TIME 2016 Election

Romney Says Chance He Runs In 2016 Is ‘One Of A Million’

NBC

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday put the odds of his mounting a third bid for the White House at “one of a million.”

The former Massachusetts governor told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he did not think he is well positioned to take on the expected Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and referenced this famous scene from 1994’s Dumb and Dumber when pressed.

“Well, you know, let’s say all the guys that were running all came together and said, ‘Hey, we’ve decided we can’t do it, you must do it,'” Romney said. “That’s the one of the million we’re thinking about.”

“I just want to confirm you’re telling me that we’ve got a chance there,” Hewitt asked. “The Dumb and Dumber, one of a million,” Romney replied.

Some in the Republican establishment have called on Romney to mount a repeat candidacy, arguing that the GOP needs an established figure to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Backers have pointed to recent polls which give Romney an edge over Obama were the 2012 election to be repeated today. Supporters have also cited foreign policy developments that they argue vindicate Romney’s mocked-at-the-time warnings about Russia and China.

“The reason I came to the conclusion I did, which is this is not the right time for me to run, is because of my belief that someone else stands a better chance of winning than I do,” Romney said. “Had that not been the case, had I believed I would actually be best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton, then I would be running. But I actually believe that someone new that is not defined yet–someone who perhaps is from the next generation–will be able to catch fire, potentially, build a movement, and be able to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Romney has raised eyebrows with a nationwide travel and fundraising schedule on behalf of Republicans this fall, an effort Romney confidants say was born out of his desire to thank Republicans for supporting him in 2012–not in an attempt to earn their backing for 2016. Romney’s 2012 running-mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, told Hewitt in an interview Monday that he would welcome a repeat bid by Romney.

Romney said he would “hope” that he’d be a better candidate if he ran a third time. “But at the same time, there are people who are not yet known by the American public who have extraordinary records, great capability, Paul Ryan being one of them, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio,” he said, listing off some of the Republicans known to be mulling 2016 White House bids. “Of course, people are getting to know Chris Christie. Jeb Bush, they don’t know Jeb Bush as the governor of Florida, and the kind of record he has and had there.”

Romney left Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul off his list of strong contenders, going on to say that he disagrees with those in his party who are pushing for the United States to disengage from the world. Romney pledged he would “continue to speak out on issues of significance as I see them, and hopefully be able to convince the people who are running from our party to adopt policies that encompass foreign policy and keeping America safe.”

In the interview, Romney also said he would be uninterested in serving as the running-mate for the eventual GOP nominee. “I would always be happy to serve my country in any way that I was called upon to do,” Romney said. “But that’s not a job I would seek. I was seeking the presidency, not the vice presidency.”

Listen to the interview here.

TIME White House

White House Announces Program to Lower Military Mortgage Payments

Soldiers Return To Fort Carson After Seven-Month Deployment In Iraq
A U.S. Army soldier salutes the flag during the national anthem at a welcome home ceremony for troops returning from Iraq on Nov. 10, 2011, in Fort Carson, Colo. More than 100 soldiers from the 549th Quartermaster Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade returned after a seven-month deployment. They played a key role in removing excess equipment from Iraq as other troops withdrew from the region John Moore—Getty Images

Five banks will make it easier for active-duty Americans to get their mortgage fees capped

The Obama Administration announced a new program Tuesday to make it easier for active-duty servicemen and servicewomen to afford homes. The White House hopes the plan will help thousands of military families save hundreds of dollars or more each year.

Currently, Americans serving on active duty are eligible to have their home interest rates and some other debt fees capped at 6% under a 2003 law, but they must first prove their eligibility to lenders. Recent studies by the Government Accountability Office, however, have found many of those entitled to protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) don’t benefit from them, because they’re either unaware of them or choose not to deal with the paperwork involved. Speaking to veterans at the American Legion National Convention, President Barack Obama announced a plan to address those issues, with five of the country’s largest mortgage lenders agreeing to make the process easier and to proactively reach out to those who should be eligible for lower rates.

“We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll,” Obama said. “In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.”

According to the White House, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing, CitiMortgage and Quicken Loans are participating in the program. The five companies are also pledging to more frequently check Defense Department databases to see whether their customers are entitled to unclaimed benefits.

“Our preliminary analysis suggests that this new partnership will help tens of thousands of military families save money by reducing their mortgage interest rates,” wrote National Economic Council director Jeff Zients in a blog post on the White House website shared with TIME before publication. “On a $200,000 mortgage, even an interest rate reduction of only one percent will result in over $1,500 a year in savings for our military families — money they can put towards daily expenses, retirement savings or sending their children to college.”

