Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama called the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania on Saturday to reaffirm the U.S.' "unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty" in connection with recent Russian action in Ukraine.
Obama spoke with Presidents Andris Berzins of Latvia, Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania and Toomas Ilves of Estonia on a conference call. The three agreed on the need for Russia to withdraw its troops from the Crimea region of Ukraine, allow international observers to enter the region and begin direct discussions with leadership in Kiev to de-escalate the situation.
Obama, spending the weekend in Florida with his family, also spoke with President Francois Hollande of France, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy on separate phone calls regarding the latest happenings in Ukraine.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- With the United States and Russia stuck in a stalemate over the crisis in Ukraine, the relationship between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin is once again being tested.
Five years after the U.S. hit the “reset” button with Russia, relations between Moscow and Washington are arguably at a low point not seen since the Cold War.
Obama had high hopes when he first met then-Prime Minister Putin in July 2009. “We think there’s an excellent opportunity to put U.S.-Russian relations on a much stronger footing. And we may not end up agreeing on everything, but I think that we can have a tone of mutual respect and consultation that will serve both the American people and the Russian people well,” he said at the time.
Three years later when Obama met face-to-face with Putin for the first time since he regained the Russian presidency, it was clear from their body language that their relationship faced a rocky road ahead.
Emerging from a two hour meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, where they mostly discussed the escalating crisis in Syria, the leaders held an incredibly awkward photo-op. They barely glanced at each other.
Obama tried to spin the meeting as a “candid…thorough conversation,” but the tension was palpable.
The White House has long urged the press not to read too much into the body language between the two leaders. “I know the press likes to focus on body language and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is, is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive,” Obama told reporters last year.
Just last month, Obama said it was part of Putin’s “shtick” to try to look like a “tough guy.”
It was another year before Obama and Putin met again in June 2013 at the G8 in Northern Ireland where they had a slightly less awkward photo-op. At the time, Obama described their “constructive, cooperative relationship” as one that “moves us out of a Cold War mindset into the realm where, by working together, we not only increase security and prosperity for the Russian and American people, but also help lead the world to a better place.”
But by the time they crossed paths again last September, the relationship was on edge. Obama cancelled a planned stop in Moscow ahead of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg after Putin let NSA Leaker Edward Snowden seek refuge in Russia. Obama and Putin also continued to butt heads over what to do about the civil war in Syria.
This time, there was no formal sit-down at the summit, simply a handshake and a 20 minute discussion on the sidelines of a plenary session, interactions Obama described as “straightforward.”
This week, the two leaders have held two tense, lengthy phone calls as they seek to resolve the standoff over the situation in Ukraine.
During an hour-long discussion Thursday, Obama warned Putin that his country’s intervention in the Crimean Peninsula is in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The call came just hours after Obama slapped new visa restrictions on Russians opposing the new Ukrainian government and cleared the way for financial sanctions against those contributing to the crisis.
“These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea. And they also give us the flexibility to adjust our response going forward based on Russia’s actions,” Obama explained Thursday.
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Updated statistics on military sexual assault provided by the Pentagon on Friday showed that more than 60% more sexual assaults were reported in 2013 compared with 2012.
In 2013, the Pentagon's data says, there were 5,400 reports of sexual assault, compared to 3,374 in 2012. The numbers are not official, as the annual sexual assault report will not be published until later in the year. The report contains data on sexual assaults involving military personnel in and out of uniform and before they entered military service.
According to the Pentagon data, 880 of the 5,400 cases led to charges being filed.
U.S. military officials believe that the higher rate of sexual assault reports is a positive, as it shows that service members are more comfortable reporting such incidents.
Changes made in the past year include mandatory dishonorable discharge or dismissal for any service member found guilty of sexual trauma offenses and the elimination of overturned convictions or modified sentences.
In December, preliminary data showed a 50 percent increase in sexual assault reports.
