Politics February 2, 2017: Obama should follow the rules of the former presidents club and not criticize Trump

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Obama should follow the rules of the former presidents club and not criticize Trump

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Just ten days into his successor Donald Trump’s presidency and former President Barack Obama has decided to him. On Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, Obama released a statement through his spokesman praising public protests and dissent to his successor temporarily travel ban from seven predominantly Muslim nations without stable governments and halt to the Syrian refugee program. Obama broke tradition with the former presidents club, who usually chooses to avoid criticizing their successor allowing them to run the country and make their mistakes or successes, it was a model Obama’s predecessor Republican former President George W. Bush religiously upheld, making only one comment six years into Obama’s presidency. Obama’s choice to speak out imperils his legacy, historical perspective while blurring the lines of the presidency.

After Trump issued his executive order on Friday evening, Jan. 28, protests erupted at airports across the country, while lawsuits were filed and heard for those caught in the ban. The executive order halted travel to the US from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, with nonimmigrant or immigrant visas. The order halted refugee entries for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program for an indefinite period.

The order was amended to allow entry to those with green cards, dual Canadian citizens and possibly those who worked with the US military. The order is based on the 2015 Terrorist Travel Prevention Act and its amendment in February 2016 under President Obama, which established these countries as threats because they do not have a stable government to communicate with US immigration to vet travelers. The bill created more extensive and vetting process for refugees from those countries. Obama’s bill caused little fanfare or objections.

On Monday, Obama’s spokesman issued a statement supporting the very vocal protesters, who held rallies at airports, city streets and even in front of the White House. Kevin Lewis, Obama’s spokesman, expressed in the statement, “President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy — not just during an election but every day.”

Obama’s spokesman continued, saying, “Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.” Lewis concluded, with the sharpest rebuke to President Trump, saying, “About comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.”

Former First Lady, 2016 Democratic nominee and Secretary of State under Obama, Hillary Clinton also tweeted her support, while daughter Chelsea participated in a protest in New York over the weekend. Apparently, the former president wanted his former Democratic supporters to protest as they have been doing in the little over a week Trump has been president. Former White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the Washington Post, “What is notable about the grass-roots response to Trump .?.?. is that it is exactly the response that President Obama called for in his farewell address.” Essentially, Obama wanted dissension to Trump’s presidency and was always planning to be critical given the new president’s campaign pledges.

Such sharp criticism by a former president of his successor is the exception rather than the rule, even more so when it occurs just over a week after leaving the office. The Washington Post, which is highly critical of Trump, even had the headline, “Obama, in a rare move for an ex-president, breaks silence to criticize Trump on immigration.”

Twice, Obama implied he would only comment on Trump’s presidency in exceptional circumstances. Two days before leaving office at his final press conference on Jan. 18, Obama said, “There’s a difference between that normal functioning of politics and certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.”

Obama indicated which issues would warrant his opinions, “I put in that category if I saw systematic discrimination ratified in some fashion; I put in that category explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote, to exercise their franchise,” Obama said. “I would put in that category, institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press. And for me at least, I would put in that category efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them someplace else.”

Just after the election in November, at his press conference in Lima, Obama also expressed what he would publicly say about Trump after he left office. Obama said, “I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance. As an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal but go to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it is necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, I’ll examine it when it comes.” Obama remarks should come as no surprise, according to the Washington Post Obama organized his post-presidency office for political advocacy.

Obama however, surprised everyone by his criticism, it is unprecedented in American history for a former president to comment especially so early on in their successor’s term. Presidential historian Robert Dallek told the Washington Post, “I don’t think it’s very common at all for an ex-president to be commenting on the performance of his successor.” Obama is certainly not following the traditional and examples of most former presidents in American history.

Obama’s behavior is somewhat surprising given the respect, his predecessor George W. Bush gave to him when he embarked on the presidency. Although Obama spent much of his first term criticizing Bush and his policies, Bush never said a word to counter his successor or disparage him publicly for most of his time in office. Speaking in 2009, Bush said of Obama, “He deserves my silence. There’s plenty of critics in the arena. I think it’s time for the ex-president to tap dance off the stage and let the current president have a go at solving the world’s problems.”

Bush explained in 2014 over five years after leaving office the two reasons why he chose not say anything about the Obama presidency. Bush indicated, “I don’t think it’s good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president; I think it’s bad for the presidency for that matter.” Bush also said his reasons were personal, “Secondly, I really have had all the fame I want. I really don’t long for publicity. And the truth the matter is in order for me to generate publicity … I’d have to either attack the Republican Party, which I don’t want to do, or attack the president, which I don’t want to do. And so I’m perfectly content to be out of the limelight.”

In a 2013 interview with CNN Bush mentioned another reason why he will not criticize his successor, “I don’t think it does any good. It’s a hard job. He’s got plenty on his agenda. It’s difficult. A former president doesn’t need to make it any harder. Other presidents have taken different decisions; that’s mine.”

Bush finally broke his silence in 2015, at what was suppose to be a private event, without media coverage. Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition and donors in Nevada, Bush criticized Obama’s Middle East policies including negotiating a deal with Iran and withdrawing troops from Iraq. Supposedly, Bush said of the Iran deal, “You think the Middle East is chaotic now? Imagine what it looks like for our grandchildren. That’s how Americans should view the deal.”

Most of the former presidents kept silent in public refusing to criticize their successors in office. Afterward, many have grown close even after contentious campaigns where they were opponents. Rivals in the 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush became close friends in 2005, as did Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford who were opponents in the 1976 election. President Harry Truman became friends with one of his predecessors; Herbert Hoover after the Republican helped the Democrat “restructure the executive branch.” Lyndon Johnson reached out to his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and during the Vietnam War, and he was friends as well with Truman.

Dwight Eisenhower happens to be the best example of a recent former president not criticizing their successor, even if seems appropriate. Eisenhower never admonished his successor Democrat John F. Kennedy, even during biggest blunder the Bay of Pigs although he criticized him privately calling him “Little Boy Blue.” Afterward, Kennedy sought Eisenhower’s advice, and apparently, Kennedy admitted, “No one knows how tough this job is until he’s been in it a few months.” Eisenhower responded, “Mr. President. If you will forgive me, I think I mentioned that to you three months ago.”

Jimmy Carter has been the most vocal and critical post-World War II president criticizing three of his successors. Carter was a one-term president, with an active post-presidency. He criticized fellow Democrat Bill Clinton’s morals on the Monica Lewinsky scandal and his pardon of Marc Rich; he criticized Republican George W. Bush saying in 2007, “as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.” Carter even was critical of Obama for how he handled North Korea and Iran. Carter’s criticism and meddling in foreign affairs made him the most disliked living former president.

Carter was not the most severe case of post-presidency criticism, that prize might go to Republican Theodore Roosevelt to his handpicked successor William Howard Taft. Taft made promises to keep Roosevelt’s cabinet and stay true to his policies but soon moved on to forge his own path. With Republican encouragement, Roosevelt mounted a campaign against Taft even winning more primaries, but Taft won the nomination after discrediting Roosevelt’s delegates.

Roosevelt, in turn, mounted a third party run with the newly formed the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party with a progressive “New Nationalism” platform. Roosevelt ended up being competitive to the Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson and secured a second place finish in the election that Wilson won, leaving Taft in the dust. Even with all the animosity, later on, Roosevelt said in 1910 after returning from an extended trip to Europe and Africa, “I will make no speeches or say anything for two months. But I will keep my mind open .?.?. As I keep my mouth shut.”

Time magazine editors and presidential historians, Nancy Gibb and Michael Duffy in 2012 book “The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity,” argue that there are usually bonds between the presidents. Gibb and Duffy write, “Such are the journeys this book attempts to trace: the intense, intimate, often hostile but more often generous relationships among the once and future presidents. It makes little difference how much they may have fought on the way to the White House; once they’ve been in the job, they are bound together by experience, by duty, by ambition, and by scar tissue.”

There are also rules including as former President George H. W. Bush has said, “No matter the politics, you know and understand the weight of the decisions the other guy had to make, and you respect that.” Gibb and Duffy indicate the two most important rules, “The Presidents Club has its protocols, including deference to the man in the chair and, for the most part, silence about how the members of the world’s most exclusive fraternity get along and the services they provide one another.”

Obama seems to be breaking with one of the most important precedents set out by the first former president George Washington. As Gibb and Duffy indicate, “but most of all to relinquish his power peacefully, even prematurely given his immense stature, at that time a striking act of submission to untested democratic principles.” Obama seems to look to incite Democrats many who have said Trump is “not their president” or claimed like Rep. John Lewis that he is “not the legitimate president.” Instead, Obama should have looked to precedent, where former presidents,
“join forces as needed, to consult, complain, console, pressure, protect, redeem.”

Obama speaking out so soon shows he is having difficulty letting go of the presidency and that confuses Democrats and his supporters who seem so adamantly against President Trump. Obama is showing too much partisanship, just after the election, and the inauguration of a new president. Gibb and Duffy say, “They can support whomever they like during campaigns; but once a new president is elected, the others often act as a kind of security detail.” The partisanship does nothing to help Obama who left the office with an average approval rating lower than the majority of post-war presidents. In the post-presidency, most former presidents reputations heal, and their popularity soars, because they stay out of the partisan fray, leaving it to the current president.

Obama needs to stop encouraging protests and chaos from his supporters and Democratic Congressional leadership, and instead look to give Trump some advice and guidance in private while letting his supporters know Trump is the president. Whether Democrats and liberals like Trump’s policies or not they need to look for effective means to make a difference rather than protesting in the streets and airports because all it seems like is lawlessness and pettiness because the Democratic Party just never accepted the election results of a president that legitimately won.

Sources:

Gibbs, Nancy, and Michael Duffy. The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “Theodore Roosevelt: Campaigns and Elections.” Accessed February 1, 2017. http://millercenter.org-/president/biography/roosevelt-campaigns-and-elections.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

 

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Politics January 29, 2017: Obama polarizing historical legacy as the nation’s divider-in-chief

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Obama polarizing historical legacy as the nation’s divider-in-chief

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Obama era was the most partisan; Barack Obama reigned over the country as the polarizing president history according to a new Gallup poll released on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 that looked at the partisan support of Obama during his eight-year presidency. The survey proved what already seemed obvious from the news media and recent events that Americans are more partisan than ever in American history. It is leading the country down the wrong path and divides not seen since the Civil War, ironically by a president who was elected on a pledge to unite rather than divide.

