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Gov. Scott Walker Wouldn’t Rule Out US Boots on the Ground in Syria

Gov. Scott Walker Wouldn’t Rule Out US Boots on the Ground in Syria

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has surged to the top of the potential GOP presidential field, said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week Sunday that he wouldn’t rule out putting U.S. boots on the ground in Syria if he were the commander-in-chief.“We have to be — go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes,” Walker told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on Sunday.“I don’t think that’s an immediate plan. … I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Walker said. “I think when you have the lives of Americans at stake and our freedom loving allies anywhere in the world, we have to be prepared to do things that don’t allow those measures, those attacks, those abuses to come to our shores.”Walker also said the United States should “aggressively” take the fight to ISIS to prevent a potential attack on the U.S.“I think aggressively, we need to take the fight to ISIS and any other radical Islamic terrorist in and around the world, because it’s not a matter of when they attempt an attack on American soil, or not if I should say, it’s when, and we need leadership that says clearly, not only amongst the United States but amongst our allies, that we’re willing to take appropriate action,” he said.After his well-received speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, Walker has quickly moved to the front of the large potential GOP 2016 field. A new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll of likely 2016 Iowa caucus-goers showed Walker leading the field with 16 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Rand Paul at 15 percent, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 13 percent, after factoring in 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s decision not to run.Asked if he was 99 percent sure he’d end up making a bid for the White House, Walker responded, “I don’t know that I’d take the odds. I’ll just tell you one thing. After three elections for governor in four years in a state that hasn’t gone Republican since 1984 for president, I wouldn’t bet against me on anything.”Walker also sought to contrast himself with Hillary Clinton, widely considered the likely favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination, pitching himself as a new face and a Washington outsider.“[W]hat I’ve heard across the country, is that people want new, fresh leadership with big, bold ideas, and the courage to act on it,” Walker said. “And if we’re going to take on a name from the past, which is likely to be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I think for the party we need a name from the future.“I think former Secretary of State Clinton embodies all the things that we think of Washington,” he said. “She lives here, she’s worked here, she’s been part of the Washington structure for years.”

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The Most Controversial Super Bowl Ads of the Past Five Years

The Most Controversial Super Bowl Ads of the Past Five Years

NFL Media(WASHINGTON) -- Whether you're watching the Super Bowl for the football, commercials, or Katy Perry, controversy is just around the corner.The ads, in particular, always spark conversation. Just days before the game Internet domain company GoDaddy, known for its controversial commercials, pulled this year's spot over complaints that it was insensitive to the treatment of animals in puppy mills. Here are some other ads that have caused a stir in the last five years. Abortion A 2010 commercial starring Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow caused a stir among the anti-abortion and abortion-rights communities. The ad was created by a Christian group called Focus on the Family and aimed to discourage women from terminating their pregnancies (the word abortion was never used). Though the network had previously rejected Super Bowl ads with strong political messages, CBS aired the spot – prompting the liberal Women's Media Center to produce a counter ad slamming the network for broadcasting the religious group's message.Birth Control A commercial by the creative agency Happy Little Guillotine Studios targets the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision last year, which said the for-profit corporation did not have to cover birth control under the Affordable Care Act because of the religious exemption. The commercial is over-the-top and satirical, with the title "Take THAT, Separation of Church and State!" The protagonists joke about crafting their own birth control pills followed by the comment "who needs health care coverage now male Supreme Court justices?"

Israel The company that sells SodaStream, marketed as a home soda maker, has been in hot water for multiple past Super Bowl ads. Last year the controversy took a more serious turn. Oxfam International, a group that works with organizations to fight poverty, advocated a ban of SodaStream products because they are manufactured in an "illegitimate" Israeli settlement in the West Bank, according to an Oxfam statement. This stepped right into the middle of one of the touchiest international issues in politics. Actress Scarlett Johansson was also dragged into the controversy. At the time she was a representative of Oxfam as well as a brand ambassador and star of SodaStream's 2014 Super Bowl commercial. Johansson ultimately opted to resign after eight years as an Oxfam ambassador, and a statement from Oxfam said her two roles were incompatible. This wasn't SodaStream's first foray into controversy. CBS opted not to broadcast SodaStream's 2013 Super Bowl ad to avoid a row with beverage giants Coke and Pepsi.

Guns Some proposed ads are so controversial that they're scrapped before the Super Bowl even airs but circulate on the web. This commercial created by gun manufacturer Daniel Defense was rejected by several local markets. NFL advertising guidelines don't allow images or mentions of firearms, as of the 2013 guidelines. According to a Daniel Defense spokesman, the company tried to bring the ad within league guidelines -- but the NFL claimed the company was trying to gain exposure by stirring up controversy.Groups like The Representation Project invited viewers to fight back with hashtag campaigns like #NotBuyingIt.

