President Obama welcomed New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to the White House on Friday, and said he would like to return the favor soon by visiting New Zealand. “I hear it’s really nice,” Obama said. “We’re going to be working with my scheduler.” One opportunity for a New Zealand visit comes in November, after Obama attends a Group of 20 nations summit in Brisbane, Australia. By that time, Obama is looking for major progress on a 12-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Obama and Key appear to have a good relationship. They even played a round of golf together in January while both were vacationing in Hawaii.
Children help President Barack Obama to his feet after he sat on the floor to have a group photo with them during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mrs. Akie Abe present President Barack Obama with a Bo golf club cover at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, April 24, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama gives a fist bump to a baby during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 27, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama and President Park Geun-hye exit for a walk in the Little Garden to view a tree she planted on her Inauguration Day, at the Blue House in Seoul, Republic of Korea, April 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama is kissed by 94-year-old Carolina Garcia Delfin, a Filipina nurse who fought in the resistance against Japanese forces during World War II. The President mentioned her in his remarks to American and Philippine troops at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines, April 29, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Students So Jung Kim and Chi Hyun Lee present President Barack Obama with a bouquet of flowers as he arrives for a tour of Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, Republic of Korea, April 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama is kissed by 94-year-old Carolina Garcia Delfin, a Filipina nurse who fought in the resistance against Japanese forces during World War II. The President mentioned her in his remarks to American and Philippine troops at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines, April 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
More broadly – big picture – as you end this trip, I don’t think I have to remind you there have been a lot of unflattering portraits of your foreign policy right now. And rather than get into all the details or red lines, et cetera, I’d like to give you a chance to lay out what your vision is more than five years into office, what you think the Obama doctrine is in terms of what your guiding principle is on all of these crises and how you answer those critics who say they think the doctrine is weakness.
Well, Ed, I doubt that I’m going to have time to lay out my entire foreign policy doctrine. And there are actually some complimentary pieces as well about my foreign policy, but I’m not sure you ran them.
Here’s I think the general takeaway from this trip. Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger; I can say that unequivocally. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia has never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute. As recently as a decade ago, there were great tensions between us and Malaysia, for example. And I think you just witnessed the incredible warmth and strength of the relationship between those two countries.
We’re here in the Philippines signing a defense agreement. Ten years ago, fifteen years ago there was enormous tensions around our defense relationship with the Philippines. And so it’s hard to square whatever it is that the critics are saying with facts on the ground, events on the ground here in the Asia Pacific region. Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?
My job as Commander-in-Chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people had no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.
So if you look at Syria, for example, our interest is in helping the Syrian people, but nobody suggests that us being involved in a land war in Syria would necessarily accomplish this goal. And I would note that those who criticize our foreign policy with respect to Syria, they themselves say, no, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops. Well, what do you mean? Well, you should be assisting the opposition – well, we’re assisting the opposition. What else do you mean? Well, perhaps you should have taken a strike in Syria to get chemical weapons out of Syria. Well, it turns out we’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike. So what else are you talking about? And at that point it kind of trails off.
In Ukraine, what we’ve done is mobilize the international community. Russia has never been more isolated. A country that used to be clearly in its orbit now is looking much more towards Europe and the West, because they’ve seen that the arrangements that have existed for the last 20 years weren’t working for them. And Russia is having to engage in activities that have been rejected uniformly around the world. And we’ve been able to mobilize the international community to not only put diplomatic pressure on Russia, but also we’ve been able to organize European countries who many were skeptical would do anything to work with us in applying sanctions to Russia.
Well, what else should we be doing? Well, we shouldn’t be putting troops in, the critics will say. That’s not what we mean. Well, okay, what are you saying? Well, we should be arming the Ukrainians more. Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian army? Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?
The point is that for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don’t know. But my job as Commander-in-Chief is to look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep our military in reserve for where we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges all around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us.
