. The Massachusetts tax penalty was more restrictive and more punitive than the president's."
Romney not only signed off on the penalty, or tax, but even argued for it in print, writing in a 2009 op-ed: "[W]e established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others." So in arguing that Mr. Obama is a massive tax raiser, Republicans are rather inconveniently arguing their presumptive presidential nominee is one as well.
The White House has countered Republicans' claims that the mandate represents a tax hike by maintaining that it includes a "penalty" - not a "tax" - on the 1-2 percent of so-called "free-riders" who choose not to pay for health care. This morning on MSNBC, the Romney campaign made the same argument - effectively siding with the Obama administration over the Republican Party.Continue »