Thursday, 10 May 2012

How President Obama, in Six Days, Decided to Come Out for Gay Marriage

Vice President Biden torpedoed the White House plan to endorse gay marriage before the Democratic convention. Howard Kurtz on how political and media pressure forced the president’s hand.

It was more than a year ago, administration and campaign officials say, that President Obama decided to abandon his posture of sympathetic neutrality and personally embrace same-sex marriage. The only question was when.

President Barack Obama speaks to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies dinner Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster / AP Photo)

Wednesday unexpectedly became the day. “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” the president said in an interview with ABC News.

The declaration was not supposed to come this week. Instead, the White House had planned to dramatically unveil the shift shortly before the Democratic convention. But Obama had been agitated by Vice President Joe Biden’s own endorsement of gay marriage on Sunday, which knocked the White House off what was supposed to be its message this week—student loans and economic issues.

The president expressed his frustration to West Wing officials—some of whom questioned whether Biden had wandered off script or was trying to foster a change in policy—but Obama didn’t take up the issue with his No. 2. Asked about Biden's role in prodding him, Obama acknowledged to ABC "that I would have preferred to do it in my own time, on my own terms."

Putin G8
Russia's newly-inaugurated President Vladimir Putin (L) and new Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (c) watch Victory Day parade at the Red Square in Moscow, on May 9, 2012. Thousands of Russian soldiers marched today across Red Square to mark the 67 years since the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL

WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin is skipping a planned visit to the United States this month for an economic summit and a much-anticipated meeting with President Barack Obama, the White House announced Wednesday.
The Russian leader told Obama by phone that he is unable to join the other leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations meeting outside Washington on May 18-19 because he needs to finish work setting up his new Cabinet, the White House said. The Obama administration had moved the gathering to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland from the planned venue in Chicago partly to accommodate Putin.

Syria Crisis: Roadside Bomb Targets Military, 6 Soldiers Wounded

By BASSEM MROUE and BEN HUBBARD 05/09/12 03:28 PM ET APSyria Crisis Roadside Bomb
DARAA, Syria — A roadside bomb hit a Syrian military truck Wednesday just seconds after the head of the U.N. observer team drove by in a convoy, demonstrating the fragility of the international plan to end the country's bloodshed.
In Washington, meanwhile, President Barack Obama took steps to extend sanctions against the government of President Bashar Assad, saying Syria poses an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to U.S. national security and diplomatic goals.
The attack, which the regime said wounded 10 Syrian soldiers, emphasized the limits of the international community's plan to use unarmed observers to promote a cease-fire between government troops and rebels trying to topple Assad.
The team of 70 U.N. military observers now in Syria should grow to more than 100 in the coming days. It is unclear when the full team of 300 will arrive. They are to oversee a U.N.-brokered cease-fire that was intended to allow for talks on a political solution to the conflict but began unraveling shortly after it was due to take effect on April 12.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the attack, saying the continuing violence undermines the plan, which is "possibly the only remaining chance to stabilize the country and avert a civil war."