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Ari Shapiro

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Most of the Republican presidential candidates are focusing their campaign efforts on Iowa at the moment; the first-in-the-nation caucuses there are less than two weeks away.

In the final leg of the campaign in Iowa, the Republican presidential candidates are talking about judges. No one has made them a bigger issue than Newt Gingrich.

Overhauling the judiciary has become one of his key proposals on the stump.

Conservatives have used "activist judges" as a battle cry for many election cycles now. But in Iowa, the issue has special resonance since the judiciary became a potent political issue two years ago.

The last American troops are coming home from Iraq this month, and President Obama is marking the occasion with a series of events to commemorate the conclusion of the war.

On Wednesday at Fort Bragg, N.C., he and the first lady will thank troops for their service.

This event is a decade in the making, with far-reaching implications including domestic political consequences.

At the end of this month, a payroll tax cut is set to expire that the White House says would result in a tax increase of about $1,000 per year on most middle-class families. The benefit is popular with the American people, which may be one reason President Obama has been relentlessly promoting it.

The president argues that extending the payroll tax "holiday" through 2012 is vital to the economy. Republicans in Congress are divided over that, but they strongly disagree with the president's plan to pay for it with a surtax on millionaires.

A group of more than 100 volunteers helped decorate the White House this year, covering the mansion in Christmas trees, cookie ornaments and several versions of the Obamas' dog, Bo. The real stars, however, were the military families who joined the celebration.

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Tucked away in a corner of the White House's Old Executive Office Building, an office that most people have never heard of affects millions of Americans' lives. It's the last hurdle that every proposed regulation must surmount before seeing the light of day. And a new study of this obscure part of the government suggests that President Obama is altering more of those regulations than President George W. Bush did.

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Through the ups and downs of the Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney has remained in effect the front-runner.

He has done so even without holding as many rallies, town hall meetings or meet-and-greet events as some of the other candidates. He's also done fewer media appearances.

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President Obama flies to Honolulu on Friday to begin the third Asia trip of his presidency. He'll visit Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia in a nine-day trip that's meant to reaffirm a fundamental shift in America's foreign policy.

In the coming months, the Obama administration will decide whether to approve the Keystone pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. down to the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmental advocates will try to encircle the White House on Sunday in a show of solidarity against the project. Steady protests have made this one of the most high-profile environmental decisions of the Obama presidency.

White House spokesman Jay Carney often tries to distance the president from the decision-making process over the pipeline.

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Over the last few years, during factory tours across the country, Obama has driven an electric vehicle and coerced a New York Times reporter aboard a high-tech scooter.

So it was a safe bet that when he and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak found a brand new subcompact Chevy Sonic car on their tour of a General Motors plant, the two world leaders would climb in.

President Obama had a rare bipartisan economic success this week when Congress passed three trade deals.

Obama is going to Detroit on Friday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to take a victory lap. But some important parts of Obama's base are not fans of these deals — with South Korea, Panama and Colombia — which could have political consequences for the president.

Friday's event is at a General Motors plant. The auto industry and its workers are big fans of the free-trade deal with South Korea, so they're sure to give the world leaders a warm welcome.

Ever since President Obama proposed his $447 billion jobs bill in a joint address to Congress last month, he has been campaigning for it nonstop. He has whipped up crowds all across America who chant, "Pass this bill!"

It contains a variety of measures to fight unemployment — everything from tax breaks for businesses to extended benefits for the jobless. But despite the campaigning, Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to kill the measure. The final vote was 50-49.

Jonathan Cowan of the centrist Democratic group Third Way says that's no big deal — it was always a long shot.

There is a tradition of Republican presidential candidates laying out their foreign-policy views at The Citadel.

John McCain did it four years ago; George W. Bush did it eight years before that. On Friday, it was Mitt Romney's turn to speak at the South Carolina military academy.

First in a series

In the late 1970s, recently out of Harvard Business School, Mitt Romney went to work for the Boston consulting firm Bain & Co. He was successful, but he says his dream was always to run his own business.

In 1984, he got the chance.

The firm's founder asked Romney to start an investment fund called Bain Capital. The company would put money into small or struggling businesses, help them grow, and then Bain would cash out.

President Obama continued his tour in support of his jobs bill Thursday. The latest stop: Cincinnati, at the base of the double-decker Brent Spence Bridge.

The bridge sits on one of the busiest trucking routes in the country, and it's considered functionally obsolete.

Gerardo Claudio lives in Augusta, Ga., and works all over the U.S. He spends about three weeks on the road every month, which gives him a good look at the nation's infrastructure.

"The roads are in real, real awful condition, should I say," says Claudio, who was in Cincinnati on Thursday.

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