(CNN) - One hundred years after the birth of the NAACP, the civil rights group welcomed the first African-American president.
President Obama spoke before the annual convention Thursday night in New York, the city where the organization was founded.
"What we celebrate tonight is not simply the journey the NAACP has traveled, but the journey that we, as Americans, have traveled over the past 100 years," Obama told the crowd.
The excitement over Obama was in stark contrast to the reception of former President Bush, who had a strained relationship with the NAACP and declined the group's invitations for five years.
Bush spoke before the NAACP in 2000, during his first run for the presidency, but he did not make another appearance until 2006.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Behind the scenes they're tearing out their hair.
Nominees for top positions in the Obama administration say they are put on seemingly endless hold for months during the "vetting" process, forced to provide minute details of their financial, personal and professional lives going back years. Many have to hire lawyers and accountants – paid for with their own money – to compile the information. Some nominees have simply given up in frustration.
Now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it's affecting U.S. diplomatic relations.
"It's hard to explain in my position to our foreign counterparts that we don't have positions filled that would be the natural interlocutors or their counterparts in other countries," she said Thursday.
It's the third time this week the secretary has lambasted the process. Monday, she called it "frustrating beyond words," telling staff at the U.S. Agency for International Development who still don't have a new administrator, the process is a "nightmare."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's decision to step down from her post, saying Thursday that he admired her decision to "focus on her family," adding that the "brain trust here in Washington" should "wait to see what she does."
Steele also said that Palin is not a quitter and called that notion a "wonderful Democrat talking point."
"You have to take her at face value, why she made that decision when she did and then, let's wait to see what Sarah does next," Steele said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room. "Then, that will begin to give you some idea of how that story will unfold. All the pontificating, stop it. Wait to see what she does."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The cast on her elbow is finally off, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasted no time Thursday swinging back at media reports that she is being sidelined by the White House in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
At a question-and-answer session at the State Department, Clinton drew a laugh with her quip that "I broke my elbow, not my larynx." She told reporters she is consistently involved both in shaping and implementing policy.
Clinton is beginning a week-long trip to India and Thailand.
She broke her elbow last month, requiring several weeks in a cast as well as hours of physical therapy, and forcing her to cancel two international trips and curtail her public schedule.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama's opposition to taxing employer-provided health benefits has slowed progress on passing a health care reform bill, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee complained Thursday.
"Basically, the president is not helping us," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, after emerging from closed talks on the bill.
Baucus' criticism came on the same day the head of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the health reform bills moving through Congress won't reduce long-term health care costs - in part because the bills don't include taxes on health benefits.
The comments by CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf provided ammunition for Republican opponents of the two Democratic-sponsored measures made public so far - one passed Wednesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and one proposed this week by House Democrats.
"I don't see any Republicans that have any interest in voting to ration care for their constituents, raise costs to their constituents, and put the federal government in charge of the best health care system in the world," said House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
(CNN) – The Republican presidential primary process doesn't kick off for more than two years, but perhaps it's never too early to take a measure of where a race that's far from starting stands.
It appears to be a three-way race between former White House hopeful Mitt Romney, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee - also an ex-presidential aspirant. Romney stands at 26 percent in the new survey, compared to 21 percent for Palin, and 19 percent for Huckabee.
But the poll, which surveyed 455 Republicans and Republican-leaning voters between July 10-12, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, meaning all three are essentially locked in a dead heat.
Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and current conservative commentator stands at 14 percent while Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour - the governors of Minnesota and Mississippi respectively - are each in low single digits.
The Gallup survey shows similar results to those of a recent CNN poll that also indicated the same three Republicans are locked in hypothetical race for the party's nomination.
But while Romney, Palin, and Huckabee are clustered on top, the survey shows voters hold a much higher favorability rating of the soon-to-be ex-Alaska governor than the other two Republicans. Palin scores a 72 percent approval rating compared with Huckabee's 59 percent and Romeny's 56 percent.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she would willing to lower the amount of a new surtax on wealthy Americans to pay for health care legislation if more savings from proposed reforms can cover the cost of the bill.
"If we can get more savings, we can perhaps lower the percentage that the high end will pay," Pelosi said at her weekly press conference.
But the Speaker made it clear that Democrats still plan to tax the rich, and said if the money isn't needed to pay for health care it would be directed at the nation's budget deficit. "There is going to be a revenue change at the high end. It will be directly to reduce the deficit or to reduce the deficit by helping to cover the cost of this initiative."
Earlier this week, House Democrats proposed a graduated surtax on wealthy Americans to pay for their roughly $1 trillion health care bill. The new tax is expected to raise $550 billion over ten years. The proposal would add a 1 percent surtax on adjusted gross income for families who make over $350,000 a year. It would increase to 1.5 percent for those families making $500,000 a year, and jump again to 5.4 percent for those making over $1 million a year.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican National Committee and Second Amendment advocates came down hard on Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday for not directly answering a question on whether or not Americans have a right to bear arms.
More than seven weeks after President Obama named her as his Supreme Court pick, and nearly a week into her confirmation hearings, the National Rifle Association issued an official statement Thursday opposing her nomination.
The announcement came the same day the RNC released a new Web video showing an exchange between Sotomayor and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn over the "right to self-defense." Sotomayor told the Oklahoma senator that she didn't know if "that legal question has been ever presented" and called it an "abstract question."
"Judge Sotomayor, The Right To Bear Arms Isn't An Abstract Question," reads the screen in the video. "Do You Believe That Americans Have A Right To Bear Arms? Stop Evading, And Start Answering The Question."
Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox of the National Rifle Association said Sotomayor has a "hostile view of the Second Amendment and the fundamental right of self-defense."