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Best. POTUS pool reports. EVER.

While covering President Barack Obama’s San Francisco fundraiser Saturday, I had the pleasure of chatting with Gardiner Harris, White House correspondent for the New York Times. Later, as he covered the president’s Los Angeles fundraisers, he filed some of the funniest pool reports I’ve ever read.

Gardiner_HarrisFor the uninitiated, on any given day that the president travels, one member of the traveling White House press corps and one or two local reporters are designated as “pool” – which means those reporters, when covering events not open to the rest of the press, must file quick-and-dirty reports first to the White House for sharing with other outlets before they filing their own stories.

As someone who covers several presidential visits a year, I often feel like I know the basic stump speech by heart – so I have empathy for those reporters who must cover the president’s political events day after day, hearing the same basic speech over and over, yet still must consistently send out coverage. It can be a real grind, unless you have a good sense of humor.

So here are some excerpts from Gardiner’s dispatches today, an insight into life on the road covering the leader of the free world. My personal favorite is at 6:39 p.m.:

2:01 p.m.: “Marine One touched down at 1:23 in the riding pen of Will Rogers State Park, a place named for the man who once said everything is funny as long as it’s happening to someone else. We are en route to a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.”

2:05 p.m.: The pool is holding in the attic of a beautiful house in the Pacific Palisades while POTUS attends a Roundtable for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The committee has yet to inform us of the identity of our hosts, although we have just been told that [it’s] J.J. Abrams, director of the upcoming Star Wars movie. The attic has at least seven electronic keyboards, several acoustic and two electric guitars and what appears to be a high-end sound mixer. So the pool is jamming. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post is presently crooning Barry Manilow’s, ‘Mandy.’”

3:05 p.m.: “Obama left the fundraiser at the home of J.J. Abrams, the Star Wars director, at 3:04 PST. The crudités were terrestrial; the view to the Pacific was not. Homes here on San Remo Drive have high hedges, steel fences, gated driveways and pixy dust. Abrams’ low-key Cape Cod-style home had, your pooler is afraid to admit, an understated elegance. Plus the rubber mask of the creature from ‘Alien’ attached to the face was creepily cool. A Secret Service agent had to ask Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post several times – the last time somewhat forcefully – to put down the mic and leave the premises. Your pooler is now comforting Jaffe, recovering from his glimpse of how the other 0.01 percent lives.”

3:32 p.m.: “The motorcade drove all of four minutes before arriving at the next event, reminiscent of Steve Martin’s car journeys in ‘LA Story.’”

3:42 p.m.: “Pool arrived at a home that backs up to a canyon, with glorious views of scrub hills and ocean. The half-acre yard has a large white tent shading some 200 white chairs from a blazing sun. There is not a cloud in the cerulean sky. This is a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Pacific Palisades with about 200 supporters contributing up to $33,400 a person. Jamie Foxx will perform at the event. Mr. Foxx is on the grounds and posing for pictures with various guests at what appears to be an inner sanctum on the grounds.”

5:13 p.m.: “After about a 20-minute drive, motorcade arrived at 4:59 at the home of Michael Smith, a prominent interior designer who is married to the Spanish ambassador. The fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee has about 50 people who paid up to $33,400 a person to attend. Happiness research suggests that neither income nor large homes in beautiful locales with fabulous weather necessarily lead to happiness. Further, that experiences are often more valuable than possessions. Your Pooler is sure that no one at the fundraiser has ever laid down fully dressed in the king-sized bed in this guest room with two large photographers from major wire services and watched the Arkansas/Alabama game while POTUS spoke in the vast living room.”