According to Gallup, Obama had the largest “party gap in presidential job approval ratings” in support of all presidents in the post-World War II era, with 70 percent, up nine points from the presidency of Republican George W. Bush. A trend started in Republican Ronald Reagan’s era, but steadily grew during George W. Bush’s presidency, and became a fact during Obama’s time in office. According to the Gallup, the partisanship has to do with the times even more than his policies, explaining, “The extreme polarization in Obama’s ratings could reflect his policies and approach to governing, it also reflects the era in which he governed.”

Gallup has been crowning the last six years of Obama’s presidency as polarized with an increasingly larger partisan divide. According to Gallup, Presidents Reagan, Bill Clinton, Bush and now Obama a party gap of over 50 percent, with 52, 55, 61 and 70 respectively. Nixon was the only president to a gap in the 40s range with 41 percent. Three presidents had gaps in the 30s, Dwight D. Eisenhower, with 39 percent, George H. W. Bush with 38, and John F. Kennedy with 35 percent. The least divisive presidents partisan wise were Jimmy Carter and Lyndon B. Johnson with a 27 percent gap, and Gerald Ford with a 29 percent.

Party support divide among recent presidents:

Average approval, Republicans Average approval, Democrats Average party gap
% % pct. pts.
Obama 13 83 70
G.W. Bush 84 23 61
Clinton 27 82 55
Reagan 83 31 52
Nixon 75 34 41
Eisenhower 88 49 39
G.H.W. Bush 82 44 38
Kennedy 49 84 35
Ford 68 37 29
Johnson 44 71 27
Carter 30 57 27

George H. W. Bush presidency might not seem divisive because it was not during its first three years with a party gap of only 32 to 24 percent, but his last year in office when the economy was in trouble became far more polarized with a gap of 54 percent, which continued through the Clinton era. Gallup indicated that the average party support gap from 1953 to 1981 was only 34 percent, from 1981 to 2017 it grew to a 54 percent average.

Pew Research Center conducted a similar survey, which they released earlier this month, just before the inauguration. Pew published their review on Oct. 28, 2016, just days before the 2016 election. Obama had a 54 percent approval rating and 42 percent disapproval, but the margin of approval differed greatly between the parties. Pew claims Obama’s poll ratings were “more politically polarized than any president’s dating back to Dwight Eisenhower.”

According to Pew “An average of just 14% of Republicans have approved of Obama over the course of his presidency, compared with an average of 81% of Democrats.” Pew explains, “The gap in partisan presidential ratings has widened in recent decades as Americans have grown more divided in their basic values and beliefs along partisan lines and as partisan animosity has increased.” Pew indicates, that “Partisan divisions in assessments of presidential performance, for example, are wider now than at any point going back more than six decades.”

Gallup, however, tracks that this polarization has increasingly become a problem in the last 15 years, under Bush and Obama, where the party gap averaged 60 percent. Pew Research Center determined recently in a survey entitled “Political Polarization in the American Public” found one of the reasons for the rise in partisanship is attributed to the disappearing middle, centrist American, the so-called mushy middle. Instead, “92 percent of Republicans are now to the right of the median Democrat, and 94 percent of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.” While the “partisan animosity” is so that each side believes the other “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

It is ironic that Obama was at the center of the growing partisan divide since he burst onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic National Conventionwith a keynote address calling for an end to red and blue states division, which at that point he called a figment of the media. Obama with soaring rhetoric said, “Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America… The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into the Red States and the Blue States; the Red States for Republicans, the Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too… We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

Obama echoed that call throughout his 2008 campaign of change and hope, speaking at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa back in November 2007, he firmly stated, “I don’t want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s. I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the President of the United States of America.” In his March 2008 speech on race calling for a “more perfect union,” Obama made clear he was the choice candidate for unity and end of divisive politics, saying, “For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism…. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”

Obama’s failures as president had more to do with intense partisanship than any other determining factor; it was his inability to compromise with Republicans and they with him that led to a legislative gridlock that was the hallmark of Obama’s presidency since the Republican took control of Congress in the 2010-midterm elections. When the GOP won the House of Representatives in 2010, Obama divisively declared, “The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.”

Republicans could not forgive Obama for passing with the Democratic-controlled Congress the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and most importantly the Affordable Care Act, healthcare law, which passed into law without a single Republican vote, that the GOP spent the remainder of his presidency trying to repeal it. Obama’s inability to compromise led to the sequestration, across the board spending cuts to reduce the deficit in March 2013, and later that year one of the longest government shutdowns in October that last over two weeks over failing to agree on a federal budget. Obama had little legislative success for his last six years in office, because of his confrontational and cold war attitude to the Republican Congress.

President Obama’s go it alone rhetoric on executive actions while chastising Republicans in Congress for not passing legislation he desired including immigration reform also added to the partisan “rancor.” His threats of “governing” by “pen and phone” to create a “year of action” in 2014 just before his State of the Union address only caused more of a partisan divide, without attempts to negotiate really with Republicans he just angered them. Speaking at his first cabinet meeting that year, Obama made clear, “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. One of the things that I will be emphasizing in this meeting is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we are providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”

Jeffery Rosen, Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School, commented to NY Magazine on Obama’s legacy in the January 2015 article, “53 Historians on Obama’s Legacy.” Rosen analyzes, “Nevertheless, Obama’s rhetoric on executive orders has been so polarizing — “Where I can act without Congress, I’m going to do so.” — that he has inflamed his opponents and strengthened their resolve to reverse his achievements.”

Obama, however, inflamed more with his talk than actions, he only issued 277 executive orders only a 35 per year average, less than his immediate predecessors did and less than any president in 120 years based on a yearly average. Just as he used his rhetoric to unite Americans in his 2008 campaign, he used it to divide them in during his presidency.

Instead of negotiating with the opposing party in Congress, as most presidents did in an attempt to pass legislation, Obama thought ridicule was the way to go. It had the opposite effect; it made the Republican Party stronger, their supporters more resolute resulting in the 2016 election where the GOP swept the elections at almost every level. The Boston Globe put it best, “Like all presidents, Obama has been frustrated by partisan opponents. But no chief executive in modern times has been so quick to impugn his critics’ motives, or to resort to mockery and demonization when amicable persuasion would serve so much better.” They concluded how much Obama contributed to the partisan divide, stating, “When presidential rhetoric is mean and contemptuous, the whole public square is befouled.”

Rosen indicated that Obama’s blazon executive actions had not fared well especially with the courts, where the Supreme Court struck down his recess appointments and then did the same in 2016 with his orders on immigration. Rosen contextualized, “Throughout history, unilateral presidential actions designed to circumvent Congress have led to pushback in the Courts and Congress that have ultimately undermined, rather than strengthened, the president’s legitimacy.”

Obama realized how much he contributed to the partisan divide in the nation by his last year in office. The former president called it his greatest regret since he campaigned in 2008 as a uniter but became a divider. First Obama lamented his failures as he was running reelection in September 2012 during an interview, saying, “I’m the first one to confess that the spirit that I brought to Washington, that I wanted to see instituted, where we weren’t constantly in a political slugfest . . . I haven’t fully accomplished that. My biggest disappointment is that we haven’t changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked.” Still, Obama turned his positive hopeful campaign from 2008 into a more insulting model in 2012.

Again, in his last State of the Union Address in January 2016, Obama admitted his presidency’s failure to close the partisan gap, expressing, “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

In the same State of the Union, Obama made a final “plea” to end the partisanship, saying, “A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions, different attitudes, different interests. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.” The president, however, never seem to take his advice or practice what he preached.

Obama failed to do anything to soothe the partisan divide in his last year in office and possibly inflamed according to Gallup with his intensely partisan rhetoric as he campaigned for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. The campaign between Clinton and Republican, now President Donald Trump was one of the nastiest in American history with a deep partisan divide between two vastly different candidates and the demographics of their supporters.

During his campaign speech for Clinton, Obama made the differences between the parties stark, with rhetoric as divisive as the GOP who was accusing the same of, saying the day before the election, “So we got one more day. And we can choose a politics of blame and divisiveness and resentment. Or you can choose a politics that says; we’re stronger together. Tomorrow you can choose whether we continue the journey of progress or whether it all goes out the window.” Obama’s stump speech was full of insults he opposed during his first campaign not just for the Republican nominee but the party, “If you think ‘Voting for Endless Gridlock’ is a good slogan, you should vote for the Republicans.”

Obama’s failure to bridge the partisan divide only led to a more divisive presidency, and it is only getting worse. According to the first numbers Gallup collected from Trump’s fledgling presidency show the nation is even more divisive and partisan under Trump. According to Gallup, Trump is seeing a 76 percent gap between party approval ratings with 90 percent of Republicans approving of him while only a meager 14 percent of Democrats. Trump’s first week in office included a flurry of executive actions, adding a wall to the Mexican border, approving oil pipelines, and barring refugees and immigrants from some Muslim countries resulting in reactionary protests across the country and around the world, ensuring a new age of even more polarizing politics.

Obama’s polarizing numbers show a greater failure, while Trump had always campaigned as a divisive, controversial, revolutionary and populist choice, Obama overriding theme throughout his career in national politics was the aim to unite the partisan divide. Instead, his period in the spotlight created the most intense divisions within the country not seen since the Civil War when the North and South waged war over their brothers over states rights and slavery.

Now the country seems on the verge of a new ideological civil war between the Red and Blue States, Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. While not yet violent, this new war uses the weapons of words and protests against those they ideologically oppose, with Obama’s Democrats being the most vocal and extreme. Obama always wanted to emulate Abraham Lincoln, but now his only semblance to the great president who presided and ended the Civil War was the Lincoln, the divider which when elected in 1860 saw half the states of the union secede. Unlike Lincoln, Obama further tore the country apart and never tried to put it back together.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Politics January 23, 2017: Obama leaves office with average approval ratings how will his legacy fare?

