Panama City (CNN)President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro spoke by phone Wednesday before leaving Washington for the President’s trip to Jamaica and Panama, a White House official told CNN on Friday.
Obama was set to meet face-to-face with Castro on Friday, the first time the leaders have interacted since their nations agreed to renew diplomatic relations after half-a-century of enmity.
Obama arrived in Panama late Thursday to his third Summit of the Americas, a large gathering of Latin American leaders that in years past was tinged with animosity at Cuba’s exclusion. Moments after Marine One, Obama’s helicopter, touched down in Panama City, Castro’s plane landed on the same tarmac. Panamanian television carried both arrivals live.
Details of Wednesday’s phone call were not immediately available Friday.
This year, Obama was expecting a warmer welcome from the dozens of countries represented at the conference, after announcing in December he was seeking to engage Havana in talks over reopening embassies and removing barriers to commerce and travel.
In Panama, Obama is expected to announce he’s removing Cuba from the United States’ list of countries that sponsor terrorism, a major advance in building diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The State Department delivered its report on the designation to the White House on Wednesday; Obama said on Thursday a panel of experts was reviewing it before he makes a final determination.
But in remarks during a brief stopover in Jamaica, he strongly hinted he was ready to remove Cuba from the list, which also includes Iran, Sudan and Syria.
“Throughout this process, our emphasis has been on the facts,” Obama said. “So we want to make sure that given that this is a powerful tool to isolate those countries that genuinely do support terrorism, that when we make those designations we’ve got strong evidence that, in fact, that’s the case.”
“As circumstances change, then that list will change as well,” he said.
While some inside Cuba have expressed dissatisfaction at the pace of the diplomatic thaw, U.S. officials insist they’re pleased at the progress toward re-establishing diplomatic ties, which the White House argues has helped improve relations with other countries in the region.
Obama said in Jamaica he “never foresaw that immediately overnight everything would transform itself.”
The summit meetings Friday and Saturday will mark the first time Cuba participates in the conference, which takes place every three years. At the two Obama previously attended, in Trinidad and Colombia, reception toward the U.S. delegation was icy.
“We felt it was long overdue and takes a huge irritant out of our policy in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs who’s led talks with Cuba re-establishing diplomatic ties.
The overtures to Cuba have not been universally popular in the United States; some lawmakers were irate that Obama was seeking to engage what they regard as a corrupt government.
Obama was planning to meet in Panama with Cuban dissidents, some of whom were violently accosted earlier this week by supporters of the Castro regime.
By Alexandra Jaffe and Elise Labott, CNN
He said the “routine” use of the 60-vote requirement by Senate minorities makes it arcane in an era of partisan polarization, and that it “almost ensures greater gridlock and less clarity in terms of the positions of the parties.”
Obama, whose presidency has coincided with the dramatic escalation of filibusters, noted that there’s “nothing in the Constitution that” protects the blocking tactic.
Though he has typically been mum about Senate rules, Obama benefited greatly from Senate Democrats’ move in 2013 to eliminate the filibuster for most executive branch and judicial nominations. It remains in place for Supreme Court nominations and legislation.
Here’s the relevant quote by Obama, via Vox, in response to a question about how to govern amidst polarization.
Probably the one thing that we could change without a constitutional amendment that would make a difference here would be the elimination of the routine use of the filibuster in the Senate. Because I think that does, in an era in which the parties are more polarized, it almost ensures greater gridlock and less clarity in terms of the positions of the parties. There’s nothing in the Constitution that requires it. The framers were pretty good about designing a House, a Senate, two years versus six-year terms, every state getting two senators. There were a whole bunch of things in there to assure that a majority didn’t just run rampant. The filibuster in this modern age probably just torques it too far in the direction of a majority party not being able to govern effectively and move forward its platform. And I think that’s an area where we can make some improvement.
This was published back in May 2014 but I’m just seeing it, so I wanted to share it.
How can one NOT like this president?
In his annual end-of the-year press conference on Friday, Obama took questions from eight women and no men— a move that did not go unnoticed by journalists and others listening to his remarks.
The president started the conference by joking that White House Press Secretary “Josh [Earnest] gave me the list of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice,” and then proceeded to call on eight women from various news organizations. CBS News’ White House correspondent Mark Knoller said on Twitter that TV reporters were advised in advance that Earnest wanted “other reporters not regularly called on to get to question the [president].” The strategy resulted in the likely unprecedented female question sweep in addition to leaving out the major news networks.
