(CBS News) Striking a hopeful but serious tone about the future of the Middle East, President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday called on his international counterparts to directly and honestly confront the sources of unrest in Muslim countries, as well as the tensions between the West and the Arab world.
At the same time, he urged world leaders -- and, no doubt, an American electorate -- to "remember that this is a season of progress."
Mr. Obama hailed the political progress in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, as well as developments outside the Arab world, as in Somalia and Burma.
"Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future," he said. "And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot."
Beginning and ending his nearly hour-long remarks by invoking the memory of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was murdered along with three other Americans when the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya came under attack, the president laid out the values that America stands for -- the values Mr. Obama said the nation would continue to promote around the world.Continue »
(CBS News) The White House on Monday gave no clear explanation for why President Obama has no bilateral meetings scheduled with the world leaders who are in New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly. His lack of meetings stands in contrast to last year's General Assembly, when the president held more than a dozen bilateral meetings.
When asked repeatedly about the lack of meetings, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday he was "not going to preview every minute by minute" of the president's schedule. He noted that the president regularly engages directly with world leaders.
"The president just in recent weeks has had intensive consultations with leaders in the region, with the leaders of Turkey, of Egypt, of Israel, of Yemen, of Libya, of Afghanistan, and that process will continue," Carney said. "It is a simple fact that when you're president of the United States, your responsibility as commander-in-chief never ends and you are constantly engaged in matters of foreign affairs and national security. And that's what this president is doing."Continue »
(CBS News) Congress on Wednesday bestowed its highest honor on democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, in recognition of her efforts to free the people of Burma.
House Speaker John Boehner said the Congressional Gold Medal is a symbol not only of what Suu Kyi has already accomplished but also "of our highest hopes and for the hard work that lies ahead. Because freedom isn't easy to find. It takes a long, winding road."
Suu Kyi was freed from 15 years of house arrest in 2010, when Burma's repressive military regime began moving toward democracy. She is now a member of the Burmese parliament. President George W. Bush in 2008 signed legislation to grant her the medal, but she could not receive it in person until now.
"This is a moment for which I have been waiting for many years," Suu Kyi said.Continue »
(CBS News) Amid an ongoing investigation surrounding the recent violence in Libya and Egypt that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, a new poll from Gallup suggests that voters, for the first time since 2008, trust Democrats and Republicans equally on the matter of protecting the U.S. from international terrorism and military threats.
According to the poll, which was conducted September 6-9 - before Tuesday's attacks - 45 percent of voters believe Democrats will do a better job of protecting Americans from those threats; 45 percent said the same of Republicans.
The last time Democrats and Republicans were on equal footing on this question was in 2008, aside from moments in 2006 and 2007, Republicans have otherwise led on the question since 2002, when Gallup started asking the question.
In addition to ending the war in Iraq and setting a timeline to do the same in Afghanistan, President Obama has throughout his presidency focused heavily on veteran issues, and is making a hard pitch to build military and veteran support this fall. On the campaign trail, he and his surrogates have trumpeted the death of Osama bin Laden as a primary foreign policy achievement, and the campaign has continually pushed back against the notion that the president is soft on foreign policy.Ryan sharpens criticism of Obama Continue »
"The administration sent mixed signals to those who attacked our embassy in Egypt, and mixed signals to the world," Ryan said to a crowd of roughly 3,000 people Wednesday evening. "I want to be clear. It is never too early for the United States to condemn attacks on Americans, on our properties, and to defend our values. That's what leadership is all about."Continue »
Updated: 5:26 p.m. ET
(CBS News) WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney does not currently receive national security briefings, his campaign confirmed to CBS News today.
Typically, presidential candidates begin receiving briefings after securing their party's nomination, which Romney did in Tampa two weeks ago.
"It's a long-standing practice for presidential candidates and select advisers to be provided intelligence briefings following the party's nominating convention," Shawn Turner, the spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told CNN in June. "During the last presidential campaign, all the candidates began receiving briefings in September following the conventions."Continue »
(CBS News) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Moments after reiterating his criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of the diplomatic crisis unfolding in Libya and Egypt, Mitt Romney attacked the president on another foreign policy front, telling supporters at his campaign office in Florida that he couldn't "imagine ever saying, 'No,'" to a request for a meeting with the Israeli prime minister.
The comment came a day after the Israeli news media reported that President Obama could not find time in his schedule to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister travels to the United Nations in New York City later this month.
"I can't ever imagine, if the prime minister of Israel asked to meet with me, I can't imagine ever saying, 'No,'" Romney said while shaking hands with supporters. "They're our friends, they're our closest allies in the Middle East."Continue »
Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET
(CBS News) President Obama on Wednesday morning said that the United States will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the attackers who killed four Americans in Libya overnight, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.
"We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice will be done," Mr. Obama said from the White House rose garden. "Make no mistake, justice will be done."
Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack by Muslim protesters on the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi, the U.S. government confirmed Wednesday.
Mr. Obama said he has ordered heightened security at all U.S. diplomatic offices around the world in the wake of the attack, as well as protests in Cairo on Tuesday. Both incidents were sparked by hardline Muslims protesting a film made in the U.S. that insults the Muslim prophet Muhammad.The United States, the president said, is "a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others." However, he added, "There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts."