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Obama leaves office with average approval ratings how will his legacy fare?

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Obama White House

Barack Obama is leaving the presidency popular and with a high approval rating, but his term average is lower than other recent presidents. According to a Gallup Poll released on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, the day Obama left office his final approval rating and the average for his presidency. According to Gallup Obama’s last approval rating was 59 percent, but his average is much lower at just under 48 percent with 47.9. With the President Obama’s final poll numbers set in stone, it is becoming easier to determine how he ranks against his predecessors, what his legacy will be and how history will look at him.

According to earlier Gallup poll on Obama’s favorability published on Monday, Jan. 16, Obama has a 58 percent favorability rating, when he entered office in 2009 the president had 79 percent favorability his highest. In general, Obama has averaged a 53 percent favorability rating; his first year was his best where he had a 55 to 69 percent rating, and most recently after the 2016 election where Obama saw a 61 and 62 percent favorability rating. At his lowest, the president had a 42 percent rating just after the 2014 mid-term elections, where the GOP regained control of the Senate and saw momentum.

Of the four presidents, Gallup tracked favorability ratings, Obama will see himself in second place after Republican George H.W. Bush, who left office in 1993 after losing his reelection bid, but still managed to have 62 percent favorability by January 1993. Ranking after Obama is Democrat Bill Clinton who had 57 percent favorability in January 2001. Only Republican George W. Bush embattled by two long and unpopular wars and an economic collapse fared the worst, with only a 40 percent favorability rating.

Obama’s favorability rating is on par with his approval rating, where last scored a 59 percent according to the Jan. 17–19 Gallup Daily tracking, with a 57 in his last weekly poll. Obama had an average of 49.1 percent approval rating for his first term and a 46.7 percent for his second term. Obama tied for second place with the smallest approval rating range, which was only 31 percent. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–1961) also had a 31 percent range, but John F. Kennedy, who died tragically in office, had the smallest range of only 24 percent.

Obama’s last weekly approval rating puts him in the high range of departing approval ratings of post-World War II presidents. Bill Clinton in 2001 had the highest exit approval rating with 66 percent. Next Reagan had 63 percent in December 1988; Obama comes in third with 59 percent, tying with Eisenhower with 59 percent in 1961 and Kennedy who had a 58 percent approval rating just before his assassination n November 1963. Of the recent presidents, George H.W. Bush with 56 percent in 1993 and George W. Bush, who only had a 34 percent approval rating the week before Obama took office in January 2009.

Despite this recent uptick in popularity Obama will not leave office as one of the most popular presidents, in fact, his term approval rating will only sit below 50 percent at only 47.9 percent. Obama’s highest approval rating was 69 percent just after his inauguration, Jan 22–24, 2009, with the highest weekly average that week with 67 percent. Obama’s lowest point was a three-day average of 38 percent approval rating “Eight times, most recently Sep 2–5, 2014,” with a lowest weekly average of 40 percent, which Obama saw 12 times during his presidency “most recently Nov 3–9, 2014.”

Of the 12 post-World War II presidents, Obama sits at ninth place. Obama’s numbers never really went far high or very low accounting for his low position. Gallup analyzed that Obama “subpar approval ratings for much of his presidency.” Gallup noted that Obama started out with high numbers for an incoming president but after his first year in office his numbers to around 50 percent and staying below the “majority level” until he just before his reelection in 2012 in his 16th quarter in office.

After his second inauguration Obama’s approval numbers fell to the 40s, and during that period, he saw his lowest numbers. With his presidency close to ending a contentious presidential election going on did Obama’s numbers rebound in 2016 his last year in office where he again saw numbers over 50 percent. As Gallup indicates, Obama’s “32nd and final quarter job approval average of 55.7% was his third-highest as president.”

The following is the term averages:

1. John Kennedy (January 1961-November 1963) 70.1
2. Dwight Eisenhower (January 1953-January 1961) 65.0
3. George H.W. Bush (January 1989-January 1993) 60.9
4. Lyndon Johnson (November 1963-January 1969) 55.1
5. Bill Clinton (January 1993-January 2001) 55.1
6. Ronald Reagan (January 1981-January 1989) 52.8
7. George W. Bush (January 2001-January 2009) 49.4
8. Richard Nixon (January 1969-August 1974) 49.0
9. Barack Obama (January 2009-January 2017) 48
10. Gerald Ford (August 1974-January 1977) 47.2
11. Jimmy Carter (January 1977-January 1981) 45.5
12. Harry Truman (April 1945-January 1953) 45.4

Despite the rankings, Obama’s lowest approval rating was only 38 percent, which he saw in August and October 2011, “after contentious negotiations over the debt ceiling limit and subsequent downgrading of the U.S. credit rating.” Obama saw a 38 percent approval rating again in September 2014, when as Gallup indicates, terrorist group ISIS beheaded American journalists, and after a particularly tense summer in the US, with racial tension, and international conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and Israel with the Palestinians. Most post-war presidents saw approval rating lower than Obama with five below 30 percent. Only Eisenhower and Kennedy never saw number lower than the 40s.

The out-going president had the third highest job approval low of all post-war presidents.

Job approval lows:

1. John Kennedy (September 1963) 56
2. Dwight Eisenhower (March 1958) 48
3. Barack Obama (2011, 2014) 38
4. Bill Clinton (June 1993) 37
5. Gerald Ford (January 1975 and March 1975) 37
6. Lyndon Johnson (August 1968) 35
7. Ronald Reagan (January 1983) 35
8. George H.W. Bush (July 1992) 29
9. Jimmy Carter (June 1979) 28
10. George W. Bush (October 2008) 25
11. Richard Nixon (July 1974 and August 1974) 24
12. Harry Truman (February 1952) 22

President Obama’s low overall ranking is also because he has never had high peaks in his approval ratings, and only ranks ninth in job approval highs, with 67 percent. Only Nixon and Reagan also never saw approval ratings over 70 percent during their presidencies. Obama’s presidency never had a “rally event” a threat to public security as Gallup calls it that bolsters an approval rating to very high numbers. The only thing Obama had that was close was when his administration caught “Osama bin Laden in May 2011,” but then Obama’s approval rating only bumped up to 52 percent.

Job approval highs:

1. George W. Bush (September 2001) 90
2. George H.W. Bush (February 1991) 89
3. Harry Truman (June 1945) 87
4. John Kennedy (April 1961) 83
5. Dwight Eisenhower (December 1956) 79
6. Lyndon Johnson (February 1964) 79
7. Jimmy Carter (March 1977) 75
8. Bill Clinton (December 1998) 73
9. Ronald Reagan (May 1981 and May 1986) 68
10. Barack Obama (January 2009) 69
11. Richard Nixon (November 1969 and January 1973) 67
12. Gerald Ford (August 1974) 71

Obama average approval and favorability numbers come as historians will start assessing his presidency as a complete picture. Gallup analyzes that “Obama’s average job approval rating for his entire presidency was lackluster.” The poll blames it on the lack of a rally event and polarization caused by Republican opposition throughout his term.

Still speaking of the relation between Obama’s approval rating and ranking in history, Gallup concluded, “A president’s overall approval average is one indication of how well he did his job, but often a president’s ratings at the end of his presidency have a greater impact on how he is remembered. Reflecting this, Americans believe that Obama will be judged more positively than negatively by history, and predict he will go down in history as a better president than several of his predecessors who had higher average approval ratings.”

Although it is still early, Obama ranking as president and afterward might not be the same, Obama was not able to accomplish all that he wanted to as president because of his and the Republican Congress’s impasses and stubbornness, and a growing partisan divide. Obama was a go it alone president making his mark through executive actions, with just eight alone in his last month as president. Still, he failed to reform immigration neither through Congress, not through executive action, which the Supreme Court struck down.

Still, in his first year as president, he accomplished what no other modern president could a health care law, the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare. The GOP will try to repeal it, but they will face resistance from a public who views it as part of the rights. Obama’s other greatest accomplishment is turning around the economy from a great recession to a flourishing economy with the lowest employment rate in decades. He reformed the education law and saw the nation’s highest high school graduate rates, Obama also believed in second chances, reforming federal sentencing laws, and granting more clemencies and commuting more non-violent drug sentences than any previous president.

According to a recent article in the New Orleans Tribune, “Historians Rank President Obama’s Legacy” historians see psychological effects as part of his success. Obama broke boundaries as the first black president; he was also a professor president who was “disciplined” and often made unpopular decisions, which he saw fit. Obama believed in the American people being the best they can, which was behind his 2008 campaign slogan, “Yes We Can;” he made Americans hope and believe they all could aspire to equality and even the highest office in the land.

We are still too early to assess Obama’s place in history and ranking among the presidents. Time magazine in their article “The One Reason We Can’t Assess President Obama’s Place in History,” spoke to three prominent presidential historians, Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, Timothy Naftali, Clinical Associate Professor of History and Public Service at NYU and Doris Kearns Goodwin. All three agreed that perspective, context and time are necessary to assess Obama’s legacy to see how his policies and accomplishments hold up.

As Zelizer told Time, “Those policies have to last to be significant, they can’t fade away. If a president does a lot of things that are still around two decades later, I think that’s a great measure of whether a President’s been successful.” Naftali believes that “presidents’ reputations… improve with time,” and Kearns Goodwin says what is important is “whatever historically ends up helping towards social justice or economic opportunity.”

Just as his soaring hallmark rhetoric, Obama had so much potential for greatness, but like his ratings, in the end, he came off as just average according to the numbers. Only in the years, ahead looking back with clearer and less rose-colored views will historians really be able to see how much or if Obama truly changed the country during his tenure.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

 

Politics December 28, 2016: Obama, Hillary Clinton still top Gallup’s most admired men and women in 2016

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Obama, Hillary Clinton still top Gallup’s most admired men and women in 2016

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: CNN

President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton remain the country’s most admired in 2016. Gallup Poll released on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, their annual list of most admired men and women for the year with predictable results. For the ninth straight year, President Obama has topped the list of most admired men, with Hillary Clinton topping the list of most admired women for as record-breaking time. Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump came in a close second to the outgoing president.