Family While the Cheerios Super Bowl ad was less of an obvious political issue, it prompted some equally-heated conversation. Cheerios ads in the last few years have included more modern depictions of American families like a Super Bowl commercial in 2014 that featured the same interracial family as a commercial from the previous year. The ads mostly resulted in positive publicity for Cheerios and its parent company General Mills, despite being met with so many hateful online messages that YouTube had to turn off comments. This wasn't Cheerios first foray into social issues. In 2012, company executives made statements supporting gay marriage at the same time that lawmakers in Minnesota, where General Mills is based, were trying to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The company released a commercial in Canada featuring a same-sex couple and their adopted daughter. Despite these examples of scandal, some commercials are hard to hate, like the Clydesdale puppy duo in Anheuser-Busch's ad last year or Kid President's positive message this year.

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‘Yes’ Ann Romney is Happy about Mitt Romney’s Decision

‘Yes’ Ann Romney is Happy about Mitt Romney’s Decision

ABC/Ida Mae Astute(NEW YORK) -- Leaving the Harvard Club in New York City on Friday, Ann Romney told the New York Daily News that “yes” she’s happy about her husband’s decision not to run for president, according to the paper. She declined, however, to comment about which candidate the Romneys will support in 2016.When asked about dining with Chelsea Clinton, she responded “It was fantastic. She’s very inspiring.” According to the Daily News, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinksy left the Harvard Club, where the lunch benefiting the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital was held,  holding hands a few minutes before the Romneys, and declined to answer any questions.On whether they discussed the 2016 presidential election, Romney told the Daily News, “We talked about disease. Brain disease.”

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Super Bowl 2015: Five Ways Politics are Part of the Big Game

Super Bowl 2015: Five Ways Politics are Part of the Big Game

NFL Media(WASHINGTON) -- The Super Bowl might be a day of football, commercial-watching, chowing down on chicken wings and guzzling beer, but politics can always sneak in. The NFL has come face-to-face with a number of hot-button issues in the past year, most recently the "Deflate-gate" scandal that likely won't go away until after the big game. Here are a few others: Domestic Violence The video of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice brought lots of negative attention to the NFL and how it handles players accused of violent behavior. Rice was suspended for two games in July for hitting Janay Palmer, who was his fiancé at the time. TMZ released surveillance video of the assault, leading to public outcry that the NFL didn't penalize Rice more harshly. The league later suspended Rice indefinitely, but he appealed and got the suspension overturned because a judge ruled he was being penalized for the same transgression twice. News coverage and public discussion about the case led to criticism that the NFL looked the other way when players are reported for crimes like domestic assault. The league joined with a group called No More to create informational commercials about domestic violence that have aired during every game since October 23, according to the group's website. The ad that will air during the Super Bowl plays audio of a woman pretending to order a pizza while calling 911 because her abuser was in the room. The NFL put new personal conduct rules in place late last year.

Political Ads The spectacle around Super Bowl commercials is almost as big as the game, but the ads can sometimes turn into controversy. More than one Super Bowl commercial has caused a major stir before and after the game. Political groups sometimes get involved to protest ads like the anti-abortion ad featuring Tim Tebow in 2010. That commercial, created by the conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family, discouraged women from having abortions -- though it didn't use the word. It aired during the Super Bowl even though CBS had rejected ads with a strong political message in the past. Groups like the Women's Media Center protested the decision and even created a counter ad slamming the network. Money Changing Hands In the past, the Super Bowl has doubled as host for both on and off-the-record political fundraisers. The money train goes the other way too. The NFL, teams, and owners donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians throughout the year. The New England Patriots donated the most in the last two election cycles, totaling almost $154,000 to political candidates and parties, according to Fusion. Economic Gain Mayors and governors often compete to host the Super Bowl in their city or state, claiming that the event is a boon to the local economy. But the jury is out on whether being the host city actually makes the economy better. Super Bowl 49 is projected to bring $500 million in economic impact to Arizona, according to its website. This number may be overstated and is difficult to measure. Economists disagree about whether the benefit of hosting the Super Bowl lives up to the NFL's promises, according to Patrick Rishe, a professor of economics at Webster University in St. Louis, in a commentary on Forbes.com. Human Trafficking Along with the supposed influx of cash to the region that hosts the game there's an influx of people -- and not always in a good way. Major sporting events like the Super Bowl or World Cup are said to prompt surges in human trafficking, defined by the US State Department as "obtaining a person through force, fraud, or coercion" and can include forced labor or prostitution or involuntary servitude. Local agencies and activists have worked to help those who might be victims of trafficking. Thousands of people were trained on how to recognize trafficking for the 2012 Super Bowl and resources were distributed to help potential victims seek help.