On Fox News, White House correspondent Ed Henry joked that he was “outraged for men everywhere” but then admitted seriously that he was not pleased with the questions the women asked.
“Frankly some of the questions just didn’t press him,” he said. “There’s so much going on right now and the questions were trailing off. The president was almost like, let me remember what you asked because it was so unmemorable.”
The eight female journalists asked Obama about Sony’s decision to pull The Interviewfollowing threats by North Korea, the deal to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, the state of race relations in the country and the Keystone XL pipeline, which incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell said will be the first matter up for a vote when the new Congress returns from the recess. Notably missing were any questions about the CIA torture report released last week.
While Obama only formally called on women, two men were able to yell out their own questions during the conference. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” one asked, while a reporter called after Obama as he left the room. “Will you smoke a cigar Mr. President?”
Right wing hate talker and Faux “news” regular Laura Ingraham apparently thought his little shtick of hers was so cute that she repeated it again later in the day on her radio show. While discussing President Obama’s meeting with civil rights leaders this week and the announcement that his administration is seeking funding for police body cameras and more training for police officers.
Naturally this drew howls of outrage from the right with cries about where the money is going to come from and Laura Ingraham with her fangs on full display on this Monday’sFox & Friends.
From Fox’s blog: ‘How About We Put a Body Camera on the President?’:
How about we put a body camera on President Obama?
That was Laura Ingraham’s response this morning on “Fox and Friends” to the president’s support for police officers around the country to wear body cameras in order to record their every move.
Ingraham argued that Obama should wear one so Americans can see how much time he actually spends each day on improving the economy.
“I’m all in favor of spending money on that body camera,” she said, adding that the president’s proposed $263 million in spending on police training is another example of him trying to throw money at a problem.
“There’s never anything that happens in the country that the president doesn’t believe can be fixed by spending more money and getting America deeper into debt,” said Ingraham, questioning where that money will actually come from.
Steve Doocy joked that those videos would be good broadcasts for the Golf Channel since the president spends so much time on the course.
Ingraham said she believes putting body cameras on police officers is an interesting idea, but in the case in Ferguson, it would have “vindicated” officer Darren Wilson long ago.
She called on President Obama to speak “truths” to people about what the evidence shows occurred, instead of spreading mistrust.
“It would be nice if the President of the United States, with all his education and all of his wisdom and all of his experience, actually spoke truths to people,” said Ingraham.
This statement is absurd on its face since the POTUS’ first act as president was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act. His staunch support of women has been ongoing since day one. What is Tina Brown really talking about?
Author and journalist Tina Brown thinks President Barack Obama‘s diminishing favorability with women is because he makes them feel “unsafe” about a variety of issues.
Appearing Monday on Morning Joe, Brown reacted to a Politico report on how the president’s declining poll numbers with women has become a serious liability for Senate Democrats in the midterm elections.
“I think they’re feeling unsafe,” Brown surmised of female voters. “They feel unsafe, economically; they’re feeling unsafe with regard to ISIS; they’re feeling unsafe about Ebola. What they’re feeling unsafe about is the government response to different crises.”
Brown also suggested that the president’s own persona makes women voters like him less.
“I think they’re beginning to feel a bit that Obama’s like that guy in the corner office who’s too cool for school,” she said. “[He] calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change, then it goes wrong and he’s blaming everybody.”
On the other hand, Brown added, Republicans are doing “very little” for women. “It’s not good,” she concluded.
Watch below, via MSNBC:
Progressives need to pay attention and read this ASAP. Kudos to Salon‘s Joan Walsh for putting this out there…
The myth of a president who can solve our problems alone is inane. The big task right now? Rescue these midterms
Labor Day marks the traditional kickoff to election season, and all Democrats can say for themselves about the coming midterms is: Things look bad, but they could be worse. Republicans will almost certainly gain Senate seats, and could very well take it over, though their chances diminish every time we hear new audio of Mitch McConnell and his GOP cronies sucking up to the Koch brothers at their last retreat. But traditional low midterm Democratic turnout could make McConnell the Senate majority leader in January nonetheless.
This political season opens against a backdrop of profound pessimism, captured in an August Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that found that 71 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The president’s approval rating is at an all-time low, but so is that of congressional Republicans. Even worse, the two big stories dominating the end-of-summer headlines – the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. and the rise of ISIL – only deepen the political gloom, because they reflect two enormous American problems that are coming to seem almost unsolvable: profound and persistent racial injustice, and the shape-shifting chaos that is Iraq.
These problems are particularly vexing for people who subscribe to the Magical President theory of politics — which includes too many of us, including me sometimes – because those are two issues Americans thought we’d “solved,” or at least responsibly addressed, by electing our first black president, who’d famously opposed the “dumb” Iraq war and promised to end it. Now race relations are arguably worse than when Obama took office, and so is Iraq, and this is a rare case where you can fairly say people on “both sides” blame the president — mostly wrongly.
Cornel West is now slipping deep into Maureen Dowd territory: a formerly incisive, moderately influential social critic (a genuinely important one, in West’s case) driven to cruelty and irrelevance by Obama hatred. The National Journal’s Ron Fournier is a consistent proponent of what some deride as the “Green Lantern” approach to the presidency: If only Obama would justlead, our problems would solve themselves, though Fournier doesn’t stoop to channeling Abraham Lincoln or Aaron Sorkin when he criticizes Obama. But even fair and sober observers are frustrated with some of Obama’s moves.
You can certainly criticize the president on the margins – I have, and I’m sure I will again. Personally, if I worked for him, I’d probably have suggested not golfing after his moving statement on journalist James Foley’s execution, and not equivocating as much in his Ferguson remarks, which Michael Eric Dyson fairly laments. But those are issues more of stage management than statecraft.
Still, even for people who respect Obama, it’s hard to see us mired in what feels like ancient, intractable conflict in both Ferguson and Iraq. It hurts. Yet I would argue (after having been demoralized about both issues) that the unrest in Ferguson is in fact a kind of social progress: Within hours of Mike Brown’s awful shooting a network of new and seasoned activists came together to demand justice, pushing both Gov. Jay Nixon and the president to take action to rein in abusive local cops and drive the investigation into what happened.
Even the ugly situation in Iraq represents political progress, because as painful and outrageous as Foley’s execution was, and as disturbing as it is to see ISIL gain power in Iraq and Syria, the vital debate over what the U.S. can and should do there has actually been strengthened by the existence of intervention skeptics on the left and the right. Obama has repudiated the neocon approach, but he’s still wrestling with Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn doctrine: If you break it, have you really bought it? Certainly, we’ve already paid for it, many times over.
Let’s be clear: There is neither a Democratic nor a progressive consensus on what is to be done there. All we have is a profound skepticism, and I’ll take that over a cynical Cheneyesque certainty, built on lies to the American people. Disagreement, even deadlock, is preferable.
The belief that somehow Obama can lead us out of our summer of misery reflects Magical President thinking. Which leads me back to the rapidly approaching and dispiriting midterms.When I reviewed Rick Perlstein’s “Invisible Bridge,” I noted that the major political difference between the right and left seems to be that when defeated and disillusioned, the right gets back to the nuts and bolts work of electoral politics. The left, or some of it, disintegrates, a flank here promoting direct action over electoral politics (a debate that’s understandably renewed by events in Ferguson); a flank there preaching about a third party; and one over there fantasizing about the perfect left-wing challenge to the mainstream Democratic candidate, like that dreamy African-American senator who opposed the war in Iraq who looked so magical eight years ago. Meanwhile, Republicans count on division on the left, and low turnout by the Democratic base of younger, poorer non-white voters, to help them take back the Senate.
And when they do, Mitch McConnell has promised only more obstruction and gridlock. I should point out, this isn’t just a byproduct of Republican victories, but one of the goals. It’s become obvious in the GOP’s approach to Obama that obstruction is at least partly intended to demoralize the reluctant, occasional voters in the Democratic base. For if there’s no action on those “gosh darn” issues, in McConnell’s words, like a minimum wage hike, student loan relief or extended unemployment insurance, let alone immigration reform or climate change, even after Obama became the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to win more than 50 percent of the vote twice, those of us who say that voting is the most reliable path to social change sound either foolish or dishonest. People say, why bother?
The cause isn’t helped by spineless Democrats who try to blur their differences with Republicans instead of heighten them. Right now Karl Rove is attacking Democratic senators like North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor for endorsing Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission report, which recommended cuts to Medicare and Social Security. But nobody could have predicted anyone would use entitlement cuts as weapons, right? Except many of us did. Again and again.
On the other hand, Hagan, Pryor and also-vulnerable Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are doing better than expected, either leading their GOP opponents or tied, at least partly because during this election year, they’ve been feistier and more progressive, particularly when it comes to defending the Affordable Care Act. And Kentucky voters may yet make Mitch McConnell pay for sucking up to the Kochs. He shouldn’t be redecorating the Senate majority leader’s office, at any rate.
Democrats have two months to make sure this election doesn’t turn out like 2010 did. It’s not about the president right now, and we shouldn’t wait until 2016 for a new magical president. The kind of thoroughgoing change we need won’t happen in eight years, or even 80. It’s an eternal battle, the constant effort to expand the realm of human freedom to everyone, against the constant crusade by the wealthy to ensure that the trappings of human dignity – education, leisure, family life, childhood itself – are reserved for those who can afford to pay for them. The Kochs and their allies are trying to repeal the 20th century. Progressives can’t just suit up for that battle every four years.
For the casual observer (or enthusiastic partisan), a new poll from CNN / ORC International reveals a staggering point of data: one-third of the country, 33 percent, supports impeaching President Obama. That’s 100 million people (if we extrapolate those attitudes to children and so on)! Can he survive?
Yes, he can. As CNN itself points out, that figure is in line with public support for impeachment of Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton during their time in office. In August 2006, a CNN poll found that 30 percent of Americans supported impeaching Bush. And in September 1998, 29 percent supported impeaching Clinton. A Post poll from that December had the figure even higher, at 39 percent.
There’s a good footnote to that data which we will get to in a second.
You will not be surprised to learn that attitudes on impeachment break down along party lines. Four times as many Republicans think Obama should be impeached as Democrats. Independent voters are slightly above the overall average.
You are not surprised by that for two reasons. The first is that you are familiar with the state of our nation’s polarized politics. The second is that you are probably familiar with the way that “impeachment” has become a sort of shorthand for “recall election.”
CNN asked respondents when they thought impeachment was appropriate. Eighteen percent said that it was appropriate “in order to express dissatisfaction with his policies or the way the president is handling his job.” That’s one-fifth of the country; some 60 million people (again including little kids for some reason).
Here’s what the Constitution says about impeachment, as a refresher.
High crimes and misdemeanors are listed. Being mad about something is not. (KS – Emphasis are mine)
Now we come back to the footnote from above. Clinton was impeached (having admitted to committing a crime), but was not removed from office, because those are two different things. Impeachment has become something of a shorthand for “we need him gone,” but that’s not what the tool does. States and localities have recall elections, which are specific tools for removing officials from office for whatever reason the voters want. There are recall elections at the federal level, too. Unfortunately for voters in 1998 and 2006 and 2014, those recall elections (also known as reelection bids) had already occurred two years in the past.
Interestingly, in a search of news articles from President Reagan’s administration we couldn’t find polls on whether or not he should have been impeached. In December 1986, the Times polled on whether or not people thought Reagan was trustworthy and on administration officials pleading the Fifth in response to questions on the Iran-Contra scandal. But no question about impeachment. Shortly after, an opinion columnist writing for the paper argued that “[m]any think the president deserves impeachment.” That isn’t quantified.
None of which means that Obama won’t face impeachment. On Friday morning, adviser Dan Pfeiffer predicted that this was the path the House was headed down. We shall see.
Let’s be clear here, all politicians love photo ops but some won’t exploit tragedy to attain them…
He noted that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been to the border multiple times.
“There’s nothing that’s taking place down there that I’m not intimately aware of or briefed on,” Obama said.
During his speech, Obama railed against House Republicans for failing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. He noted that this problem could have been addressed more easily had Congress passed comprehensive legislation.
In his last speech on immigration, Obama slammed Republicans for not passing a “darn” bill.
On Wednesday, Obama said that the solution to the current crisis at the border is up to Congress, now that he requested $3.7 billion in aid to address the situation.
“Is Congress prepared to act to put the resources in place to get this done?” he asked. “If the preference is for politics then it won’t be solved.”
Obama lamented how easily issues fall victim to partisan bickering.
“If I sponsored a bill declaring apple pie American, it might fall victim to partisan politics,” he said.
He mentioned House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) decision to sue him over his use of executive actions. Obama challenged the House to act on this immigration issue before he needed to use executive authority.
“Here’s a good test case,” he said. “Don’t wait for me to take executive actions.”
President Obama also addressed his meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), which Obama characterized as “constructive.”
Obama said that Perry didn’t suggest any actions that Obama had “a philosophical objection to.” The President said he asked Perry to urge the Texas Congressional delegation to support the supplemental money he asked for to address the border crisis.