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Ari Shapiro

The country has been debating gun regulations for months. Later this week, a Senate committee will start work on various proposals, including a background check on every gun sale and a ban on assault weapons.

But this debate over guns goes beyond disagreements about policy. Advocates on both sides quite literally disagree on the terms of the discussion — as in, the words they use to describe it.

Ask "gun control advocates" to describe what this debate is about, and they'll say "control" really isn't the word they prefer.

The White House hopes the Senate will confirm Chuck Hagel next week as defense secretary.

Republicans delayed the vote for the same reason they scuttled Susan Rice's bid to be secretary of state: Benghazi.

The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September killed four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya. And Benghazi has since become a rallying cry for Republicans.

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Chuck Hagel, who spent more than a decade in the Senate asking witnesses questions at hearings, will be the one answering them Thursday as his confirmation hearing to be secretary of defense begins.

His hearing follows that of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was confirmed this week to be secretary of state.

Kerry and Hagel have a prominent biographical detail in common: service in Vietnam.

A presidential inauguration is an event defined by huge, sweeping optics: the National Mall full of cheering Americans; a grandiose platform in front of the Capitol building; the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. And the centerpiece: a speech.

On Monday, President Obama will give his second inaugural address — and he faces a challenge in crafting a speech for this moment.

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We begin this hour with the end of President Obama's first term. He's got less than a week before next Monday's inauguration. This morning, he capped things off with an hour-long news conference in the White House East Room. As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, most of the focus was on a rash of recent financial crises that Washington itself has created.

When President Obama finally announced a fiscal cliff agreement late Tuesday night, he thanked several people who had worked to get a deal.

The first one he mentioned by name was the man standing next to him at the podium: "my extraordinary vice president, Joe Biden."

We have reached the last weekend of the year, and Washington still has not reached a deal to avert the big tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff.

President Obama met with top congressional leaders at the White House on Friday afternoon: John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi from the House, and Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell from the Senate.

Details are starting to come out about President Obama's second inauguration next month. The co-chairmen include some leaders of the Democratic Party and the business world as well as actress Eva Longoria. A record crowd came to the nation's capital in 2009 to witness the country's first black president take the oath of office, but this event is expected to be less flashy.

The bows are tied, the garlands are hung, and the White House is aglow for the holidays. Volunteers from all over the country handled the decorations with care, and on Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama showed off their efforts to military families. This year's theme is "Joy to All."

Ship Capt. Pete Hall from Louisville, Ky., followed family tradition by helping with the decorations. His grandfather was the chief usher of the White House from 1938 to 1957. "So this is part of my family heritage," Hall says.

On Wednesday, President Obama will meet with middle-class Americans who will be affected by a tax increase if the country goes over the fiscal cliff. The White House put out a call for their stories last week.

That dialogue with the American people is part of a broader White House effort to keep campaign supporters engaged during Obama's second term. It's a big change from the first term — and it's not an easy undertaking.

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Presidential pardons usually take the world by surprise. There's no advance notice — the White House just sends out an announcement with the names of those receiving clemency. Thanksgiving is one lighthearted exception.

On Wednesday, President Obama will once again take part in the traditional turkey pardoning at the White House. But while the business of pardoning humans is more serious, it's also increasingly rare.

Republicans and Democrats agree: Election season may have ended just four days ago, but it's already time to get back to work. In this case, "back to work" might mean "back to fighting."

Leaders in both parties made their opening bids Friday on how to deal with the tax, spending and debt problems that face the country at the end of this year.

While the scenario echoes last year's spending battle, there are some differences that could push the parties toward the resolution they never reached last time around.

Where The President Stands

The postmortems for Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign are rolling in.

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Mitt Romney did not officially campaign today out of respect for those recovering from Sandy or still enduring the giant storm, but he did appear in a crucial swing state before thousands of cheering supporters.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports on Romney's balancing act one week before the election.

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Mitt Romney has also accelerated the pace of his campaign. Yesterday, he was in four states and four time zones, as the endurance test intensifies.

NPR's Ari Shapiro is traveling with the Romney campaign.

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Tonight the presidential candidates meet for the final debate of this presidential election. President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will be in Boca Raton, Florida. The event will focus on foreign policy, which was never expected to rival the economy as a major issue in this campaign. But foreign policy has played a bigger role than anticipated in recent weeks.

For all the attention paid to women in this race, there's another gender gap — with white men.

The Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan campaigned in northeastern Florida on Friday, where thousands of men had descended on Daytona Beach for the annual motorcycle festival Biketoberfest.

A bunch of them were at Willie's Tropical Tattoo smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and listening to music.

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During the Republican National Convention last month, I traveled with Mitt Romney's campaign from Tampa, Fla., to the American Legion conference in Indianapolis.

Romney delivered a speech about foreign affairs and national security. Among the thousands of attendees from around the country, I interviewed one woman from Virginia whose quote sparked a conversation among NPR's audience and staff.

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And I'm David Greene. Renee Montagne is talking with voters in Colorado this morning for our series First and Main.

Second of a two-part series

The presidential race is a national contest in name only. In reality, it's being fought in eight or nine swing states around the country.

First of a two-part series

President Obama kicked off the week in the battleground state of Ohio, where he spent much of the time Monday talking about China.

His administration filed a new trade complaint against China with the World Trade Organization on Monday. The White House is challenging Chinese subsidies for auto parts.

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And the attacks in Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world come in the midst of a presidential campaign. It became, in effect, a test of leadership for both the president and his Republican challenger. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: President Obama learned Wednesday morning that Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi. When he spoke in the White House Rose Garden hours later, he didn't mention politics.

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Mitt Romney's rally in Mansfield, Ohio, on Monday began the way every political event begins. "Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and our country's national anthem."

This is always an uncomfortable moment for me. While I sat at my laptop, most of the reporters around me stood and put their hands over their hearts. This time instead of just sitting and working, I tweeted what I was feeling:

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