Earlier this week, a bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., which would remove prosecution of military sexual assaults from the chain of command was defeated in the Senate.
Office of Gov. Bobby Jindal(WASHINGTON) -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has a special package coming to him by mail courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.
A copy of Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, which was written by civil rights leader and Georgia Rep. John Lewis has been sent to Jindal thanks to a red meat line the governor delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.
In his speech, Jindal railed against Holder and President Obama’s Justice Department for initially attempting to block a state vouchers program on civil rights grounds, suggesting that they were trying to “stand in the schoolhouse door” to block the voucher program for minority kids.
“The Department of Justice is taking us to federal court to try to impede this program,” Jindal said. “Now, I want you to think about this. We’ve got Eric Holder and the Department of Justice trying to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent minority kids, low-income kids, kids who haven’t had access to a great education the chance to go to better schools.”
The “schoolhouse door” language isn’t just creative prose, its an apparent reference to the famous “stand in the schoolhouse door” by segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace, during which he physically attempted to block black students from integrating the University of Alabama.
The Department of Justice is seeking greater federal oversight over the voucher program.
According to the Department of Justice press office, the book was sent to Jindal with a passage on Wallace’s schoolhouse door stand flagged for good measure.
“This should help the Governor brush up on his history for the next time he invokes the civil rights movement,” DOJ Press Secretary Kevin Lewis said in a statement.
In response, Jindal sent a pair of messages from his Twitter account which read "Dear AG Holder.After u watch this vid [link], hope you'll reconsider standing in the way of kids having an equal opportunity."
Dear AG Holder.After u watch this vid http://t.co/dukN6O1kaW, hope you'll reconsider standing in the way of kids having an equal opportunity
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Repeating his call to Congress to raise the U.S. minimum wage, President Obama says state governors aren't waiting for Washington to make up its mind.
"So these governors aren’t waiting for Congress to make up its mind. And in my State of the Union Address, I asked America’s business leaders to go ahead and do what they could to raise their employees’ wages, too," the president says in his weekly address.
President Obama has already signed an executive order to raise the minimum to $10.10 for people employed under federal contracts. Now, he says the American people are "way ahead of Congress on this issue," adding, "It’s time for 'ten-ten.'" Read the full transcript of the president's address:
"Hi, everybody. This week, I traveled to New England, where I was joined by four governors who are working to raise the minimum wage in each of their states. And they’ve also joined me in calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Because it would give nearly 800,000 Americans in their states a raise – and lift wages for about 28 million across the country.
"So these governors aren’t waiting for Congress to make up its mind. And in my State of the Union Address, I asked America’s business leaders to go ahead and do what they could to raise their employees’ wages, too. And increasingly, it’s not just large companies like Costco or the Gap that choose to pay their employees higher starting wages.
"It’s smaller businesses like Jaxson’s, a family-owned ice cream parlor in South Florida. They answered the call and raised their wages so that more than 70 employees would earn at least $10.10 an hour, without cutting back on hiring.
"And two weeks ago, an Atlanta small business owner named Darien Southerland [SUTH-er-lind] wrote me to share a lesson his grandmother taught him – that if you treat your employees right, they’ll treat you right. And Vice President Biden paid him a visit this week.
"I agree with these business owners, which is why I issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. It’s good for our bottom line. And working Americans have struggled through stagnant wages for far too long.
"A clear majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage, because we believe that nobody who works full-time should have to live in poverty. About half of all Republicans support raising the minimum wage, too. It’s just too bad they don’t serve in Congress. Because the Republicans who do serve in Congress don’t want to vote on the minimum wage at all. Some even want to get rid of it completely. Seriously.
"That’s why what business leaders and everyday Americans are doing to raise wages is so important. Because change doesn’t come from Washington – change comes to Washington. I’ve always believed that, and it’s true in this case, too. Outside Washington, Americans are ready to put aside old political arguments and move this country forward. The American people are way ahead of Congress on this issue, and we’ve just got to let Congress know that. It’s time for “ten-ten.” It’s time to give America a raise. And it’s time to restore opportunity for all.