President Obama won the distinction of most admired with 22 percent of the vote, up from 17 percent last year, but his “narrowest” margin to date. He has appeared on the top 10, 12 times since 2006 and has been in the top spot for the last nine years. Trump came in a rather close second with 15 percent, while Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence sees his first appearance on the list coming in at number 10. Last year Trump tied for second with Pope Francis but with only 5 percent of the vote. This year is the president-elect’s sixth appearance in the top 10, in 1988 to 1990 and then again in 2011. Trump is looking to gain the most admired title next year an honor most sitting presidents have enjoyed.

President Obama has the second overall most admired titles besting former Presidents Bill Clinton (1993–2001) and Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) but behind Dwight Eisenhower (1953–1961). It is no surprise Obama won most admired, it is a tradition for the sitting president always to be named the most admired, and has been the case for 70 years since the poll originated in 1946. Only 12 times did a sitting president lose out on the most-admired honor and usually only happens if the president has a low approval rating. Most recently in 2008 when then President-elect Obama edged out President George W. Bush who was seeing extremely low approval ratings at the end of his tenure.

Gallup Polls Most Admired Men 2016 Top 10:

1. Barack Obama 22
2. Donald Trump 15
3. Pope Francis 4
4. Bernie Sanders 2
5. Rev. Billy Graham 1
6t. Benjamin Netanyahu 1
6t. The Dalai Lama 1
6t. Bill Clinton 1
6t. Bill Gates 1
10. Mike Pence 1

Despite losing the presidential election to Trump Former first lady, New York Senator, 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tops the list of the most admired women for the 21st time and 15th year in a row. Clinton’s popularity coincides with her winning the popular vote in the election by nearly 3 million ballots although she lost in the Electoral College.

Clinton only lost the number one spot in 1995 and 1996 to Mother Theresa, and 2001 when First Lady Laura Bush took the position. Clinton only received 12 percent of the vote to reach the top of the list, last year she had 13 percent. Clinton has appeared on the list 25 times. First Lady Michelle Obama is in second place, but with 8 percent her best showing on the list since her husband was re-elected in 2012 and her best support since 2009 when she had 7 percent of the vote.

Gallup Polls Most Admired Women 2016 Top 10:

1. Hillary Clinton 12
2. Michelle Obama 8
3. Angela Merkel 3
4. Oprah Winfrey 3
5. Ellen DeGeneres 2
6. Queen Elizabeth 2
7. Malala Yousafzai 2
8. Condoleezza Rice 2
9. Elizabeth Warren 1
10. Sarah Palin 1

This year’s list is seeing some record number of appearances for both the most admired men and women. For the men, Rev. Billy Graham has his 60th top 10 finish having been in the top 10 every year since 1955, except for 1962 and 1976, while former President Bill Clinton has his 25th appearance on the top 10. On the women’s side, Hillary Clinton has the most top honors on the list with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt second with 13 top honors. Queen Elizabeth has the most top 10 appearances of all women with 48, while Oprah Winfrey moved up to the second most of all time with her 29 showings.

Gallup believes there is a possibility that the poll’s most admired might have a shake up next year “as both move into the post-political phase of their careers.” They believe Trump will assume the top spot among the men, with Obama still ranking high in the top 10. Gallup also thinks Clinton still has a possibility of reigning among the women since former first ladies have won 35 out of 67 times, and assuming a non-political role will only help her popularity.

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor with a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Politics December 10, 2016: Congress passes spending bill again at the last minute averts government shutdown

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Congress passes spending bill again at the last minute averts government shutdown

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Congress seems to love to create suspense and putting the government on the verge of a shutdown, this time, however, it was the Democrats fault as opposed to the Republicans. With an hour to spare on Friday evening, Dec. 9, 2016, Senate passed a 1.1 trillion stopgap spending bill funding the government until April 28, 2017. The bill passed 63–36 with Democrats representing the dissenting votes. Some Democrats threatened a shutdown over health care benefits for miners. The House passed the bill on Thursday, Dec. 9 with a vote of 326–96.

The legislation marks last major bill of the 114th Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was speaking of his first session helming the Senate on the floor, “This Congress, the Senate has passed nearly 300 bills, and nearly 200 of those are now law. But what really matters isn’t the number of bills passed, it’s what we can achieve on behalf of the American people. And by that standard, I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for our country.

Senate Democrats found were willing to risk a government shutdown over the bill, not including retirement benefits for retired coal miners and only a four-month extension of the health benefits rather than a full year. The problem the miners in Appalachian states receive their termination notice three months in advance, meaning they would receive their letters notifying them of the end of the healthcare in January.

Senators from coal mining states objected with Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia leading the charge. Additionally, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) followed with support. All are facing tough re-elections in the 2018 midterms in states President-elect and Republican Donald Trump won.

Manchin argued to change the bill on the Senate floor, “I rise today fighting for the working men and women that we all use in our commercials. Every one of us goes out and basically tries to attract working men and women to vote for us because we say we’re coming here to fight for you.”

McConnell argued that bill received bipartisan support in the House and since the house left for the end of session Christmas recess the government would shut down. The majority leader expressed on the Senate floor, “While some Senate Democrats may want to delay into a shutdown, House Democrats overwhelmingly rejected that approach.”

The rest of the Democrats including the incoming Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-NY) did not want to take a risk and shut down the government. As the midnight deadline neared Schumer indicated, “We’re not going to shut down the government. We’re going to keep it open. We’re going to provide the votes so we don’t shut down.”

Manchin did not have the 41 votes needed to block the bill, but he wanted to delay its passage. Speaking at a press conference, Manchin said, “I don’t think we’re gonna get to the 41 [votes] as of tonight, but we have support to take this fight on.” The tide turned when at 7 p.m. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) abandoned the effort declaring, “We are not going to shut down the government over this issue.” President Barack Obama signed the bill soon after the Senate passed it.

Now negotiations for omnibus spending bills for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year falls into the lap of the incoming President Donald Trump. Trump promised to cut the deficit by getting rid of the “tremendous waste, fraud and abuse.” The new Senate has a busy schedule confirming Trump’s cabinet and a new Supreme Court nominee; they wanted Trump to accept and continuing resolution for the entire year and avoid the 100-day crunch, but he did not want to wait.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics November 28, 2016: First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes her last Christmas season at the White House

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First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes her last Christmas season at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: USA Today

It is Christmastime at the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama receivedthe day after Thanksgiving Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, the last Christmas tree she will decorate at the White House of her husband President Barack Obama’s administration. Unlike the last seven years, Mrs. Obama was not joined by her daughters Malia and Sasha, who also skipped this year’s pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Instead, the Obamas are being joined this holiday season by their youngest nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson. Along with her nephews the Obamas dogs, Bo and Sunny tagged along.

This year’s winning White House Christmas tree is “a 19-foot Balsam-Veitch fir cross. The tree’s growers are Dave and Mary Vander Velden of the Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin the winners of this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest. The Association has picked the tree since 1966.

CNN reported that the Vander Veldens’s tree did not grow as large as the official tree needs to be and will be placed somewhere else within the White House decorations, and instead a tree donated from a Pennsylvania farm will be used as the official tree adorning the Blue Room of the White House. The Vander Veldens presented the tree to the First Lady at the White House’s north portico after it arrived in the traditional horse-drawn carriage. The carriage had jingle bells, while “a four-piece military band played “O Christmas Tree.”

When Mrs. Obama received the tree, she asked her nephews, “What do you think?” and then joked about her holiday substitutes, “These are our replacement kids. This is what happens when you get teenagers. One is asleep — these two are up.” The First Lady enthusiastically concluded, “Christmas begins. The holiday starts! We’re ready — our last one. We’re excited about it.”

As the First Lady looked over the tree, she said, “This is the easiest part of the holiday season.” For the entire weekend the White House staff was decorating the executive mansion for the holidays, on Tuesday, Nov. 29 Michelle presents the finished product to the press and public. Then Thursday, Dec. 1, the Obamas will light the National Christmas Tree in the Ellipse.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics November 6, 2016: November surprise FBI’s Comey announces Clinton will still not face charges over server

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November surprise FBI’s Comey announces Clinton will still not face charges over server

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

In an election cycle with never ending surprise, FBI Director James B. Comey whipped up a November surprise with barely two days left to Election Day. On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 6, 2016, Comey sent another letter to the chairman of Congressional committee announcing that they have reviewed the newly discovered emails and that the FBI is standing by their July decision not to recommend any criminal charges against the former Secretary of State over her usage of a private email server. The announcement is just as interfering in the election as Comey’s first letter on Oct. 28, and it has been met with criticism from Republicans as a close campaign enters its final two days.

In Comey’s second letter, he informed Congressional leaders that the second investigation had been completed, “Since my letter, the FBI investigative team has been working around the clock to process and review a large volume of emails from a device obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation. During that process, we reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State.”

The FBI Director concluded, “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch disagreed with Comey’s first letter, but on Sunday, the Justice Department issued a brief statement, saying, “The Department of Justice and the FBI dedicated all necessary resources to conduct this review expeditiously.”

The Clinton campaign was relieved after hearing the news but defiant. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted, “We were always confident nothing would cause the July decision to be revisited. Now Director Comey has confirmed it.” While Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director told reporters, “We have seen Director Comey’s latest letter to the Hill. We are glad to see that he has found, as we were confident that he would, that he had confirmed the conclusions he reached in July and we are glad that this matter is resolved.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was equally pleased with the results of the investigation and its timing. Schiff in a statement expressed,
“While the original letter should never have been sent so close to an election, the expeditious review of these emails should put to rest — once and for all — the irresponsible speculation indulged in by the Trump campaign and others. Voters can now make their decision based on the merits, and that decision should be simple: it is the choice between a woman superbly qualified to be commander in chief, and a man patently unfit for office.”

Not all Democrats were as content one told CNN “It opened a wound that cannot be quickly healed.” Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is still angry at Comey. In a statement, Feinstein said, “Today’s letter makes Director Comey’s actions nine days ago even more troubling. There’s no doubt that it created a false impression about the nature of the agency’s inquiry. The Justice Department needs to take a look at its procedures to prevent similar actions that could influence future elections.”

