WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama, in an interview published Saturday, sought to clarify Attorney General Eric Holder's recent controversial comments calling America a 'nation of cowards' when it comes to race relations.
"I think it’s fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language," Obama told the New York Times aboard Air Force One on Friday. "I think the point that he was making is that we’re oftentimes uncomfortable with talking about race until there’s some sort of racial flare-up or conflict, and that we could probably be more constructive in facing up to the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination."
In a speech marking Black History Month on February 18, Holder said that while the nation has "proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot ... we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards."
Holder, an African American, said that Americans are afraid to talk about race, adding that "certain subjects are off-limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one's character."
And that impression of race in America set off an immediate firestorm of criticism - mostly among conservative bloggers such as Michelle Malkin.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama and Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by telephone Saturday morning about how the U.S. military can assist Mexico with growing violence by drug cartels - underscoring the growing concern with which the U.S. views the situation, according to a U.S. military official.
The president initiated the call within hours of Mullen returning to the U.S. from a visit to Mexico City to talk to top military officials there.
"The president was eager to get the chairman's observations on what he found out," the official told CNN.
(CNN) - President Obama can't assure that the economy will bounce back this year, but he says he will "get all the pillars in place for recovery this year."
Obama made the pledge in a 35-minute interview - largely focused on the economy and the war in Afghanistan - with The New York Times aboard Air Force One on Friday, according to a story published Saturday.
"I don't think that people should be fearful about our future," he told the newspaper. "I don't think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions."
Conservative opponents have criticized Obama's new administration, saying it has pushed the country toward socialism and that his $787 billion economic stimulus package will do little to revive the struggling economy.
However, during the interview, Obama "exhibited confidence," saying the nation should not fear the future, the Times reported.
"Look, I wish I had the luxury of just dealing with a modest recession or just dealing with health care or just dealing with energy or just dealing with Iraq or just dealing with Afghanistan," Obama said. "I don't have that luxury, and I don't think the American people do, either."
(CNN) - Former first lady Barbara Bush was moved Saturday out of intensive care after undergoing heart surgery earlier this week, the former president's spokeswoman said.
Jean Becker, a spokeswoman for former President George H.W. Bush, said the former first lady would be in the hospital for about another week.
Doctors at Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston, Texas, performed a 2 1/2-hour surgery on Barbara Bush on Wednesday, and replaced her aortic valve with a pig valve.
"From our perspective, this was a very routine procedure, and we expect her to make an excellent recovery," Dr. Gerald Lawrie told reporters on Thursday.
Bush had experienced "severe narrowing of the main valve that lets the blood come out of the heart into the circulation," Lawrie said.
He said an echocardiogram showed her condition was "extremely severe." Typical symptoms of problems with an aortic valve include shortness of breath,
fatigue, weakness and swelling, he said.
On CNN's "State of the Union," host and chief national correspondent John King goes outside the Beltway to report on the issues affecting communities across the country. This week, King traveled to North Carolina to look at the financial crisis' impact on health care.
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (CNN) - For Doug Pegram, it is on the one hand simple math: His medical bills cost roughly $300 a month and a health insurance policy would cost $550.
Programming Note: Watch "State of the Union" with John King, Sunday at 9 a.m. ET
"Two or three hundred dollars goes a long way," Pegram said. Especially when you are living on unemployment benefits.
Simple math, and a huge gamble: Pegram has a rare disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, that in some patients can be life-threatening.
"If anything happens, that's another story," Pegram told us. "But you have to do what you have to do sometimes, and you just hope for the best. And do it."
Life on the edge started in November, when Pegram lost his job at Hanesbrands Inc., the clothing manufacturer where he had worked for three years. Ironically, Pegram's job as a senior analyst included writing reports for Hanes management on sales and economic trends.
"Every couple months, it [layoffs] went through the company and a few people here and there and it got worse and worse," he said. "I knew it was in the future somewhere."
(CNN) - They're generally healthy and have a long life ahead of them. The health insurance industry even calls them 'the young invincibles.'