US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's Republican address, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio discusses a Senate GOP-hatched Jobs for America plan that he says is designed to spark economic recovery.
That our best should be ahead of us is central to Jobs for America, Portman says in the address.
"That’s what’s at the heart of Jobs for America, a seven point plan put forward by Senate Republicans to bring back opportunity, spark an economic recovery and restore to every American a shot at the American Dream. It starts by getting government out of the way where we need to, whether it’s healthcare, regulations, or taxation," he says.
With these reforms, Portman says unemployment will drop and incomes will rise as the gap separating the rich from the poor closes. Read the full transcript of the Republican address:
"Hi, I’m U.S. Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, and I want to talk to you today about how to get America moving again.
"It’s been five years since the experts said the recession was over, but for millions of Americans, it feels like it never ended.
"We’re living through the weakest economic recovery since World War II, and a lot of folks are struggling to make ends meet. Unemployment remains stubbornly high; the number of long-term unemployed is actually at record levels.
"But these statistics only tell half the story. Eleven million Americans have become so discouraged that they’ve given up looking for work altogether. Poverty rates have gone up, salaries have gone down, with the average family now bringing home $4,000 less than they did just five years ago. The wealthy are doing just fine in the Obama economy. But with paychecks down and the cost of healthcare, college education and a tank of gas going up, this Middle Class squeeze is strangling the American Dream.
"Clearly, the policies coming out of Washington, D.C. haven’t worked. President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress believed we could spend our way to prosperity, and I guess they still do. Despite record levels of debt, the President’s budget this week asked for hundreds of billions in new government spending and over a trillion in new taxes.
"It’s the same old story. Washington has tried more taxing, even more spending and an unprecedented amount of borrowing – and yet here we are.
"Some say this is just the new normal and we need to get used to it: fewer people working, smaller middle-class paychecks, bigger government, never-ending deficits and record debt piled on our kids and grandkids.
"I say that’s wrong. That our best days should be ahead of us. We know we can do better, and it starts by putting our trust back in the American people.
"That’s what’s at the heart of Jobs for America, a seven point plan put forward by Senate Republicans to bring back opportunity, spark an economic recovery and restore to every American a shot at the American Dream. It starts by getting government out of the way where we need to, whether it’s healthcare, regulations, or taxation.
"Take Obamacare. I think it’s clear to just about everybody, maybe except the President, that it’s just not working. He promised people they could keep their health care plans, but they’re losing them. He said costs would go down, but for many, they’ve soared.
"Let’s replace Obamacare with reforms that put you back in charge of your own healthcare. Decisions about your health should be between you and your doctor, not a bureaucrat and an insurance company. Let’s expand choice, rather than limiting it. Let’s create jobs, instead of destroying them. And let’s bring down the costs instead of driving them up.
"Obamacare is a good example of government overreach, but it’s far from the only one unfortunately. Bureaucracy and red tape are also burying many American businesses and making it harder to create jobs. We’ve proposed changes that will ensure that the benefits of regulations are worth the cost – that regulations do their job, without costing you yours.
"Then there’s the tax code. April 15th is coming up, and I don’t have to tell you that the tax code is a complex and expensive mess that needs to be simplified. But what a lot of folks probably don’t know is that our out-of-date and inefficient corporate tax code is driving opportunity and investment overseas, creating jobs in other places that should be right here in America. Let’s fix the code so that every company pays its fair share while bringing those dollars back to our shores to expand plant, equipment, and jobs.
"And let’s also make sure that the taxes you do pay are spent wisely. Let’s pass a balanced budget amendment to rein in the runaway, big government spending that drives our deficits.