“It’s clearly the right thing to proactively reach out to active-duty military members and make sure they — and their families — are financially protected,” said Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson. “Our military members have enough on their plate without burdening them with the added stress of having to contact their lenders to activate benefits the law entitles them to receive.”

The Financial Services Roundtable industry group hailed the announcement in a statement Tuesday, announcing that about 5,500 homes have been donated by affiliated companies to veterans and their families.

“We are proud that the voluntary commitments made in partnership with the White House today reinforce the industry’s overall mission to give back to those who sacrifice the most for this country,” said the group’s Housing Policy Council president and former Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton, in a statement.

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Warns of Extended Campaign Against ISIS

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. Charles Dharapak—AP

The President makes his first public comments on the U.S. military campaign in Iraq since returning from vacation

President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday that the United States would not rest until it brought to justice the killer of American journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” Obama told an audience of veterans and their families at the American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. a week after the extremist group released a video showing the graphic execution of Foley by an ISIS fighter. These were Obama’s first public comments on the conflict since returning from vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple. America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done,” Obama said, referencing Foley’s killing. “We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans to go after those who harm Americans. And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.”

As he weighs expanding the fight against ISIS into Syria, Obama warned that “history teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama has yet to decide whether to authorize the expansion of the weeks-long American air campaign in Iraq against the group.

Obama said that the strikes against ISIS have been limited to protecting U.S. forces and diplomats in Iraq, reaffirming that U.S. troops would not be sent back on the ground beyond an advisory capacity.

“Let me say it again: American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” he said. “We’ll not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq because, ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.”

TIME White House

White House Touts Petition Site But Many Await Replies

President Obama delivers a statement to provide an update on Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri - DC
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement to provide an update on Iraq and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC> Olivier Douliery/pool—© Olivier Douliery/pool/Corbis

A mixed record

The White House could hardly contain itself earlier this month when President Barack Obama signed a bill allowing American consumers to unlock their cell phones. The bill was driven in part by the White House’s own petition website, “We The People,” and touted as an example of a new model of citizen advocacy influencing change in Washington.

“Today, President Obama will sign into law the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, and in doing so, will achieve a rare trifecta: a win for American consumers, a win for wireless competition, and an example of Democracy at its best—bipartisan Congressional action in direct response to a call to action from the American people,” Jeffrey Zients, the Director of the National Economic Council, and Sen. Patrick Leahy wrote on the Huffington Post.

But the true story is hardly that simple. The “We The People” site, launched in 2011, has had a mixed history of living up to its promise of making the government more responsive to citizens.

While more than 151 responses have been posted, from serious ones on gun violence to humorous ones calling on the federal government to build a Death Star, some of the most controversial petitions have been waiting, and waiting, for official replies.

To date 19 petitions have reached the 100,000-signature threshold at which they are entitled to a response, most recently a petition calling for a “Michael Brown Law” requiring all police officers to wear body cameras in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo. shooting. But most of the 19 do not pertain to recent events; seven petitions are outstanding from 2013 and one, calling for the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, is outstanding from 2012.

Nearly all of the outstanding petitions are on politically or diplomatically sensitive topics that the White House is clearly trying to wait out, from a plea to pardon admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden to a call to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. The White House was unresponsive to a petition to “Stop SOPA 2013″—referring to a divisive anti-piracy bill—so an equally popular sequel was created, “Stop SOPA 2014.” And despite all of the White House’s harsh rhetoric on Russia since its annexation of Crimea and the shoot-down of Malaysia Airline Flight 17, the administration has yet to reply to a petition to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

The White House has also passed on replying to a number of petitions, including one to free Wikileaks-leaker then-Pfc. Bradley Manning, citing its terms of participation. “To avoid the appearance of improper influence, the White House may decline to address certain procurement, law enforcement, adjudicatory, or similar matters properly within the jurisdiction of federal departments or agencies, federal courts, or state and local government in its response to a petition,” the website states.

The outstanding petitions with more than 100,000 signatures by date of creation:

-Apr 12, 2012: “Support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs).”

-May 3, 2013: “Invest and deport Jasmine Sun who was the main suspect of a famous Thallium poison murder case”

-May 15, 2013: “Provide necessary assistance to prevent Taiwanese people from being murdered by Philippines and rebuild friendship.”

-June 9, 2013: “Pardon Edward Snowden”

-July 7, 2013: “Declare Muslim Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group”

-Aug 22, 2013: “Stop SOPA 2013″

-Nov 12, 2013: “Reform ECPA: Tell the Government to Get a Warrant”

-Dec 11, 2013: “Remove offensive state in Glendale, CA public park”

TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Joke to Asians: You’re Not Smarter Than Everyone Else

"One problem that I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight"

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid drew laughter from an Asian audience Thursday with a pair of Asian-themed jokes.