5:57 p.m.: “In a large living room with 18-foot ceilings, windows that went almost floor-to-ceiling, a 10-foot floral display and several pieces of what appeared to be expensive art work, President Obama gave a stripped-down version of his stump speech prior to answering questions. Pool was ushered out before the questions. Mr. Obama’s light-hearted comments at the start of the speech had to do with his lack of a tie. He said that David Axelrod had instructed him during his first campaign to always wear a tie because ‘you don’t look old enough’ to be president. His gray hair now confirms that he is old enough not only to be president but to have been president, so he plans to wear fewer ties, he said. He then reviewed his administration’s successes in job creation, clean energy and other issues. ‘There’s almost no measure by which we’re not better off now than when I came into office,’ he said. But problems remain, most prominently the failure of wages and income to grow for ordinary Americans, he said. That has led to economic anxiety, he said. ‘And when people are anxious economically, the politics of fear oftentimes can override the politics of hope,’ he said. That anxiety can express itself in anti-immigration rhetoric and ‘in cheap jingoism and militarism and nationalism that’s not grounded in our national security interests. And it’s a dangerous path.’ He then complimented Democrats for making courageous votes and said he was not ‘intrinsically partisan,’ and he said he had sometimes been faulted by members of his own party for not being partisan enough. ‘But I will tell you at this moment in history, the choices are stark. And facts, evidence and values are on our side. And the other side has gone off the deep end. And what you’re witnessing in the House fight right now is that even deeply conservative folks are not considered ideologically pure enough and we would rather burn the House down than admit the possibility of democratic process that requires compromise.’ He said that voters must work hard. ‘If you let it pass, then you’ve got people in charge who don’t believe in climate change,’ he said. ‘So I feel as much urgency about this upcoming election as I’ve felt about any election, and I am not on the ballot.’ ‘I definitely need a Democratic successor because the alternatives we’ve got are not what I had in mind,’ he said.”

6:39 p.m. “Motorcade left the home of Michael Smith at 6:37 as the sun was setting and a warm amber glow settled over the exclusive Los Angeles enclave of Holmby Hills. The house POTUS left was valued at $12.5 million, was designed by Timothy Morgan Steele and is ‘not only a work of art but designed with the art connoisseur in mind,’ according to Zillow. The home is situated on a full acre plot. While such a home is certainly no guarantee of happiness, high incomes do tend to lead to greater expressions of satisfaction, research shows. Further, such obvious displays of wealth can lead to the development of envy in others, among the darkest of human emotions, according to some research. Envy occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other person lacked it, according to Wikipedia. Envy is a powerful predictor of unhappiness, research shows. Some cultures, such as that in the United States, discourage open expressions of envy. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post had recovered somewhat in the motorcade over to Holmby Hills but, your pooler is sorry to report, experienced something of a relapse during the unique and remarkable experience of sitting next to a sizable doggie bed while shoeless photogs lay prone and fully dressed in a giant bed watching the Arkansas/Alabama game as great wealth almost bubbled around them. Your pool managed to recover Mr. Jaffe’s wallet and cell phone, and he is now lying peacefully in a pool van with a cold compress on his forehead.”

7:03 p.m.: “Marine One touched down at LAX at precisely 7 pm, as the dying embers of a Los Angeles sunset faded over the nearby Pacific Ocean. We are headed for AF1.”

7:11 p.m.: “Headed to Miramar Air Force Base, where I had early Saturday morning swim workouts in childhood. Oh, and ‘Top Gun’ was filmed, less importantly.”

8:40 p.m. “Air Force one arrived at Miramar Air Force Base around 7:50 pm. And the pool squeezed into two vans instead of three. Ten guys, some with heavy equipment, jostled into one of the vans in the desert air, instantly overwhelming the vehicle’s air conditioning. The motorcade sped through darkened suburban sprawl and desert scrub on Miramar Road to the 805 (local dialect demands use of an article prior to interstate numbers). We soon joined the 5, exited at Del Mar Heights Road, passed the Pumpkin Patch play area, and sliced into the heart of the exclusiveness of Rancho Santa Fe. Sun overexposure can lead to nausea, fever, headache and dizziness. But so can existential dread. These conditions can be difficult to distinguish in the Southland and on pool duty. Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post will need a differential diagnosis, but I suspect the labs will be equivocal. We arrived at the gated community at 8:25 pm alongside the sharpest looking crew of CHiPs I’ve ever seen. We have a lid.”