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Hagel Says White House Disagreed With His Slow Pace of Releases of Guantanamo Detainees

Hagel Says White House Disagreed With His Slow Pace of Releases of Guantanamo Detainees

Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged Friday for the first time that some officials in the White House disagreed with his slow pace in releasing Guantanamo detainees. He explained he was cautious because he took "very seriously" his responsibility to certify the release of detainees to ensure they did not return to the battlefield. "Not everyone at the White House has agreed with how I’ve handled some of this,” Hagel told CNN in an interview aired Friday. “I have made it very clear that I will not certify -- sign anything -- to release a detainee as long as I’m secretary of Defense unless I am convinced that it is in the best interest of this country. And a substantial mitigation of risk can be verified, as closely as we can verify it.” “Not everyone at the White House has agreed with me,” he said. "Probably on the pace of releases" from the detainee facility at Guantanamo, Cuba. He said, "We’ve had a lot of conversations" with the White House, the Congress and in the press. There are currently 122 detainees at the detention facility at Guantanamo. In 2014, 33 detainees were transferred out of Guantanamo, but the overwhelming majority of those transfers occurred in November and December. Prior to November only six detainees had been transferred out of the facility including the five Taliban leaders sent to Qatar in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years. The Defense secretary affirmed Friday that the exchange for Bergdahl was the right call. "Absolutely, it was the right decision," said Hagel. “I have the responsibility and I play my own game here,” Hagel explained. "Because by law I am the one official in government charged with certification of releasing detainees. I take that responsibility very seriously.” He also acknowledged that the idea of White House pressure over the pace of releases did not worry him. “I’ve been in this town a long time,” said Hagel. “And there’s pressure all the time in every job, they come from a lot of different directions. If you’re not prepared to deal with pressure every day, in the job you’re in -- coming from a lot of different directions -- then you shouldn’t be in the job.” Hagel also told CNN that "it could be necessary" that in the future some American troops may have to serve alongside Iraqi troops to help call in airstrikes against ISIS targets. His comments are in line with those of Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, who have said previously that future complex operations like an offensive to retake Mosul might require the presence of U.S. forward air controllers. “I think it may require a forward deployment of some of our troops,” said Hagel. “Not doing the fighting. Not doing the combat work that we did at one time for six years in Iraq. We did for many many years in Afghanistan. But to help airstrike precision... locate. Those are things where we could continue support.” “It could be necessary," Hagel said. "It could be, but I’m not willing to say that it will be necessary.” He stressed that "whether we get there or not, I don’t know whether that’s something our military commanders recommend into the future, I don’t know." Hagel said that President Obama has told both Gen. Dempsey and Gen. Austin to not hesitate in approaching him if they feel new military options are needed in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But Hagel said that so far, that has not happened.

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President Obama’s Weekly Address: ‘We Want Everyone to Contribute to America’s Success’

President Obama’s Weekly Address: ‘We Want Everyone to Contribute to America’s Success’

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his weekly address, President Obama spoke of the growth the economy has made in recent years and his ongoing focus on the middle class going forward in 2015. “We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are,” Obama said. The president brought up themes in his State of the Union address regarding the middle class, as he plans to send a budget to Congress this upcoming week that takes into account the ongoing economic growth. “We just have to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does, Obama said.

Obama’s plan would reverse sequestration cuts and get rid of special interest loopholes in the nation’s tax code, which he says would “cut taxes for middle-class families and reward businesses that invest in America.”Read the full transcript of the president's address:Hi, everybody.  At a moment when our economy is growing, our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s, and wages are starting to rise again, we have to make some choices about the kind of country we want to be.Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?That was the focus of my State of the Union Address – middle-class economics.  The idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.  This week, I will send a budget to Congress that’s built on those values.  We’ll help working families’ paychecks go farther by treating things like paid leave and child care like the economic priorities that they are.  We’ll offer Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, with plans like making two years of community college free for every responsible student.  And we’ll keep building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure, manufacturing, and expanded access to faster internet and new markets.  We can afford to make these investments.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds – the fastest sustained deficit reduction since just after the end of World War II.  We just have to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.  It proposes getting rid of special interest loopholes in our tax code, and using those savings to cut taxes for middle-class families and reward businesses that invest in America.  It refuses to play politics with our homeland security, and funds our national security priorities at home and abroad.  And it undoes the arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts known as “the sequester” for our domestic priorities, and matches those investments dollar-for-dollar in resources our troops need to get the job done.  Now, I know that there are Republicans in Congress who disagree with my approach.  And like I said in my State of the Union Address, if they have ideas that will help middle-class families feel some economic security, I’m all in to work with them.  But I will keep doing everything I can to help more working families make ends meet and get ahead.  Not just because we want everyone to share in America’s success – but because we want everyone to contribute to America’s success.That’s the way the middle class thrived in the last century – and that’s how it will thrive again.Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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GOP Weekly Address: ‘Make It Easier for Families to Send Their Kids to the College of Their Choice’

GOP Weekly Address: ‘Make It Easier for Families to Send Their Kids to the College of Their Choice’