“I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are,” Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told the guffawing crowd at the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. Video of the remarks was recorded by the Republican opposition research group American Rising.

Later, before walking off stage, Reid quipped: “One problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”

The group decided against backing the Reid-endorsed Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Lucy Flores, supporting Republican Mark Hutchison instead, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

“My comments were in extremely poor taste and I apologize,” Reid said in a statement to TIME after publication of this story. “Sometimes I say the wrong thing.”

TIME Military

U.S. Launched Operation to Rescue ISIS Hostages, Pentagon Says

Journalist James Foley covers the civil war in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012.
Journalist James Foley covers the civil war in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012. Nicole Tung—AP

No hostages were found at the target location

Updated Aug. 20, 9 p.m. ET

The United States launched a rescue operation this summer to free American hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Department of Defense said Wednesday, but no hostages were found at the target location.

In a statement released a day after the Sunni extremist group released a graphic video showing the execution of American journalist James Foley, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. Kirby confirmed that American air and ground forces attempted a rescue to free a number of American hostages held by militants in Syria.

A U.S. government official confirmed Wednesday night that Foley was among the Americans the military attempted to rescue.

“This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within [ISIS]. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location,” Kirby said. “As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms’ way to try and bring our citizens home.”

Lisa Monaco, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said Obama authorized the operation “because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in [ISIS] custody.”

The ground portion of the operation was carried out by U.S. special forces operators. Monaco said the government wouldn’t go into detail on the operation to protect “operational capabilities.”

“The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can,” Kirby said. “The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”

In a statement to reporters Wednesday, Obama referenced the Americans still being held by ISIS. “We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families. We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. “

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Says ‘Entire World Is Appalled’ by ISIS Beheading of Journalist

"No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day"

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President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the “entire world is appalled” by the death of American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria more than 18 months ago and whose death was depicted in a video Tuesday.

The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) posted the graphic video of the execution on Tuesday, calling it retribution for American airstrikes against Sunni extremist forces in Iraq. The U.S. intelligence community has authenticated the video, National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said.

“Today the entire world is appalled by the murder of journalist Jim Foley,” Obama said Wednesday in an emotional statement from Martha’s Vineyard.

Obama said the Middle East must work to “extract this cancer” that threatens the stability of Iraq and the region. “[ISIS] speaks for no religion,” Obama said. “Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim.”

“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day,” he added.

Obama called Foley’s family on Wednesday morning to express his condolences on the loss of their son.

“Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world,” Obama said.

The video also includes a threat to kill Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist who has written for TIME and other outlets, and has been missing since August 2013. “We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families,” Obama said. “We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for.”

Obama said the United States would continue its efforts to confront ISIS. “The United States of America will do what we must to protect our people,” he said. “We will be vigilant, and we will be relentless.”

A Facebook page affiliated with the Foley family’s campaign for his release posted a message Tuesday evening from his mother, Diane Foley.

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim,” she wrote. “He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people. …We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim.”

Foley “was taken by an organized gang after departing from an internet café in Binesh, Syria,” near the Turkish border, the FBI said in an alert following the Nov. 22, 2012, kidnapping. He was in Binesh covering the Syrian civil war for the GlobalPost website and AFP.

Foley, 40, grew up in New Hampshire, where his parents live.

-Additional reporting by Mark Thompson.

TIME justice

Rick Perry Booked in Politically Charged Abuse of Power Case

Rick Perry Mugshot
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets booked on abuse of power charges at the Travis County Sheriff's Department in Austin, on Aug. 19, 2014. Travis County Sheriff's Department

The Texas governor faces two felony charges

Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned himself in at the Travis County Courthouse Tuesday on two felony charges of abuse of power.

Perry, who has vowed to contest the charges stemming from a threat and ultimate veto of funding to the state’s public integrity unit, surrendered himself to Sheriff’s deputies to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken. Perry is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

Outside the courthouse, Perry allies protested the indictment handed down by a grand jury Friday evening. “I am here today because I believe in the rule of law,” Perry told a crowd of cheering supporters before entering the courthouse. “And I am here today because I did the right thing.”

Perry was indicted for threatening and then ultimately vetoing funding for the unit after its head, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated. Perry demanded that Lehmberg resign and, when she refused, vetoed the funding.

“I am going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, but also right,” he added.

The governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate has hired a high-priced legal team and deployed his political machine in his defense, which has become a rallying point for Republicans across the country. Democrats, including former Obama strategist David Axelrod, have also expressed doubts about the merits of the prosecution.

Perry cast the criminal complaint as “an attack on our system of government,” arguing it was well within his rights to veto the funding. “If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again,” he said.

“I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being,” Perry said before turning to enter the courthouse. “And we will prevail.”

Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, released a new video defending the veto Tuesday.

After he left the courthouse, Perry tweeted that he went to purchase an ice cream cone.

 

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Hails Retaking of Mosul Dam in Iraq

US-POLITICS-OBAMA
US President Barack Obama speaks about the US involvement in Iraq, as well as the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, August 18, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

Iraqi and Kurdish forces wrested control of the dam early Monday, with air support from the U.S.

President Barack Obama praised Iraqi gains against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in recent days, as U.S.-backed forces wrested control of a key dam from the militant group.

On Monday, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. airpower, recaptured the strategic Mosul dam from the Sunni extremist group, both securing a vital source of electricity and preventing a catastrophic release of water that could have inundated parts of northern Iraq.

Speaking from the White House after returning early Monday for a brief interlude from his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, Obama hailed the dam operation as a “major step forward” in the battle against ISIS.

“If that dam was breached, it could have proven catastrophic, with floods that would’ve threatened the lives of thousands of civilians and endanger our embassy compound in Baghdad,” Obama said. “Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.”

U.S. Central Command has been carrying out strikes against ISIS targets near the dam with fighter, attack, bomber, and unmanned aerial assets since Saturday. On Sunday, Obama informed Congress that he had authorized strikes against ISIS targets near the dam.

“Let’s remember, ISIL poses a threat to all Iraqis and to the entire region,” Obama said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group. “They claim to represent Sunni grievances, but they slaughter Sunni men, women and children. They claim to oppose foreign forces, but they actively recruit foreign fighters to advance their hateful ideology. So the Iraqi people need to reject them and unite to begin to push them out of the lands that they’ve occupied, as we’re seeing at Mosul Dam.”

Obama also announced continued progress in the effort to build an international coalition to provide humanitarian assistance to northern Iraq, as well as working with the newly designated Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Albadi on building a more inclusive government in Iraq.

“This is going to take time,” Obama added. “There are going to be many challenges ahead. But meanwhile, there should be no doubt that the United States military will continue to carry out the limited missions that I’ve authorized: protecting our personnel and facilities in Iraq in both Erbil and Baghdad; and providing humanitarian support as we did on Mount Sinjar.”

TIME Barack Obama

Obama Voices Concerns on Police Militarization in Wake of Ferguson

"There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred"

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President Barack Obama said Monday he is open to reviewing U.S. federal support for local police departments that has been used to purchase military-style equipment, in the wake of intense clashes between protestors and police in Ferguson, Mo.

Speaking from the White House where he returned early Monday for a brief interlude from his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, Obama said it was important to maintain a distinction between police and military, calling it a hallmark of the American system.

“I think it’s probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars to make sure that what they’re purchasing is stuff that they actually need, because there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred,” Obama said.

Obama also announced Attorney General Eric Holder would travel to Ferguson on Wednesday for briefings on the investigation into the death of teenager Michael Brown, whose death has sparked days of protest in the St Louis suburb.

Holder said in a separate statement he would meet with the more than 40 FBI investigators on the ground in Ferguson, as well as with prosecutors from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The president appealed for calm on the ground in Ferguson, saying that a small group of bad actors are raising tensions. “It is clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting,” he said. “It is also clear that a small minority are not.”

“Let’s seek to heal, rather than to wound each other,” Obama said.

Early Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered in the National Guard to assist in securing Ferguson after another night of clashes between police and protestors, but lifted a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew on the city which had been in place for two nights. Obama said he raised the issue of ensuring that the Guard’s mission is “limited and appropriate.”

“I’ll be watching over the next several days to assess whether it’s helping rather than hindering progress in Ferguson,” he said.

Obama highlighted his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to try to reverse generations of challenges noting that “in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement. In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear.” But in the short term, Obama said the priority is ending the violence and ensuring justice is served fairly.

“Right now, what we have to do is to make sure that the cause of justice and fair administration of the law is being brought to bear in Ferguson,” Obama said. “In order to do that, we’ve got to make sure that we are able to distinguish between peaceful protestors who may have some legitimate grievances and maybe long-standing grievances and those who are using this tragic death as an excuse to engage in criminal behavior and tossing Molotov cocktails or looting stores. And that is a small minority of folks, and it may not even be residents of Ferguson, but they are damaging the cause, they’re not advancing.”

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