Posted on Saturday, October 10th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

White House confirms upcoming Obama visit to SF

As previously reported here, the White House now confirms President Barack Obama will return to the Bay Area next week to raise money for his fellow Democrats.

“On Friday, the President will travel to the Seattle, WA area to attend an event for Senator Patty Murray and the Washington State Democratic Party and a DNC event. Later in the day, the President will travel to the San Francisco, CA area for a DNC event. The President will remain overnight in San Francisco,” a White House official said. “On Saturday, October 9, the President will attend a DNC event and travel to the Los Angeles area for DNC and DSCC events. Further details about the President’s travel to Washington and California will be made available in the coming days.”

No comment from the White House on the president’s potential “come to Yeezus” moment.

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 5 Comments »

Yeezy and Barry to bury the hatchet in SF?

President Obama is coming back to the Bay Area to raise money early next month, but that’s not the big story.

Tickets for the event range from $250 to $10,000, but that’s not the big story, either.

The big story is that Kanye West is rumored to be the musical guest at this Oct. 10 fundraiser at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater – perhaps marking a new warming in the often-troubled diplomatic relationship between Yeezy and B. Barry Bams.

The leader of the free world first jabbed at rap’s biggest ego back in 2009, after West famously commandeered Taylor Swift’s microphone during her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards.

The Commander-in-Chief repeated the same epithet in a 2012 interview with the Atlantic, in noting that he preferred Jay Z to Kanye.

“Although I like Kanye,” Obama continues, with an easy smile. “He’s a Chicago guy. Smart. He’s very talented.” He is displaying his larger awareness of the question, looking relaxed, cerebral but friendly, alive to the moment, waiting for me to get to the heart of the matter.
“Even though you called him a jackass?,” I ask.

“He is a jackass,” Obama says, in his likable and perfectly balanced modern-professorial voice. “But he’s talented.”

Kanye responded in 2013, saying he didn’t particularly care and was moving on with his art and his life. But his wife, Kim Kardashian, fired back late last year in her interview with GQ.

“I don’t think it’s very appropriate for the president of the United States to be commenting really on pop culture,” says Kim when I bring up the president’s comments. Of course, her husband had previous beef with America’s commander-in-chief; Obama calling West a “jackass”, after he’d leapt on stage and interrupted Taylor Swift’s Moonman acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

“I mean, calling people ‘jackass’?” Kim makes a face as if she’s bitten into a soft, ripe peach and hit a piece of grit. “I guess everyone is entitled to their own opinion – even him. I was just like, ‘Why is he even commenting on this?’ OK, sure, just the fact that the president of the United States even knows who I am, and is talking about whether his kids watch our show is pretty cool…” Kim laughs, but is defiant. “He can say whatever he wants. I’m not affected by it.”

Then, during a stream-of-consciousness lecture at Oxford University in March, Kanye claimed POTUS occasionally calls him up to chew the fat: “Obama calls the home phone, by the way.”

Days later, Obama told Jimmy Kimmel he has met Kanye only twice. “Look, I love his music. He’s incredibly creative. I don’t think I’ve got his home number.”

But Kanye soon doubled down on his claim to TMZ: “I love Obama. He called our house before. He knows that. Don’t try to pit us against each other.”

And of course, Kanye announced at last month’s Video Music Awards that he wants Obama’s job.

“If my grandfather was here right now he would not let me back down! I don’t know I’m fittin’ to lose after this,” he said. “It don’t matter though, cuz it ain’t about me. It’s about ideas, bro. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”

So this Oct. 10 event in San Francisco is nothing less than a diplomatic summit of epic proportions, a touchstone moment in American politics and entertainment, a burying of the hatchet that could change the course of U.S. history. Perhaps… an early 2020 endorsement!?!

Or – Kanye will do a few songs, Obama will make off with some serious lucre for the Democratic National Committee, and we’ll all roll on.