"We often talk about the irresponsible debt burden we are leaving our children and grandchildren. That’s bad enough. But our massive debt doesn’t just mortgage our future; it undermines our present and has a direct impact on jobs and the economy right now today.
"The government’s bad habits shouldn’t stand in the way of your success.
"Let’s also get the United States back into the business expanding markets overseas for what we make right here in America. We have some trade agreements hanging in the balance now. Let’s be sure we are competing on a level playing field and give the President the authority he needs to open more markets for our farmers and our workers. We want to see people around the world buying products that are stamped, ‘Made in America,’ so we can create more jobs right here at home.
"We can also create jobs by making the all-of-the-above energy strategy we hear so much about a reality. Let’s produce more and use less. We should wage a war on inefficiency, but not a war on coal. We should expand all forms of American energy, including through offshore drilling and developing our shale natural gas. And let’s finally approve the Keystone Pipeline to create jobs and speed the day when North America will truly be energy independent.
"And finally, let’s make sure Americans can get the skills they need to access the jobs that are out there. The federal government now runs 47 different, often overlapping, workforce-training programs, but they aren’t closing the skills gap. In fact, they have too much bureaucracy and too much inefficiency. If we want more Americans in a job, then we need workforce retraining programs that do a better job.
"These are seven commonsense proposals with bipartisan roots that we all know can help get our country moving again. America’s best days can be ahead of us, just beyond the next horizon. We just have to reapply some of the principles that have made America that beacon of hope and opportunity for the rest of the world.
"A rising tide lifts all boats,’ said John F. Kennedy. Let’s enact these reforms. If we do, we’ll see unemployment rates drop, we’ll see incomes rise and we’ll see the gap between the rich and the poor close, not because we are bringing people down but because we are bringing people up.
"Thanks so much for listening, and may God continue to bless our great country."
Heather Reed/Office of the Speaker(WASHINGTON) -- It’s only been done once since the Civil War, but that isn’t stopping J.D. Winteregg.
Winteregg, an Ohio high school French teacher turned tea party advocate, is attempting an electoral coup d’état of Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has held his seat in Congress since 1991.
“He’s been here since I was 8 years old,” Winteregg, 32, said in an interview today with ABC News. “He’s so far out of touch. We need someone in there who is friends with the business owners and understands the pain they feel.”
The tea party candidate launched his bid in October and filed his paperwork in January to challenge Boehner in the Republican primary in May.
“You look at the Republican brand they have right now — it’s old, white and out of touch,” Winteregg said. “I’m a fresh face, I’m young, I’ve got the enthusiasm and I can help turn that brand around.”
But with the primary less than two months away, Winteregg faces an uphill battle against Boehner’s strong name recognition and fundraising ability.
Boehner, who has drawn the ire of tea party groups in the past, has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of outside conservative groups trying to influence elections. He has said the organizations were “misleading their followers.”
Boehner has announced his intention to remain in his role as speaker after the midterm elections and has dismissed the calls for him to step aside. Still, he remains one of the top punching bags in the Republican establishment.
“Nobody’s saying that this is going to be easy,” said Rusty Humphries of the Tea Party Leadership Fund, which endorsed Winteregg and is helping his campaign.
“John Boehner has 100 percent name recognition. [Winteregg] does not. We’re going to fight for him though,” he said.
Winteregg isn’t the only tea party hopeful vying for votes in the primary election. Two others — Eric Gurr and Matthew Ashworth — have also filed paperwork in the 8th District of Ohio.
Winteregg spoke out against Boehner’s vote on raising the debt ceiling and his support for immigration reform. He even took a jab at Boehner’s claim that he mows his own lawn.
“None of us believe that. None of us do,” Winteregg said. Boehner “lives on a golf course, so I’d imagine it’s taken care of for him.”
Humphries said that Winteregg reminded him of Boehner in the early 1990s.
“There was another guy I remember who was as young, as hungry and as sharp as this guy about 24 years ago. His name was John Boehner,” Humphries said. “We don’t hate John Boehner; he’s a good guy. He’s just not the same John Boehner he was.”