The Republicans, however, were less than impressed by the November Surprise that might ruin their argument to vote Republican so close to the election. The letter seemed like another election spoiler. Trump spokesman Jason Miller commented on CNN, “We thought that Director Comey and the FBI were wrong when they made their initial recommendation in July, and we think that they’re wrong now.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dismissed the letter, saying, “Regardless of this decision, the undisputed finding of the FBI’s investigation is that Secretary Clinton put our nation’s secrets at risk and in doing so compromised our national security,” Ryan said in a statement. “Fortunately, the American people have the opportunity to ensure Secretary Clinton never gets her hands on classified information again.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus agreed with Ryan, stating, “None of this changes the fact that the FBI continues to investigate the Clinton Foundation for corruption involving her tenure as secretary of state. Hillary Clinton should never be president.”

GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence hammered Clinton at “a rally in an airport hanger in Hickory, North Carolina,” saying, “Mishandling classified information is a crime. Hillary Clinton said that she never sent or received any classified information and the director of the FBI told the Congress classified information was sent.”

Meanwhile, Republican nominee Donald Trump spoke very little about the letter at his rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which began minutes after the news broke. The GOP nominee, however, renewed his call of a rigged system, claiming, “Well, you have to understand it’s a rigged system and she’s protected.” Top Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich concurred on Twitter, accusing, “Comey must be under enormous political pressure to cave like this.”

In July, Comey announced his decision not to prosecute Clinton after a lengthy FBI investigation. Comey said on July 5, “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” Although Comey expressed, the FBI could not “find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” he called Clinton’s handling of her emails “extremely careless.” Clinton has always dismissed the issue as merely a “mistake” of judgment.

Then on Friday, Oct. 28, Comey sent a letter to Congressional Committee Chairman informing them that the FBI uncovered new “pertinent” emails relating to the Clinton investigation in an unrelated case, and advised that the FBI would be reopening their investigation into Clinton’s private server. The FBI discovered 650,000 emails on the computer of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner in their investigation of his sending sexually inappropriate text messages to an underage girl.

Weiner is the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s longtime aide who was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department and is now her deputy campaign chair. Abedin also had an account on Clinton’s server. Abedin denied knowing the emails were ever on her husband’s laptop; she had been cooperating with authorities on the matter.

Initially sources claimed the emails were not duplicates of those the FBI already reviewed, but it turns out they were all copies. FBI agents knew of the emails for two weeks before notifying Comey on Thursday, Oct. 27. The Bureau was granted a warrant to search the emails on Sunday, Oct. 30. The probe was supposed not to be complete before the election, but pressure from the White House forced the FBI to complete the investigation before. The FBI used computers programs to scan and the emails and compared with those they already they had in the possession.

Initially, Comey faced praise from Trump’s campaign but was attacked and criticized by Clinton her campaign, Congressional supporters, most Democrats and President Barack Obama for the timing of the letter. Democrats in Congress even threatened to investigate Comey and the FBI for the timing of the letter, which interfered in the election a long known taboo.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder who formally instituted a policy in 2012 preventing investigations from interfering with elections wrote an editorial in the Washington Post criticizing Comey. Holder joined 100 Justice Department writing an open letter telling Comey his “letter to Congress was inconsistent with prevailing department policy, that it broke with longstanding practices followed during past elections and that they were astonished and perplexed.”

Now the Republicans and still some Democrats are criticizing Comey with good reason. Comey has played with the voters’ emotions and the election. Clinton may have received her all clear before the election, but Clinton lost her lead the contest is now close between Trump and Clinton, with Trump eclipsing Clinton is some crucial battleground states. The first letter united Republicans and saw them rallying around the nominee. The electoral map shifted in Trump’s favor after the first letter, will the second letter flip it back to Clinton or will voters remain wary of a scandal and investigation prone Clinton. Only on election night will anyone know how much Comey’s October and then November Surprises affected the 2016 election.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert inpresidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics November 5, 2016: State Department releases the last batch of Clinton emails before the election

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State Department releases the last batch of Clinton emails before the election

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

The State Department released the final two batches of emails from former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s tenure before the election. On Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, the State Department released 357 emails or 1,250 pages while on Friday, Nov. 4 they released 74 emails or 280 pages. The emails are part of the 15,000 the FBI discovered over the course of their first investigation into Clinton potentially endangering national security by using a private server for her email communications.

The majorities of the emails released are near duplicates of the emails the State Department previously released but include another mostly insignificant chain. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner explained the emails in a statement, writing, “For instance, a ‘near duplicate’ would be substantively identical to previously released emails, but for a top email in the chain stating ‘Please print.’”

The emails are being released as part of Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the Conservative group Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch was responsible for the lawsuit that forced the State Department to release the approximately 30,000 work related emails Clinton handed over to the State Department in December 2014. Clinton deleted the same amount of emails. The FBI recovered these 15,000 emails while examining the server.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered the State Department to review 1,000 documents before the election. The State Department previouslyreleased “75 emails, or around 270 pages, on Oct. 7, about 112 emails or 240 pages on Oct. 21, and 357 on Thursday.” Of the 15,000 emails, 60 percent were personal emails, 37 percent, 5,600 were from her work, but many were duplicates. The State Department will review 500 pages each month after the election and then release those that are appropriate.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert inpresidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics November 5, 2016: Clinton related emails discovered on Weiner’s computer, not duplicates

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Clinton related emails discovered on Weiner’s computer, not duplicates

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

The emails the FBI discovered on former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s computer relate to former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s tenure and are not duplicates. CBS News spoke to an official involved in the investigation and reported on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, that the emails James B. Comey referred to his letter renewing the investigation are from Clinton’s tenure and the FBI has never seen them before.

The source told CBS generally about the emails but did provide details on the number of emails discovered that are specifically related to Clinton and if they are “significant” to their probe into whether she mishandled classified information by using a private server. According to a report conducted by CBS News’ Andres Triay, “At this point, however, it remains to be seen whether these emails are significant to the FBI’s investigation into Clinton. It is also not known how many relevant emails there are.”

On Friday, Oct. 28, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Congressional Committee Chairman informing them that the FBI uncovered new “pertinent” emails relating to the Clinton investigation in an unrelated case, and advised that the FBI would be reopening their investigation into Clinton’s private server. The FBI discovered 650,000 emails on the computer of disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner in their investigation of his sending sexually inappropriate text messages to an underage girl.

Weiner is the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s longtime aide who was Clinton’s deputy chief of staff at the State Department and is now her deputy campaign chair. Abedin also had an account on Clinton’s server. Abedin denied knowing the emails were ever on her husband’s laptop; she has been cooperating with authorities on the matter.

FBI agents knew of the emails for two weeks before notifying Comey on Thursday, Oct. 27. The Bureau was granted a warrant to search the emails on Sunday, Oct. 30. Comey has faced praised from Trump’s campaign but criticism and attacks from Clinton her campaign and Congressional supporters and now President Barack Obama for the timing of the letter.

The investigation is not going to be complete before the election. An official spoke to USA Today and indicated that neither would the FBI provide updates throughout the investigation or give the results of their preliminary probe despite repeated calls from Democrats and Clinton’s campaign to do so. Another source told Reuters, Comey was motivated to send the letter to Congress to have control over the investigation and prevent leaks from the Bureau.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert inpresidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics October 30, 2016: FBI Director Comey’s courageous decision to rise above politics in reopening Clinton case

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FBI Director Comey’s courageous decision to rise above politics in reopening Clinton case

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

FBI Director James B. Comey put his conscience before politics when he sent a letter to Congressional leaders informing them that the FBI found new “pertinent” emails relating to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email case. Comey faces threats and opposition to revealing the news a little over a week before Election Day. According to news reports on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, the Justice Department and Attorney General Loretta Lynch was against Comey’s letter and warned him against it. Now the Clinton campaign is struggling to survive the devastating blow so close the election with the only way they know to attack the FBI director and dismiss it all yet again.

An anonymous government source revealed that Lynch was against Comey interfering in the presidential race. The source explained, “The AG’s position is consistent with the department’s position not to take investigative steps that would influence an election so close to an election and to not comment on ongoing investigations. Director Comey decided to operate independently of that guidance by sending that letter to the Hill.”

Lynch did not speak directly to Comey on the issue but staying out of the election, has long been the silent policy for federal officials. The source said, “The position of the department was made clear to the FBI.” In 2012, former Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo on the practice, writing, “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Such a purpose is inconsistent with the Department’s mission and with the Principles of Federal Prosecution.” Such a memo reeks of politics and a desire of ambition above the good of the nation.

Comey knew his letter, and the developments would be unpopular and misunderstood, but he believed it was necessary to make them public. The FBI director wrote a note to his staffers before sending the letter to Congress, explaining his motives, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.” The FBI is supposed to a politically independent agency. Comey only discovered news of the emails on Thursday, Oct. 27, while FBI agents knew about them since early October keeping them from their director and possibly influencing the presidential campaign.

Comey’s sending the letter of Congressional Committee Chairmen has rocked the 2016 presidential campaign and has become “the October Surprise” in what was already a rollercoaster of a campaign ride. Republican nominee Donald Trump has praised Comey profusely and Democrats mostly nominee Clinton’s campaign staff have criticized the FBI director. Both sides have been demanding that Comey provides more details about the investigation and the possible content of the emails. Comey keeps his hand close and will probably not reveal more details publicly until he is certain of the probe’s direction.

On Friday, Oct. 26, hours after the news broke; Clinton spoke to reportersduring her campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa. Clinton demanded, “We are 11 days out from perhaps the most important election of our lifetimes…. So the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately.” Clinton was also insistent selling the line; the new emails “will not change the conclusion.” On Saturday, Clinton continued her criticismduring a campaign rally in Daytona Beach, Fla. Clinton accused, “It’s pretty strange to put something like that out with such little information right before an election. In fact, it’s not just strange, it’s unprecedented and it is deeply troubling.”

