Archive for March, 2009

MICHELLE OBAMA IS A PROUD BLACK SKINNED SISTER WHO BROKE THE ANTI-BLACK SKIN BIAS CEILING OF WHITEamerikkka!-FROM HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

March 31, 2009

MICHELLE,A BLACK SKINNED BEAUTY!

MICHELLE,A BLACK SKINNED BEAUTY!

A BLACK SKINNED BEAUTY WITH HER BLACK PRESIDENT HUSBAND!

A BLACK SKINNED BEAUTY WITH HER BLACK PRESIDENT HUSBAND!
from huffingtonpost.com

Carlos Watson MSNBC Anchor
Posted March 16, 2009
America’s Skin-Deep Crush on Michelle Obama

America has fallen for Michelle Obama. Fashionistas love her style. Ivy Leaguers love her class. Moms love her priorities. Even white guys are crushing on her. The First Lady is everywhere: Vogue, O, this week’s New York Magazine. Like her husband, Michelle is a canvas onto which people can paint whatever they like, a mirror in which we can all glimpse something of ourselves. What do I see? Not those famous arms.

I see dark skin.

America may be falling for Michelle, but it wasn’t love at first sight. When I heard her described as “intimidating” and “angry” or as Obama’s “baby mama,” I often looked at her rich, brown skin and saw the reason. In this country, you’re less likely to get a job if your skin is dark. I can tell you from experience, you’re less likely to get a cab. Think of the A-list African-American cover girls whose ranks Michelle has joined: Beyonce, Rihanna, Halle Berry — none share her complexion. Academic studies show that Americans of all colors associate light skin with attraction and intelligence, and dark skin with poverty and fear.

Those “Americans of all colors” include African-American men, who are often criticized for preferring light-skinned or white partners. The literature on this is explosive and exhaustive, from Morrison to McMillan, Essence to Encarta. No doubt many black women, when they first heard of Barack Obama, assumed he followed the trend: prominent black man, light-skinned or non-black wife. Then they saw Michelle.

More than 1 in 5 of the votes that put Obama in office were cast by African-Americans, almost two-thirds of them women. African-Americans made the difference in critical states: Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, among others. Would the black community have supported Obama that enthusiastically if his wife had been lighter? I don’t think so. And if she had been white? Forget it. Obama’s ship would have sunk before it left the shores of Lake Michigan, his presidential run impossible without the early and deep backing of so many black women who believe that successful black Americans should work and love together in order to advance the community as a whole.

To be clear, I’m not saying that all black women feel this way, or that all white Americans initially hesitated to embrace Michelle because her skin is darker than Beyonce’s. But Michelle’s complexion has helped shape the way the world sees the Obamas, moving the national and international conversation on race forward in the process.

And I admire her for that.

OBAMA’S FIRST “OPEN FOR QUESTIONS” TOWN HALL,MARCH,2009

March 30, 2009

crazy5from whitehouse.gov
THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary
__________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release March 26, 2009

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT “OPEN FOR QUESTIONS” TOWN HALL

East Room

11:39 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Well, it is great to see all of you. And I am thrilled that all of you here in the White House and everybody who is viewing this online is participating in this experiment that we’re trying out. When I was running for President, I promised to open up the White House to the American people. And this event, which is being streamed live over the Internet, marks an important step towards achieving that goal. And I’m looking forward to taking your questions and hearing your thoughts and concerns — because what matters to you and your families, and what people here in Washington are focused on, aren’t always one and the same thing.

Here in Washington, politics all too often is treated like a game. There’s a lot of point scoring, a lot of talk about who’s up and who’s down, a lot of time and energy spent on whether the President is winning or losing on this particular day or this particular hour. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about the folks whose letters I read every single day. And for the American people, what’s going on is not a game. What matters to you is how you’re going to find a new job when nobody seems to be hiring or how to pay medical bills after you get out of the hospital or how to put your children through college when the money you’d put away for their tuition is no longer there.

That’s what matters to you. That’s what you expect your leaders to be focused on. And that’s why I’ve been working to deliver the changes you sent me here to make; to ensure that we’re not only making it through this crisis, but come out on the other side stronger and more prosperous as a nation over the long term. That’s the future that I believe is within our reach.

But that future will not come about on its own. It will come because we all, every single one of us, from Main Street to the halls of Congress, do what generations of Americans have done in times of trial; because we remember that at heart we are one nation, and one people, and united by a bond that no division of party or ideology can break; because we come together as Americans to choose that better day.

And that’s what we’ve already begun to do. We, as a nation, have already begun the critical work that will lead to our economic recovery. It’s a recovery that will be measured by whether jobs are being created and families have more money to pay their bills at the end of each month. That’s why we’re preventing teachers and police officers from being laid off, and putting Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and dams, creating or saving 3.5 million jobs in the coming years.

And that’s why we’re putting a tax cut into the pockets of 95 percent of working families who will see it — see that tax cut in their paycheck by April 1st.

It’s a recovery that will be measured by whether families can achieve that most American of dreams, and own a home without fear of losing it. That’s why we’ve launched a plan to stabilize the housing market and help responsible homeowners stay in their homes. This plan is one of the reasons that mortgage interest rates are now at near-historic lows. And we’ve already seen a jump in refinancings of mortgages, and homeowners taking advantage of lower rates. And every American, by the way, should know that up to 40 percent of all mortgages right now are eligible for refinancing.

It’s a recovery that will be measured by whether families and entrepreneurs can get the loans they need. That’s why we’re freeing up credit that’s frozen with a program that supports the market for more car loans, and student loans, and small business loans; and with a plan that will partner government resources with private investment to break the logjam that is currently preventing our banks from lending money to even the most creditworthy customers.

And in the end, it’s a recovery that will be measured by whether it lasts, whether it endures; by whether we build our economy on a solid foundation instead of a overheated housing market or maxed-out credit cards or the sleight of hand on Wall Street; whether we build an economy in which prosperity is broadly shared. That’s what the budget I expect to sign is intended to do. It’s a budget that cuts the things we don’t need to make room for the investments we do; a budget that cuts the massive deficits we’ve inherited in half by the end of my first term and offers a blueprint for America’s success in the 21st century.

That success will require preparing every child, everywhere in this country, to out-compete any worker anywhere in the world because we know that those students who are getting the best education are going to be able to compete. And that’s why we’re making a historic investment in early childhood education. That’s why we’re going to make a historic investment in improving K-12 education, making sure that our children get a complete and competitive education from the cradle up through a career. It’s an investment that will expand and improve not just early learning programs, but reward good teachers while replacing bad ones, and put college or technical training within reach for anyone who wants it.

Our success will also require freeing ourselves from the dangerous dependence on foreign oil by building a clean-energy economy, because we know that with this will not only come greater security and a safer environment, but new high-paying jobs of the future to replace those that we’ve lost.

And our success will also require controlling spiraling health care costs that are bankrupting families, and crushing businesses, and driving up skyrocketing deficits. At the current course and speed, these health care costs are unsustainable. And that’s why my budget takes a first big step towards comprehensive health care reform that will reduce costs, improve care and ensure that everyone who works has coverage they can afford.

This is what Americans’ success demands and this is what our budget will do. And I’m under no illusions that a better day will come about quickly or easily. It’s going to be hard. But as I said the other night at my press conference, I’m a big believer in the idea of persistence — the idea that when the American people put their mind to something and keep at it, without giving up, without turning back, no obstacle can stand in our way, and no dream is beyond our reach. That’s why we’re here today — because it will take all of us talking with one another, all of us sharing ideas, all of us working together to see our country through this difficult time and bring about that better day.

So I want to thank all of you for this opportunity to talk with you. And now I’d like to bring Jared back up to the stage, and he’s going to open it up for questions. So, Jared, let’s see how this thing works.

DR. BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. President. Our first question comes from Boston, Massachusetts, on the topic of education: “The Founding Fathers believe that there is no difference between a free society and an educated society. Our educational system, however, is woefully inadequate. How do you plan to restore education as a right and core cultural value in America?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question, and — let me see if this mic works so that I’m not stuck at this podium. I’m here only because of the education I received. I wasn’t born into wealth, I wasn’t born into fame, but I had parents who cared about education and grandparents who cared about education, and I was lucky enough, through scholarships and sacrifice on the part of my family, to get the best education that America has to offer.

Too many of our children aren’t getting that kind of education. It’s not because their parents don’t believe in the value of education; it’s not because these young people are less talented. It’s because of two reasons: One, in many cases, our schools are under-resourced. There aren’t enough teachers; the teachers aren’t getting enough of the training they need for the classroom; there’s a shortage of supplies. Some of the schools that I visited during the course of traveling around the country just shock the conscience. There are schools that I’ve seen that were built in the 1850s that are still being used but haven’t been upgraded the way they need to.

Now, there’s a second problem, though, and it’s one that money alone cannot solve, and that is that we have a school system that was designed for the agricultural era — there’s a reason why we’ve got three months off during the summer. That’s supposed to be when everybody is working on — out on the farm and bringing in harvest. And it’s not just the amount of time our kids are spending, it’s how our classrooms are designed, how curriculums are structured, how things like teacher promotion and training happen.

So a lot of times in Washington we get an argument about money versus reform. And the key thing to understand about our education system is we need more resources and we need reform. If we just put more money into a system that’s designed for the 19th century and we’re in the 21st, we’re not going to get the educational outcomes we need. On the other hand, if we talk a lot about reform but we’re not willing to put more resources in, that’s not going to work.

So let me give you just a couple examples of what we need to do. Early childhood education we know works. Let’s invest in that. That’s what my budget calls for — substantial investment; every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we get potentially $10 back in improved reading scores, reduced dropout rates, reduced delinquency rates and so forth.

Number two, let’s focus on the most important ingredient in the school, and that’s the teacher. Let’s pay our teachers more money. Let’s give them more support. Let’s give them more training. Let’s make sure that schools of education that are training our teachers are up to date with the best methods to teach our kids. And let’s work with teachers so that we are providing them measures of whether they’re effective or not, and let’s hold them accountable for being effective.

Now that doesn’t mean just a single high-stakes standardized test. It also means that we’re working with teachers to determine, what’s the best way to discipline — maintain discipline in a classroom? What’s the best way to get kids excited about science? Giving them the time and the resources to improve, but also having high standards of expectation in terms of their performance.

If we do early childhood education, if we focus on teacher training, if we invest in math and science education, which is vital — and we’re falling behind other countries on that front — then I actually feel pretty confident that we can out-compete any country in the world. But it’s going to take more money and it’s going to take more reform and it’s going to take, by the way, openness to innovation on things like charter schools or performance pay. There are a whole range of things that may work, in some cases may not work, but we’ve got to try some new things because right now too many of our kids are stuck, and we can’t afford to lose them.

DR. BERNSTEIN: The next question is on homeownership, from Heather from Ohio: “President Obama, what benefits from the stimulus plan are there to those of us who are paying our mortgages but living paycheck to paycheck?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I mentioned this in the opening remarks. This is something that I really want everybody to understand. Our housing plan — and we’re devoting $50 billion to it — has a number of different components. One component is setting up a mechanism where people who just can’t afford their mortgage right now are able to renegotiate with banks, and the banks lower their interest, and the homeowner assures that they’re going to make a commitment to pay a certain amount every month, and the government helps to step in to bridge the gap. But the point is, it’s going to be cheaper, not only for that family but also potentially for the entire community, if they stay in their home.

And so that’s — that part of the housing plan is targeted for folks who are really in distress. They’re getting close to the point where they might be losing their home.