United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's Republican Address, Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas spoke about ways to lower costs and expand opportunity for middle-class families, including planning to protect college savings. Jenkins, Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference, spoke about the plan she introduced this week to expand the 529 college saving accounts, which she argues helps middle-class families save for college expenses. "As a former State Treasurer and a mother of two college kids, I know how critical saving for higher education can be, and how important 529s have become for middle-class families,” Jenkins said. “If the president is serious about helping middle-class families afford higher education then he should work with Congress and publicly support my bipartisan legislation to empower hardworking families by expanding and strengthening 529 college savings plans, and keeping them tax-free.”Jenkins also spoke of President Obama’s threat to veto the bill that approved the construction the Keystone XL pipeline, which was approved by the Senate on Thursday. Read the full transcript of the Republican address:Good morning.  I’m Lynn Jenkins, Congresswoman from the Second District of Kansas and Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference.This is the time of year when high school seniors are putting the final touches on their college applications.  That means it’s also the time when families are preparing to start paying for that education – whether it’s a 4-year college, community college, or a technical school.As a parent with two children in college, I know this can be one of the most rewarding, and at the same time challenging, aspects of being a parent – particularly at a time when costs are going up while wages stay about the same.  All told, Americans now owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt.And so in the new Congress, Republicans are working to lower costs for middle-class families and empower folks with bottom-up solutions that help prepare you for the future.That’s why, this week, I introduced a bipartisan plan to expand popular 529 college savings accounts.As you know, these 529 plans were created to help middle-class families save and plan for college.  Many parents open them not long after their children are born.  And ever since Congress allowed folks to withdraw from these accounts tax-free for college expenses, 1 million account holders have turned into 12 million.Unfortunately, instead of expanding 529s, the president recently proposed raising taxes on college savings.  If implemented his scheme would have turned back the clock on middle-class families, and taken money from your savings to pay for more government.  This would have discouraged families from using 529s, meaning less savings, more debt, and more government dependence.It was a terribly misguided idea, but it took a public outcry for the president to realize it.  Just days after proposing this tax on 529s, he agreed to drop it from his budget.But with hardworking families struggling, abandoning his proposal is not enough.First, the president should put his full weight behind our plan to expand and strengthen 529 accounts.  We can remove common paperwork problems, empower students to use the money to pay for computers, and make it easier for families to send their kids to the college of their choice.  Because we should be rewarding people who work hard and play by the rules – not punishing them.Second, the president should reconsider his threats to veto our common-sense jobs bills.  We’ve voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would create 42,000 American jobs.  We’re ready to restore the 40-hour workweek so we can get people working full-time again. And we think bureaucrats should have to regulate with more transparency and less cost.  That’s just common sense.Expanding opportunity, protecting middle-class savings, holding government accountable: these are your priorities, which means they are Republicans’ priorities.As we saw this week, when the people speak out, government has to listen.  Now we need President Obama to keep listening.  It’s the best thing he can do for our families and our future.Thank you for listening, and enjoy the Super Bowl.

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White House: US Has ‘Updated’ Monitoring of Released Taliban

White House: US Has ‘Updated’ Monitoring of Released Taliban

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. has updated its efforts to monitor the Taliban detainees released from Guantanamo in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the White House said on Friday.“None of these individuals has returned to the battlefield, none of them is allowed to travel outside of Qatar, and none has engaged in physical violence,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, when asked about reports that one of the five Taliban fighters has made contact with active terrorists.Earnest stressed on Friday that the detainees released last May remain in Qatar and that their activities are limited. But, in light of concerns about their possible contact with terror groups, he said “those mitigation efforts and those monitoring efforts have been updated.”Earnest declined, however, to detail the updates. “We continue to have confidence that there are measures in place to substantially mitigate the threat that they pose to American national security,” he said.

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White House on Mitt Romney’s Decision Not to Run in 2016

White House on Mitt Romney’s Decision Not to Run in 2016

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) -- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not offer any reaction on Friday from President Obama to the news that Mitt Romney will not be making another run at the White House in 2016.Earnest however said he hopes Romney will use his influence going forward to encourage Republican candidates to focus on ways to boost the middle class.“He did say in recent days that he hoped that we could have a more robust debate in this country about what we could do to put in place policies that benefit middle-class families,” Earnest said.  “I'm confident that Governor Romney will be someone whose endorsement will be sought by other Republican candidates. And I'm hopeful that Governor Romney will use that influence to try and elevate the debate, and have more attention and focus on policies that actually benefit middle-class families.” While Earnest did not offer any reaction from the president, he said he knew the announcement not to run was a difficult one. “Governor Romney is a man of great faith and a man who has tremendous loyalty and commitment to his country, and that is something that is worthy of our respect,” Earnest said. “I'm confident that the announcement that he made today was a difficult one. I think he acknowledged as much. But it's also an intensely personal decision that candidates and their families make.”