Mr. Obama said that many Libyans have already joined the U.S. in condemning the violence and noted that Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans also helped some American diplomats find safety and carried Stevens' body to the hospital where he died.
"This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya," Mr. Obama said.Continue »
Updated: 3:32 p.m. ET
(CBS News) In a press conference Wednesday addressing the recent violence in Egypt and Libya, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney doubled down on his criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the attacks, calling its response a "terrible course" that signaled the administration is standing "in apology for our values."
The Romney campaign put out a statement late last night -- on September 11 -- criticizing the president in connection with the violence. After he released the statement, it became known that four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, were killed after an angry mob at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in response to the production of an amateur anti-Islam film.
Speaking at a brief media availability Wednesday morning, the candidate defended his criticism, particularly targeting the White House over a statement from the Egyptian embassy that condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."Continue »
Updated 12:15 a.m. ET Sept. 12, 2012
(CBS News) After a massive crowd of angry Egyptians began amassing outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, furious over an anti-Muslim film produced in the U.S., the embassy there released a statement saying it did not support any anti-religious efforts.
"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions," the statement began.
Conservatives have pounced on the statement, calling it an "apology," and the White House responded by saying it had not approved the statement before its release.Continue »
"If you hear anyone trying to say that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, don't you believe it," said Mr. Obama, in a speech to some 5,000 soldiers in camouflage fatigues.
"Here's the truth," he said. "Our alliances have never been stronger. We're leading on behalf of freedom, including standing with the people of Libya that are finally free from Muammar Qaddafi."Continue »
Meanwhile, the Afghan government appears to be rife with corruption and incompetence. One of the latest distressing revelations involves the Afghan finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, who has had hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited into his bank account - often in cash - while holding positions allowing him to influence winners and losers in the Afghan economy.
In March - after a shooting rampage by a U.S. soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan civilians and the burning of Korans on a U.S. military base that prompted violent protests - the Obama administration said it was sticking to its timetable for the U.S. and NATO to hand security control of the country over to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
Since then we've heard little from the president on Afghanistan, outside of references in his stump speech to drawing down troops to bring the decade-long war to an end. Mitt Romney has also rarely mentioned the war, about which his views are somewhat hard to parse: He has harshly criticized Mr. Obama for setting a timetable for withdrawal while seeming to support the plan to pull most American troops out of the country by the end of 2014. (Romney said in July that he opposes plans to pull 23,000 of the 84,000 remaining U.S. troops out by October.) Romney put out a statement Thursday honoring the troops killed in a helicopter crash in Southern Afghanistan, but he has had little to say on the numerous signs that the nation may be ill-prepared for the handover set to take place in 28 months.
One reason the war has been little-discussed on the campaign trail is obvious: Americans overwhelmingly say the economy, not foreign policy, is their chief concern. Particularly in an age where the military is an all-volunteer proposition, it's easy for everyday concerns to overshadow conflicts being fought thousands of miles away.Continue »
WARSAW, Poland - Mitt Romney praised the Polish economy as an example for the world in a speech in Warsaw on Tuesday, as his six-day foreign tour heads to an end.
The presumptive Republican nominee celebrated the relationship between Poland and the U.S. and said it has been one of America's oldest allies.
"I believe it is critical to stand by those who stood by America," he said. "At every turn in our history, through wars and crises, through every change in the geopolitical map, we have met as friends and allies. That was true in America's Revolutionary War. It was true in the dark days of the Second World War. And it has been true in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Romney mentioned Poland's Pope John Paul II several times throughout the speech, and praised his work to bring about the end of the Cold War. And, Romney also mentioned former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in his remarks, delighting some political observers who predict she could be his choice for a running mate.Continue »
After a speech on international religious freedom at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., Clinton was asked about "Islamophobia" in the United States and whether she had "any comments about this recent activity in Congress targeting one of your own aides."
"Leaders have to be active in stepping in and sending messages about protecting the diversity within their countries," Clinton said. "And frankly, I don't see enough of that, and I want to see more of it. I want to see more of it, and we did see some of that in our own country. We saw Republicans stepping up and standing up against the kind of assaults that really have no place in our politics."
The controversy stems from a letter Bachmann and four other Republican members of Congress sent to top intelligence and security officials earlier this month questioning the Muslim Brotherhood's access to top Obama administration officials. Abedin -- who the Clintons have described as a like a daughter to them -- was singled out in the letter.
In a fact sheet in conjunction with the signing, the White House proclaimed that "The President has galvanized the international community to put more pressure on the Iranian regime than ever before," " The President has stood with Israel in times of crisis," and "The President has forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system."
While signing the bill, meanwhile, Mr. Obama both promised additional spending to support Israel's Iron Dome missile defense program and mentioned the United States' "unshakeable" ties to Israel. Twice.
(Obama signs U.S.-Israel cooperation bill on Friday.)
"What this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakeable commitment to Israel security," he said.
It was hard to not to take note of the timing of the bill signing and associated pro-Israel rhetoric. It came just one day before a trip to Israel by Mitt Romney that appears designed to bolster the presumptive Republican presidential nominee with Jewish voters at home. While a recent Gallup poll shows Mr. Obama leading Romney 64 percent to 29 percent among Jewish voters, the president's support appears to be down: In the 2008 election, he won the support of 78 percent of Jewish voters.Continue »
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