But there are a whole bunch of folks out there who are not about to walk away from their home, but are getting killed right now because their home values have dropped drastically; they’re still making payments, but they’re in trouble. And for that huge set of responsible homeowners out there, I want people to understand what we’ve done is created mechanisms in the credit markets that have lowered mortgage rates down to historic levels, and what we’ve done is we’ve opened it up so that FHA loans that used to be only for people with a certain mortgage level, that we are using FHA and other mechanisms to open up refinancings to a whole bunch of homeowners who previously weren’t qualified.

So now what you’ve got is a situation where 40 percent of the people sitting here, 40 percent of the people who are participating in this virtual town hall, could potentially refinance their mortgage. And they’ve got to take advantage of that. We are providing additional support from the government in order to facilitate those refinancings. We’re starting to see refinancings go up significantly.

So you have the potential to cut your monthly payments, but you’ve got to take advantage of it. And if you need more information, you can go on our web site, whitehouse.gov, or you can contact your local bank and find out whether you qualify to participate in this refinancing.

DR. BERNSTEIN: Next we have a video question from Harriet in Georgia about bringing jobs back to America: “Hello, President Obama. Here is my question for your online town meeting. When can we expect that jobs that have been outsourced to other countries to come back and be made available to the unemployed workers here in the United States? Thank you so much for all your hard work. God bless you. Bye-bye.”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Let me talk more, first of all, broadly about what’s happening in the job market. We have had just a massive loss of jobs over the last several months, the kind of job loss we haven’t seen at least since the early ’80s and maybe since the 1930s, in terms of how quickly we’ve seen the economy shed jobs.

A lot of that is prompted by the financial crisis and the locking up of the credit markets. And that’s why when we are — when we talk about dealing with this credit crisis and the banks, I just want everybody to understand it’s not because we’re overly concerned about Wall Street or a bunch of CEOs; it’s because if we don’t fix credit, if we don’t get liquidity back to small businesses and large businesses alike who can have that — use that line of credit to buy inventory and to make products and sell services, then those businesses shrivel up and they start laying people off.

Ultimately, our measure of whether we’re doing a good job or not is, are we going to be able to create and save jobs? And part of that involves fixing the financial system.

There is a long-term issue, though, that we have to deal with — and this was true even before the current crisis — and that is that so much of our economic activity was in the financial services sector. It was related to an overheated housing market. It was dependent on huge amounts of consumer saving. And we were seeing those steady declines in manufacturing. We were seeing steady declines in a lot of other productive sectors of the economy. And one of the things that my budget is designed to do is, by fixing our education system, by reducing costs of health care, by going after the clean-energy jobs of the future, trying to put our economy on a more solid footing.

Now, a lot of the outsourcing that was referred to in the question really has to do with the fact that our economy — if it’s dependent on low-wage, low-skill labor, it’s very hard to hang on to those jobs because there’s always a country out there that pays lower wages than the U.S. And so we’ve got to go after the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the future. That’s why it’s so important to train our folks more effectively and that’s why it’s so important for us to find new industries — building solar panels or wind turbines or the new biofuel — that involve these higher-value, higher-skill, higher-paying jobs.

So I guess the answer to the question is, not all of these jobs are going to come back. And it probably wouldn’t be good for our economy for a bunch of these jobs to come back because, frankly, there’s no way that people could be getting paid a living wage on some of these jobs — at least in order to be competitive in an international setting.

So what we’ve got to do is create new jobs that can’t be outsourced. And that’s why energy is so promising. We’ve been talking about what’s called a smart grid, and some of you may have heard of this. The basic idea is, is that we’re still using an electricity grid that dates back 100, 150 years ago. Well, think about all the gizmos you guys are carrying — (laughter) –all the phones and the BlackBerrys and the this and the that. You’re plugging in all kinds of stuff in your house. We’ve got an entirely new set of technologies, huge demands in terms of energy, but we’ve got a grid that’s completely outdated.

Now, one of the things that we wanted to do in the stimulus package was to go ahead and start laying a new grid. And to do that, it’s like building the Transcontinental Railroad. You’ve got a — it’s a huge project involving all 50 states.

The benefits of the grid are that we could reduce our energy costs by billions of dollars. We could set up systems so that everybody in each house have their own smart meters that will tell you when to turn off the lights, when the peak hours are, can help you sell back energy that you’ve generated in your home through a solar panel or through other mechanisms. If we get plug-in hybrid cars, you can plug it in at night and sell back electricity to the utility, and then charge up your car again in the morning before you leave.

All this can be done, but it also creates jobs right now. Our biggest problem, we don’t have enough electricians to lay all these lines out there. And these are jobs — these are union jobs that potentially pay $80,000-$90,000 a year, with benefits. But it’s a matter of making the investment in infrastructure and also then training the workers to be able to get those jobs. And that’s where we’re going to be focused on. That’s where the job growth is going to occur.

One last point I want to make — and I know I’m not supposed to talk this long, but we’re going to have to be patient and persistent about job creation because I don’t think that we’ve lost all the jobs we’re going to lose in this recession. We’re still going to be in a difficult time for much of this year. Employment is typically what’s called a lagging indicator. Now, this is — Dr. Bernstein, he’s a Ph.D. economist, so he’ll correct me if I’m wrong here, but —

DR. BERNSTEIN: I’m sure I can make this really confusing. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: But historically, if you look at every recession, what happens is that when the economy starts getting in trouble, it takes a while before businesses decide, you know what, this economy is in trouble, it’s not bouncing back — we better start laying off workers. So what we’re seeing now is a lot of businesses have decided that our sales are way down, we’ve got to start shedding workers. And that’s going to continue for a while.

Now, the reverse is true, as well. When the economy starts recovering, when these businesses start being a little more confident that, you know what, we think we’ve bottomed out; the recovery package President Obama passed gives us some optimism about making investments in certain areas — it takes a while before they start hiring even if they’ve started to make these investments.

So the reason I point that out is, I don’t want people to think that in one or two months suddenly we’re going to see net job increases. It’s going to take some time for the steps that we’ve taken to filter in. The fact that the housing market is starting to stabilize a little bit — there’s still a lot of inventory out there before people then actually start building new homes. At some point people are going to start buying new cars again, but it’s going to take a little bit of time for the automakers to get back on their feet.

So employment is something that we’re going to have a difficult time for the next several months, maybe through the end of this year, but I’m confident that we’re taking the steps that are required to create these new jobs of the future.

DR. BERNSTEIN: After the last recession ended in 2001, the unemployment rate went up for another 19 months before it started coming back down.

This next question — an area close to your heart — health care reform. From Richard in California: “Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I was in this room last month in what we called a health care forum. And we brought all the members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats who were interested in this issue; we brought together various constituency groups, insurance companies, drug companies, you name it. And my message to them was: Now is the time to reform the health care system — not four years from now, not eight years from now, not 20 years from now. Now.

And the reason — (laughter) — the reason that I think it is so important is that the high costs of health care are a huge drag on our economy. It’s a drag on our families. I can’t tell you how many personal stories that I hear about people who are working, maybe have two parents working and yet still don’t have health care. And the decisions that they have to make — excruciating decisions about whether or not somebody goes to a doctor — it makes them less productive, it makes them less mobile in terms of being able to take new jobs or start a new business because they’re worried about hanging on to their health care. So it’s a drag on families.

But it’s a drag on businesses, as well. There’s not a small business or large business out here who hasn’t seen their health care costs skyrocket, and it cuts into their profits.

And it’s a drag on the federal budget and the state budgets. That’s the thing that is going to potentially break the bank here in the United States. Medicare and Medicaid, if we don’t get control of that, that is the biggest driver of our long-term deficits.

So when people — when you hear this budget debate that’s taking place right now, and folks say, oh, you know, President Obama’s budget, he’s increasing money for veterans and he’s increasing money for education, and he’s doing all these things that — that’s going to bust the budget, what they don’t understand is, is that if you add up the recovery package that we’ve already passed and you add up the various proposals I have to grow the economy through clean energy and all that stuff that we’re doing, that amounts to a fraction of the long-term deficit and debt that we’re facing. The lion’s share of it has to do with Medicare and Medicaid and the huge, rising cost of health care. So our attitude is, better to pay now and make an investment in improving the health care system rather than waiting and finding ourselves in a situation where we can’t fix it.

Now, the question is, if you’re going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries? I actually want a universal health care system; that is our goal. I think we should be able to provide health insurance to every American that they can afford and that provides them high quality.

So I think we can accomplish it. Now, whether we do it exactly the way European countries do or Canada does is a different question, because there are a variety of ways to get to universal health care coverage.

A lot of people think that in order to get universal health care, it means that you have to have what’s called a single-payer system of some sort. And so Canada is the classic example: Basically, everybody pays a lot of taxes into the health care system, but if you’re a Canadian, you’re automatically covered. And so you go in — England has a similar — a variation on this same type of system. You go in and you just say, “I’m sick,” and somebody treats you, and that’s it.

The problem is, is that we have what’s called a legacy, a set of institutions that aren’t that easily transformed. Let me just see a show of hands: How many people here have health insurance through your employer? Okay, so the majority of Americans, sort of — partly for historical accident. I won’t go into — FDR had imposed wage controls during war time in World War II. People were — companies were trying to figure out how to attract workers. And they said, well, maybe we’ll provide health care as a benefit.

And so what evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that’s what everybody is accustomed to. That’s what everybody is used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don’t think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.

And I’m looking to Congress to work with me to find that optimal system. I made some proposals during the campaign about how we can lower costs through information technologies; how we can lower costs through reforms in how we reimburse doctors so that they’re not getting paid just for the number of operations they’re doing, but for whether they’re quality outcomes; investing in prevention so that kids with asthma aren’t going to the emergency room, but they’re getting regular checkups.

So there are a whole host of things that we can do to cut costs, use that money that we’re saving then to provide more coverage to more people. And my expectation is, is that I will have a health care bill to sign this year. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. That’s what we’re going to be striving for.

Can I just interrupt, Jared, before you ask the next question, just to say that we — we took votes about which questions were going to be asked and I think 3 million people voted or —

DR. BERNSTEIN: Three point five million.

THE PRESIDENT: Three point five million people voted. I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy — (laughter) — and job creation. And I don’t know what this says about the online audience — (laughter) — but I just want — I don’t want people to think that — this was a fairly popular question; we want to make sure that it was answered. The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy — (laughter) — to grow our economy. (Applause.)

So — all right.

DR. BERNSTEIN: Thank you for clearing that up. (Laughter.) This next question comes from Columbia, South Carolina: “The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is higher than the national unemployment rate. Our veterans are a national treasure. How can you, the VA, and I ensure our veterans are successfully transitioning into civilian life?”

THE PRESIDENT: That’s a great question. You know, I had just an extraordinary honor — yesterday was Medal of Honor Day. And I went to Arlington National Cemetery, and we had a ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a collection of Medal of Honor winners from all our various wars.

And a special place of honor was a guy named John Finn, who had been present the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was on one of the ships, was shot by — was strafed by the fire from the planes coming in, and yet still had the presence of mind to shoot down a plane, and won the Medal of Honor — or was awarded the Medal of Honor for that.

And it just reminds you that we wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the sacrifices of earlier veterans. We would not — (applause) — we would not enjoy the same safety and security and liberty that we do.

So when our veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan — and they have performed brilliantly, they have done everything that’s been asked of them, regardless of what your views are on these wars — they have earned these benefits that all too often we fail to give them.

And that’s why in my budget we are increasing veterans funding by more than any time in the last 30 years. We’re going to make sure that we deal with the — (applause) — we’re going to make sure that deal with the backlog that too many veterans experience in terms of getting benefits. We’re going to make sure that homeless veterans are receiving housing and services.

