• President Obama makes surprise visit to Afghanistan
• Obama to make live address after signing agreement
• Mitt Romney campaign advisor abruptly quits
• Newt Gingrich thanks supporters, endorses Romney
5pm: Do you know what else happened on 1 May? This:
Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.Yes, it was the "Mission accomplished" speech by President Bush, on 1 May 2003.
That's enough news for today – the Guardian will be covering President Obama's address from Afghanistan here.
4.50pm: We may be hearing more about what caused Richard Grenell to abruptly leave the Romney campaign today, less than two weeks after signing on as a foreign policy advisor to the Republican candidate.
Joshua Trevino isn't buying the "Grenell hounded from Romney campaign by anti-gay conservatives" line put forward by Washington Post's pro-Romney blogger Jennifer Rubin, who broke the news.
Here's an alternative explanation: a treasure trove of Grenell's Twitter feed.
4.38pm: More from President Obama's surprise Afghanistan visit currently underway, via the Associated Press:
At a signing ceremony in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, Obama said the agreement paves the way for "'a future of peace" while allowing the United States to "wind down this war."More quotes from NBC News's Ali Weinberg.
Karzai said his countrymen "will never forget" the help of US forces over the past decade. He said the partnership agreement shows the United States and Afghanistan will continue to fight terrorism together.
Obama was greeted upon arrival at Bagram Air Field by Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Obama then flew by helicopter to the presidential palace in Kabul, where he was to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and sign the strategic partnership.
4.29pm: To bring us up to date on Richard Grenell's departure from the Romney campaign, the announcement that he was joining the team as a foreign policy advisor caused him to try and scrub his postings on social media:
Richard Grenell, a former Bush administration official who joined the Romney campaign Thursday as national security and foreign policy spokesman, appears to have deleted more than 800 of his past tweets following scrutiny over numerous swipes aimed at the media, prominent Democratic women and the Gingriches. Grenell also apparently took down his personal site, which featured writing on politics, foreign affairs and the media. 4.12pm: None of this excitement should overshadow the really big news of the day, that whatshisname is finally dropping out of the Republican presidential contest.
Newt Gingrich tells USA Today that he "is ready to campaign for his former rival's election – and that Romney in turn will help him retire his campaign debt." Surprise.
But it hasn't all been wasted, since Gingrich shows some fleeting glimpses of self-doubt:
Gingrich said he doubts he'll ever make another bid for president.4pm: According to the poll report from Obama's trip to Kabul, President Obama "is expected to mention the Bin Laden raid in the televised address Tuesday evening, officials said." Fancy that.
"I'm already 68 years old," he said. "My honest analysis: I believe Mitt Romney will become president; I believe he will do well enough to be re-elected, and I do not think in 2020 I'll be a plausible candidate.
3.57pm: President Obama and Hamid Karzai have now signed the postwar agreement between the US and Afghanistan, with AP supplying some further details:
Obama says the costs of the Afghan war have been great. He says the deal with Afghanistan allows the US to wind down the war, but still stand by Afghanistan and its people.3.52pm: Here's the statement from Richard Grenell on his abrupt departure from the Romney campaign today:
The president says the deal will also pave the way for "a future of peace."
Karzai says postwar agreement will seal an "equal partnership" between Afghanistan and the United States.
Obama and Karzai signed the agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul shortly after the US president arrived in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama's foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.So, "the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues" it is then. Is it a case of shame on Mitt Romney for not sticking by Grenell? Or is this a taste of Romney's famous flexibility on such matters?
3.40pm: And if that wasn't enough news – we learn that Richard Grenell, the veteran Republican foreign policy advisor hired by the Romney campaign two weeks ago, has just quit.
Why? According to Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post's in-house Romney blogger, Grenell "has resigned in the wake of a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives". Grenell is openly gay and his appointment was taken as a liberal move by the Romney campaign.
This is how the Romney campaign has responded:
We are disappointed that Ric decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons. We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill.And this is how the Obama campaign – in the form of Teddy Goff of Obama for America – responded:
The gloves are off, then.
3.29pm: A little more detail on Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan, from ABC News, and the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, outlining the US-Afghanistan relationship over the next decade:
That this announcement is taking place today, on the one year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, is not an accident. "This is a resonant day for the Afghan people and the American people," an official said.3.19pm: The Associated Press has the details on President Obama's surprise trip to Afghanistan today, with news of a signing of a US-Afghanistan deal and Obama to give a speech at 7.30pm EDT:
Senior administration officials argued that the agreement learns the lessons from mistakes made by the US after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and the US largely moved on, though the US government had been funding mujahideen groups fighting the USSR. The ensuing chaos led to civil war then the rise of the Taliban, a group that allowed a haven from which Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida launched the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Under intense security and the cover of night, President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan on Tuesday to sign an agreement cementing a US commitment to the nation after the long and unpopular war comes to an end.According to the AP report, Obama is joining Afghan president Hamid Karzai to sign an agreement "that will broadly govern the US role in Afghanistan after the American combat mission stops at the end of 2014".
Obama was to be on the ground for about seven hours in Afghanistan, where the United States has been engaged in war for more than a decade following the September 11, 2001, attacks. The trip carries major symbolic significance for a president seeking a second term and allows him to showcase what the White House considers the fruit of Obama's refocused war effort: the killing a year ago of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
3.06pm: Here we go then: President Obama is in fact in Afghanistan. The White House issued some stern denials today – mainly "the president is not in Afghanistan" but there we are.
2.10pm: Mitt Romney has just finished a press conference after a visit to a NYC firehouse with the city's former mayor, Rudy Guiliani. Many questions about the whole "would you have killed Bin Laden?" thing – yes, he would, duh – and one person shouting "Mitt Romney is a racist!" in the background throughout. New Yorkers, eh?