Posted on Saturday, September 26th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Pool report from Obama’s DCCC fundraiser

Here’s the White House pool report I just filed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser that President Obama headlined, hosted by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood.

But first, the view from outside:

The view from Sea Cliff (photo by Josh Richman)

Between 50 and 100 of the Bay Area’s well-heeled mixed and mingled with drinks and snacks in a bright, skylit room while awaiting POTUS’ remarks. Spotted in the crowd: Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. (wearing a blue pantsuit and gold blouse with a Golden State Warriors button on her jacket lapel); Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.; and DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opened the program, citing the Golden State Warriors’ championship win so soon after the championship San Francisco Giants were honored at the White House. She repeated the sentiments she had spoken to the U.S. Conference of Mayors a few hours earlier, noting that during Obama’s presidency, job growth has boomed, the deficit has shrunk, the stock market has soared, and 17 million previously uninsured Americans now have health coverage.

“You’ve come to a state that is in the lead on climate change,” she said, noting Steyer and Taylor have invested much to protect California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions law.

Steyer thanked Pelosi for her service and leadership. Climate and energy is “part of the progressive agenda,” and many in the room care deeply about higher education, immigration reform, LGBT rights and more. But with climate change, Obama “hasn’t gotten nearly the support he deserves” given what the president has accomplished with regulations and international agreements. “It’s been under the most difficult political circumstances I’ve ever witnessed,” Steyer said, and perhaps the most difficult since 1860. Yet with all due respect to Warriors star Steph Curry, Obama is “still our go-to guy in a clutch,” Steyer said.

POTUS began speaking at 5:40 p.m.

“I think the Bay Area has been a little bit greedy with championships,” he said, noting at least the Blackhawks just had their victory parade, too.

But “it is actually really impressive to see what both organizations have done, and they do it the right way,” he said, offering his congratulations to Giants and Warriors alike. Obama noted Curry donates anti-malaria mosquito nets for each 3-point shot he makes.

POTUS thanked Steyer and Taylor on their civic engagement, as well as on good parenting; he’d just met their kids backstage. “I can’t thank them enough not just for supporting me but for supporting the issues that matter to everyone in this room.”

POTUS also thanked Pelosi for being “an extraordinary partner in Congress” who has made most of his administration’s accomplishments possible. And he thanked the members of Congress present at Friday’s event individually.

POTUS’ tone turned sober in addressing the Charleston massacre. “In addition to heartbreak and wanting to extend love and prayer and support to the families that have been affected” and amazement at their forgiving statements Friday to the shooter, “in addition to all those things I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that this stuff happens way too often. These mass shootings do not happen in other advanced countries around the world – they are unique in their frequency to America.”

And that’s due to this nation’s easily availability of guns, too often without background checks, he said. “It’s not enough for us to express sympathy. We have to take action.”

His partners in Congress have helped him reduce unemployment, buoy the economy, stabilize the housing market, reduce the deficit, insure the uninsured, increase high school graduation and college attendance rates, doubled production of clean energy (and increased solar tenfold), improved fuel efficiency standards, and more.

“We’ve ended two wars,” he said, while protecting the American homeland and conduct operations against enemies while staying true to the Constitution and the law. LGBT rights have leapt forward. “I’m really proud of this record.”

“But the amount of work left undone is remarkable,” POTUS said, citing both challenges and opportunities to better the nation for future generation.

“First is the changing nature of the economy,” he said.

We’ve overperformed the world economically, yet haven’t addressed growing income inequality. “Until we tackle that, people aren’t going to feel better.”

That means investing in early-childhood education, investing in science and research, and adopting new trade policies that don’t shy away from the new world economy but “lean into it,” he said.

“The second thing I spend time thinking about is climate change,” he said, and if we don’t get that right, it barely matters what else we do.

Reading the latest climate science reports scare him, he said; by 2050, “well within our current children’s lifetime,” sea levels rise by two to four feet. Within the lifetimes of grandchildren or great-grandchildren, “it could be 10 feet, 16 feet. The magnitude of the changes that could be taking place if we don’t get a handle on this are irreversible.”