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Compton’s Mayor Aja Brown Promises ‘the Best Is Yet to Come’

Compton’s Mayor Aja Brown Promises ‘the Best Is Yet to Come’

Office of the Mayor(COMPTON, Calif.) -- Inside a new community center in Compton, California, music can be heard. It’s the very first song played at a new after-school program designed to keep children safe and sound in the city that’s come to be associated with gangs and violence. But Compton is undergoing a change. Juan Ruiz, an instructor, said he developed the program with the help of the city’s mayor, Aja Brown. Now, the 32-year-old Brown, a Democrat, has injected more than just music into the city since she was elected in 2013. Brown’s own grandmother was murdered in a home invasion in the city before Brown was born. “I was able to see the impact it had on my entire family and especially my mother,” she said. After she graduated from the University of Southern California with honors, Brown worked behind the scenes in urban planning for 10 years before being elected as mayor in 2012. She beat her opponents -- the incumbent and a former mayor -- handily, and hit the ground running. In city development meetings, Brown said, she’s usually the only woman. Her greatest lesson comes from her own mother, who taught her to “be committed and to make sacrifices and...put something in front of you, do something bigger than yourself,” she said. Brown ended cronyism by making city fiscal business contract decisions and choices and invoices fully transparent and public. And that's not all. “Our crime rate is down 25 percent," she said. "Our unemployment rate [is] down 5 percent, and we have nearly 1,000 new jobs coming into the community.” Today, the sound of urban renewal -- jackhammers and construction -- can be heard throughout the city. “We’re actually bringing major, major retail to the city of Compton, as we speak,” Brown said. Ruiz credited Brown with the progress in the city. “We are proud of our mayor,” he said, adding that Brown is loved and is changing lives. “You can feel it,” he said. Brown shares his enthusiasm. “I’m proud of the work that we’ve been able to accomplish here, and I’m excited because I know that the best is yet to come,” she said.

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Mitt Romney Not Running for President in 2016: Fellow Pols React

Mitt Romney Not Running for President in 2016: Fellow Pols React

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Mitt Romney spent the past few weeks hinting that he might be considering another bid for the White House -- so his announcement Friday morning that he would not run for president in 2016 caught many by surprise.Here's how some of the people who might have run against Romney reacted to his official announcement: Potential 2016ers Weigh InFormer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- also thought to be considering a White House bid -- called the 2012 GOP nominee “a patriot.” “I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over,” Bush wrote on Facebook. “I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up.” The two met in Utah earlier this month, fueling speculation that they discussed the 2016 contest. Party pundits had feared pitting the two candidates against one another would divide the Republican establishment. (Bush, however, told reporters they “put aside...awkward” talk of a potential match-up.) The Florida governor wasn’t the only likely 2016 candidate to weigh in on Romney’s announcement. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who trolled Bush and Romney on Twitter earlier this month, said he wished Romney and his wife, Ann, the best.

“I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward,” Paul wrote.

My family & I wish Mitt & Ann the best. We have gotten to know them over the last few years & deeply respect their family & Mitt's service.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 30, 2015

I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward.

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) January 30, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who was rumored to be in the running to be Romney’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, said in a statement on Friday to ABC News, “Over the past two years, there hasn't been a day when I didn't think that Mitt Romney would have been a better president than Barack Obama.” “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mitt and campaigning for him, was grateful for his support in my Senate race, and I know what a difficult decision this must be given his love of our country,” he added. “He certainly earned the right to consider running, so I deeply respect his decision to give the next generation a chance to lead.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who competed against Romney for the 2008 nomination, thanked Romney on Facebook for his leadership and said he could “understand and respect his decision not to run.” Former New York Gov. George Pataki mused that Romney would have made “a great president.”

Having served as Governors together, I know @MittRomney would have been a great president. My best to Mitt, Ann and their entire family.

— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) January 30, 2015

Romney's 2012 running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who officially announced earlier this month that he would not seek the GOP nomination in 2016, also said Romney would have been a "great president." "I respect his & Ann's decision," Ryan tweeted, "and will work with him to move our party forward in 2016."

.@MittRomney would've made a great President. I respect his & Ann's decision and will work with him to move our party forward in 2016.

— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) January 30, 2015

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, tweeted on Friday that Romney made his announcement today with "class & grace."

Best of luck to @MittRomney, who showed great class & grace with today's announcement - he still has plenty to contribute to our nation

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) January 30, 2015

Democrats Not Quite as ComplimentaryDemocrats generally were less effusive about Romney. At a Democratic retreat in Philadelphia on Friday, according to The Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Romney a “wonderful American,” and added, “I don’t want to make a joke about his candidacy.” Other Democrats chimed in on Twitter:

Farewell, old friend: http://t.co/YBL1bHUbu6 pic.twitter.com/ncP0ykTNxx

— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) January 30, 2015

Congratulations to Mitt Romney for finally saying something the American people want to hear.