The homeless rate for veterans is multiple times higher than it is for non-veterans. That’s inexcusable. It means that we’re going to provide services for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that we’re going to provide services for Traumatic Brain Injury that are the signature injuries of these recent wars. So we are going to significantly increase veterans spending.

Now, just as is true generally, government alone can’t do it. So all of us individually are going to have roles. If you’re a business owner, hiring a veteran, not discriminating against somebody who’s a veteran is going to be absolutely critical. In your communities, in your churches, in your neighborhoods, making sure that there’s outreach and celebration of veterans when they come home, that’s going to be critical.

I think we’ve done a much better job during these wars than we did during Vietnam, where in many cases our treatment of veterans was inexcusable. But we can always do more. Government is going to do its role, and then we’ve got to make sure that our communities do their role, as well.

DR. BERNSTEIN: Mr. President, the next video will be our last Internet question before we turn to the audience for Q&A for follow-up. Let me also note that this question from Alex in Ohio happens to be about the same topic that the Middle Class Task Force is focusing on this month. Let’s turn to this:

“Hi, Mr. President. My name is Alex. My name is Kristin (ph). And I’m Mallory (ph). We are all sophomores at Kent State University in Ohio. We really like the emphasis you’ve put on education so far in your administration, but we’re concerned about higher education. Our question is: What proposals do you have to make college more affordable and to make student loans easier to get? And when will your national service program be available so we can take advantage of the scholarship? Thank you, Mr. President!”

THE PRESIDENT: That was pretty well done. (Laughter and applause.) Well, I am very excited about the possibility that we may be able to get national service done in the next few weeks. National service was a priority for me during the campaign, partly because of my own biography. I found my calling when I became a community organizer working in low-income neighborhoods when I was 22, 23 years old. And it gave me a sense of direction, a sense of service, it helped me grow, it helped me give back. And I think there are young people all across America who are eager for that opportunity.

And so what we’ve said during the campaign was, let’s set up a situation where every young person who is so inspired can take advantage of service, and in exchange they will help be able to finance their educations.

And I’m confident that we’re about to get legislation passed. And once that legislation is passed, I think that before the end of the year potentially we can get something implemented on that front.

In addition, what we are also doing is to try to make the student loan and student grant programs that are already in place work better. So just to give you one example, right now a lot of the student loan programs run through banks, but a lot of them go directly to students from the government — so-called direct loans. The banks make several billion dollars’ worth of profits off managing these student loans, which would be okay except for the fact that these loans are guaranteed by the federal government.

So, the reason banks are able to make money lending you is because — that there’s some risk that you might not pay it back, plus you’re giving up the use of your money for — they’re giving up the use of their money for a while. If, on the other hand, this is the government’s money and they’re just a pass-through, it doesn’t seem very sensible that banks should be making money that way.

So what we’ve said is let’s make all these direct loans, as opposed to having bank intermediaries or — and not just banks — financial services organizations. They can make profits on other things, but let’s not have them make profits on this. Let’s take those billions of dollars, and that then allows us to either lower student loan rates or expand grants.

And one of the things that we want to do is on the Pell grant program, for example. We want to increase the amount of the Pell grant so that it catches up with inflation and we want to — we want more young people to be eligible for the Pell grant program. And that’s particularly important because anybody who’s financed their educations understands that grants are a lot better than loans. And when I was going to college, about — and this was typical for I think college students — the average student who needed financial assistance, about 70 percent of it came in grants and about 30 percent of it came in loans. Today, it’s reversed: 30 percent come in grants; 70 percent come in loans. And so students are loaded up with $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 worth of debt — and this is just for their undergraduate education; that doesn’t even start counting their higher ed.

And if you come out of college with $50,000 worth of debt, it’s hard for you to then start making a decision about wanting to be a teacher, or wanting to go into social work, or wanting to be a scientist and research to find the next innovation. You may decide, well, the only thing I can do is to work on Wall Street or work in a big corporation that’s not doing cutting-edge research.

And we want people — all that’s fine, I mean, those are good career choices — but we want our young people to have more flexibility, not to mention we want them to be able to — if they choose to get married, to be able to buy a home and start a family without already having essentially a mortgage that they’re carrying with them out of college, before they even buy a house.

So we’re going to spend — this is another area where we devote a considerable amount of money in our budget. And I just want to remind you of this, because we’re having this budget debate in Washington right now. And again, everybody says — a lot of the critics out there are saying, how is it that you’re going to be spending all this money? We’ve got to worry about the deficit, et cetera.

I just want to remind you that the money that we are spending on education, on health care, and on energy — if you added up all that increased money that we’re spending, it still is not what’s driving our long-term deficits. What’s driving it is Medicare, Medicaid, a structural gap that we have because of the Bush tax cuts over the last several years that left us spending a lot more than we were saving.

And it’s going to take us a while to dig our way out of that problem. But the way to dig our way out of that problem is not to shortchange investments in our people. A lot of — I’ll bet there are a bunch of families here who are making some tough choices right now, and who are scrimping a little bit and saving.

Now, somebody could make the same argument to you that folks are making to us with respect to the budget, which is, you can’t afford to be sending your kids to college right now. That’s fiscally irresponsible. You’re taking out debt for your kids to get an education. It’s better for you to just put them to work right now at a fast-food place, and they’ll be bringing in a little bit of income. And maybe later they can go to college.

Well, most of us don’t make that decision, because we understand that making the investment now will lead to greater opportunity, greater economic advancement later. Well, the same thing is true in our economy. We can’t shortchange the investments that will allow us to grow in the future.

We’re going to have to impose discipline and eliminate programs that don’t work, and we’re doing that. We’re cutting this budget by $2 trillion. And we’re cutting the deficit in half by the end of my first term.

But what we can’t shortchange are those things that are going to allow us to grow long term. I don’t want us to constrict and reduce our ambitions, and set our sights lower for our kids and the next generation, because we weren’t willing to make those investments now. That’s not how America works. (Applause.)

All right. So now — the folks here have been very patient, so all of you who are watching this live-streaming online, we’re actually going to have some live stuff instead of some virtual stuff. We’re going to ask — get some questions or comments from the audience. And I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl — (laughter) — to avoid anybody being mad at me. We’ll start right there, yes. And we’ve got some microphones so everybody can hear you.

Q Mr. President, my name is Ellie (ph). I’m from Maryland, but I’m originally from Michigan. I have family members who work for GM and Ford. I know the top executives have made — of the auto companies — have made a lot of bad moves over the years, but I can’t imagine the suffering that we would see in the Midwest if these companies went under. So my question to you is, what specific steps do you see your administration taking about the health of the auto industry?

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. It is a very topical question because I’m going to be making some announcements over the next several days about the auto industry. I don’t want to make all the news here today, so I’m not going to be as specific as you’d like, but I guarantee in the next few days you will have a very extensive answer on what we need to do.

Let me give you my general philosophical approach, and that is that we need to preserve a U.S. auto industry. I think that’s important. I think it’s important not just symbolically; it’s important because the auto industry is a huge employer — not just the people who work for GM or Ford or Chrysler, but all the suppliers, all the ripple effects that are created as a consequence of our auto industry.

But my job is also to protect taxpayers. And you’re right — there’s been a lot of mismanagement of the auto industry over the last several years.

Now, right now we are in such a bad crisis that even Toyota is losing a whole lot of money. So typically you’re looking at $14 million — or 14 million new cars are sold every year. Is that right, Jared, in an average year for our population? It’s gone down to 9 [million]. Everybody has pulled back — partly because the credit-crunch people couldn’t get auto loans; people were worried about, am I going to keep my job, so they decided let’s put off buying the new car. The point is, is that you’ve seen this huge drop-off. So every automaker is getting killed right now.

I think it is appropriate for us to say, are there ways that we can provide help for the U.S. auto industry to get through this very difficult time — but the price is that you’ve got to finally restructure to deal with these long-standing problems. And that means that everybody is going to have to give a little bit — shareholders, workers, creditors, suppliers, dealers — everybody is going to have to recognize that the current model, economic model, of the U.S. auto industry is unsustainable. Even if sales go back to 14 million, which eventually they will, it’s still a model that doesn’t work. Just trying to build more and more SUVs and counting on gas prices being low and that’s your only profit margin, that’s just not a model that’s going to work.

So what we’re expecting is that the automakers are going to be working with us to restructure. We will provide them some help. I know that it is not popular to provide help to autoworkers — or to auto companies. But my job is to measure the costs of allowing these auto companies just to collapse versus us figuring out, can they come up with a viable plan? If they’re not willing to make the changes and the restructurings that are necessary, then I’m not willing to have taxpayer money chase after bad money.

And so a lot of it’s going to depend on their willingness to make some pretty drastic changes. And some of those are still going to be painful because I think you’re not going to see a situation where the U.S. automakers are gaining the kind of share that they had back in the 1950s. I mean, we just didn’t have any competition when — back then, Japan was in rubble, Europe was in rubble — we were the only players around. And that’s not going to be true. This is going to be a competitive global market. We have to make those adjustments.

All right. Okay. It’s a gentleman’s turn. All right, this gentleman right here. We got a microphone behind you.

Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. My name is Carlos Del Toro. I served in the Navy for 26 years, retired four years ago, and started a small business. So I first want to thank you for all the efforts that you and your administration has done on behalf of veterans and also on behalf of small businesses.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we appreciate your service. Thank you.

Q Thank you, sir. My question is, one of the things that I have experienced over the last four years as a small business trying to do business in the federal procurement business, essentially, as a small engineering company, is the challenge of the bundling of contracts, which has made it increasingly difficult for service-disabled businesses — all small businesses across the nation — to compete basically within the federal procurement system. I know that you believe in fair and open competition on a broad basis. I would suggest to you, and my question to you is, will your administration look at this issue and try to unbundle these contracts that make it more competitive for small businesses to work in the federal marketplace?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a great question. It’s an issue that I’m familiar with. Just by way of background for people who aren’t as familiar with federal purchasing, the federal government is such a big customer that sometimes for administrative convenience, what they do is they just say, here, Halliburton, here’s a contract for $20 billion to do all these various things, and then you sort of figure out how you’re going to divvy it up. Well, it may be that — I’m sorry, what was your name?

Q Carlos.

THE PRESIDENT: It may be that Carlos has a better product to sell — (laughter) — you know, for a segment of that contract, but he can’t bid on the entire thing, all right? And so what ends up happening is the taxpayer loses the benefit of a better product at a better price because everything is bundled into this huge contract with a giant general contractor who then divvies up the business.

So one of the things that we’re trying to figure out is, are there are ways that we can unbundle and unpackage some of these goods and services that the government purchases. It’ll save taxpayers’ money. It’ll promote more competition. Carlos is still going to have to bid. He’s still going to have to prove that his price is better and his product is better, but at least he’s got a chance.

Now, we’re not going to be able to do that on everything, because there are some things that, frankly, you need some economies of scale, right? But what we want to do is make sure that we’re looking for every opportunity to unbundle to give everybody a chance to compete so that we don’t just have one or two or three major contractors who are getting every contract, because at a certain point what ends up happening is those contractors get so much clout in Washington, they’re getting such huge contracts, then they start spending a million dollars on lobbyists to make sure that the contracts keep going the same way. You start seeing the system distorted in ways that aren’t healthy. And the more players there are, the more Carloses there are who are out there scratching and striving to get some business, ultimately the better deal we’ll get as taxpayers.

So, great. Okay. Here you go.

Q My name is Linda Bock and I’m a registered nurse just in Prince George’s County, Maryland — been there 34 years at a free senior health center. And I’m here with my fellow nurses from SEIU. First of all, thank you for listening to us, because as nurses we do listen to our patients all the time. We’re their advocate. And so we appreciate this opportunity for you to hear from us.

One of the things we want to make sure is that nurses are represented in the health care forum committees — reform committees because we want to be there on behalf of our fellow nurses and on behalf of the patients that we sometimes have to speak up for. So I really hope that we can be there so we can push the things like prevention and education that are so very important so that we don’t use our emergency rooms for their doctor visits and that we have more community-based health centers for those that are in need. And I just — I really appreciate this opportunity to be heard.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. I guarantee you nurses were part of the health care summit, and they will be at the table in all these discussions. I’m biased toward nurses, I just like nurses — (laughter). When Michelle and I went in and Malia was being born, the OB/GYNE was a close friend of ours and so was much more attentive than the usual OB/GYNE might be. But the fact is, we only saw her for like 15 minutes. The rest of the time, it was nurses who were doing everything. When Sasha, our little precious pea — (laughter) — she got meningitis when she was three months old — very dangerous. The doctors did a terrific job, but, frankly, it was the nurses that were there with us when she had to get a spinal tap, and all sorts of things that were just bringing me to tears.

And we’ve got a problem in this country, which is we have a shortage of nurses — makes no sense, given this unemployment rate. But the reason is, is because the pay of nurses, the hours of nurses, the quality of life of nurses, the fact that nurse professors are even worse paid than the nurses themselves, so that you get these huge bottlenecks in terms of training as many nurses as we want.

All these issues are part of the inefficiency of the health care system that has to be fixed. And the more we’re emphasizing primary care, preventive care, wellness — all of which will save us money in the long term — the more that we can deploy nurses as the troops on the front lines in ultimately driving down some of these health care costs.

So I think it’s very important that nurses are a part of this process.

Here, we’ve got a mic. I’m hanging on to my mic. (Laughter.)

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: I might not get it back. (Laughter.)

Q Sir, you’re the President, you always get it back. (Laughter.) Sir, I’m Tom Sawner. I’m a service-disabled veteran, small-business owner in Arlington, Virginia. My company, Educational Options, works with public schools. We serve more than 200,000 at-risk kids within public schools, providing online content, partnering with teachers, and I was honored to serve on your education platform committee.

THE PRESIDENT: Wonderful.

Q Today my question is, as a small-business owner, my company is still profitable. We’re still growing, we’re still hiring. The money that I make as a profit, I’m plowing right back in, and even the money that I pay to the bank for my business loans. Yet under current tax laws, all of that counts as income to me before I ever see a penny of it.

Sir, could you please help small businesses by allowing, some way, somehow, money we pay to the bank in principle to not count against our income, and put us in the “richest” before we ever seem a dime, and allow us to invest in this huge engine to drive economic recovery?

And a final question: As a veteran, would you please see if we can enforce the existing laws for veteran and other small-business set-asides? Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. Well, thank you for the question. Obviously, I’m not completely familiar with your circumstances or your tax status. But we want to do everything we can to relieve the tax burden on startups and small businesses, and as they grow, then their tax burden is going to grow accordingly.

So one of the things that we have already proposed and is reflected in our budget is that we are eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses. That’s something that we’ve already proposed and put in place.

Now, what’ll happen is, you won’t see that reflected in an immediate benefit because it will kick in five years from now. The law starts now, but you have to have those capital gains accumulate over the course of five years before it counts, because we don’t want people gaming the system. But that’s an example of the kinds of tools that we are already putting in place in the tax code to provide you relief, so that as you’re reinvesting, that you are not penalized for that reinvestment.

And we will do everything we can to enforce the existing rules with regard to small businesses for veterans.

Okay, this young lady back here.

Q Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so very much for having me, a public school teacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, here to be with you.

THE PRESIDENT: What’s your name?

Q Bonnee Breese.

THE PRESIDENT: Good to see you, Bonnee.

Q Thank you. I’m from Overbrook High School. I have to say that, because I know all the children are watching. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: All right. Hello, Overbrook. (Laughter and applause.) There you go.

Q Thank you. Two questions in reference of education, since this is a major part of your budget plan and platform. Definitions of charter schools and definitions of effective teachers — how do you plan to define those two categories? And are you willing to have teachers on the platform, in the committees, as a part of developing those plans?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Well, as I said, the teachers are the most important person in the education system. So if we don’t have teacher buy-in, if they’re not enthusiastic about the reforms that we’re initiating, then, ultimately, they’re not going to work. So we’ve got to have teacher participation in developing these approaches.

The definition of charter schools is pretty straightforward. And that is that in most states you now have a mechanism where you set up a public school — so this is not private schools, these are public schools receiving public dollars — but they have a charter that allows them to experiment and try new things. And typically, they’re partnering up with some sort of non-for-profit institution.

So, in Chicago, you’ve got charter schools that are affiliated with a museum, or they’re affiliated with an arts program, and they may have a particular focus. It may be a science charter school, or it may be a language academy. They are still going to have to meet all the various requirements of a state-mandated curriculum; they’re still subject to the same rules and regulations and accountability. But they’ve got some flexibility in terms of how they design it. Oftentimes they are getting parents to participate in new ways in the school. So they become laboratories of new and creative learning.

Now, there are some charter schools that are doing a great job, and you are seeing huge increases in student performance. And by the way — one last point I want to make about these charters — they’re non-selective, so it’s not a situation where they’re just cherry-picking the kids who are already getting the highest grades; they’ve got to admit anybody. And typically there are long waiting lines, so they use some sort of lottery to admit them.

Some of them are doing great work, huge progress and great innovation; and there’s some charters that haven’t worked out so well. And just like bad — or regular schools, they need to be shut down if they’re not doing a good job. But what charters do is they give an opportunity for experimentation and then duplication of success. And we want to encourage that. So that’s the definition of charters.

In terms of teachers, how we measure performance — as I said before, I have been a critic of measuring performance just by the administering of a single high-stakes standardized test during the year, and then the teacher is judged. And that was, I think, the biggest problem with No Child Left Behind. It basically said that you just go in — (applause) — here’s the standardized test, we’ll see how the kids are doing; and because it doesn’t even measure progress, you could have a very good teacher or a very good school in a poor area where test scores have typically been low, and they are still punished even though they’re doing heroic work in a difficult situation.

The other problem is that you started seeing curriculums and teachers teaching to the test — not because they want to, but because there’s such a huge stake in doing well on these tests that suddenly the science curriculum, instead of it being designed around sparking people’s creativity and their interest in science, it ends up just being, here’s the test, here’s what you have to learn — which the average kid is already squirming enough in their seat; now they’re thinking, well, this is completely dull, this is completely uninteresting. And they get turned off from science or math or all these wonderful subjects that potentially they could be passionate about.

So what we want to do is not completely eliminate standardized tests — there’s a role for standardized tests. All of us have taken them and they serve a function. We just don’t want it to be the only thing. So we want to work with teachers to figure out how do we get peer review, how do we have evaluation — I was just talking to Bill Gates yesterday and he was talking about the use of technology where you can use videos to look at really successful teachers and how they interact with their students, how they’re monitoring students, et cetera, and then you bring in the teachers at the end of the day and, just like a coach might be talking to his players about how you see how on that play you should have been here and you could have done that — same thing with teachers.

But they don’t get that feedback. Usually, especially beginning teachers are completely isolated. They’re in this classroom — they’re sort of just thrown in to sink or swim. Instead, let’s use a variety of mechanisms to assess and constantly improve teacher performance.

Now, one thing I have to say — I know you’ll admit this, although maybe you can’t on TV, but in private I’ll bet you’d admit that during the — how long have you been teaching?

Q Fifteen years.

THE PRESIDENT: Fifteen years. Okay, so you’ve been teaching for 15 years. I’ll bet you’ll admit that during those 15 years there have been a couple of teachers that you’ve met — you don’t have to say their names — (laugher) — who you would not put your child in their classroom. (Laughter.) See? Right? You’re not saying anything. (Laughter.) You’re taking the Fifth. (Laughter.)

My point is that if we’ve done everything we can to improve teacher pay and teacher performance and training and development, some people just aren’t meant to be teachers, just like some people aren’t meant to be carpenters, some people aren’t meant to be nurses. At some point they’ve got to find a new career.

And it can’t be impossible to move out bad teachers, because that brings — that makes everybody depressed in a school, if there are some folks — and it makes it harder for the teachers who are inheriting these kids the next year for doing their job.

So there’s got to be some accountability measures built in to this process. But I’m optimistic that we can make real progress on this front. But it’s going to take some time. All right?

DR. BERNSTEIN: Mr. President, we have —

THE PRESIDENT: How many times —

DR. BERNSTEIN: One more question, please.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, one more question. Now, yelling — just saying it right here is not going to get you the question. (Laughter.) You know what I’m going to do, is — I hope I don’t seem biased here; I’m going to go with a young person here. Last question — at least younger than me. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Sergio Salmeron. I want to find out about health care. In a society, a lot of times we have to step back and ask ourselves if what we’re doing in principle, not in practice, is right. And so when we think about health care, I want to know from you if the things like preexisting conditions and preventive medicine, if they are a symptom of what’s going on in our health care system, then what is the problem and how do you address it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll talk to you about preexisting conditions, because this is something that I talked about during the campaign; it’s something that touched on me personally.

My mother contracted ovarian cancer when she was 53, and she died six months later. It’s one of those cancers that typically is diagnosed very — at late stages; it’s hard to catch early.

She was at the time working as an independent contractor. She was working for an international assistance organization. And so she had insurance, but when she was diagnosed and the medical bills started mounting up, some of — this insurance company started saying that this is a preexisting condition, so maybe we don’t have to reimburse you. And we had to spend a bunch of time fighting with these insurance companies about this issue.

Now, eventually we were lucky we got these costs approved, because the point was she didn’t know, nobody had diagnosed it, and if you start having a — the standard of preexisting condition is you might have had that illness some time at some point before you — or you were genetically predisposed to it, potentially none of us would ever get any insurance.

So — but I still remember watching her — you know, she’s sick, she’s going through chemotherapy, and she’s on the phone arguing with insurance companies. And she’s lucky she had insurance. There are tons of people out there who, once they’ve had one heart attack, once they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, once they’ve got some form of chronic illness, from that point forward it is almost impossible for them to get health insurance. And if their employer, especially if it’s a small employer, wants to give them health insurance, the costs are so prohibitive that they can’t do it even if the employer wants to help.

I mean, if Carlos has got a small business, if — I don’t know how many employees he has, but if he has 10 employees, 22 employees, and if one of them got a serious illness like leukemia, it would send his insurance rates skyrocketing to a point where he just couldn’t operate.

So this is why any reform of the health care system I think has to address this issue, and to say we are going to allow anybody to get health insurance. And if you’ve got a preexisting condition you’re not going to be excluded but you’re going to be able to obtain health insurance. And if you can’t obtain it through a private plan then there is going to a public plan that is available in some way to give you insurance, or insurers are obligated to provide you with insurance in some way.

Now that’s a principle. What are the details of how we’re going to do that? There are a lot of different approaches.

We have seen some progress with the insurance companies where they have said, we are willing to take everybody in, but only if everybody is required to be in. That’s the position that they’re taking right now. So the idea is you combine a rule that eliminates preexisting condition exclusions with mandatory health insurance, just like auto insurance is mandatory. That’s a proposal they’ve put forward.

