- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2014

WHITE HOUSE

Obamas attend church for Easter services

After skipping church on Christmas, President Obama and his family attended Easter morning services at Washington’s 19th St. Baptist Church on Sunday.

The president, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, left the White House just before 10 a.m., en route to the historic church, which dates back to the 1800s, according to the church’s website.

Mr. Obama has raised eyebrows for failing to choose a regular house of worship since becoming president, despite often speaking openly about his religion. In defending his decision, the president has said he does not want his presence at church services to become the center of attention. Ronald Reagan spoke similarly in the 1980s about his church non-attendance.

Still, Mr. Obama and his family have occasionally attended church over the last five years. Last Easter, for example, they went to services at Washington’s St. John’s Church.

SUPREME COURT

Stevens fine with politics factoring into justices’ leaving

Former Justice John Paul Stevens says he thinks it’s appropriate for Supreme Court justices to factor in political considerations when weighing a decision to retire.

“I think certainly it’s natural and an appropriate thing to think about your successor,” the retired justice told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview aired Sunday.

Mr. Stevens was nominated by Republican President Gerald Ford. He joined the court in 1975 and retired in 2010, at 90.

Mr. Stevens was asked about speculation that 81-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resisting calls from some liberals to retire while President Obama is in office and Democrats control the Senate, which must confirm nominees.

“If you’re interested in the job and in the kind of work that’s done, you have to have an interest in who’s going to fill your shoes,” Mr. Stevens said.

Mr. Stevens said his decision to step down was made out of concern about his own health, rather than any political reason.

TERRORISM

Cruz thanks Obama for signing of U.N. ambassador bill

Sen. Ted Cruz wrote President Obama a thank-you letter in this week’s Politico magazine for the president’s support behind S. 2195, which gives him the authority to deny visas to United Nations ambassadors who are known terrorists.

The Texas Republican was specifically referring to Iran’s recent nominee Hamid Aboutalebi, who was a member of the militant group that held 52 Americans hostage after seizing the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979.

The president signed S. 2195 into law on Friday after it unanimously passed both the Senate and House.

Mr. Cruz called the law an “unequivocal, bipartisan message that we will not tolerate the ongoing campaign of insult and antagonism from the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Washington has, with some justification, gained a reputation for being hopelessly mired in partisan gridlock,” he said. “But it is nothing short of inspiring to find that when confronted with such blatant evidence of Iran’s virulent anti-Americanism, we can stand together as one in the defense of our national security.”

Mr. Cruz also explicitly thanked Rep. Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, who introduced the bill in the House, and Sens. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, “for standing together and swiftly passing this legislation and sending it to the White House.”

DIPLOMACY

Obama Asia itinerary highlights territory disputes with China

As President Obama travels through Asia this coming week, he will confront a region that’s warily watching the crisis in Ukraine through the prism of its own territorial tensions with China.

Each of the four countries on Obama’s itinerary — Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines — has disputes with China over islands and waters in the South and East China Seas. Their leaders will be weighing Mr. Obama’s willingness to support them if those conflicts boil over.

“What we can say after seeing what happened to Ukraine is that using force to change the status quo is not acceptable,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose country is in one of the fiercest disputes with China.

Administration officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, have taken a tougher line on the territorial issues in recent weeks, sternly warning China against the use of military force and noting that the U.S. has treaty obligations to defend Japan in particular. But in an attempt to maintain good relations with China, the U.S. has not formally taken sides on the question of which countries should control which islands.

PRESIDENCY

Clinton-era documents show health care fears same as now

Thousands of pages of documents from President Bill Clinton’s White House affirm a longtime adage: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As Clinton prepared for an August 1994 news conference in which he hoped to build public support for his struggling — and ultimately unsuccessful — health care overhaul, he told his advisers: “A lot of them want to know they can keep their own plan if they like it.” Later that fall, Mr. Clinton’s Democrats were routed in midterm elections and lost control of Congress.

Nearly two decades later, President Obama repeatedly reassured Americans about his own plan that, “If you like your plan you can keep it.” A spate of private policy cancellations forced Mr. Obama to recant his pledge that all Americans who liked their plans could simply keep them.

About 7,500 pages of records released Friday through the National Archives and the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., show the parallels between the Clinton era and the White House under Mr. Obama. The documents may also offer a glimpse into a future as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who led her husband’s health care task force, considers another presidential campaign in 2016.

WHITE HOUSE

President to visit site of Washington mudslide

President Obama on Tuesday will tour the site of a deadly mudslide in Oso, Wash., the White House announced Sunday.

During his trip, the president also will meet with the families of those killed, along with first responders and recovery workers.

Last week, the death toll from the devastating March 22 mudslide rose to 39. There are still four people listed as missing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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