Winteregg said his odds of winning are good, but history hasn’t been kind to candidates like him.
A sitting speaker has never been defeated in a primary election. Speaker Galusha Grow was defeated in a general election in 1862 and Speaker Tom Foley was defeated in a general election in 1994.
“I see what the sentiment is and right now they’re just starving for someone to believe in and I’m that guy they can believe in,” Winteregg said. “It’s doable. It’s definitely doable.”
iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(OXON HILL, Md.) -- Hey, Hollywood: “Closet conservatives” are lurking in the shadows of Tinseltown.
Take it from an industry insider: Cardiologist-turned-actor Dr. James Higgins, who addressed a major gathering of conservatives Friday at CPAC.
During a discussion called “Conservatives Alive In Hollywood!” panelists --including former U.S. Senator (and Law and Order actor) Fred Thompson -- lamented the GOP’s neglect of the film industry.
Many Los Angeles film execs believe in conservative causes but they self-censor, refusing to support movies touting conservative values for fear of professional retaliation, the panelists agreed.
And that’s “a crying’ shame because it shuts down debate,” said Academy Award-winning producer of Schindler’s List Gerald Molen.
But self-censorship isn’t the only reason conservatives don’t get much traction on the silver screen. The rest of the blame lies with the GOP, which has failed to harness the persuasive power of film, panelists argued.
“Republicans see entertainment as superfluous,” said John Sullivan, producer of the soon-to-be released political thriller America.
Good movies can inspire young activists by “converting ideology into stories that people can relate to,” Sullivan said.
In the end, it all comes down to the power of the almighty dollar. The best way to create compelling content is by hiring top-notch industry professionals.
“It’s all about the money,” said Persecuted producer Daniel Lusko. “We have to start there.”
Rick Santorum, who spoke at the conference Friday afternoon, is now the CEO of his own Christian movie company, which promotes “faith-and-family” films.
(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News' This Week asked the Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass to answer three questions on the situation in Ukraine:
1) Over the last week, Russian troops invaded and took control of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. Put this into perspective: How big of a deal is this? Why should Americans pay attention?
Haass:Any use of military force designed to create facts on the ground and dismember a country is a “big deal” as it brings into question one of the fundamental tenets of contemporary international order. What makes the Ukraine situation particularly significant is that it is taking place in the center of Europe and involves Russia, still a major if not “super” power. The chance and danger of escalation is thus an additional major concern.
2) Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted on March 4th “I think Putin believes Obama is really all talk and no action. And unless we push back soon, the worse is yet to come.”
Is there any way to tell why Putin decided to take the action he did? Is the Obama administration at fault?
Haass:I would argue that the critics of President Obama here are overlooking the role of politics, history, and geography in explaining Russian actions. They are also paying insufficient attention to the decisions of the EU and Ukrainians themselves. My sense is that President Putin decided to ensure that Crimea remained in Russia’s orbit to offset what he viewed as the political “loss” of Ukraine in the wake of the ouster of President Yanukovych.
3) Where do things likely go from here? How do you see this playing out?
Haass: I would hope that there is a diplomatic settlement in which Ukraine remains intact and independent. This would almost certainly require Russia’s participation in Ukraine’s economic and political future, a degree of autonomy and special protection for Ukraine’s Russian minority, and continued Russian access to the port of Sevastopol. It is possible that assurances along these lines coupled with the cost of economic sanctions could bring Russia to accept such an arrangement. Unfortunately, a diplomatic accord seems increasingly unlikely, and we could well be looking at prolonged Russian control of Crimea. Any Russian move to increase its authority over additional parts of eastern Ukraine would obviously increase the range and intensity of the US and European responses and create an even more serious crisis.
For the latest on the crisis in Ukraine, tune in to This Week Sunday. Check out what timeThis Week airs in your area.
ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has made a name for himself as a conservative radio star, and has even mulled becoming the founder of a new media organization. And at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, Huckabee made the case for a second run for the presidency in 2016.
ABC News sat down with Huckabee at CPAC and asked whether the prospect of running against the former Secretary of State and former Arkansas first lady, Hillary Clinton, would draw him into the race, and which Democrat he’d take out for a cup of coffee.
Here are ABC News’ five questions with Huckabee.
Q: What’s your political priority?
Q: Do you think House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are true conservatives?
A: Sure. Compared to the Democrats? Absolutely. And even within the Republican ranks, they are pragmatists and there’s a role for that in the role that they play. Q: Would you have signed the controversial Arizona bill SB 1062 into law?
A:Yeah. Most people never read the law. The law mirrored almost word for word the law Bill Clinton signed in 1993 that was voted unanimously in the House of Representatives and voted 97-3 in a Democrat-controlled Senate. So I don’t know what the controversy was. It changed two basic words. There was no reason for it to ever be controversial.
Q: Who is the one Democrat you would have a beer with?
A: It wouldn’t be a beer ’cause…not really into it. Maybe a cup of coffee. You know, there are a lot of Democrats out there I have respect for. [West Virginia Sen.] Joe Manchin being one of them, [Virginia Sen.] Mark Warner being another. I served with them as governors, I know these guys and I think that they have a heart to govern, not heart to be ideologues.
Q: You know Hillary Clinton’s record well. If Hillary Clinton would decide to run for president in 2016, would that encourage you to run?
A: It wouldn’t be the sole factor but I think it might be something that voters in the Republican ranks would at least recognize. But that alone is not going to be the pushing factor as to whether I end up running in 2016.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(OXON HILL, Md.) -- As the United States and Russia butt heads over Ukraine, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and unsuccessful presidential candidate turned Fox News host, offered a scathing critique of the Obama administration’s national security strategy on Friday.
Speaking on the second day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Huckabee declared that in the second term of the Obama presidency there is “not one country anywhere with whom we have a better relationship than we did before.”
“No one trusts us, no one listens to us, no one respects us and no one fears us,” he complained.
And when it comes to the Russian leader whose provocative actions in Ukraine have flummoxed the White House foreign policy team, Huckabee quipped, “The only time Vladimir Putin shivers is when he has his shirt off in a cold Russian winter.”
Huckabee added that Israel, a country he called America’s “one true ally,” has been “incredibly mistreated” by the Obama administration.
“It is the duty and responsibility of the American government to make us safer and more secure not less,” he said.
Huckabee, who said in December that he was not closing the door on a 2016 presidential run, fit in a mild jab at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who under intense questioning from members of Congress about the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya once told lawmakers: “What difference at this point does it make?”
“With all due respect to Hillary Clinton,” Huckabee said in his speech to the conservative gathering, “it does make a difference.”
The former pastor, who competed for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, threaded his speech with biblical references -- even though, he noted, talking about God in America is not always “politically correct.”
“A nation that can remember him will be a nation that will be remembered by him,” he said.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Ronald Reagan died nearly 10 years ago, but he is very much alive for many of the speakers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., this week.
Several conservative heavyweights picked up on the theme in their remarks to the gathering, considered the largest yearly assembly of conservatives in the country.
“We did it in 1980 with a grassroots movement that became the Reagan revolution. And let me tell you, the same thing is happening [now],” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas said Thursday. “Who are the two Republicans in modern times who have most energized young people? Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul.”
Other Republican speakers channeled the late president’s policies to make their pitch to voters for the 2014 elections. “Once again, the GOP is where the action is,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said. “Just as it was in Jack Kemp’s day, at the beginning of the Reagan Revolution.”
Reagan’s two-term presidency ended 25 years ago, in 1989.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton channeled Reagan, who died June 5, 2004, at age 93, to lambast the Obama administration’s handling of the tensions in Ukraine, saying, “Can you imagine Reagan dealing with Vladimir Putin?”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., echoed Bolton in his own foreign policy-heavy speech.
“Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union,” Rubio noted.
Arizona state Rep. Justin Pierce, who introduced Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also used the “R” word.
“I know it’s a little cliché for Republicans to invoke the name of President Reagan in our speeches sometimes,” Pierce said. “But I have to tell you, I am a Republican today, a conservative Republican, because President Reagan was the leader, of the ’80s, of my generation.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was the last major lawmaker on Thursday’s speaker list. He closed with what may have been a warning for the rest of the weekend’s speakers, saying (and later tweeting), “It’s time for the GOP to stop talking about Ronald Reagan, and start acting like him.”
Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, trying to appeal to conservative activists. He even walked out holding a rifle, getting a cheer from the crowd, before giving it to Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
McConnell is in the middle of a primary fight against businessman Matt Bevin and the CPAC crowd is one he is trying to woo. His campaign is out Friday with a new radio ad attacking not only Bevin, but also declaring war on the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group working to unseat some Republican incumbents, including McConnell.
ABC News got a sneak peak of the ad, titled “Absurd,” which will run for the next two weeks, and the campaign says it has an ad buy in the “upper five figures.”
“Matt Bevin and out-of-state special interest groups are attacking Mitch McConnell,” the narrator says. “Nothing new. But can you believe them? PolitFact, a non-partisan fact-checker, says Bevin’s attacks on McConnell are quote ‘absurd…the claim is not only wrong, but ridiculous…Endquote.”
The one-minute ad then mentions Bevin’s resume exaggerations, first reported in The Hill last year, before going after the Senate Conservative Fund.
“Bevin’s allies at the so-called Senate Conservatives Fund are also attacking,” the narrator reads. “The media say their ads are quote ‘misleading’ and ‘erroneously cited.’”
The ad then digs into fund officials, saying they “solicit money from people under the guise of advocating for conservative principles,” but then spend that cash on renovating headquarters in Washington, D.C, calling it a “1.4 million dollar luxury townhouse,” something the Senate Conservative Fund says is an exaggeration.
“So the attacks on McConnell? -- absurd, wrong, and ridiculous,” the narrator says, before McConnell’s voice comes on to approve the message.
In a statement, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore again hit the Senate Conservative Fund, saying, “Perhaps if SCF had spent less of their donor’s money on their luxury town home with interior decorators, hot tub and wine room they could have better vetted candidates like Matt Bevin who lied about attending MIT, accepted government bailouts and flip-flipped on supporting TARP.”
The Senate Conservative Fund is an outside grassroots group that is not affiliated with the Republican Party or its campaign committees, but is promoting conservative candidates and working to unseat some GOP incumbents. They have already put more than $1 million in the Kentucky race, backing Bevin.
The group has been hammering McConnell, coming out with radio ads and a Web ad last month that had $100,000 behind it and drew parallels between the Kentucky Republican and last year’s Internal Revenue Service scandal, in which tea party and conservative groups were given extra scrutiny on their tax-exempt applications, saying he too is “bullying” conservatives.
Matt Hoskins, the group’s executive director, said in a statement responding to the new radio ad, “Mitch McConnell is clearly in trouble in this primary or he wouldn’t be attacking Matt Bevin and declaring war on conservatives.”
“Mitch McConnell isn’t upset because SCF rents a townhouse for office space; he’s upset because we’re spending money on radio and TV ads that expose his record of voting for bailouts, more debt, higher taxes, and Obamacare funding,” Hoskins said. “Matt Bevin is different. He’s a businessman, not a politician, and he will fight to stop the spending and debt that are bankrupting our country. Mitch McConnell has been in Washington for thirty years and it’s time for a change.”