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) January 30, 2015

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Mitt Romney, Chris Christie to Dine Together Friday

Mitt Romney, Chris Christie to Dine Together Friday

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will dine together Friday evening, a source familiar with the plans confirms to ABC News.The dinner, which was first reported by The New York Times, comes on the same day that Romney announced he would not make a third run for the White House in 2016.“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said on a conference call with supporters Friday.It also follows a meeting between Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in Utah last week.Bush, who announced in a Facebook post last December that he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President,” issued a statement on Romney's decision Friday."Mitt Romney has been a leader in our party for many years. There are few people who have worked harder to elect Republicans across the country than he has. Though I’m sure today’s decision was not easy, I know that Mitt Romney will never stop advocating for renewing America’s promise through upward mobility, encouraging free enterprise and strengthening our national defense," Bush said in a Facebook post."Mitt is a patriot and I join many in hoping his days of serving our nation and our party are not over. I look forward to working with him to ensure all Americans have a chance to rise up," he added.

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Mitt Romney Says No to 2016 Presidential Run

Mitt Romney Says No to 2016 Presidential Run

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) — For Mitt Romney, it appears that the third time is not the charm.On a conference call with supporters Friday, Romney is expected to take a pass on another White House bid, according to an advance text of his remarks.“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney plans to say.Romney will also say: “I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well-known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.”Romney has been flirting with another White House run in recent weeks.

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John Kerry Ticketed for Failing to Shovel Boston Residence Sidewalk

John Kerry Ticketed for Failing to Shovel Boston Residence Sidewalk

citofboston.gov(BOSTON) -- He’s been a soldier, an attorney, a lawmaker, a presidential candidate and he’s now the head of the U.S. State Department. But that doesn’t mean John Kerry doesn’t have to follow the rules like the rest of us.According to a complaint on Boston’s Citizens Connect website, Kerry apparently neglected to shovel snow off the sidewalk of his Boston residence following the massive Northeast blizzard earlier this week.To be fair, Kerry was not in the United States when the white stuff rolled over Boston. On Tuesday, he was attending the president’s delegation to pay respects to deceased Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and immediately upon his return had to attend Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s farewell ceremony in Virginia.Kerry spokesman Glen Johnson emailed a statement about the incident to ABC News, saying, "Diplomats -- they're just like us."Johnson said Kerry's neighborhood association hires a contractor who did, in fact, shovel after the storm. But the contractor apparently failed to shovel one of Kerry’s sidewalks because someone had strung along caution tape to warn pedestrians of falling snow and ice from the roof. Johnson said the contractor apparently thought it meant the sidewalk was off limits.The ordeal cost Kerry a whopping $50, which Johnson said Kerry will "gladly pay."However, Boston is forecasted to experience even more snowfall this weekend, so there may be more shoveling ahead.It’s not the first complaint submitted for the Kerry residence on the Citizens Connect website. Dating back to April of last year, one resident complained that the police guarding the Kerry residence sit in their car with the engine running.“It's nice and cool out,” the complaint reads. “There's absolutely no need for air conditioning.”

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Sen. John McCain: ‘Cloud’ over Super Bowl Because of ‘Slow’ NFL Scandal Response

Sen. John McCain: ‘Cloud’ over Super Bowl Because of ‘Slow’ NFL Scandal Response

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) — With his home state set to host the Super Bowl this weekend, Sen. John McCain said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s plodding response to scandals and diversions have contributed to a “cloud” over the biggest sporting event of the year.“There's a cloud. It’s a diversion,” McCain, R-Ariz., said on the ABC/ESPN podcast Capital Games. “It's unfortunate that this whole issue of 'deflate-gate' is overshadowing it. And I believe that the NFL, in particular, has been very slow in assuring those of us who pay close attention that they are taking enough action to find out what happened.”McCain and some of his colleagues have been critical of Goodell all year for not being more proactive in addressing the league’s various challenges.