“This is a matter of us taking some basic steps to increase efficiency and expand clean energy production and change our grid and develop new technologies, and it’s well within our reach,” he said. “There is something we can do.”

“If Japan is 20 percent more efficient in terms of its energy use… that’s existing technology and we can adapt it here,” he said.

“If we know how we produce power is unsustainable, we have the tools or we will develop the tools” to replace that, he said.

“Imagine what we could do if Congress actually starting moving with us instead of moving against us,” he said, drawing murmurs of assent from the audience.

China was compelled to negotiate on climate change because we’re setting the example, he said.

POTUS says he tells his White House interns that we live in the most technologically advanced time in history, with lifestyles our predecessors couldn’t have imagined, he said. “What you can’t do is give into this notion that things can’t change, because they change all the time and they change remarkably.”

“We never make as much progress as we should… we’re always a little bit battered and bruised, we’re always a little frustrated, but we make it a little better,” he said. “And by making it better, we add our little bit to this journey towards progress and more justice and more equality and more empathy and more compassion. And then we leave some work for our amazing kids to do, because we wouldn’t want to solve all their problems.”

But we must tackle income inequality and climate change now, before they become insurmountable in the future, he said.

“If we’re going to make things better, you have to have a Congress that cares and is willing to do tough stuff,” he said, adding he and his allies in Congress don’t agree on everything – a jibe that drew laughter from the audience.

“Ultimately, the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen,” he said. “I need you to feel the same sense of urgency.”

POTUS finished at 6:05 p.m.; press was ushered out as crowd applauded.

Motorcade departed site at 6:11 p.m. en route to Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco’s South of Market area.

Posted on Friday, June 19th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

Obama honors San Francisco Giants at White House

Sure, everyone’s in a tizzy about Thursday night’s NBA Finals Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, but another Bay Area champion team was lauded in our nation’s capital earlier in the day.

President Barack Obama hosted and honored the World Champion San Francisco Giants at the White House on Thursday.

Read the president’s remarks, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Obama honors Cal labor scholar at White House

A Berkeley labor scholar and consultant was among those honored by President Obama at the White House on Thursday as “Champions of Change” for working families.

Netsy FiresteinNetsy Firestein, 62, is a senior fellow at UC-Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and a consultant on work and family, child care, women and labor issues.

As founder and director of the Labor Project for Working Families, Firestein led a coalition that passed paid family leave in California, which covers almost every worker in the state. She also co-founded Family Values @ Work, a network of 21 states working to build a movement for family-friendly workplace policies such as family leave insurance and paid sick days.

Obama’s Champions of Change program lets the White House honor people who do extraordinary things to empower and inspire their communities. Thursday’s batch of 11 honorees were selected for having worked within their companies, communities or organizations for commonsense paid sick and paid leave policies, equal pay and an end to pregnancy discrimination to support families, businesses, and the economy.

The president singled out Firestein’s case as an example, citing her lead role in enacting California’s first-in-the-nation paid family leave law in 2002.

“People said it was a long shot,” Obama said. “And 13 years later, only two other states have done the same. But Netsy has proved that it’s possible – California is growing, businesses are being created. Not only is it possible, it’s the right thing to do. It’s patriotic. We should learn from her example and get those numbers up. We need more states to join in.”

Also speaking at Thursday’s ceremony were senior advisor Valerie Jarrett – chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls – and U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez. The honorees took part in two panel discussions on working families moderated by Tina Tchen, executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Roy Austin, deputy assistant to the president for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity.

Posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Labor politics, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Oakland, SF education officials meet with Obama

Three California education officials – including two from the Bay Area – met Monday morning with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to highlight the need for funding as Congress mulls a new budget and a revamp of the No Child Left Behind law.

Jumoke Hinton HodgeOakland Unified School District board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza and Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Mike Hanson were among the dozen officials from across the nation who met with Obama and Duncan at the White House.

