The first family, shown here in a 2009 file photo, attended Easter service at a southeast Washington church Sunday. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama and his family chose a historically African-American church in southeast Washington, D.C., for Easter observances Sunday, entering a few minutes late to the sounds of "Alleluia," which opened the 11 a.m. service.
Congregants at the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church broke into cheers and applause, snapping cell phone pictures when Obama, wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson arrived via a side door.
Several speakers during the service acknowledged the first family's attendance at the church, which calls itself "The Cathedral of Southeast."
The church's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Michael E. Bell Sr., referred to the president as the "most intelligent, most anointed, most charismatic president," while complimenting Michelle Obama, who wore a cream-colored dress with elbow-length sleeves.
Bell also acknowledged the timing of Obama's visit to the church, five days after a March 30 shooting spree in the region killed four people and wounded five others.
Dancing on the head of a pin, two of the president’s top advisers were out Sunday touting March job gains as signs the president’s economic policy is working , while paying due diligence to a brutal 9.7 percent unemployment rate. “We’ve got a long way to go,” according to Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council. Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers added, “We still face a lot of headwinds…”
Both were primed with talking points, including a slam on Republicans for refusing to extend unemployment benefits until Congress found some way to pay for it: “…that’s not how government should be working,” Summers scolded. “Absolutely has to get done,“ Romer insisted.
Is the opposite of talking points non-talking points? If so, China’s manipulation of its currency is the latter. The administration decision to delay its “world currencies” report (due mid-April) until after a series of meetings with the Chinese was quite the touchy issue this Sunday.
China’s undervalued currency adds to the U.S. jobs problem, (it makes U.S. goods more expensive and Chinese exports cheaper). A bipartisan move in Congress would label China a “currency manipulator.” Pressed repeatedly on whether they agree, neither Romer nor Summers would play. The default position was basically, we’re looking at it. "This is absolutely going to be an issue that is high on the agenda,” said Romer. Summers promised the U.S. would pursue the issue with “a great deal of vigor.” He denied on ABC that the delay was tied to the U.S. hope that China will go along with sanctions against Iran. Wonder if all that U.S. debt China is holding has anything to do with the delicate approach?
Case closed for Israel under intense U.S. pressure to quit building in East Jerusalem. “The policy is not going to change,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. “Our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they, an Arab and Jew, would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C.” How are U.S.-Israeli relations? “Great”. Privately, U.S. officials have a different description.
Washington (CNN) – Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said Sunday that relations were good between the two longtime allies despite the appearance of a strain in recent weeks. And Ambassador Michael Oren repeatedly emphasized the need for the Palestinians to participate in peace talks in order to broker an accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Watch: Israel wants peace, Oren says
A mini dust-up began between Israel and the U.S. last month when Israel announced plans to build housing on disputed land in East Jerusalem. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the announcement “insulting” in part because it was made while Vice President Biden was visiting Israel and the West Bank. Though both sides have maintained throughout that the bond between the two nations remains strong, relations once again appeared strained when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a recent visit to the White House where he was not greeted with the same fanfare that the Obama administration has rolled out for other world leaders.
Asked about Netanyahu’s low-key visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said last week on CNN’s State of the Union that “no snub was intended.” Axelrod characterized President Obama’s behind-closed-doors meeting with Netanyahu as “a working meeting.” While Axelrod echoed the familiar refrain that Israel remains a close ally of the United States, he also said that “sometimes, part of friendship is expressing yourself bluntly.”
Appearing Sunday on State of the Union, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., sought to explain Israel’s approach to Jerusalem.
“Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967,” Oren told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu... that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv. And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they – an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C.
“That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.”
Oren added, “But we understand – we understand that Jerusalem is sensitive.”
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's senior economic adviser said Sunday that the government was delaying a report to Congress on exchange-rate policies of U.S. trading partners to provide more time to address China's alleged manipulation of its currency.
Lawrence Summers, the director of the National Economic Council, told the CNN program "State of the Union" that major international meetings coming up, including a G-20 economic gathering that will include China, provided the opportunity to resolve trade differences that could be exacerbated by releasing the exchange-rate report as scheduled on April 15.
Summers called the upcoming meetings opportunities to engage China and other countries that have large trade surpluses with the United States.
Washington (CNN) – One of President Obama’s top economic advisers suggested Sunday that the economy still has a ways to go to turn around a bleak unemployment situation. At the same time, Lawrence Summers suggested that the White House’s efforts were being stymied by Republican opposition on Capitol Hill.
Watch: Summers on jobs
The economy gained 162,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department announced Friday. But even with that growth – which constituted the best monthly jobs report in three years – the national unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent.
Related on CNNMoney.com: March jobs report shows growth
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House National Economic Council, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We’ve inherited a terrible situation, the most pressing economic problems since the Great Depression in our country. It is the president’s preoccupation to put people back to work.”
While acknowledging that the economic outlook is not where the White House would like it to be, Summers pointed out that the economy is doing better now than it was this time last year in terms of job growth, exports, and availability of credit.
“The trend has turned,” Summers told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “but to get back to the surface, we’ve got a long way to go and that’s what we’re fighting to do every day.”
(CNN) - Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says he will soon decide whether to step down after 35 years as the leader of the liberal wing of the nation's highest court.
Stevens' comments, published Saturday by The New York Times and The Washington Post, amplified what he told CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on March 8 - that he would make up his mind about retirement in about a month.
"We are just about at a month," Toobin said Saturday night. "I don't think he meant that precisely to the day, but I think we will hear in the month of April that he is retiring."
Steven's retirement has been the cause of growing speculation since last fall, when he hired one law clerk for the upcoming session of the court, Toobin said. Until then, he had hired his customary four.
"Last fall, he hired one law clerk which is all that a retiring justice is entitled to," Toobin said.
Stevens celebrates his 90th birthday on April 20.
His retirement will give President Obama another chance to put his stamp on the court. Last summer, he named Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the court.
In Stevens' place, Obama will likely nominate another Democrat, thus maintaining the court's ideological balance of five conservative to four liberal-leaning judges.
Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which considers Supreme Court nominees - said Sunday that he would lobby Obama to choose a successor for Stevens who supports limiting executive power built up during George W. Bush's presidency.
Washington (CNN) - The slow but steady U.S. economic recovery appears set to continue, with underlying indicators signaling a growing strength, some of the nation's senior economists said Sunday.
"The trend has turned," said Lawrence Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council, on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "But to get back to the surface, we've got a long way to go."
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told ABC's "This Week" that the recovery so far has led to conditions for compounding growth. In particular, Greenspan cited an increasing demand for inventory that spurs production as a signal of a possible significant build-up in growth.
"I suspect it's month by month," Greenspan said of continued economic growth, adding that "a statistical aberration is possible."
He said he doubted another drop in growth to create what economists call "double-dip recession" after the downturn of 2008-2009, saying the odds were "very much against that now."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," the chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, Cristina Romer, said the recovery would have to be systemic rather than consumer-driven because, in the wake of the recession, "we're not going to be see people maxing out their credit cards again."
Romer predicted economic growth for the year of 3 percent, which she said would be enough to keep creating jobs but not enough to significantly reduce the unemployment rate.
All three spoke two days after the government announced 162,000 news jobs created in March but the unemployment rate remaining at 9.7 percent.