It’s been a bumpy year for the NFL, from the Ray Rice domestic violence incident through substance abuse allegations, head-injury lawsuits, and growing questions about the Washington Redskins’ team name.McCain said Goodell has done further damage to the NFL in the aftermath of allegations that the New England Patriots used partially deflated footballs in their AFC Championship win, the game that got the team to the Super Bowl.“Every question and every allegation that remains unanswered hangs out there and does damage,” he said. “Any objective observer is saying that Roger Goodell was either in over his head or did not understand the gravity and the importance or both the Rice thing and 'Deflate-gate.'”“They gotta get their act together. They gotta get this issue behind them as quickly as possible,” McCain added.McCain said the "Deflate-gate" scandal, in particular, has been a big item of conversation on the Senate floor.“Maybe this means that we don't have enough to do," he said. "Or maybe it means that the people we represent are deeply concerned about this issue.”McCain added that he’d like to see congressional hearings on expanded legalized sports gambling, given the proliferation of casino-style gambling throughout the country and the enormous sums that are bet on events like the Super Bowl through illegal channels.McCain shared his Super Bowl pick -- the Patriots, he said, citing his “mixed emotions” about the Seattle Seahawks’ star cornerback Richard Sherman, as an Arizona Cardinals fan.Regarding the 2016 presidential race: Would he choose his former running mate, Sarah Palin, or his good friend Sen. Lindsey Graham?“Dark horse -- watch them coming up. Lindsey Graham,” McCain said. “I have the greatest affection and appreciation of Sarah Palin. But I think in this time of great national peril, with the rise of ISIS and the challenges that we face worldwide, I think Lindsey is best equipped to address the challenges to our nation’s security.”Palin's office did not immediately respond to request for comment.Also on Capital Games, ESPN NFL analyst Andrew Brandt said the league has been in “reactive mode” all year, a situation that was highlighted by "Deflate-gate."“It’s been a question of credibility all year long,” said Brandt, a former NFL executive.And Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, talked about the billions being wagered illegally on sporting events. He said he doesn’t sense movement in Congress toward expanded sports betting, but noted that pushes by states, including New Jersey and Delaware, are moving the conversation along.“The discussion is beginning, and that’s a good thing,” Freeman said.You can listen to the complete Capital Games episode here on desktop, and here on a mobile device.Capital Games with Andy Katz and Rick Klein is part of the ESPN Perspectives podcast series. The program explores the intersection of sports and politics with interviews with political figures and sports insiders. It can be downloaded free as a podcast on Apple devices.

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Kerry Cancels Plan to Visit Putin in Moscow

Kerry Cancels Plan to Visit Putin in Moscow

State Department photo/ Public Domain(MOSCOW) -- Secretary of State John Kerry has canceled unannounced plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week, a U.S. official told ABC News.The two were expected to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, where the United States blames Russia for arming and funding the separatist forces. The U.S. has also accused Russia of sending its troops across the border to bolster the rebels. Russia has denied the accusations.The decision to cancel the visit came just days after an alleged Russian spy ring was broken up in New York, and after last weekend’s offensive by Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. This week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggested the United States could expand sanctions on Russia as the fighting in Ukraine continues.Kerry is still expected to attend next week’s Munich Security Conference, and the possibility remains he may meet his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, there.Secretary Kerry would have been the first cabinet-level U.S. official to visit Russia since the Ukraine crisis began last year. Kerry’s last trip to Russia came in May 2013, shortly before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow, harming U.S.-Russia relations.President Obama visited St. Petersburg, Russia, for the -summit in September 2013, but canceled plans for a summit with Putin in Moscow during the same trip after Snowden received asylum in Russia.

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Obama Wants to Boost Spending, End Sequester

Obama Wants to Boost Spending, End Sequester

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PHILADELPHIA) — Continuing to defy the GOP's wishes for smaller government and less spending, President Obama instead is proposing a seven percent increase in his $1.1 trillion 2016 fiscal budget proposal.Obama's plan, which he outlined to House Democrats at their annual retreat in Philadelphia Thursday, would end sequestration, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts affecting both defense and domestic programs for nearly two years.Although the sequester has sliced the federal deficit in half from its height of $1 trillion, the president feels that these spending cuts will hurt the military and have a negative impact on the economy, which has been growing steadily after years of stagnation.Republicans have no intention of passing Obama's budget proposal as is, although a number of them would like to end the sequester and find other ways to reduce spending.The president told House Democrats that he has no intention of sitting on the sidelines during the last two years of his second term, contending that the party needs to fight for the middle class, millions of whom still haven't benefited from the economic resurgence.Obama also rattled off his administration's accomplishments and took some digs at Republicans, particularly Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP standard bearer who is thinking about another run at the White House.Without mentioning Romney by name, the president mused how a “former presidential candidate” is “suddenly deeply concerned about poverty.”

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Obama Touts American Progress, Democratic Leadership at House Retreat

Obama Touts American Progress, Democratic Leadership at House Retreat

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- President Obama spoke Thursday night at the House Democrats' annual retreat in Philadelphia, pointing out the progress being made under Democratic leadership."As much as we should appreciate the progress that's been made...it shouldn't be a cause for complacency," Obama said, "cause we've got more work to do." Instead, Obama called on Democrats to "stand up and go on offense and not be defensive about what we believe in."Asked about the possibility of Republican legislation attempting to undo reforms enacted on his watch, specifically the Affordable Care Act, Obama said, "I would happily veto it. If they try to unravel new rules that we put in place to make sure Wall Street recklessness doesn't hurt American families again, I'll be happy to veto it.""You and I together made some really tough choices," Obama told the congressmen and women attending the retreat. "Sometimes politically unpopular choices. America has come back."