Now, that’s progress in the sense that they’ve acknowledged that this preexisting condition situation is a real problem. Whether that ends up being the best mechanism — during the campaign, I was skeptical of mandates only because my attitude was the reason people don’t have health insurance is not because they don’t want it, it’s because they can’t afford it. And if we drive down cost, then people will have it.

But that’s part of the debate that’s going to be taking place over the next several months as we try to develop a health care plan for the future.

Okay? Listen, I know that there were other people who had questions, both here in the live audience, as well as in our virtual audience. But we’re out of time. I just want to say thank you for participating. Thanks for paying attention. And we need you guys to keep paying attention in the months and years to come. (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody. (Applause.)

END
12:50 P.M. EDT

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“OBAMA ON LENO:THIS IS WHY THIS PRESIDENT GOT ELECTED”-FROM HUFFINGTONPOST.COM

March 23, 2009

FROM huffingtonpost.com

Jennifer Donahue Political Director, New Hampshire Institute Of Politics
Posted March 20, 2009 | 11:15 AM (EST)

Obama on Leno: This is Why This President Got Elected

Move over Ronald Reagan.

President Barack Obama is the best communicator in the history of the American presidency.
He is a storyteller and speaks from his heart. Going on Leno was the best communications strategy possible during a week of bloodletting over AIG bonuses and the chord it has struck.

AIG is the tipping point that has boiled the blood of the American public. The economic breakdown and distrust Americans feel for their government was the energy that provided Obama the margin of victory that he needed to become president. But his ability to show his human side to the American people is what allows him to lead. His ability to make an emotional connection with the public through speaking have allowed him to win the nomination, the presidency, and move large spending bills through Congress despite their size and Republican opposition.

In going on Leno, Obama and his aides are revealing that they know they have the best communicator to come along in the oval office. He has and will take his message directly to viewers, going over the heads of all of us political analysts and media pundits, so the audience can hear HIM explain what is going on.

Only Obama can warm parents up like he can, talking about Sasha’s Starburst moment on Marine One. Only Obama could explain the subprime mortgage crisis in a minute. Only Obama could defend Geithner and put that story to bed on a Thursday night.

He is on the record with his position, and took his case straight to the public. In choosing this media strategy, Obama bypassed the news media establishment. Ironically, the Leno show provided Obama a venue that was as close to C-SPAN style as you can get: live to tape, unedited, and gavel to gavel.

“The climate’s nicer. So’s the conversation, sometimes,” Obama told a town hall meeting earlier in the day in California. He could just as well have been talking about Leno.

OBAMA ON 60 MINUTES-INTERVIEW MARCH,2009(TRANSCRIPT)

March 23, 2009

Obama Interviewfrom politico.com

60 Minutes transcript
By POLITICO STAFF | 3/22/09 7:20 PM EDT Text Size:

“PRESIDENT OBAMA” –
Steve Kroft Michael Radutzky Frank Devine

60MINUTES March 22, 2009

STUDIO

BY MOST ACCOUNTS, THIS PAST WEEK WAS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT IN THE YOUNG PRESIDENCY OF BARACK OBAMA. AT THE HEART OF IT ALL WAS THE PUBLIC UPHEAVAL OVER 165 MILLION DOLLARS IN BONUSES PAID TO EMPLOYEES OF AIG,` A COMPANY LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR BRINGING THE WORLD’S FINANCIAL SYSTEM TO ITS KNEES AND NOW BEING PROPPED UP BY US TAXPAYERS. THE BONUSES TOUCHED OFF A CULTURAL WAR BETWEEN WALL STREET AND MAIN STREET, BOTH OF WHOSE SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT NEEDS TO HELP STABILIZE THE ECONOMY.

AFTER CAMPAIGNING IN CALIFORNIA TO DRUM UP SUPPORT FOR HIS THREE POINT SIX TRILLION DOLLAR BUDGET, THE PRESIDENT SAT DOWN WITH US IN THE OVAL OFFICE FOR A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE AIG DEBACLE, THE ECONOMY, AND GETTING THE HANG OF THE WORLD’S MOST DIFFICULT JOB.

STEVE KROFT:

Were you surprised by the intensity of the reaction, and the hostility from the AIG bonus debacle?

BARACK OBAMA: I wasn’t surprised by it. Our team wasn’t surprised by it. The one thing that— I’ve tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this— the economic hole that we’re in, is we can’t govern out of anger. We’ve got to try to make good decisions based on the facts, in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I’m not going to be distracted by— what’s happening day to day. I’ve gotta stay focused on making sure that— we’re getting this economy moving again.

KROFT VO: The president ordered his treasury secretary Timothy Geithner to use every legal means to recover the bonus money from AIG. If it is not repaid it will be deducted from the company’s next bailout payment. BUT The House decided to extract its own revenge passing a bill that would impose a tax of up TO 90% on the AIG bonuses and on the bonuses of anyone making more than $250,000 a year who works for a financial institution receiving MORE THAN five BILLION IN bailout funds.

STEVE KROFT:

I mean you’re a constitutional law professor.

BARACK OBAMA:

Yeah.

STEVE KROFT:

You think this bill’s constitutional?

BARACK OBAMA:

Well, I think that— as a general proposition, you don’t want to be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You want to pass laws that have some broad applicability. And as a general proposition, I think you certainly don’t want to use the tax code—is to punish people.

I think that you’ve got an— pretty egregious situation here that people are understandably upset about. And so let’s see if there are ways of doing this that are both legal, that are constitutional— that uphold our basic principles of fairness, but don’t hamper us from getting the banking system— back on track.

STEVE KROFT:

You’ve got a piece of legislation that could affect tens of thousands of people— Some of these people probably had nothing to do with the financial crisis. And some of them probably deserve the bonuses that they got.

BARACK OBAMA:

Well—

STEVE KROFT: I mean is that fair?

BARACK OBAMA:

19:21:45:00 Well, that’s why we’re going to have to take a look at this legislation carefully. Clearly— the AIG folks getting those bonuses didn’t make sense. And one of the things that I have to do is to communicate to Wall Street that, given the current crisis that we’re in, they can’t expect help from taxpayers but they enjoy all the benefits that they enjoyed before the crisis happened. You get a sense that, in some institutions that has not sunk in. That you can’t go back to the old way of doing business, certainly not on the taxpayers’ dime.

Now the flip side is that Main Street has to understand, unless we get these banks moving again, , then we can’t get this economy to recover. And we don’t want to cut off our nose to spite our face.

STEVE KROFT:

Your Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has been under— a lot of pressure this week. And there have been people in Congress calling for his head.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Yeah.

STEVE KROFT:Have there been discussions in the White House about replacing him?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

No.

STEVE KROFT:

Has he volunteered to, or come to you and said, “Do you think I should step down?”

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

No. And— and he shouldn’t. And if he were to come to me, I’d say, “Sorry, Buddy. (LAUGHS) You— you’ve still got the job.”

But look. He’s got a lot of stuff on his plate.

And he is doing a terrific job. And I take responsibility for— not, I think, having given him as much help as he needs.

KROFT VO:

OBAMA SAYS GEITHNER IS NOT ONLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BANKS, THE BAILOUTS AND THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY HE ALSO HAS TO MAKE SURE THE MONEY IS BEING SPENT WISELY AND TO REPORT TO CONGRESS. YET NEARLY A DOZEN HIGH LEVEL TREASURY DEPARTMENT JOBS REMAIN UNFILLED AND GEITHNER STILL HAS NO DEPUTY. TWO PEOPLE UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR THE POST WITHDREW THEIR NAMES AFTER GOING THROUGH THE VETTING PROCESS.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

You know, this whole confirmation process, as I mentioned earlier has gotten pretty tough. It— it— it’s been always tough. It’s gotten tougher in the age of 24 7 news cycles. And a lot of people who we think are about to serve in the administration and Treasury suddenly say, “Well, you know what? I don’t want to go— through— some of the scrutiny, embarrassment, in addition to taking huge cuts in pay.”

STEVE KROFT:

Have you offered some of these high level positions the Treasury to people who would have turned them down?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Absolutely. Yeah. And— and not because people didn’t want to serve. I think that people just— felt that, you know— that the process has gotten very onerous.

STEVE KROFT:
Your Treasury Secretary’s plan… Geithner’s plan, and— your plan really— for solving the banking crisis— was met with very, very, very tepid response. And you had a lot of people criticize… a lot of people said they didn’t understand it. A lot of people said it didn’t have any— enough details to— to— to solve the problem. I know you’re coming out with something— next week on this. But these criticisms were coming from people like Warren Buffett, people who had supported you, and you had counted as being your—

PRESIDENT OBAMA:
And— and— and— and Warren still does support me. But I think that understand Warren’s also a big player in the financial markets who’s a major owner of Wells Fargo. And so he’s got a perspective from the perspective of somebody who— is part owner of a bank. You’ve got members of Congress who’ve got a different perspective. Which is, “We don’t want to spend any more taxpayer money.” You’ve got— a whole host of players, all of whom may have a completely different solution. (LAUGHS) Right?

And— you know, one of the challenges that Tim Geithner— has had— is the same challenge that anybody would have in this situation.

people want a lot of contradictory things. You know, the— the— the banks would love a lot of taxpayer money with no strings attached. Folks in Congress, as well as the American people, would love to fix the banks without spending any money. (LAUGHS) And so at a certain point, you know, you’ve got just a— a very difficult line— to— to walk.

STEVE KROFT:

You need the financial community—

BARACK OBAMA:

Right.

STEVE KROFT:

—to solve this crisis.

BARACK OBAMA:

I do.

STEVE KROFT:

Do you think that the people on Wall Street and the people in the financial community that you need trust you, believe— believe in you?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Part of my job is to communicate to them, “Look, I believe in the market. I believe in financial innovation. And I believe in success.” I want them to do well.

But what I also know is that the financial sector was out of balance. You look at how finance used to operate just 20 years ago, or 25 years ago. People, if you went into— investment banking, you were making 20 times what a teacher made. You weren’t making 200 times what a teacher made.

STEVE KROFT:
1There is a perception right now, at least in New York, which is where I live and work.

BARACK OBAMA:

Right.

STEVE KROFT:

That, um, people feel they thought that you were going to be supportive.

And now I think there are a lot of people say, “Look, we’re not going to be able to keep our best people. They’re not going to stay and work here for $250,000 a year when they can go work for a hedge fund, if they can find one that’s still (LAUGHTER) working—

BARACK OBAMA:

19:30:14:22 Well, that— that—

STEVE KROFT:

19:30:15:21 —and make a lot more.

BARACK OBAMA:

I’ve told them directly. ‘Cause I’ve heard some of this. they need to spend a little time outside of New York. Because— you know, if you go to North Dakota, or you go to Iowa, or you go to Arkansas, where folks would be thrilled to be making $75,000 a year— without a bonus, then I think they’d get a sense of why people are frustrated.

I think we have to understand the severity of the crisis that we’re in right now. The fact is that, because of bad bets made on Wall Street, there have been enormous losses.

I mean there were a whole bunch of folks who, on paper, if you looked at quarterly reports, were wildly successful, selling derivatives (CHUCKLE) that turned out to be—

STEVE KROFT:

Worthless.

BARACK OBAMA:

completely worthless.

STEVE KROFT:

And insuring them.

BARACK OBAMA:

And insuring them. Now— you know, gosh, I don’t think it’s me being anti-Wall Street just to point out that the best and the brightest— didn’t do too well on that front, and that— you know, maybe the incentive structures that have been set up— have not produced the kinds of long term growth that— that I think everybody’s looking for.