All were from districts that are part of the Council of the Great City Schools; Hodge chairs the board of that national organization, which represents the needs of urban public schools. School districts eligible for membership must be located in cities with populations over 250,000 and student enrollment over 35,000.

Obama said in the meeting that he’s ready to fight with Republicans for school funding and his education priorities, the Associated Press reported. He hopes that Republican lawmakers focus on educating every child and not shifting money away from needy districts, he said; he’s also calling for a focus on low-performing schools, annual assessments and investments in special education and English-language learners.

If the Republican budget doesn’t reflect those priorities, he said, they will have “a major debate.”

“My hope is that their budget reflects the priorities of educating every child,” he said, according to a pool report from the New York Post’s Geoff Earle. “We are making too much progress here … for us to be going backwards now.”

Obama and Duncan are touting improved high-school graduation rates as evidence that the administration’s policies are working. In California, the high school graduation rates from 2012 to 2013 increased by 2.4 percent overall, including a 2.7 percent increase for Hispanic students and a 2.1 percent increase for African-American students.

Richard CarranzaHinton Hodge is co-founder of the Parent Leadership and Engagement Academy Initiative (PLEA), a community-building project dedicated to the education and support of West Oakland parents and families. She collaborated with California Tomorrow to develop programs aimed at increasing parents’ ability to navigate the public school system; has worked extensively with low-income youth and students identified as severely emotionally disturbed; and she has provided gender-specific services to urban girls.

Carranza has been San Francisco’s schools superintendent since June 2012; earlier, he had been the district’s deputy superintendent of instruction, innovation and social justice at the district since 2009.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, education, Oakland, Obama presidency, San Francisco politics | 12 Comments »

Zach Galifianakis spotted at POTUS’ hotel in LA

This just in from Evan McMorris-Santoro of Buzzfeed News, the pool reporter for President Barack Obama’s movements in Los Angeles this morning:

At 9:50 PT, motorcade is rolling from the Intercontinental to the helos for the trip back to AF1.

No word from WH on POTUS’ morning. Your pooler spotted Zach Galifianakis in the Intercontinental lobby this morning. He was wearing a suit and eating a banana.

Did Zach Galifianakis meet with the President, and if so, why? I’d like to think they were conferring on a Tom Cotton comedy bit of some sort; I will not ruin this hypothesis with any investigation. After all, the two have worked together before.

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

President Obama on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

President Obama flew to Los Angeles yesterday to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and to attend a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Santa Monica.

Part of Obama’s TV appearance included him reading and responding to “Mean Tweets:”

“Those weren’t that mean,” Obama told Kimmel later in the show. “You should see what the Senate says about me.”

On more serious matters, Obama also spoke extensively about Ferguson, Mo., per the pool report from Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times:

“Obviously,” Obama said, “we don’t yet know what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families, and thankfully, as you said, they’re going to be OK. What was beautiful about Selma was reminding ourselves that real social change in this country so often has happened because ordinary people are willing in a nonviolent fashion to make their voices heard.

“And I think that what had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and was worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts. And whoever fired those shots shouldn’t detract from the issue. They’re criminals. They need to be arrested. And then, what we need to do is to make sure that like-minded good spirited people on both sides – law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race — that we’re able to work together to try to come up with some good answers…”

Obama said the task force he assembled including police and protest organizers “came up with some terrific recommendations and found that there’s a lot of common ground.”

“What we have to make sure of is that the folks who disregard and disrespect the other side, people who resort to violence, that they’re marginalized,” he said.

“They set us all back,” Kimmel said. “They do.”

“But they’re not the majority,” Obama said. “And in the same way that you can’t generalize about police officers who do an extraordinarily tough job, overwhelmingly, they do it professionally, you can’t generalize about protesters who it turns out had some very legitimate grievances. The Justice Department report showed that they were being stopped, African Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money, even though these were unjust.”

Kimmel said parking tickets that he feels are unjust drive him crazy. “My wheels are not turned properly, and I feel like they’re just trying to make money off of me.”