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White House Crash Drone Owner Blames Manufacturer Glitch for ‘Whole Fiasco’

White House Crash Drone Owner Blames Manufacturer Glitch for ‘Whole Fiasco’

U.S. Secret Service(WASHINGTON) -- The owner of the drone that crashed onto the White House grounds Monday morning -- prompting a pre-dawn security scare -- says his friend who borrowed the ill-fated aircraft shouldn't be blamed for the “whole fiasco.”Instead, the drone’s owner told ABC News that both of them are now convinced the company that manufactured the drone deserves much of the blame.The owner said drones sold by China-based DJI have a “well-documented” problem with so-called “flyaway” – when an operator loses control of a drone already in the air.“It just goes rogue,” said the owner, speaking to ABC News on the condition of anonymity. “It goes where it wants.”Indeed, countless messages posted on DJI’s own online forum and several videos posted on YouTube report instances of “flyaway.” One post calls it “an amazing product flaw.”But at least one message on the DJI forum cites “pilot error” and “environmental interference” from microwave and cell towers as some “primary causes.”Nevertheless, the owner of the drone that landed just yards from the West Wing early Monday morning said a “fundamental flaw” with his drone played a “decisive part in the whole fiasco.”“It’s not his fault,” said the drone’s owner, referring to his friend, a “hard-working civil servant” who is now facing potential criminal charges in the matter.“This never would have happened at all without that DJI flaw,” said the drone’s owner, adding that if a vehicle had a similar flaw, authorities would have issued a nationwide recall.The owner said he bought his drone in November from Amazon.com for $499. Over the next couple of months, he and his friend repeatedly flew the drone with no problems, often sending it airborne above a high school in suburban Virginia.About two weeks ago, his friend borrowed the drone. Alone early Monday morning -- having returned hours earlier from a date -- the friend launched the drone above an adjacent building, the drone’s owner said he was told by his friend.Then, all of a sudden, the drone “shot up so high he couldn’t see it anymore,” with a last glimpse showing it heading east toward the National Mall, according to the drone owner.In a pre-dawn phone call, the pair guessed it would crash on a rooftop and decided to look for it in the morning, the owner said.But instead, it crashed inside the White House complex, prompting what the Secret Service called “an immediate alert and lockdown of the complex,” and then a federal investigation.When the drone owner’s friend realized what was happening, he called his supervisor at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and they notified the Secret Service, which then questioned the federal employee and the drone’s owner.Now prosecutors in Washington are mulling over whether to file charges against the man who flew the drone early Monday.Local law prohibits drone flights inside Washington, D.C., and federal regulations prohibit such flights near the White House. In addition, federal law makes it a crime to deliberately interfere with air traffic, but law enforcement officials concluded early on that the drone operator had no malicious intent.By all accounts, those who have spent time with the man behind the White House scare describe him as a “great guy” who is “clearly very intelligent and passionate about his work.”An online search shows him to have a long-established interest in aviation.“I hope that this incident doesn't ruin his impressive career with the U.S. government,” said an acquaintance who has hung out with him many times at social events.Emails and calls seeking comment from DJI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., were not immediately returned.

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Taliban Are Not Terrorists, or So Says the White House

Taliban Are Not Terrorists, or So Says the White House

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- They act like terrorists, they regularly kill civilians like terrorists, but the White House does not consider the Afghan Taliban to be a terrorist group.“They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism. They do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained Thursday, but “they have a different classification.”Semantics aside, the Taliban is suspected in multiple attacks over just the last 48 hours that have killed more than 30 people, including a suicide bombing attack on a funeral in Afghanistan Thursday that killed 16 and wounded 39.Even so, the White House does not call the Afghan Taliban a terrorist organization, Earnest explained, because they are “different than an organization like al Qaeda that has a much broader global aspiration to carry out acts of violence and acts of terror against Americans and American interests all around the globe.”The issue has come up because the White House insisted on Wednesday that a prisoner exchange between Jordan and ISIS would be different than the prisoner exchange the United States made last year with the Taliban to gain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.“Our policy is that we don't pay ransom. We don't give concessions to terrorist organizations,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Wednesday. “This is a longstanding policy that predates this administration. And it's also one that we've communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”

Schultz explained that the exchange the United States made with the Taliban -- releasing five Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl -- was consistent with that policy because the Taliban is an “armed insurgency” and not a terrorist organization.But the Obama administration isn’t entirely consistent on this point.On one hand, the Afghan Taliban are not on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (the Pakistan Taliban is on that last). On the other hand, the Taliban is on the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, a classification that allows their assets to be frozen.And even as Earnest was explaining why the Taliban are not terrorists, he slipped, calling them...“terrorists.”“We have not ruled out that there would be some situations in which U.S. service members would still carry out operations in self-defense against the Taliban or other terrorists who are operating in Afghanistan,” Earnest said.

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