STEVE KROFT:

Were you surprised at the depth of this recession when you got here? Did you know it was this bad?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I don’t think that we anticipated how steep the decline would be, particularly in employment. I mean if you look at just, you know, hundreds of thousands, now millions of jobs being shed over the course of two months— or three months, that slope is a lot steeper than anything that we’ve said— we’ve seen before.

Now—there’s a potential silver— silver lining, which may be that things are so accelerated now, the modern economy is so intertwined and— and wired, that things happen really fast— for ill, but things may recover faster than they have in the past.

STEVE KROFT:

Do you believe that there’s still some systemic risk out there? That the financial system could still implode if you had a big failure at AIG or at Citicorp?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Yes.

STEVE KROFT:

Citibank?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I— I— I think that systemic risks are still out there. And if we did nothing you could still have some big problems. There— there are certain institutions that are so big that if they fail, they bring a lot of other financial institutions down with them. And if all those financial institutions fail all at the same time, then you could see an even more— destructive— recession and potentially depression.

I’m optimistic about that not happening. Because I think we did learn lessons from the Great Depression.

STEVE KROFT:

Is there some limit to the amount of money we can spend?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Yes.

STEVE KROFT:

Or print trying to solve this crisis?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

There is.

STEVE KROFT:

And are we getting close to it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

The— the limit is our ability to— finance— these expenditures through borrowing. And, you know, the United States is fortunate that it has— the largest, most stable economic and political system— around. And so the dollar is still strong because people are still buying Treasury Bills. They still think that’s the safest investment out there.

If we don’t get a handle on this, and also start looking at our long-term deficit projections, at a certain point people will stop buying— those— Treasury Bills.

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STEVE KROFT:

Do you have any idea when this might end? Or when things might start getting better?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, we’re already starting to see flickers of– of hope out there. refinancings– have significantly increased. Interest rates have never been lower. That promises– the possibility at least of the housing market bottoming out and stabilizing. It’s not going to happen equally in every part of the country.

STEVE KROFT VO:

ON THE SUBJECT OT THE AILING AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY THE PRESIDENT SAID HE IS STILL COMMITTED TO HELPING GENERAL MOTORS AND CHRYSLER AVERT BANKRUPTCY, BUT HE SAYS THEY HAVE YET TO DEMONSTRATE THEY CAN REMAIN ECONOMICALLY VIABLE. AND THERE ARE MAJOR POLITICAL OBSTACLES.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I just want to say that– the only thing less popular than putting money into banks is putting money (LAUGHS) into the auto industry. So–

STEVE KROFT:

18 percent are in favor.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

(LAUGHS) That’s–

STEVE KROFT:

Seventy-six percent against.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

It– it– it’s not a high number.

STEVE KROFT:

You’re sitting here. And you’re– you are laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. Are people going to look at this and say, “I mean, he’s sitting there just making jokes about (LAUGHTER) money–” How do you deal with– I mean, wh– explain –

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Well–

STEVE KROFT:

–the mood and your laughter.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Yeah, I mean, there’s got to be–

STEVE KROFT:

Are you punch drunk?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

No, no. There’s gotta be a little gallows humor to (LAUGHS) get you through the day. You know, sometimes my team– talks about the fact that if– if you had said to us a year ago that– the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem– I don’t think anybody would have believed it. But– but we’ve got a lot on our plate. And– a lot of difficult decisions that we’re going to have to make.

STEVE KROFT:

Afghanistan.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Speaking of which. Yeah.

STEVE KROFT:

What– what should that mission be?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:
Making sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests and our allies. That’s our number one priority. And in service of that priority there may be a whole host of things that we need to do. We may need to build up– economic capacity in Afghanistan. We may need to– improve our diplomatic efforts in Pakistan.

We may need to bring a more regional– diplomatic approach to bear. We may need to coordinate more effectively with our allies. But we can’t lose sight of what our central mission is. The same mission that we had when we went in after 9 11. And that is these folks can project– violence against the United States’ citizens. And that is something that we cannot tolerate.

But what we can’t do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems. . So what we’re looking for is a comprehensive strategy. And there’s gotta be an exit strategy. There– there’s gotta be a sense that this is not perpetual drift.

STEVE KROFT:

Afghanistan has proven to be very hard to govern. This should not come as news to anybody (LAUGHTER) given its history.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Right.

STEVE KROFT:

As the graveyards of empire. And there are people now who are concerned. We need to be careful what we’re getting ourselves into in Afghanistan. Because we have come to be looked upon there by– by people in Afghanistan, and even people now in Pakistan–

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Right.

STEVE KROFT:

-as another foreign power coming in, trying to take over the region.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I’m very mindful of that. And so is my national security team. So’s the Pentagon.

Afghanistan is not going to be easy in many ways. And this is not my assessment. This is the assessment of– commanders on the ground.

Is Iraq was actually easier than Afghanistan. It’s easier terrain. You’ve got a– much better educated population, infrastructure to build off of. You don’t have some of the same destabilizing border– issues that you have between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And so this is going to be a tough nut to crack. But– it is not acceptable for us to simply sit back and let safe havens of terrorists plan and plot

STEVE KROFT:

One question about Dick Cheney and Guantanamo. I’m sure you want to answer this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Oh, absolutely.

STEVE KROFT:A week ago Vice President Cheney– said essentially that your willingness to shut down Guantanamo and to change the way prisoners are treated and interrogator– interrogated– was making America weaker and more vulnerable to another attack. And that– the interrogation techniques that were used at Guantanamo were essential in preventing another attack against the United States.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly. You know, I think that– Vice President Cheney has been– at the head of a– movement whose notion is somehow that we can’t reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don’t torture, with our national security interests. I think he’s drawing the l– wrong lesson from history.

The facts don’t bear him out. I think he is– that attitude, that philosophy has done incredible damage– to our image and position in the world. I mean, the fact of the matter is after all these years how many convictions actually came out of Guantanamo? How many– how many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn’t made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment. Which means that there is constant effective recruitment of– Arab fighters and Muslim fighters against U.S. interests all around the world.

STEVE KROFT:

Some of it being organized by a few people who were released from Guantanamo.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Well there is no doubt that– we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals that we’ve got to– make sure are not a threat to us, who are folks that we just swept up. The whole premise of Guantanamo promoted by Vice President Cheney was that somehow the American system of justice was not up to the task of dealing with these terrorists.

I fundamentally disagree with that. Now– do these folks deserve Miranda rights? Do they deserve to be treated like a shoplifter– down the block? Of course not.

STEVE KROFT:

What do you do with those people?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Well, I think we’re going to have to figure out a mechanism to make sure that they not released and do us harm. But– do so in a way that is consistent with both our traditions, sense of due process, international law. But this is– this is the legacy that’s been left behind. And, you know, I’m surprised that– the Vice President is eager– to defend– a legacy that was unsustainable

let’s assume that we didn’t change these practices. How– how long are we going to go? Are we going to just keep on going until– you know, the entire Muslim world and Arab world– despises us? Do we think that’s really going to make us safer? I– I don’t know– a lot of thoughtful thinkers, liberal or conservative– who think that that was the right approach.

PART ONE STUDIO TAG:

When we come back, President Obama talks about the rigors of his new job, while giving us a tour of the White House grounds.

“PRESIDENT OBAMA” – PART II

Kroft Radutzky Devine

March 22, 2009

ASIDE FROM RUNNING THE HARVARD LAW REVIEW AND DIRECTING HIS OWN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ENTERED THE WHITE HOUSE WITH NO REAL EXECUTIVE EXPERIENCE.

NOW HE IS GRAPPLING WITH THE CHALLENGES OF RUNNING ONE OF THE LARGEST ENTERPRISES IN THE WORLD UNDER THE MOST TRYING CIRCUMSTANCES. HOW IS HE HANDLING THE PRESSURE, WHAT IS AN AVERAGE DAY LIKE AND HOW ARE HIS WIFE MICHELLE AND THEIR YOUNG DAUGHTERS ADJUSTING? THE PRESIDENT TALKED ABOUT ALL OF THAT AS HE GAVE US A TOUR OF THE WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS.

STEVE KROFT:

So have you gotten into a routine?

BARACK OBAMA:

I have. You know, I– typically work out in the morning. Michelle’s often there with me.

STEVE KROFT:

What time?

BARACK OBAMA:

After the workout, have breakfast, read the papers, re– read– my morning security briefing. And then I come down here and talk to our National Security team. Then we talk to the economic team. After that, who knows? Anything goes. But– typically– between seven and 10:00 I sort of know what I’m doing.

STEVE KROFT:

And this is the living quarters.

BARACK OBAMA:

This is the living quarters, up on the second floor. We got a gym right over there– up on the third floor. And– the second floor is– our bedroom’s on this side, and– we got a dining room on that side. And– yeah, pretty nice digs.

STEVE KROFT:

How are you finding the job?

BARACK OBAMA:

It’s exhilarating. It’s challenging you know, I– I find that– the governance part of it, the decision making part of it– actually comes– comes pretty naturally. I think I’ve got a great team. I think we’re making good decisions. The hardest thing about the job is staying focused. Because there’s so many demands and decisions that are pressed upon you.

STEVE KROFT:

What’s the hardest decision you’ve had to make in the last 60 days?

BARACK OBAMA:

Well, I would say that– the decision to send more troops– into Afghanistan. You know, I think it’s the right thing to do. But it’s– a weighty decision because we actually had to make the decision prior to the completion of– strategic review– that– we were conducting. When I make a decision to send 17 thousand young Americans to Afghanistan, you can understand that intellectually – but understanding what that means for those families, for those young people when you end up sitting at your desk, signing a condolence letter to one of the family members of a fallen hero, you’re reminded each and every day at every moment that the decisions you make count.

STEVE KROFT:What is the most frustrating part of the job?

BARACK OBAMA:

(SIGH) The– the fact that– you are often confronted with bad choices that flow from less than optimal decisions made a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, when you weren’t here. A lot of times, when things land at my desk– it’s a choice between bad and worse. And as somebody pointed out to me– the only things that land on my desk are tough decisions. Because, if they were easy decisions, somebody down the food chain’s already made them.”

STEVE KROFT:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM). How many decisions do you have to make a day?

BARACK OBAMA:

Can’t count ’em.

STEVE KROFT:

Lots.

BARACK OBAMA:

Yeah, lots.

STEVE KROFT:

Every time somebody walks in your office.

BARACK OBAMA:

There’s a decision. Otherwise, they don’t get a meeting.

STEVE KROFT:

And you’re briefed for all that before it happens.

BARACK OBAMA:

I am. I spend a lot of time reading. People keep on asking me, “Well, what are you reading these days?” Well, mostly briefing books. You know, you get a little time to read– history or– you know, policy books that are of interest. But there’s a huge amount of information that has to be digested, especially right now. Because the complexities of Afghanistan– are matched, maybe even dwarfed, by the complexities of the economic situation. And there are a lot of moving parts to all of that.

STEVE KROFT:

Do you take a day off?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

I do. Its never a full day, but typically Saturdays and Sundays. I’ll wander down to the oval office I’ll do some work, but I’ll still have time for the kids.

KROFT NARRATION:

ON MOST DAYS THE PRESIDENT SAYS HE AND THE FIRST LADY ARE ABLE TO HAVE A FAMILY DINNER WITH THEIR CHILDREN. AND HE USUALLY SEES HIS TWO DAUGHTERS IN THE AFTERNOON WHEN THEY COME HOME FFROM SCHOOL AND PAY HIM A VISIT IN THE WEST WING. HE CAN LOOK OUT THE WINDOW OF THE OVAL OFFICE, AND WATCH THEM PLAY ON THEIR NEW SWING SET.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

Pretty spectacular swing set. I have to say that– I was not– the purchaser of this. The admiral, our chief usher, Admiral Steve Rochon, took great interest when we said that we should get a swing set, and found what I assume must be– the– (CHUCKLE) Rolls Royce of swing sets.