1.54pm: The Guardian's very own Harry Enten explains the thinking behind the "Swiss bank account" ad below. "Obama would also be wise to try to make this election about more than just the raw economic numbers," he writes:
That's why Obama wants to open a second and related line of attack on Romney's inability to connect with voters – on economic issues. Whether it be about Romney's cars, gardeners, houses, or Swiss bank account, Obama is going to try to kill the narrative that Romney knows how to handle the economy. We saw in the 2010 midterms that a number of incumbents were able to survive, despite low approvals, because they made their opponents seem incompetent or ill-prepared for the job at hand.1.20pm: If this is the ad the Obama campaign is running against Mitt Romney in May, what's going to be left by November?
(The dog on the car roof, obviously.)
12.48pm: Mitt Romney: wild and crazy guy, according to Ann Romney:
I still look at him as the boy that I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes and really just being crazy, pretty crazy. And so there's a wild and crazy man inside of there just waiting to come out!At a wild guess, Ann Romney's idea of "wild and crazy" may differ from, say, Nicolas Cage's. For example.
12.30pm: Watching Piers Morgan debate with Jonah Goldberg on CNN last night brings to mind Oscar Wilde's quip about fox hunting: "The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible".
With two geniuses like this, what's not to hate?
12.06pm: A year on from Osama bin Laden's death, pollsters at Gallup reveal that Barack Obama's job approval rating averaged 47% in April – his highest monthly approval rating since last May, when Obama got a bump up to 50% in the wake of bin Laden's killing:
In April, Obama averaged 84% approval among Democrats, 43% among independents, and 12% among Republicans.11.50am: The Navy Seals who carried out the killing of Osama bin Laden and his associates last year are none to happy with the raid becoming a political football, according to BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings, who says he has "reached out to a number of Seals, both active duty and former":
Compared with last August, when his monthly approval rating was 41%, his ratings are up among all groups, but more so among independents (eight percentage points) and Democrats (seven points) than Republicans (three points).
The frustration – or, even anger – within the Seal community is real, and has been brewing for months, particularly among a politically conservative core of operators. It started immediately after the raid, with questions among the Special Forces and intelligence community of whether the president should have waited to announce the kill to exploit the intelligence cache at Osama's compound.11.38am: "Thank you but we still need your support," is the maudlin pitch currently running on Newt Gingrich's website for donations to pay off Newt's campaign debts. Those private jets don't buy themselves, after all.
Sadly, perhaps because everyone has been fired, the donations page hasn't been updated:
Please consider a secure contribution to the campaign to help guarantee that Newt has the resources to spread his vision for America. Victory begins with you!And, in this case, victory ends with you as well.
11.30am: Newt Gingrich may be gone – well, going – but his impact lingers on. Mainly in red ink on his campaign's bank balance, according to the Washington Times:
As the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich persevered despite no realistic prospect of victory, the former House speaker spent lavishly on the trappings of a more-successful, high-profile campaign, spending more on travel and security in March than Mitt Romney did, records show.Oh, and the Gingrich campaign's expenses policy "has left 55 staffers out thousands of dollars," according to the Washington Times.
In March alone, the Gingrich campaign spent $1.6 million on travel — $1.1m for chartered planes, $62,000 for use of a bus and $16,000 for hotels. On top of that, it tallied $200,000 for cash reimbursements to staff, plus $271,000 to Mr Gingrich himself, for apparent travel expenses, though the campaign has refused to specify what those payments cover.
But you can help! The Newt campaign website has many bargains, such as this – save $5 while stocks last:
Official Newt 2012 White Mug.11.19am: The delicate tightrope being walked by both the Romney and Obama campaigns over credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden sees Mitt Romney sound more positive in today's CBS interview:
Double Sided Mug with Newt's Quote "Leadership Now" on the back.
Made in USA!
Of course the right course was to assassinate, execute Osama bin Laden and that is precisely what happened, and I congratulate the president for doing so. And I am confident and that of course I would have taken exactly the same decision, any thinking American would have ordered exactly the same thing.And then on Twitter came this:
Obviously the focus group feedback suggests the previous approach of "Bin Laden, whatev" wasn't working.
11am: Newt Gingrich is milking his exit from the Republican presidential race for all it's worth – and today's event in the Gingrich Farewell Tour 2012 is a video tribute for his supporters.
In the video, the failed presidential contender sounds as upbeat as ever, and ominously promises to keep giving speeches and campaigning – although he will discover, as so many others before him have done – that without the primary spotlight, no-one cares.
In the video Gingrich tells his remaining supporters:
I want to take this opportunity to give you an insider, advance notice that on Wednesday, I'll be officially suspending the campaign as part of a press event. I wanted you to know first because your help was vital.Gingrich is to make his formal announcement tomorrow and is expected to endorse Mitt Romney.
Here's a brief summary of the rest of the day's news:
• On the first anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, claims and counter-claims continue over the Obama campaign's representations of the al-Qaida leader's killing. The White House plans no public events to mark the event today.
• In a long interview on CBS's This Morning – in which Ann Romney described her husband as "a wild and crazy guy," and she should know – Mitt Romney offered unusually full praise for the decision to kill Bin Laden, retreating from his peevish description of the move as something even Jimmy Carter would have approved.
• The vice presidential "veepstakes" for Mitt Romney are heating up, as Republican commentators take to the media to advance their favoured candidates – and attempt to knock down those they dislike.
• Barack Obama's fundraising event to be held at George Clooney's home on 10 May is likely to raise around $10m, according to Clooney, making it the single biggest fundraising event for the Obama campaign to date.
guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds