Let’s see if the U.S. is up to the challenge
Taking stock of his generation, the one coming of age as well as the dwindling months of his presidency and the race to replace him, President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Howard University graduates — and by extension all young voters — to exercise their power to vote.
Addressing some 2,300 graduates at the historically black university’s 148th commencement, Obama stressed how low voter turnout in general in 2014, but particularly among youth and in the black community, contributed to the stagnation in Washington by helping Republicans control both houses of Congress.
In 2014, Obama told the audience, only 36 percent of Americans voted in the midterms — “the second-lowest participation rate on record.” That year, less than 20 percent of young voters cast ballots. And only two out of five in the black community voted in 2014,compared to two out of three in his re-election bid two years earlier.
“You don’t think that made a difference in terms of the Congress I’ve got to deal with?” he said, drawing a mix of cheers and laughter from a crowd gathered under cloudy Washington skies.
“And then people are wondering: ‘Well, how come Obama hasn’t gotten this done? How come he didn’t get that done?’ You don’t think that made a difference? What would have happened if you had turned out in 50, 60, 70 percent all across this country?”
Obama’s comments were clearly geared toward the 2016 White House race. Massive turnout in the black community, coupled with aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts in the Latino community, which has been infuriated by Republican Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, could play a pivotal role for Hillary Clinton and Democrats in November — and could even prove decisive.
President Barack Obama’s bid to save his plan to spare millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation and give them work permits ran into trouble on Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case testing the limits of presidential power.
The court, with four conservative justices and four liberals, seemed divided along ideological lines during 90 minutes of arguments in the case brought by 26 states led by Texas that sued to block Obama’s unilateral 2014 executive action that bypassed Congress.
Liberal justices voiced support for Obama’s action. The conservatives sounded skeptical. A 4-4 decision would be a grim defeat for Obama because it would uphold lower court rulings that threw out his action last year and doom his quest to revamp a U.S. immigration policy he calls broken.
More than a thousand people in favor of Obama’s action staged a raucous demonstration outside the white marble courthouse on a sunny spring day, with cheery mariachi music from a red-and-black clad band filling the air. A smaller group of Obama critics staged their own rally.
In order to win, Obama would need the support of one of the court’s conservatives, most likely Chief Justice John Roberts or Anthony Kennedy. But they both at times hit the Obama administration’s lawyer, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, with tough questions.
Kennedy expressed concern that Obama had exceeded its authority by having the executive branch set immigration policy rather than carry out laws passed by Congress.
It could fix a big problem with his climate legacy.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new plan to collaborate on climate change Thursday morning. The two leaders pledged to tackle previously unregulated sources of greenhouse gas emissions and promised better conservation of the Arctic.
The plan represents an important evolution in the two countries’ bilateral foreign policy on climate. That policy has become significantly more ambitious since Trudeau took the helm in November from longtime PM Stephen Harper, who was widely seen as an obstacle to climate action and a booster of Canada’s oil industry.
Trudeau, by contrast, has tried to reposition Canada as a leader on climate, not an easy feat for one of the world’s largest oil producers. He campaigned on promises to end fossil fuel subsidies and invest in clean energy. He made a strong showing at the Paris climate talks in December and followed that up with a proposal for a national price on carbon emissions. Although he supported building the Keystone XL pipeline, he seemed to take it in stride when the Obama administration turned the project down. Last week, Trudeau announced a plan to help his country’s provincial governments—which hold a larger relative share of power compared with state governments in the United States—coordinate on clean energy.
Overall, Trudeau’s administration has so far looked like a 180-degree turn from his predecessor, said Erin Flanagan, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute, a leading Canadian environmental group.
“We look at what’s been accomplished post-Paris and say things are moving forward at a pace we haven’t seen before,” she said. “The proof is in the pudding.”
President Obama on Wednesday met with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ally of the White House on gun control.
The meeting, which was not on the president’s public schedule, comes as he is weighing new executive action on guns in response to a series of mass shootings that have marred his presidency.
“The two discussed ways to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have access to them and what more could be done at the state and local level to help address gun violence in America,” the White House added.
Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama confidante who has spearheaded the White House’s gun-control push, also attended the meeting.
Rightsizing the U.S. Role
Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East strategy often complain that Obama lacks a strategic vision. This is almost exactly wrong. Obama came to office with a conviction that reducing the United States’ massive military and political investment in the Middle East was a vital national security interest in its own right. The occupation of Iraq and the excesses of the war on terrorism had left the United States overextended, especially at a time of economic crisis. “Rightsizing” the United States’ footprint in the region meant not only reducing its material presence but also exercising restraint diplomatically, stepping back and challenging allies to take greater responsibility for their own security. Obama has adhered consistently to this strategy, prioritizing it ruthlessly along the way and firmly resisting efforts to force it off track. This was not a strategy much beloved in Washington or in a region hard-wired for the exercise of American power. But it was a clear and coherent strategy that led Obama to undertake major initiatives on the problems he viewed as rising to the level of core national security interests: Iran’s nuclear weapons program, terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the war in Iraq.
Yet for all of Obama’s analytic acuity, the implementation of his policies has often floundered. His administration has consistently failed to deliver on the promises raised by his inspirational speeches. It has struggled to communicate its policies effectively to publics in the Middle East and has been unable to explain obvious hypocrisies. Efforts to remain evenhanded and noninterventionist have infuriated partisans on all sides who wanted unconditional U.S. support rather than an honest broker.
On the first day of his final week at The Daily Show, Jon Stewart really went off on his most frequent foe: Fox News.
Stewart was really bothered by how Fox’s Howard Kurtz and guest David Zurawik calling him an Obama “propagandist,” showing clips of Fox Newsers over the years using the same “even Jon Stewart’s mocking the president” line.
He even turned a few of their arguments back on Fox themselves and said he’s been harsher on President Obama than they ever were on George W. Bush, and said, “Your hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the Fox model, it’s the feature. Your job is to discredit any source of criticism that might hurt the conservative brand.”