Clinton’s running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine also slammed Comey’s letter saying interview on Friday with Vice News. Kaine echoed his running mate, saying, “When you do this 11 days before a presidential election and you don’t provide many details, but details are apparently being given by the FBI to the press, this is very, very troubling, and we hope that the director- and we really think that he should give a clearer accounting of exactly whats going on right now.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), “the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee” was furious at Comey sending the letter so late in the campaign. Feinstein issued a statement on Friday, attacking the director, “The FBI has a history of extreme caution near election day so as not to influence the results. Today’s break from that tradition is appalling.”

The news initially paralyzed Clinton’s campaign on Friday. On Saturday, the Clinton campaign seemed set to be at war and attack the FBI director for his decision. According to CNN, campaign officials were critical calling Comey’s letter “light on facts” and “heavy on innuendo.” Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta “accused” Comey of not being “forthcoming with the facts,” and “providing selective information.” Writing on Medium on Saturday, Podesta also expressed that the FBI Director’s decision was “bewildering” and “unfair to voters.”

Campaign manager Robby Mook had harsher words for the FBI director, saying “The Justice Department’s longstanding practice is: Don’t do anything seen as trying to influence an election. It’s completely unfair to Secretary Clinton and it’s really unfair to the voters.” The Clinton camp intends to attack Comey for being a Republican, praise the FBI’s professionalism and tout the director’s decision in July not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton and his subsequent testimony to Congress in September in an attempt to downplay the disastrous news.

What is uncertain is how the news will affect long-time Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s role in the campaign. After all, her and her husband’s disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner’s devices that had the emails in question. The federal investigation into her husband sending sexually explicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl prompted the investigation and led to the discovery.

Trump has long said Abedin’s marriage to Weiner was a liability to Clinton, even now, as they are separated. Trump commented at a campaign stop on Saturday in Golden, Colorado questioning, “Huma’s been a problem. I wonder if Huma’s going to stay there. I hope they haven’t given Huma immunity because it seemed that everybody that walked down the sidewalk got immunity. She knows the real story. She knows what’s going on.” Abedin was noticeably absent on Saturday as Clinton campaign in the battleground state of Florida.

The information the FBI discovered must have been damaging or Comey would not have broken ranks. No matter the content the fact that former disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner had access on his computer to any State Department emails, documents or work product is in itself troubling and demonstrates a risk to national security, something Trump has long warned the public concerning.

An anonymous official told the Los Angeles Times, the emails were not to or from Clinton and some might be repetitive, while Fox News reported that the FBI found tens of thousands State Department emails on Weiner’s computer. Comey felt the public needed to know all the facts before voting; it would have irresponsible to hide the facts. Should the information be damaging, the nation cannot face the divisiveness of another Watergate scandal, when terrorism threatens the country and the world, Comey did not want to be responsible for that.

The Clintons repeated scandals and the changing stories around her email server and handling of classified information made the new development all the more necessary to share to the electorate for them to make the most informed decision as possible, even if the Democrats, Clinton campaign, and Obama Administration do not like it. Throughout their national public life, the Clintons have a had a steady stream of scandals, blaming them on their opponents, repeatedly calling them unfair attacks, dismissing them as reasons why they should continue to go on without lasting consequences. Their entitlement has gone too far and too long as the nation and voters continually give them a free pass. National security in a dangerous era is on the line now, it is the FBI’s duty to above all else to “protect and defend” the country and “uphold criminal laws,” the nation needs to know if a potential president is deserving and abiding by the rules.

Former assistant FBI director James Kallstrom has come out to deride the Clintons’ repeated scandals in a recent radio interview calling the Democratic nominee a “pathological liar.” Kallstrom agrees with Comey’s decision to send the letter, saying, “The Clintons, that’s a crime family, basically. It’s like organized crime. I mean the Clinton Foundation is a cesspool.” Kallstrom says FBI officials were angry at the original investigation, which was essentially stifled by the White House. Kallstrom fervently believes Clinton’s action should prevent her from the presidency, expressing, “God forbid we put someone like that in the White House.”

As the nation’s highest law enforcement agent, Comey felt that his duty to his country superseded politics or the desire of President Barack Obama to secure his legacy. The Clinton’s campaign attacks on Comey show a lack of respect to law enforcement, proving that for the Clintons’ no matter what they say public service is not about the public but what is best for their ambitions. No matter who wins the election, the public should applaud and revere Comey’s decision to place the country’s safety before politics; his decision to rise above it all is the ideal of what law enforcement is all about.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics October 28, 2016: FBI is reopening Clinton email investigation is it the October Surprise of 2016?

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FBI is reopening Clinton email investigation is it the October Surprise of 2016?

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: CBS News

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is the gift the keeps on giving. Just over a week before the election on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, the FBI reopened their investigation into Clinton’s private server after finding new relevant emails. Chairman of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was the first to announce the reopening of the investigation after receiving a letter from FBI Director James B. Comey. NBC News became the first news source to report on the investigation. The news media is hailing the turn of the events the October Surprise of 2016.

On Friday morning, Oct. 28 Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) tweeted: “FBI Dir just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened.” Chaffetz announced the news after FBI Director Comey sent a letter to eight Congressional chairmen including Chaffetz informing them of their decision to reopen the case.

In the letter, Comey writes, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.”

According to the Associated Press, the new emails were not sent or received from the private email server Clinton used during her tenure as Secretary of State. According to the New York Times, the emails came from the electronic devices from Clinton’s most trusted aide, Huma Abedin owned by her and soon to be ex-husband Anthony Weiner. The emails were found during an investigation into Weiner, a former Congressman over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl by sending “sexually explicit text messages.”

The FBI quickly seized the devices and after being briefed Comey decided to reopen his investigation into Clinton’s emails as Secretary of State. However, Comey would not indicate how long the renewed investigation would last as he reported to the Congressional chairmen. Comey concluded in the letter, “Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.”

Republican nominee Donald Trump was quick to seize on the news what could be his best opportunity to capture the White House. Trump commented on the new development during his rally in Manchester, N.H. announcing the news to his supporters. Trump expressed, “This is bigger than Watergate” and admitted the system “might not be as rigged as I thought.”

The GOP nominee declared, “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into office. I have great respect for the FBI and Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake they made.” As Trump was speaking his supporters went wild chanting “lock her up.” Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was equally enthused about the development, writing on Twitter, “A great day in our campaign just got even better.”

Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus also issued a statement praising the decision. Priebus said, “The F.B.I.’s decision to reopen their criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret email server just 11 days before the election shows how serious this discovery must be. This stunning development raises serious questions about what records may not have been turned over and why, and whether they show intent to violate the law.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called for the Director of Intelligence to cease allowing Clinton receive the national security briefing nominees receive. In his statement, Ryan said, “Yet again, Hillary Clinton has nobody but herself to blame. She was entrusted with some of our nation’s most important secrets, and she betrayed that trust by carelessly mishandling highly classified information.” Continuing the Speaker demanded, “This decision, long overdue, is the result of her reckless use of a private email server, and her refusal to be forthcoming with federal investigators. I renew my call for the Director of National Intelligence to suspend all classified briefings for Secretary Clinton until this matter is fully resolved.”

Meanwhile, Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta respondeddemanding that the FBI to release details of the investigation. “The Director owes it to the American people to immediately provide the full details of what he is now examining. We are confident this will not produce any conclusions different from the one the FBI reached in July.”

Both Trump and the Republicans have longed criticized the FBI and Comey for deciding not to prosecute Clinton for endangering national security by using a private email server as Secretary of State. In July, Comey announced his decision not to prosecute Clinton after a lengthy FBI investigation. Comey said on July 5, “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.” Although Comey expressed, the FBI could not “find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts,” he called Clinton’s handling of her emails “extremely careless.” Clinton has always dismissed the issue as merely a “mistake” of judgment.

The news could not come at a better time for Trump’s campaign. After being on the defensive for nearly a month after the release of a 2005 tape where the GOP nominee bragged about being able to grope women as he liked because of his celebrity status, and then 12 accusations from women that he made inappropriate sexual advances, Trump now can go on the offensive. The GOP nominee has longed railed about “crooked Hillary” now he might have some basis.

Clinton’s poll numbers surged with Trump’s scandals, but as WikiLeaks released her campaign chairman John Podesta emails depicting the unflattering inner workings of her campaign and news that her husband Bill Clinton explicitly blurred the lines with his Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s poll numbers have fallen. The poll numbers already showed Trump still had a possible path to the White House, now the FBI may have tipped the campaign in his favor.

The public and news media went into a frenzy on social media over the new development, as everyone believed Clinton had the election locked up and the only issue was her margin of victory. Clinton’s campaign worried of complacency; they were right. In an election so unpredictable there was bound to be a game-changing October Surprise, there was none until now. The reopened investigation might just change the whole outcome of the nastiest election in American history.

The full text of FBI Director James Comey’s letter:

In previous congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server. I am writing to supplement my previous testimony.

In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agree that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether the contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.

Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete the additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics August 23, 2016: Obama finally tours flood-ravaged Louisiana over a week too late

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Court orders State Dept to release 15,000 FBI newly discovered Clinton emails

By Bonnie K. Goodman

US President Barack Obama speaks after touring a flood-affected area in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 23, 2016. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks after touring a flood-affected area in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 23, 2016. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Over a week after heavy rainstorms flooded Louisiana, President Barack Obama finally toured the most damaged areas. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, Obama visited Baton Rouge, Louisiana, saying his tour “is not a photo-op.” Obama waited until he finished his two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts to tour the damage after much criticism locally in Louisiana and by Republicans particularly GOP nominee Donald Trump, who toured Louisiana last Friday, Aug. 20 with his vice presidential running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

President Obama arrived in Louisiana at “11:45 a.m. Central time,” where he was met by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, his wife, Donna, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, and Sen. David Vitter, at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. He first visited Castle Place neighborhood, which had been affected badly by the floods. There Obama met and spoke with residents, rescuers and officials. The flooding caused 13 deaths, 106,000 households “registered for assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency,” and 60,000 homes were damaged. Afterward, the president met with the families of shooting victims Alton Sterling and the Baton Rouge Police Department.