But we can continue to speak out clearly about what we believe. Where we can make a difference using all the tools we’ve got in the toolkit, well, we should do so. And if there are occasions where targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them. We don’t do them because somebody sitting in an office in Washington or New York think it would look strong. That’s not how we make foreign policy.
And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.
And that may not always be sexy. That may not always attract a lot of attention, and it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows. But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run. But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.
The President travels to Manila, Philippines, and participates in an arrival ceremony at Malacanang Palace
Later that afternoon, President Obama meets with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines
President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Aquino
The President greets members of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines
Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner with President Aquino at Malacanang Palace
Tuesday, April 29
In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio
Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery
The President travels back to Washington, D.C.
Text of the President’s remarks on Donald Sterling
With respect to the statements by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers — for our Malaysian audience, this is a sports team, basketball team in the United States. The owner is reported to have said some incredibly offensive racist statements that were published. I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves. When people — when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk. And that’s what happened here.
I am confident that the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, a good man, will address this. Obviously, the NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country. It’s got an awful lot of African American players. It’s steeped in African American culture. And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this.
I will make just one larger comment about this. The United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that’s still there — the vestiges of discrimination. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why some statements like this stand out so much is because there had been — there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.
And like Malaysia, we constantly have to be on guard against racial attitudes that divide us rather than embracing our diversity as a strength. And I know that the people of Malaysia are committed to wrestling with those issues as well. We have to make sure that we stay on top of it — and we will.
A poll released Wednesday offers yet another data point showing the politics of Obamacare aren’t as set in stone as the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Embracing Obamacare isn’t necessarily a political loser, and obstructing it isn’t necessarily a winner. The New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed four Southern states that will help determine control of the Senate this fall. It earned headlines for finding the Democrats in better shape in the Senate races than most would have expected. But it also assessed the popularity of four governors who have taken vastly different approaches to Obamacare — and the findings are a direct contradiction of the narrative that the law is a loser, plain and simple, especially in states like these.
The poll showed Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who expanded Medicaid under the law, are hugely popular. Their approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than their disapproval ratings; Beebe holds 68 percent approval, and Beshear is at 56 percent. But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) are at best treading water with their constituents after they declined to expand the program to cover low-income residents.
NYT: Slavery Nostalgia Is Real, And It’s Dangerous
Northerners may be a little shocked that anyone could feel a bit nostalgic for slavery, in the manner of the government-hating Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy. But in the South, such sentiments are hardly unheard of, even if they are usually muttered in private over a few bourbons rather than spoken at a news conference. Occasionally, in fact, they are expressed or embraced by public figures. A particularly relevant case started about 14 years ago, when Maurice Bessinger, owner of a chain of South Carolina barbecue restaurants called Maurice’s Piggie Park, began distributing pro-slavery tracts in his stores. One of the tracts, called the “Biblical View of Slavery,” said the practice wasn’t really so bad, because it was permitted in the Bible. It argued that many black slaves in the South “blessed the Lord” for their condition, because it was better than their life in Africa.
When the tract was discovered, Mr. Bessinger was denounced and his restaurants boycotted. Many retail stores pulled his distinctive (to be kind) yellow mustardy barbecue sauce from their shelves. But one prominent South Carolinian decided to stand up for Mr. Bessinger. Glenn McConnell, then a state senator from Charleston, stocked the sauce in his Confederate “art gallery,” which was loaded with secessionist flags and uniforms, as well as toilet paper bearing the image of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. When a local power utility banned its trucks from the parking lots of Piggie Park, Mr. McConnell threatened a legislative vendetta against the company. Mr. Bessinger died in February. Mr. McConnell is now the lieutenant governor of South Carolina.