“What was happening in Ferguson,” Obama said, “was you had city government telling the Police Department that – stop more people. We need to raise more money. Folks would get stopped. They’d get tickets. Then, they’d have to wait in line to pay it, take a day off work. Folks would lose their jobs. In some cases, they were thrown in jail because they didn’t have enough money for the fines. And then, they’d get fined for that. So there was a whole structure there, according to the Justice Department report, that indicated both racism and just a disregard for what law enforcement’s supposed to do.”

“I said this at Selma: It is not unique, but it’s also not the norm. And we’ve got to constantly, when we’re thinking about issues of racial progress, or any kind of issue, recognize that things can get better, but there’s still more work to do. And we shouldn’t be complacent about the very real existence of problems out there. But we shouldn’t despair and think nothing’s changed. If people of good will, which is the overwhelming majority of Americans, are working together, these are problems we can solve.”

ABC has the entirety of last night’s episode available online, if you can sign in with your TV provider ID; otherwise, it’ll be free and open for viewing by anyone next week. For now, click here for the Associated Press readout on the show, via CBS News.

Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2015
Under: Barack Obama, Obama presidency | 2 Comments »

Who will skip Netanyahu’s speech to Congress?

The Bay Area delegation is split over attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday, March 3.

Democrats and the White House remain miffed that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu unilaterally. The Israeli leader is expected to speak against the Obama administration’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, instead urging Congress to impose further sanctions; also, the address comes two weeks before Israel’s legislative election. For these reasons, and as some pro-Palestinian groups urge a boycott, some Democrats are choosing to skip the speech.

Here’s how the Bay Area delegation shakes out:

Skipping the speech: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose

Attending the speech: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz

Undecided: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa

Didn’t respond to inquiries: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo

A few of them offered explanations, or at least, comments:

Lofgren: “I am disappointed Speaker Boehner chose to irresponsibly interject politics into what has long been a strong and bipartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. As President Obama has noted, it is inappropriate for a Head of State to address Congress just two weeks ahead of their election. I agree that Congress should not be used as a prop in Israeli election campaigns, so I intend to watch the speech on TV in my office.”

Huffman: “I call upon Speaker Boehner and Ambassador Dermer to do the right thing and postpone this speech. Once the election in Israel is over and the current P5+1 negotiating deadline has passed, they should respect protocol and confer with President Obama and congressional Democrats on a time for the Prime Minister of Israel to address a joint session of Congress.”

Boxer: “Whether I wind up going or not, it was a terrible mistake by the Republican majority to play politics with this enduring relationship.”

McNerney, via spokesman Michael Cavaiola: “Rep. McNerney is not planning to attend the speech. He’s got several previously planned commitments for that day.”

DeSaulnier, via spokeswoman Betsy Arnold Marr: “Congressman DeSaulnier has not made a final decision as he hopes the Prime Minister will reconsider his plans particularly in light of the upcoming election.”

Honda, via spokesman Ken Scudder: “Congressman Honda regrets that Speaker Boehner ignored protocol in making this invitation. The speaker turned what should have been an important visit of one of our closest allies into a political stunt. Congressman Honda also has concerns about the potential political nature of this speech given Israel’s elections are less than two weeks away. Despite this, and the congressman’s disagreement with the Prime Minister’s opposition to the U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, Congressman Honda is going to attend the address on March 3. The United States and Israel share strong cultural, economic and security partnerships, and he will attend the speech to hear firsthand what the Prime Minister has to say on these serious and complicated issues.”

Thompson, via spokesman Austin Vevurka: “We still don’t know what the Congressman’s schedule will be that week, but I will of course keep you posted as we know more. That being said, Congressman Thompson understands the importance of hearing from international leaders, but he is concerned that the speech has become overtly political. He hopes the speech is rescheduled and Netanyahu is invited back at a later date in a manner that respects long-established diplomatic protocol.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Eric Swalwell, Iran, Israel, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Boehner, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, Sam Farr, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 24 Comments »