After his tour, President Obama delivered some remarks. The president expressed, “I come here first and foremost to say that the prayers of the entire nation are with everybody who lost loved ones. We are heartbroken by the loss of life. There are also still people who are desperately trying to track down friends and family we are going to keep on helping them every way that we can.”

Continuing Obama said, “Sometimes when these kinds of things happen it can seem too much to bear but what I want the people of Louisiana to know is that you’re not alone on this. Even after the TV cameras leave. The whole country is going to continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives are rebuilt.”
President Obama also praised FEMA’s response, which they already spent $127 million on the tragedy. Obama said FEMA’s help is not enough, “Now, federal assistance alone won’t be enough to make people’s lives whole again so I’m asking every American to do what you can to help get families and local businesses back on their feet.”

The president also jabbed Trump for criticizing him because he did not cut his vacation short to tour the damage earlier. Obama expressed, “So let me just remind folks: sometimes once the floodwaters pass, people’s attention spans pass. This is not a one-off. This is not a photo-op issue. This is how do you make sure that a month from now, three months from now, six months from now people still are getting the help that they need.”

Trump toured the damage with his running mate Mike Pence on Friday, where the GOP nominee donated an 18-wheeler of supplies. Trump was still criticizing the president this past weekend after the White House announced the president’s Tuesday visit. Trump told Fox News, “Tuesday’s too late. Hop into the plane and go down and go to Louisiana and see what’s going on, because it’s a mess.”

The president has been widely criticized for not cutting his vacation short to visit the worst flooding in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Instead, Obama was golfing and fundraising for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who also did not visit Louisiana’s flooding victims. Both had been critical of then President George W. Bush when he flew over and did stop during Hurricane Katrina, and took three days to visit the devastation.

Obama took over a week, but the White House deflected the criticism by pointing out the president declared an emergency on Aug. 14, when aid kicked in and Obama received briefings in the interim. The White House was also defensive attacking Trump for saying the same thing Obama did back in 2007 when he was a Democratic candidate running for president. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One the “President is used to people trying to score political points even in situations where they shouldn’t.”

Clinton, who fiercely attacked Bush when she was a New York Senator running for the Democratic nomination in 2007, this time went after Trump for actually visiting the victims in a timely manner. Clinton issued a statement saying, “This month’s floods in Louisiana are a crisis that demand a national response. I am committed to visiting communities affected by these floods, at a time when the presence of a political campaign will not disrupt the response, to discuss how we can and will rebuild toge

Politics August 20, 2016: Trump and Pence tour flooded Louisiana; Obama finally will visit on Tuesday

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Trump and Pence tour flooded Louisiana; Obama finally will visit on Tuesday

By Bonnie K. Goodman

DIMONDALE, MI - AUGUST 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally August 19, 2016 in Dimondale, Michigan.  Earlier in the day, Trump toured flood-ravaged Louisiana. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

DIMONDALE, MI – AUGUST 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally August 19, 2016 in Dimondale, Michigan. Earlier in the day, Trump toured flood-ravaged Louisiana. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Republican nominee Donald Trump became the first major leader to visit flood-ravaged Louisiana, beating out President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump visited Baton Rouge along with his vice presidential running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence toured the damage on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Trump specifically visited Greenwell Springs in East Baton Rouge, St. Amant in Ascension Parish, and some areas of Lafayette.

A Louisiana Republican leadership delegation met Trump at the airport. The delegation included “Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Congressman Garret Graves, Congressman Steve Scalise, and Eric Skrmetta, a member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission and co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Louisiana.” Pence arrived before Trump with his wife Karen and daughter Charlotte and received an early briefing.

Trump and Pence’s visit took them to the areas where the floodwaters are now receding, and the real damage is visible. Trump visited Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, where he met with
“Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”

There Trump and Perkins criticized vacationing President Obama for not coming to the state. Trump said, “The president says he doesn’t want to go; he is trying to get out of a golf game.” Meanwhile, Perkins commented, “I heard he wants to stay under par while we are under water.” Then Trump joked, “He will never be under par.”

The GOP ticket commenced their tour by meeting with “local officials, volunteers and the National Guard and touring the flood damage.” The Republican ticket met also with “Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief organization.” They visited one of the organizations’ mobile kitchens, and where they were “cheered by the crowds.”

Trump also donated an 18-wheeler full of supplies, and he and Pence helped unload them. Trump said at that time to reporters, “I’ve had a great history with Louisiana. They need a lot of help. What’s happened here is incredible. Nobody understands how bad it is. It’s really incredible. So, I’m just here to help.” Liberals later criticized because the supplies included many toys.

Pence also commented to the media, saying, “These volunteers are incredibly inspiring but the American people need to know that Louisiana needs help. Volunteers, support for the Red Cross, support to the charities like Samaritan’s Purse that are coming along side these vulnerable families and we’re just here to help tell that story and very inspired by it.”

Louisiana’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ issued a statement about Trump’s visit that was semi-critical. Edwards office said, “Gov. Edwards wasn’t informed of the Trump campaign’s visit to the state or the schedule. We welcome them to Louisiana, but not for a photo-op. Instead, we hope they’ll consider volunteering or making a sizable donation to the LA Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of this storm.”

Obama has been vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts and been spending most of his time golfing, except a fundraiser for Clinton. The president is facing criticism for avoiding visit Louisiana in the past week. The flooding has caused 13 deaths, while thousands have been dislocated forced to leave their homes because of the flooding, with many of these homes damaged, it has been the worst devastation Louisiana has seen in years.

The White House later announced on Friday, that Obama would be touring the damage in Louisiana on Tuesday, Aug. 23. The White House’s statement announcing the visit said the President is “eager to get a first-hand look at the impact of the devastating floods and hear from more officials about the response, including how the federal government can assist and tell the people of Louisiana that the American people will be with them as they rebuild their community and come back stronger than ever.”

Neither has Clinton visited the region. Instead, she received a briefing from Gov. Bell. Clinton posted a message after on Facebook, writing, “My heart breaks for Louisiana, and right now, the relief effort can’t afford any distractions. The very best way this team can help is to make sure Louisianans have the resources they need,” she wrote in the post. “These are our friends, our family members, our community –, and they’re counting on us to reach out with open arms right now.”

Politics August 12, 2016: Trump claims sarcasm after calling Obama the founder of terrorist group ISIS

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Trump claims sarcasm after calling Obama the founder of terrorist group ISIS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

ERIE, PA - AUGUST 12: Republican presidential candidate  Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally at Erie Insurance Arena on August 12, 2016 in Erie, Pennsylvania. Trump continues to campaign for his run for president of the United States. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

ERIE, PA – AUGUST 12: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a rally at Erie Insurance Arena on August 12, 2016 in Erie, Pennsylvania. Trump continues to campaign for his run for president of the United States. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

For nearly a week Republican nominee Donald Trump has been calling President Barack Obama and his opponent Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the founders of terrorist organization Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now he says he was just being sarcastic. On Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, Trump blamed the media for literally believing what he said, instead of identifying his sarcasm. This is hardly the first time this campaign Trump has blamed the media for not understanding his sarcasm and misinterpreting his remarks.

On Friday morning, Trump tweeted, “Ratings challenged @CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama (and Clinton) “the founder” of ISIS, & MVP. THEY DON’T GET SARCASM?”  The walk about comes two days after Trump starting blaming Obama for the founding of the terrorist group. Trump made the remarks numerous times over two days before going back on his comments.

Trump again went back on his remarks saying he was being “not that sarcastic.” Trump told supporters at an Erie, Pa. rally on Friday, “Obviously I’m being sarcastic … but not that sarcastic to be honest with you.” Trump continued to criticize “dishonest media,” saying, “These people are the lowest form of life. They are the lowest form of humanity. Not all of them, they have about 25 percent that are pretty good, actually.”

Trump supporter and campaign surrogate Newt Gingrich appeared Friday on “Fox and Friends” trying to explain the GOP nominee words. Gingrich blames Trump’s language, “One of the things that’s frustrating about his candidacy is the imprecise language. He sometimes uses three words when he needs 10.”

The former speaker and the 2012 GOP candidate believes Trump simplified what he meant to say. Gingrich clarified, “When you instead compress them into ‘Obama created ISIS,’ I know what Trump has in his mind, but that’s not what people hear. He has got to learn to use language that has been thought through, and that is clear to everybody, and to stick to that language.”

Gingrich, like Trump, blames the media, but also Trump’s campaign style, a holdover from the primary. The former speaker said, “It was a style that none of his Republican opponents could cope with. But I don’t think he yet appreciates, when you’re one of the few candidates for president, particularly when you’re the conservative … you’ve got to understand that the news media is going to attack you every chance they get, and it’s your job to not give them a chance.”

Trump began making waves with this accusation on Wednesday evening, Aug. 10 at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the speech, Trump called the president by his full name, “Barack Hussein Obama.” The GOP nominee called the war in Iraq a mistake, and “criticized” the president’s  “clean up.” Trump said, “Normally you want to clean up; he made a bigger mess out of it. He made such a mess. And then you had Hillary with Libya, so sad.”

Then Trump accused Obama, saying, “In fact, in many respects, you know they honor President Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS, OK? He’s the founder. He founded ISIS. I would say the co-founder would be Crooked Hillary Clinton.”

Trump reiterated the sentiment on Thursday, Aug 11, during an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt. Hewitt tried to spin Trump asking if he meant, “that he (Obama) created the vacuum, he lost the peace.” Trump responded with certainty, “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”

Hewitt still questioned what Trump meant, trying to force him to clarify, arguing that Obama’s “not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He’s trying to kill them.” Trump bluntly responded, “I don’t care. He was the founder. His, the way he got out of Iraq was that that was the founding of ISIS, okay?”  No matter what, Trump remained steadfast on his position, saying his comments were “no mistake.”

The GOP nominee made the statements repeatedly. Trump also told the National Association of Home Builders in Miami on Thursday morning, “I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They are the founders.” At a rally Thursday evening, Trump said again, President Obama “is the founder in a true sense.” Trump said that the terrorist organization wants Clinton for president, saying on Thursday, “Oh boy, is ISIS hoping for her.”