Polls still show McConnell with a wide advantage over Bevin, but whoever wins the primary will go on to face Democratic candidate Kentucky Secretary State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and those polls are much tighter, with some showing Grimes leading.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- We haven’t seen much of conservative activist Christine O’Donnell since she lost her U.S. Senate race in Delaware in 2010 after a shocking primary win. But we will always remember her ad from that year when she declared: “I am not a witch.”
At the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, ABC News put O’Donnell in the hot seat. She told us the Democrats she would like to have a beer with and even weighed in on Chris Christie’s lane closures scandal.
Here’s an edited transcript of seven questions ABC News asked O’Donnell:
1. Do you think John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are true conservatives?
They are doing the best they can, with such a divided party. I would like to see more of an adamant stance.
2. Who’s going to be president in 2016?
I don’t now but all I can say, my prediction is, it won’t be Barack Obama.
3. What Democrat would you like to have a beer with?
Hillary Clinton for sure, if, I would love to have a beer with Hillary Clinton behind the scenes…same thing with Gloria Steinem and I’m assuming she’s a Democrat.
4. Will you run for office again?
I honestly don’t know, we just announced today that I’m doing a column for the Washington Times and we’re in development for a TV show, I think that that’s a much more fun way to try to introduce change in the country. Running for office, I heard Mike Huckabee say, is just like putting your face in a fan while it’s turned on.
5. What’s your political priority?
I think the biggest priority in America should be, getting not just back to the constitutional roots, but getting voters to understand why they’re important, what they mean.
6. You had a teasing tweet about Chris Christie’s bridge scandal. What’s that about?
It was fun, it was fun…what delicious irony because whether its Bridgegate or the IRS scandal, when a government official has access to such power and they abuse it, there need to be very real consequences, not just firings, whether it’s Lois Lerner or the people who caused the backup at the bridge. People that abuse the trust that people put in you as a government official. I think there should be jail time, not just symbolic firings. So it was kind of fun to imagine…I heard that he was stuck on the (Woodrow) Wilson bridge, if it is indeed true, I can imagine him having a good chuckle over that too.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry is among the Republicans -- and potential 2016 presidential hopefuls -- courting conservatives this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The 64-year-old talked with ABC News about his travels to Iowa and South Carolina, and even revealed which Democrat he would most want to have a beer with.
Here’s an edited transcript of six questions ABC News asked Perry:
1. What’s the one thing you most want to accomplish before you leave office?
Well, obviously, to continue to build the economy in the state of Texas. We’re working on some major projects, all of them a bit confidential from the standpoint of saying any names or what have you, but some of the largest projects that we’ve ever worked on before -- and, hopefully, we can have them finalized.
2. Was Tuesday’s Texas primary a good day or a bad day for the Tea Party?
It was a good day for Texans, by and large, from the standpoint we had very active elections -- I’m pretty sure because the governorship was opened up by my departure and you had the trickle-down effect.
3. You’ve been traveling a lot to Iowa and South Carolina. Are you hoping to re-brand yourself from 2012?
I’m a big believer that the governors of South Carolina and Iowa deserve to be re-elected. That’s my focus, and I’m going to be traveling to substantially more states than Iowa and South Carolina. 2016 and beyond will take care of itself when it’s appropriate for it to, so I’m staying real focused on between now and the 7th of November. (Election Day actually is Nov. 4).
4. Do you think John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are true conservatives?
Sure, yeah, absolutely. When you look at the alternatives of the individuals are going to be on the Democrat side, I’m not confused at all that Boehner and McConnell will serve us well.
5. Who’s one Democrat you’d want to have a beer with?
Joe Manchin is a really great fella. I’m a big fan of his. He was very helpful to Texas back when he was the governor of West Virginia, and old Joe would be good to drink a beer with.
6. Why did you start wearing glasses? And are your cowboy boots gone for good?
I wouldn’t say they were gone forever. I’ve found that my shoes are more comfortable. After I had the back surgery, the flatter is better for my back. Glasses are a part of growing older.