Jackie Calmes: In Poorest States, Political Stigma Is Depressing Participation In Health Law
Inside the sleek hillside headquarters of Valley Health Systems, built with a grant from the health care law, two employees played an advertisement they had helped produce to promote the law’s insurance coverage for young, working-class West Virginians. The ads ran just over 100 times during the recent six-month enrollment period. But three conservative groups ran 12 times as many, to oppose the law and the local Democratic congressman who voted for it. This is a disparity with consequences. Health professionals, state officials, social workers, insurance agents and others trying to make the law work for uninsured Americans say the partisan divisions and attack ads have depressed participation in some places.
the GOP must be very proud to have convinced some uninsured that the ACA comes with tracking chips and death panels. nytimes.com/2014/04/27/us/…
They say the law has been stigmatized for many who could benefit from it, especially in conservative states like West Virginia that have the poorest, most medically underserved populations but where President Obama and his signature initiative are hugely unpopular. Steven L. Shattls, chief executive of Valley Health, a network of 28 health centers, said his organization would like to rerun its ad before November, when enrollment resumes. But he also conceded, “We have limited resources.” Republican candidates and the so-called super PACs supporting them have made assailing the Affordable Care Act their No. 1 issue for the midterm elections
Koritha Mitchell: Supreme Court Agrees With Michigan Voters: Affirmative Action Must Remain For Whites Only
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities reinforces an ugly reality: that most Americans support affirmative action only when it is for whites and no one else. Nearly every time American rhetoric privileges states’ rights, it leaves marginalized groups open to even bolder discrimination than they already encounter. Michigan is simply reminding us that the South has never been the only place where Americans believe that whites are the only ones who should enjoy equal protection. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 58-page dissent is a painfully necessary document that asks the nation to live up to its creed, but we desperately need to take this conversation in another direction. Rather than focus on the disadvantages of groups hurt by this decision, Americans must confront the unearned advantage of whiteness that inspired Michigan’s Proposal 2 in the first place. In short, Proposal 2 — and every instance of the sort of rhetoric that aligns with it — amounts to a declaration that setting a quota for whites of at least 75 percent is the American way.
The nation’s most effective, and palatable, affirmation action has always been for whites. In the early days of the republic, how else could land have been distributed to whites and not to Native Americans? The requirement for land was being white; the government set it aside for whites. How else could whites have secured the vast majority of land in the South (where blacks often outnumbered them) after Emancipation? The Homestead Act of 1863 and other government programs ensured that land was set aside for whites. How else did 98 percent of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans granted between 1932 and 1962 go to whites? Numerous historians have shown that the federal government sanctioned discriminatory practices that ensured that access to home ownership was set aside for whites. And those homes not only enabled whites to build wealth; they also provided access to public schools that prepared their children for college. The same principles shaped the years after World War II. Thus, while G.I. Bill benefits yielded college degrees and small businesses for whites, black and brown veterans more often returned home to collect insult and injury.
Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Cancelled Policies: Study Says Impact Was Actually Small
“Five million people lost their coverage around the country.” That quote comes from John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Party Committee. But if you’ve heard Republicans and their allies make the case against Obamacare, then you’ve inevitably heard some version of this. In some tellings, the number is 6 million. Sometimes conservatives cite this figure as proof that, on net, the number of Americans with insurance will decline because of the Affordable Care Act. That’s almost certainly not true, as a recent series of surveys have shown. The study, which appears online at the journal Health Affairs, is by Benjamin Sommers, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Using data from the Census Brueau’s Survey of Income Program and Participation, or SIPP, Sommers found that, historically, the non-group insurance has tended to have lots of churn.
Yesterday my insurance cost dropped $269/month under the ACA. Thank you to everyone who voted for Obama, & screw you to those who didn't.
In English, that means few people hold onto non-group policies for very long—typically, it’s just a transitional phase, while they are between jobs that provide insurance directly. In the sample that Sommers examined, the number of people who still had the same policy after just four months was already less than than two-thirds; after one year, it was down to 42 percent; after two years, it was down to 27 percent. So what does that tell us about Obamacare? According to Sommers, it suggests that most of the people who got those cancellation notices probably would have dropped existing coverage within a short time anyway. Sommers says that 65 percent of the people in his study had incomes below 400 percent of the poverty line, which means they’d be eligible for tax credits that make non-group insurance less expensive than the sticker price. That makes him skeptical about the extent of “rate shock”
Come on, fellow liberals. Calm down. I guess maybe it’s fair to call Cliven Bundy a racist. That “picking cotton” business put it over the top, and wondering whether they were better off under slavery. Even Sean Hannity, Bundy’s greatest media champion, threw in the towel last night: He wanted it to be “abundantly clear,” Hannity said at the top of his show, that he found the remarks “downright racist,” “repugnant,” “beyond disturbing,” and so on. OK, so Bundy’s a racist. It’s fine to point that out. But point up the fact that he’s a registered Republican? That’s where I draw the line, friends. I mean, come on. That’s just a coincidence. Total cosmic coincidence.
Just like it’s a coincidence that one federal judge who sent an email around to friends saying that Obama’s father was a dog happened to be a Republican. Complete and utter accident of fate, the puny matter of his voter enrollment. Those rancidly racist T-shirts and posters one sometimes sees at Tea Party rallies? They’re just a coincidence, too. I mean, Tea Party people might not be Republican, strictly speaking, and it’s totally unfair to assume that! OK, Tea Party candidates run in Republican primaries, not Democratic ones, and the Tea Party caucus in the House doesn’t include one Democrat. But still. Guilt by association!
There is no more birth control at the flea market. And if there ever were abortion pills, they’re long gone, too. At the Rio Grande Valley’s biggest outdoor market, known as la pulga, locals can buy car parts and fertilizer, watermelons out of a pickup, a parakeet, an iPhone case or stickers from their favorite Mexican fútbol team. But since this flea market was among several raided last August over suspicion it was selling abortion pills, if you even ask for birth control you’ll hear voices lower to a fearful whisper. You’ll be sent to the vendor who sells nuts, or the women selling jewelry. On a recent afternoon, all those destinations were a dead end. “Not anymore,” a woman whose table bore aspirin and homeopathic remedies said in Spanish. She shrugged. “Obama wants us to have more babies.” In fact, it wasn’t the federal government that raided four flea markets’ thriving illegal pharmaceutical trade, making undocumented residents that much more terrified to shop in them. The Sheriff of Hidalgo County, who took the lead, didn’t find any abortion pills, but he did charge nine people with selling prescription-drug contraband like diet pills and Viagra from Mexico.
We've reached a truly remarkable moment: a Koch Bros group is attacking Obamacare for not being liberal enough on.msnbc.com/1mDTI6m
The arrests came a month to the day after a front page New York Times story about how the state’s new omnibus law restricting abortion – the one Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis famously tried to block – was expected to close the Rio Grande Valley’s two abortion clinics.The combined crackdown by state and local authorities in Texas has done more than make it harder for the women of the Valley to get an abortion. They’re now having trouble getting any reproductive health care at all, since the same state legislature that shuttered the abortion clinics also slashed family planning funds and closed family planning providers. And Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid means its distinction as the uninsured capital of the United States isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, making the state’s broader health care crisis even worse.
Ian Millhiser: Court Declares Arkansas Voter Suppression Law Unconstitutional
Voter ID laws, which require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, reduce voter turn out among young voters, low-income voters and people of color — all of whom are groups that tend to prefer Democrats to Republicans. Arkansas’ voter ID law is also unconstitutional, according to a state trial court’s decision handed down on Thursday. As Judge Timothy Davis Fox lays out the controlling law in this case, the constitutionality of Arkansas’ voter ID law isn’t even a particular difficult question. The Arkansas Constitution provides that “[n]o power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; nor shall any law be enacted whereby such right shall be impaired or forfeited, except for the commission of a felony, upon lawful conviction thereof.” This law impairs the free exercise of the right of suffrage.
LEO Weekly: Mitch McConnell Enters A High-Risk Pool On Kynect Opposition
Gov. Steve Beshear announced the almost-final enrollment numbers for Kentuckians gaining access to health care coverage under Kynect before the spring deadline, in which a staggering 413,410 people — 9.6 percent of all Kentuckians — now have health insurance. Roughly 300,000 of these people previously did not have health insurance, and 52 percent of Kynect enrollees are under the age of 35. Sen. Mitch McConnell is beating the drum of repealing Obamacare “root and branch,” though he occasionally slips up and talks about a “fix.” Where this stance becomes dicey for him is when he’s asked what he would do for those 413,000 Kentuckians who have health insurance through Kynect, 300,000 of which were previously uninsured, if he succeeds in repealing the ACA. When cornered with this question, McConnell usually goes into talking points mode to avoid specifics, but last week His Swaggerness got McConnell to bite. Asked what he would do for terminally ill Kentuckians who would lose their new insurance if the ACA is repealed, McConnell actually presented what appears to be a specific answer
Thinking about friend who died waiting to be approved for Medicaid. She could have lived. That won't happen to folks now. Thank you #ACA.
McConnell is referring to here is Kentucky Access, the state’s former high-risk pool that helped provide insurance on the private market for Kentuckians who were otherwise turned down by insurance companies due to their pre-existing condition. The program operated from 2001 until the end of last year, when it was rendered moot by the ACA. However, Kentucky Access was not very popular, as it was still too expensive for people to buy insurance. In 2013, only 3,988 Kentuckians gained coverage through the program — which did not provide the same consumer protections under the ACA — with the average basic premium for an individual being $680 a month, and the most popular plan with a pharmacy rider having a monthly premium of $1,118 for a male aged 64.
On the other hand, these same people — and hundreds of thousands more — can now gain coverage through Kynect, along with a subsidy to reduce their premium cost and new consumer protections that make their insurance more valuable if they have a medical emergency and cover the costs of basic check ups and screenings. What McConnell is essentially saying is that we should just go back to the way it was before, with vulnerable Kentuckians having to rely on expensive insurance through an unpopular program that did not provide the same protections they have now. Kynect? 413,000 Kentuckians signing up for insurance in the exchange shows you what a popular insurance pool looks like. And yes, 413,000 is greater than 4,000.
President Obama poses for a photo with a patron at Jerry’s Family Restaurant, a diner in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours MogoOrganic farm with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, right, and Morgan Hoenig, left, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama visits with patrons who were playing bridge in a backroom at Jerry’s Family Restaurant in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs children of Executive Office employees at the White House’s annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” day, April 27, 2011
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk across the South Lawn of the White House as they depart for Chicago to film a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, April 27, 2011
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Marian Robinson walk with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley from Air Force One to Marine One at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., April 27, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama chat with Oprah Winfrey during a taping of the Oprah Winfrey show, April 27, 2011, at Harpo Studios in Chicago
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk across the South Lawn before boarding Marine One at the White House April 27, 2012
President Obama and wife Michelle share a moment while meeting with military families at the headquarters for the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Georgia to sign changes in the GI Bill, April 27, 2012
President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, DC on April 27, 2013
President Barack Obama is greeted by U.S. military personnel, their families, and members of the U.S diplomatic community upon his arrival to deliver a speech at U.S. military base Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea
President Barack Obama greets members of the military as he arrives with South Korean President Park Geun-hye to be briefed by U.S.-ROK Combined Forces Command officers including U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander UNC/CFC/USFK, at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea
President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, arrive to be briefed by U.S.-ROK Combined Forces Command officers including U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, right, Commander UNC/CFC/USFK, at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea
President Barack Obama is briefed by U.S.-ROK Combined Forces Command officers including U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander UNC/CFC/USFK, at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea
President Barack Obama greets U.S. military personnel, their familes, and members of the diplomatic community at Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul, South Korea
On This Day: President Obama and Senator Ted Kennedy walk on the grounds of the White House, before signing of the Kennedy Service Act at the SEED School in Washington D.C., April 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)