In a CNBC interview on Thursday, Trump clarified, Obama “was the founder of ISIS, absolutely. The way he removed our troops — you shouldn’t have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq. Totally against it.” Continuing he said, “That mistake was made. It was a horrible mistake — one of the worst mistakes in the history of our country. We destabilized the Middle East and we’ve been paying the price for it for years. He was the founder — absolutely, the founder. In fact, in sports they have awards, he gets the most valuable player award. Him and Hillary. I mean she gets it, too. I gave them co-founder if you really looked at the speech.” Supposedly, Trump originally supported the war despite the denials.

Clinton responded and attacked Trump on his favorite medium, Twitter. Clinton tried to tie the GOP’s nominee words to his fitness to be president. Clinton wrote, “It can be difficult to muster outrage as frequently as Donald Trump should cause it, but his smear against President Obama requires it.” Clinton also tweeted, “No, Barack Obama is not the founder of ISIS. … Anyone willing to sink so low, so often should never be allowed to serve as our Commander-in-Chief.”

Politics August 7, 2016: Obama arrives in Martha’s Vineyard for last presidential summer vacation

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Obama arrives in Martha’s Vineyard for last presidential summer vacation

By Bonnie K. Goodman

US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia(upperR) and Sasha step off Air Force One at Cape Cod Air Force Station in Massachusetts on August 6, 2016 as they arrive for a two-week holiday at nearby Martha's Vineyard. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia(upperR) and Sasha step off Air Force One at Cape Cod Air Force Station in Massachusetts on August 6, 2016 as they arrive for a two-week holiday at nearby Martha’s Vineyard. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Barack Obama is marking his last summer vacation as president. Obama along with First Lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha arrived Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016 in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts for their annual two-week vacation. The president will have no official engagements during his vacation.

The president and family in addition to dogs BO and Sunny flew on Air Force One to Cape Cod on Saturday. There the Obamas met with members of the military before continuing to Martha’s Vineyard flying on Marine One.

The president and his family vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard each year of his presidency except in 2012 when Obama ran for re-election. The Obamas again are renting a house on the island in the tony Chilmark. CNN is describing the house as a wooded compound far from the busier Edgartown and Oak Bluffs.

The Obamas usually stay out of the limelight on their vacations, the exception when they are sited at local shops or dining in town, biking or especially in the president’s case golfing. Last year President Obama made the rounds at all of the island’s golf courses playing at each one, often will high profile friends accompanying him.

This year youngest daughter Sasha, 15 will be particularly busy; the first daughter is working at local restaurant Nancy’s seafood restaurant heading the taking out the window. The Obama’s are friends with the owner and eat there often during their vacations.

Sasha has also been working busing tables. A fellow worker at the restaurant recounted to the Boston Herald “She’s been working downstairs at takeout. We were wondering why there were six people helping this girl, but then we found out who it was.” First Lady Michelle recently told Entertainment Tonight that she and the president are trying to “‘normalize’ their daughters’ lives “as much as possible.'”

Politics August 7, 2016: Obama celebrates 55th birthday at star-studded bash

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Obama celebrates 55th birthday at star-studded bash

By Bonnie K. Goodman

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama make their way to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on August 6, 2016.  Obama and his family were headed to Martha's Vineyard for their summer vacation. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN        (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama make their way to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on August 6, 2016.
Obama and his family were headed to Martha’s Vineyard for their summer vacation. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama commenced his annual vacation in Martha’s Vineyard after partying the evening before on Aug. 5, 2016, at his 55th birthday bash. The star-studded party held at the White House included a bevy of celebrities and politicians deemed Obama’s closest friends.

On Friday evening, Obama celebrated his milestone and last birthday as president at a party paid for by the Obamas at the White House. Although the official guest list has not been made public, the news media has been able to piece together some of the attendees from social media post from party guests.

Among the celebrities in attendance were “Alfre Woodard, movie executive Harvey Weinstein and former basketball star Grant Hill,” “Ellen DeGeneres, Sarah Jessica Parker and husband actor Matthew Broderick, “Star Wars” producer George Lucas” and basketball star Magic Johnson and wife Cookie. Usher and Stevie Wonder provided the evening’s entertainment. It is believed that singer and rappers Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Kendrick Lamar also attended.

The party also included political friends “Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile, former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod and Reverend Al Sharpton. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s former chief of staff and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Some news media personalities attended including, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts and ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts and husband Al Roker.

A White House official said, “The guest list includes a large number of family members and friends to mark the occasion. The private event will be paid for with the family’s personal funds.” While a party attendee described it as “A real birthday bash with lots of old friends, cabinet officials, members of Congress, celebrities.” The party lasted past midnight.

Obama turned 55 on Thursday, Aug. 4. The president celebrated Thursday evening with his wife and children at a smaller intimidate dinner at the White House. The last time the Obamas celebrated with a big bash was Michelle’s 50th birthday party in January 2014. Michelle also gave a birthday shout out to her husband on Instagram writing, “55 years young and that smile still gets me every single day. Happy birthday, Barack. I love you. -mo”

Politics July 8, 2016: Obama to return early from Europe to visit Dallas after police shooting

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Obama to return early from Europe to visit Dallas after police shooting

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President of United States Barack Obama, at the media statements after meeting whit Polish President Andrzej Duda on NATO Summit in Warsaw, 08 June, 2016, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President of United States Barack Obama, at the media statements after meeting whit Polish President Andrzej Duda on NATO Summit in Warsaw, 08 June, 2016, Poland (Photo by Krystian Dobuszynski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Barack Obama is cutting his trip to Europe short after the worst attack on police since 9/11. President Obama made a statement about the shooting in Dallas on Friday, July 8, 2016, from the NATO conference in Poland, calling it “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.” On Thursday evening, July 7, a sniper purposely opened fire on police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest where 11 police officers were shot and five killed.

The White House announced the president’s intended visit to Dallas early next week late Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, President Obama ordered the flags to fly at half-staff and made a statement condemning the attack.

Speaking from Poland, Obama said, “I believe I speak for every single American when I say we are horrified over these events, and we stand united with the people and the police department in Dallas. There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement. Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.”

The statement was Obama’s second in two days after police officers shot and killed African-American men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Police killed Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and the incidents were recorded and posted online. The shootings sparked the protest in Dallas.

The sniper Micah Xavier Johnson, 25 was former Army reservist, acted alone and specifically targeted white police officers. Police took out the shooter. Dallas Police Chief David Brown told the public that Johnson was “upset about Black Lives Matter, he said he was upset about the recent police shootings.”

Both presumptive nominees, Republican Donald Trump, and Democrat Hillary Clinton, responded to the attack in the morning and canceled their campaign events on Friday. Trump issued a statement and video condemning the shooting as an “an attack on our country” and a “coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.”

Clinton’s first response was on Twitter where she wrote, “I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families & all who serve with them. -H.” Clinton later spoke at the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s conference in Philadelphia.

Politics June 24, 2016: Supreme Court rules against Obama on immigration executive actions

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Supreme Court rules against Obama on immigration executive actions

By Bonnie K. Goodman
June 24, 2016 5:06 AM MST
President Barack Obama blamed the Republicans for the Supreme Court refusing to allow his immigration executive actions, June 23, 2016

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President Barack Obama blamed the Republicans for the Supreme Court refusing to allow his immigration executive actions, June 23, 2016
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Politics June 9, 2016: President Obama endorses Hillary Clinton for president

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President Obama endorses Hillary Clinton for president

By Bonnie K. Goodman

June 9, 2016 11:14 PM MST
President Obama endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a video, June 9, 2016

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President Obama endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a video, June 9, 2016
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Politics June 6, 2016: Obama ready to endorse Clinton this week as she clinches Democratic nomination

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Obama ready to endorse Clinton this week as she clinches Democratic nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman

June 6, 2016 10:49 PM MST

Now that Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination, President Barack Obama intends to endorse her and begin campaigning for her, June 6, 2016
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Politics May 17, 2016: Trudeau introduces transgender rights bill after Obama issues order on bathrooms

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Trudeau introduces transgender rights bill after Obama issues order on bathrooms

By Bonnie K. Goodman

May 17, 2016 9:50 AM MST

Both US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are announcing new legislation protecting transgender people from discrimination in honor of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, May 17, 2016
Both US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are announcing new legislation protecting transgender people from discrimination in honor of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, May 17, 2016
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Politics April 10, 2016: Obama guaranteed Clinton would be prosecuted if FBI finds it is necessary

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Obama guaranteed Clinton would be prosecuted if FBI finds it is necessary 

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April 10, 2016 2:39 PM MST

President Barack Obama guaranteed that if the FBI decides to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton she would even if she is the Democratic presidential nominee, April 10, 2016
President Barack Obama guaranteed that if the FBI decides to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton she would even if she is the Democratic presidential nominee, April 10, 2016
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Politics March 16, 2016: Obama decides on Judge Merrick Garland for Supreme Court nominee

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Obama decides on Judge Merrick Garland for Supreme Court nominee

By Bonnie K. Goodman

March 16, 2016 9:08 AM MST

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland said Wednesday during his nomination announcement that justices must be faithful to the Constitution and 'put aside personal views or prejudices.'

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Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland said Wednesday during his nomination announcement that justices must be faithful to the Constitution and ‘put aside personal views or prejudices.’
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Politics March 13, 2016: Malia and Sasha Obama the toasts at their state dinner debut

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Malia and Sasha Obama the toasts at their state dinner debut

By Bonnie K. Goodman

March 13, 2016 12:45 AM MST

 In a surprise to the public, Malia and Sasha Obama attended the state dinner in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, their first, March 10, 2016
In a surprise to the public, Malia and Sasha Obama attended the state dinner in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, their first, March 10, 2016
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Politics March 10, 2016: Obama approval rating at three-year high, economy remains the top problem

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Obama approval rating at three-year high, economy remains the top problem

By Bonnie K. Goodman

March 10, 2016 11:36 AM MST

President Barack Obama is seeing his popularity improve, but Americans are still dissatisfied with the economy, March 10, 2016
President Barack Obama is seeing his popularity improve, but Americans are still dissatisfied with the economy, March 10, 2016
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