So, what's the problem? Young adults, ages 19 to 29, are the largest age group of uninsured people across the country.
For Maryland resident Bree Honey, all she can do for her chronic back pain right now is to exercise at the gym where she works, and take Tylenol PM instead of other medicine she needs.
"I'm definitely working out right, to try and keep my strength up and to help my immune system right now. ... It's the best thing I can do for myself," Honey said.
Why? She has to put all her money toward expensive drugs for her depression - without health insurance.
"I am buying my own prescription drugs by myself. ... And I have to pay for that out of pocket every single month. So it's very difficult on me," she said.
At 20, she's too old to be covered by her parents' policy since she's no longer in school. She makes too much to qualify for public health care, but can't afford private insurance - and doesn't yet qualify for coverage at her new job.
(CNN) - Nearly eight years later, Connie Chung still remembers being surprised.
It was one of those television moments that linger in the national consciousness, like Barbara Walters sitting down with Monica Lewinsky, Dan Rather with Saddam Hussein, or Jay Leno asking Hugh Grant what the hell he had been thinking.
Chung was with ABC then, and she got the "get" - the first interview with Gary Condit, the California congressman at the center of the Chandra Levy media frenzy.
The former Washington intern, you'll recall, had been found murdered in Rock Creek Park, and law enforcement sources let it be known that the married Condit had been having an affair with her.
In an interview airing Sunday on "Reliable Sources" (10 a.m. ET, during CNN's "State of the Union with John King"), Chung says she was surprised when Condit refused to acknowledge the romantic relationship.
"Stonewalling is what gets politicians in trouble, when they stonewall or they try to cover up," she says.
"I think that the general public and the news media wanted him to be honest, and if he could be honest about that part of the story, then he could be - then he would be believed when he was answering other questions as to whether or not he had anything to do with her disappearance."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama told Americans on Saturday that ending the economic crisis will not be "easy," but the nation will emerge "more prosperous" through swift and bold actions.
Speaking in his weekly radio and Internet address from the White House, Obama made the comments a day after the worst American unemployment figures were released in a quarter-century.
Watch: Obama's weekly address
"I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight," Obama said.
"And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead. But I also believe that we will get through this - that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before."
On Friday, the government announced that the United States lost 651,000 jobs last month, bringing the total number of jobs lost since the start of the recession to 4.4 million.
The Labor Department also reported that the nation's unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent in February, the highest level in a quarter century.
(CNN) - President Obama will visit Turkey in April, two senior administration officials told CNN on Saturday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was holding talks in Ankara Saturday with officials "to emphasize the work the United States and Turkey must do together on behalf of peace, prosperity and progress," she said.
Obama had said he was going to deliver a speech in a Muslim capital within the first hundred days of his presidency. Clinton did not say that Obama would be making such a speech during this visit.
A senior Obama administration official confirmed that Turkey will be the president's first visit to a Muslim nation since taking office, but did not provide dates for the president's upcoming visit to Turkey, saying that planning is just beginning.
Turkey is a secular country and predominantly Muslim. It is a NATO member and has been a longtime ally of the United States. It is one of the few Muslim countries to have full diplomatic relations with Israel and has long been the Jewish state's closest military and economic partner in the region.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The United States and Syria found a lot of "common ground" on which to cooperate in the Middle East, the State Department's top Middle East official said after talks in Damascus.
But envoy Jeffrey Feltman on Saturday warned to "keep expectations in check" as Washington and Damascus re-engage after several years of strained relations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched Feltman, the assistant secretary of state, and Daniel Shapiro, the top Mideast official at the National Security Council, to the Syrian capital to explore Washington's relationship with Damascus.
In the highest-level visit since 2005, when then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage traveled to the country, Feltman and Shapiro met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem and his deputy and Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, for more than three hours.
"We discussed a broad range of issues, regional, international and bilateral issues and how we can move forward in a variety of ways," Feltman told reporters on a conference call from Damascus. "We have areas where our interests overlap, we have areas where our interests differ."
Feltman provided few specifics but called the talks "constructive," and said "we found a lot of common ground."