STEVE KROFT:

You didn’t have one of these when you were a kid?

BARACK OBAMA:

I sure did not. I thought (CHUCKLE) we were going to get like two swings. But– but they went all out.

STEVE KROFT:

Have– the girls had kids over after school?

BARACK OBAMA:

They have. And– they’ve tested this out. And it– it got a thumbs up.

STEVE KROFT:

Are they liking it here?

BARACK OBAMA:

You know, they– they are adapting remarkably– in ways– that I just would not have expected. I mean–

STEVE KROFT:

Well, this is pretty cool.

BARACK OBAMA:

Well– it’s cool, but– what’s interesting is actually how unimpressed they are with it. (CHUCKLE) I mean they– they’re going to school. They are unchanged. They’re the same sweet, engaging, happy– unpretentious kids that they were…

STEVE KROFT:

And they’re having fun.

BARACK OBAMA:

They do seem to be having fun. And– and Michelle is thriving as well. I mean she just started a– a– a vegetable garden out here.

STEVE KROFT:

Ah, where’s– where’s that?

BARACK OBAMA:
That’s–
STEVE KROFT:

Is that nearby? Is that–

BARACK OBAMA:

1No, that’s pretty far down. But they just actually– all the chefs– from the White House staff– went down there with her. And they started digging– digging ground. And they’re going to be planting stuff. And this is part of the message that she wants to send about good nutrition.
KROFT NARRATION:

MICHELLE OBAMA HAD BROKEN GROUND FOR THE VEGETABLE GARDEN A FEW HOURS EARLIER ON SOUTH LAWN—WITH THE HELP OF SOME WASHINGTON SCHOOL CHILDREN. JUST A SMALL PATCH OF LAND ON THE SPRAWLING WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS THAT COVER 18 ACRES. AS FOR THE 55-THOUSAND SQUARE FOOT HOUSE, THE FIRST FAMILY IS STILL EXPLORING THE 132 ROOMS AND 35 BATHROOMS.

STEVE KROFT:

Have you gotten lost in here yet?

BARACK OBAMA:

I have. Repeatedly. (LAUGHTER)

STEVE KROFT:

Harry Truman called the White House– “The Great White Jail.” And– (CHUCKLE) and– and Bill Clinton said he couldn’t make up his mind whether it was the– finest public housing in America or– the jewel of the prison system.

BARACK OBAMA:

The bubble that the White House represents is tough. And one of the things that I am constantly struggling with is how to break out of it. And I’ve taken to the practice of reading– ten letters selected from the 40,000 that we get– every night, just to hear from voices outside of my staff. The inability to just go, and you know, sit at a corner coffee shop and have a chat with people, or just listen to what folks are saying at the next table, that I think, is something that, as president, you’ve gotta constantly fight against.

BADD BLACK OBAMA AND TEAM IS DESTROYING HIS LAME ENEMIES ONE BY ONE!-FROM DAILYKOS.COM

March 17, 2009

from dailykos.com

Progressives Destroy Opponents One By One
by ukit
Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 08:08:39 AM PDT
While the MSM frets about Obama’s agenda and the fact that his approval rating might have slipped a few points, they are, as usual, missing the bigger picture. The real story of Obama’s first two months is the total destruction of the opposition. It’s hard to remember an administration that, with the help of the newly emboldened progressive media, has so effectively defanged its major opponents in such a short period of time.

ukit’s diary :: ::
Let’s consider, briefly, what has been achieved.

The head of the RNC is now a laughingstock, hated by his own party.

If a campaign finance scandal doesn’t take him down, his next TV interview will. In the meantime, the RNC has to deal with a chairman that is not only an embarrassment, but who will in all likelihood severely limit their fundraising ability in coming cycles.

The actual head of the party is now a morbidly obese, race-baiting radio personality. After some clever media spin by Emmanuel and co, team Obama has ensured that very time he speaks out from now on, pundits will remark that he is the true leader of the Republicans.

The party’s brightest prospect for 2012 has been transformed from an exciting, inspirational figure into a walking punchline.

Republican insiders who had clearly been eager to back him in 2012 will now have to go back to the drawing board, or settle for either Palin or Romney.

The next Fox News in the making has been disgraced, and their two biggest Obama-critics throughly discredited. Whether or not people continue to watch CNBC, it’s highly doubtful that any criticisms coming from Santelli or Cramer will pack much of a punch at all.

The Congressional opposition currently has an approval rating of 16%, versus 43% for Congressional Dems. It’s enough to make a grown man cry!

That’s not a bad track record, especially considering that many progressives openly questioned whether Obama and his team had the cojones to fight back against the Republicans once in office. I think maybe it’s time we gave these guys some props!

Of course Obama, Axelrod, Emmanuel and Gibbs aren’t responsible for all of these victories. And some of it was just good old fashioned Republicans shooting themselves in the foot (hi, Bobby). But I think it’s safe to say that many of these incidents wouldn’t have had the same impact without direction from the White House, and, perhaps most importantly, without the new network of progressive media that now stretches from MSNBC to PACs to Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post and yes, Daily Kos.

And things are just heating up. Politico reports that Obama is launching a “message war” to fight back against opponents of his budget.

The White House on Sunday began harnessing every part of the Democratic Party’s machinery to defend President Obama’s budget and portray Republicans as reflexively political, according to party strategists.

It is interesting to note that this new spot includes both Steele, who Obama aides had previously been reluctant to acknowledge, as well as Sarah Palin. Watch out Sarah – you might be next!

At the same time, a “broad coalition of left-leaning groups” is joining together into a new coalition, Unity ’09.

Conceived at a New York meeting before the November election, two Democrats familiar with the planning said, Unity ’09 will draw together money and grassroots organizations to pressure lawmakers in their home states to back White House legislation and other progressive causes.

The online-based MoveOn.org is a central player in the nascent organization, but other groups involved in planning Unity ’09 span a broad spectrum of interests, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Council of La Raza to Planned Parenthood, as well as labor unions and environmental groups.

Republicans…you’ve been warned. We’re coming for you!

Tags: barack obama, republicans, opponents, campaigning, Recommended (all tags) :: Previous

SO OBAMA HASN’T DONE ANYTHING MUCH? DONNA AT MYBARACKOBAMA.COM SUMS IT UP NICELY THE ANSWER TO THAT! 49 DAYS IN OFFICE AND A BLACK PRESIDENT IS AN ACTION MAN!

March 14, 2009

from my.barackobama.com

By Donna No Shock Barack No Drama Obama of MD Mar 9th 2009 at 4:10 pm EDT (Updated Mar 9th 2009 at 4:10 pm EDT)
Email all of the major stations the following information:
President Obama’s 49 days(and counting)in Office:

President signs executive order to close Guantanamo Bay on Jan 22, 2009
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed Jan 29, 2009
SCHIP signed into law on Feb 4, 2009
The President hold his first primetime news conference on Feb 9, 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law on Feb 17, 2009
The President announces a $75 Billion Plan to Stop Foreclosures Feb 18, 2009
The President holds a Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House on Feb 23, 2009
The President addresses a Joint Session of Congress on Feb 24, 2009
President Obama announces his plan to end the Iraq war and troop withdrawal on Feb 27, 2009
The President holds a Health Care Summit at the White House on Mar 5, 2009
The President announces the lift on federal funding for stem cell research on Mar 9, 2009

Remind them to report that he inherited the worst economy since The Great Depression.
Remind them that he said it would get worst before it got better.
Remind them that he said it will take time to fix these problems because they didn’t happen overnight and they will not be fixed overnight.
Remind them that he said a President has to be able to do more than one thing.
Remind them that they have a responsibility as the fourth estate to report only the facts as they exist.
Remind them that most Presidents before him have been allowed 100 days to implement their policy ask them what happened to that unspokened rule for this President.
Remind them that every President before him was allowed a Honeymoon..what happened to this Presidents?

President Obama hit the ground running on day one and has done more in 49 days than GWB did in 8 years. Ram that down their throats. Dare them to say that out loud.

Please try and do this daily

cnnnewsroom@cnn.com
chuck.todd@nbcuni.com
hardball@msnbc.com
anderson.cooper@cnn.com
letters@msnbc.com
shuster@msnbc.com
Rachel@msbnc.com
wolf.blitzer@cnn.com

BLEACH AND LOOK LIKE A MONSTER EVENTUALLY! CHECK OUT THESE PHOTOS ON EVASITOE.WORDPRESS.COM

March 14, 2009

THIS SOUTH AFRICAN SISTER NOWS WISHES THAT SHE HAD NEVER TRIED BLEACHING!

THIS SOUTH AFRICAN SISTER NOWS WISHES THAT SHE HAD NEVER TRIED BLEACHING!

BLEACH AND BECOME A MONSTER LIKE MICHAEL JACKSON!

BLEACH AND BECOME A MONSTER LIKE MICHAEL JACKSON!

FROM evasitoe.wordpress.com

eVaDiVa’s Make-up Bag
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SKIN BLEACHING/LIGHTENING? YOUR ENNEMY
By eVaDiVa
Oct. 2,2008

***WARNING*** WARNING*** DISTURBING PICTURES BELOW

I was watching a documentary that a friend sent me last week and I was horrified by what I found out and saw. I then googled “depigmentation de la peau danger” and almost threw up when I saw the pictures (see below). So I didn’t want this blog to be full of nice and pretty pictures of women with makeup and beautiful skin, I wanted to make sure that beautiful women of color like me and you are aware of the danger of skin lightening.

In Senegal, this practice is called “Khessal” meaning “lightening”. It is done by many women of different social classes. This means that a rich or a poor woman can do it, she will just use different products depending on her budget…In RDC (Republic Democratic of Congo), this has been a practice that even men do… In Gambia, the president Yaya Djame banned it and people are subjected to emprisonment if they are caught bleaching their skin. It is unfortunate that other countries do not apply the same laws knowing that skin bleaching can sometimes kill…

A play Written and performed by Rani Moorthy to raise awareness against skin bleaching

Here is an interesting article that I found at: http://www.pressbox.co.uk/detailed/Health/skin_bleaching/_lightening_its_dangers_37431.html that details this phenomenon…

How skin lightening products work
There are two chemicals found in skin lightening products, Hydroquinone or Mercury.

o Hydroquinone (C6H6O2) is a severely toxic and very powerful chemical used in photo processing, the manufacture of rubber and is an active agent in hair dyes.
o Mercury in the form of Mercury Chloride & Ammoniated Mercury is carcinogenic. They appear on the list of toxic substances that can only be purchased via pharmacies with prescribed labels of toxicity.
Both products perform a similar process. In the short term they will initially cause the skin to lighten by inhibiting the production of melanin. Without melanin formation in the basal layer no brown pigmentation will be visible.
The long term effects, however, are those that must be addressed.
The long term effects of using skin lightening products
Hydroquinone or Mercury applied to the skin will react with ultra violet rays and re-oxidise, leading to more pigmentation and premature ageing. More product is then applied in an attempt to correct the darker blotchy appearance.
These are the beginnings of a vicious cycle. By altering the skins natural structure and inhibiting the production of Melanin, it’s natural protection, the skin is more susceptible to skin cancer.

Prolonged use of Hydroquinone will thicken collegen fibres damaging the connective tissues. The result is rough blotchy skin leaving it with a spotty cavier appearance.
Mercury will slowly accumulate within the skin cells striping the skin of it’s natural pigment leaving behind the tell tale signs of gray/ blue pigmentation in the folds of the skin. In the long term the chemical will damage vital organs and lead to liver and kidney failure and mercury poisoning.

PLEASE DO NOT USE SKIN LIGHTENING PRODUCTS. DO NOT USE ANYTHING THAT CONTAINS ANYTHING HIGHER THAN 2% HYDROQUINONE UNLESS DIRECTED BY A DOCTOR.

FOR ALL MY FRANCOPHONE READERS, READ THIS ARTICLE: http://www.hautcourant.com/Depigmentation-de-la-peau-au-dela,409

Thank you Leyla for sending that…

XoXo

eVaDiVa

I also wanted to give two thumbs up to all these fighting against skin bleaching and that are raising awareness in their communities. For instance, as common as it is here in Senegal, I have not seen one flight attendant from our national airline company using these products…

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Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)

Foundation 101—> Part 2
EFFECTS OF BLEACHING CREAMS ARE DEADLY! FROM BLACKBEAUTYANDHAIR.COM-AUG. 26…
Skin Color-Pale is Preferable?
Skin bleaching

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3 Responses to “SKIN BLEACHING/LIGHTENING? YOUR ENNEMY”
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1 Amina
Friday, October 24, 2008 at 10:21 pm
It is so unfortunate..I never understood this process and a few women in my life went through that. apparently, they also wanted to attract men because lighter women are “more beautiful” than darker ladies and some men prefer their women to be light…so sad..

I was horrified when I went to a friend’s house..it was back in 2002 and her cleaning lady was mixing eau de javel with her khessal lotion!!!!!!!

2 Rukaya
Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm
This is yet another example of colonial mentality. It’s sad that as a people, some of us don’t realize the gorgeousness of black skin. Mental slavery, is by far worse of than physical slavery…it’s more difficult to eradicate. Thank you for sharing Diva!

3 ahmedseo
Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 1:37 am
skin bleaching cause a temporary whitening, it destort your skin more as compare to the condition of skin before bleaching.

4 Yeye Akilimali Funua Olade
Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 6:27 am
SISTER ,you are great for publishing this article! I will put it on my blog BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL!
(yeyeolade.wordpress.com) right now and give you credit and link you too! I have been fighting a campaign against bleaching and all of us Black women must do this! Black on to you! Also add this to your prayer points -STOP BLEACHING OUR BEAUTIFUL BLACK SKIN AWAY!

WOFEYAC ,SEPT.2008 IPADE HOSTED BY GOV. DANIEL,OCT. 2,2008-FROM VANGUARD NEWSPAPER

March 14, 2009

FROM vanguardngr.com

,

South West Daniel hosts S’West govs, monarchs Oct 2
Daniel hosts S’West govs, monarchs Oct 2

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

IN the continuation of efforts toward unity and development in Yorubaland, Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State will be hosting other South-West governors and prominent traditional rulers on October 2 in Abeokuta.
The meeting which is being co-ordinated by the Chief Organiser of World Festival of Yoruba Arts and Culture (WOFEYAC), and publisher, Alaroye Newspapers, Mr. Alao Adedayo, is aimed at jump-starting the process of unifying Yoruba leaders with a view to harnessing human and material resources to develop Yorubaland.

A similar meeting was hosted by Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State last July in Ibadan at which the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; chairman of each state council of Obas and chiefs and the governors.

The Abeokuta meeting, which is aimed at strengthening the achievement of the Ibadan meeting will involve all the governors of the SouthWest and traditional rulers from all the senatorial districts in the zone.

It is also expected that at the Abeokuta meeting the modality and logistics of the WOFEYAC programme will be perfected and endorsed.

The festival which begins in Ile-Ife, Osun State, in November will run for six months, with the grand finale in Lagos and Abeokuta next April. It will attract Yoruba at home and in the diaspora and lovers of arts and culture worldwide.

It will no doubt beam the rich traditional culture of the Yoruba race to the whole world and project the tourism finesse of Nigeria.

WORLD FESTIVAL ON YORUBA ARTS AND CULTURE (WOFEYAC),JUNE,2008 IPADE, ILE-IFE-FROM NEWSWATCHNGR.COM

March 14, 2009

from newswatchngr.com

Crucial Talks Over Yoruba Unity

By Demola Abimboye
Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yoruba leaders discuss problems of disunity at a well-attended one-day meeting in Ile-Ife

It was the biggest gathering of Yoruba traditional rulers and elders from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara states in Ile Ife, the ancestral home of the ethnic group, since Oba Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II, became the Ooni of the ancient town in 1980. All the monarchs radiated happiness for coming to ‘The Source,’ as the town is often referred to. The gathering was for the formal endorsement of the World Festival of Yoruba Arts and Culture, WOFEYAC, at the palace of the king on Friday, June 6, 2008. The main festival comes up in November. The traditional rulers hugged, backslapped and shook hands, as drummers repeatedly drummed it into their ears: “Orirun wa l’awa yi o,” that is, “we are at our origin.”

Lateef Adegbite, secretary-general, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, SCIAN, and chairman of the occasion, was equally ecstatic about the spirit of unity that pervaded that day. “This is the hallmark of your reign as Ooni; it is epochal,” he declared. Although it was a cultural event, the leaders used the occasion to address the lack of unity among prominent sons and daughters of Yorubaland. Adegbite first called attention to what he called “the growing signs of discord in the house of Oduduwa.” He said that due to political differences, governors of the six Yoruba states could hardly meet on a purely Yoruba platform while the principal royal fathers, whom he said, should lead by example would not attend the same ceremony or event, unless at Abuja on federal government’s invitation because of the lingering supremacy tussle among them.

The SCIAN scribe bemoaned the erosion of his people’s commanding position in the economic sphere largely because the customary cooperation and collaboration which gave the group a head-start in the Nigerian economic race have declined. He noted that the ongoing WEMA Bank crisis would not have endured if the Yoruba had invoked the economic solidarity of old to deal with the mess. “Nor can we talk of socio-cultural leadership of the Yoruba when we are yet to create a neutral platform in which all shades of political opinions and tendencies would co-habit and feel at ease,” he said.

Adegbite said that WOFEYAC could stimulate unity and restore the sense of belonging among the Yoruba. But he enjoined the people to ensure that WOFEYAC was devoid of fetish displays or any form of idolatry in order to carry Christians and Muslims along. “Everyone must be actively involved and contribute to the success of the fiesta. There should be no impediments whatsoever. Every Yoruba state government should participate fully in the planning, execution and funding of the festival since the project must be seen as a major plank in the development endeavour of the South-West region,” he said. He added that “it is the abiding obligation of every Yoruba man and woman to promote and preserve Yoruba culture, the cornerstone of his or her identity.”

Due to the large turn out by the royal fathers, each state selected an oba to speak on behalf of the others. All of them praised the Ooni for his efforts at uniting the region’s monarchs. Olojudo of Ido Osun and Abdullahi Akamo, Olu of Itori spoke on behalf of Osun and Ogun traditional rulers, respectively. The duo employed Ifa, Yoruba divination culture, extensively in praying for the ethnic group. The former prayed that Oyere which symbolised cohesion would ensure unity in Yorubaland. “If all of us stay together, no group in Nigeria can denigrate the Yoruba,” he said. Akamo prayed that Obaraka, the antidote against evil will remove envy and hatred from among descendants of Oduduwa.

Alaaye of Efon Alaaye, Oniru of Iruland and Amapetu of Mahin kingdom spoke on behalf of Ekiti, Lagos and Ondo states’ obas respectively. They expressed joy at the calibre of those in attendance and wished there would be regular meetings of such magnitude to engender unity in the land. The Lagos obas donated three million Naira towards the November event while their Ondo counterparts promised a heftier sum.

Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Osun State governor, charged the traditional rulers to work towards peace, cohesion and good leadership. “We must come together to be able to speak with one voice and ask for our dues in the larger Nigerian society,” he said. He enjoined the leaders to bring into their fold their kit and kin in Kwara, Kogi, Edo and Delta states as well as promote the Yoruba language as no language is inferior to the other. “No nation develops while underplaying its culture and adopting foreign ones,” he said, adding “How many of us converse with our children in Yoruba? There must be a rebirth of our language, culture and tradition.”

Obateru Akinruntan, chairman, Obat Oil, who was openly hailed as the king-in-waiting for the stool of Olugbo of Ugbo kingdom in Ondo State donated two million Naira towards the November 2008 grand celebration of Yoruba culture.

Oba Sijuwade, who was elated at the endorsement of WOFEYAC, said it might be necessary to set up a committee of eminent leaders which would include at least 10 monarchs to resolve all differences among Yoruba sons and daughters. “The team will work towards a final settlement that will bring all of us together as one family. Such a committee can have a period of between three to six months to carry out this assignment,” he said.

Given this royal declaration, many eagerly hope the trio of Oba Sijuwade Olubuse II, Ooni of Ife, Lamidi Adeyemi III, Alaafin of Oyo and Sikiru Adetona, Ogbagba II, Awujale of Ijebuland will sit beside one another discussing Yoruba unity on or before November this year.

© 2007 Newswatch Communications

THIS BROTHER DOESN’T MIND SHINING OBAMA’S SHOES!-FROM THEPOLITICALCARNIVAL.BLOGSPOT.COM

March 12, 2009

from thepoliticalcarnival.blogspot.com

van_stairs
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
New Obama advisor: “I’d pay money just to shine the brother’s shoes.”

By GottaLaff

Environmentalist Van Jones gets to realize a dream:

“I love Barack Obama,” environmental activist Van Jones was quoted as saying in a January profile in The New Yorker. “I’d pay money just to shine the brother’s shoes.” […]

Jones will join the administration as “Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).”

He’ll work under CEQ Chairwoman Nancy Sutley.

According to Falkenstein: “His duties will include: helping to shape and implement job-generating climate policy; working to ensure equal protection and equal opportunity in the administration’s climate and energy proposals; and publicly advocating the administration’s environmental and energy agenda.”
As you can see, shoe-shining wasn’t listed as one of his new duties.

Posted by GottaLaff at 1:30 PM
Labels: advisor, environment, President Obama, van jones
10 comments:
hippie_cyndi said…
good looking man.

March 10, 2009 1:40 PM
GottaLaff said…
One happy guy. : )

March 10, 2009 1:41 PM
Paddy said…
Cute Q.T. McCuterson.

March 10, 2009 1:59 PM
Lucy said…
Cute and happy. 🙂

March 10, 2009 2:12 PM
4everLoyal said…
Our president has some competition in the looks department uh? lol!!!

March 10, 2009 3:04 PM
YOLA said…
I will forget for a moment that I have a hubby just to lust – he is good looking!

March 10, 2009 3:21 PM
Lucy said…
Uh, Uh! He is cute but our Prez is so handsome it hurts.I was in B&N last week, and they have their whole Obama section. Of course they had the best of best Obama pics. I told my neighbor, who was with me, It just does not make any sense for a man to be that good looking. 🙂

March 10, 2009 3:56 PM
Dr. President said…
Van Jones was one of the panelists at the State of Black Union, and he kicked ass. So this is great news.

March 10, 2009 4:43 PM
Belinda said…
Yes he did kick ass, very good news

March 10, 2009 5:23 PM
Marti said…
I put in a good word for this guy thru whitehouse.gov a month or so ago…I’m sure it was my personal recommendation and very priviledged connection as a regular whitehouse.gov message sender that put him in there…LOL!!

(I’ll probably be blocked from there soon)

March 10, 2009 7:22 PM


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