President Barack Obama walks through an honor cordon as he arrives for Commencement Exercises of the US Coast Guard Academy (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama gives the keynote address at commencement exercises at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. President Obama used the occasion to speak about the dangers of global warming to both America and international security
President Barack Obama and Ensign Mary Hazen strike a pose after she received her diploma at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation
The White House is not supposed to be a place for brokenness. Sheer, shattered, brokenness. But that’s what we experienced on the weekend of December 14, 2012. I was sitting at my desk around midday on Friday the 14th when I saw the images flash on CNN: A school. A gunman. Children fleeing, crying. But the private facts we received in the White House from the FBI were even worse. How the gunman treated the children like criminals, lining them up to shoot them down. How so many bullets penetrated them that many were left unrecognizable. How the killer went from one classroom to another and would have gone farther if his rifle would’ve let him.
“The President reacts as John Brennan briefs him on the details of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The President later said during a TV interview that this was the worst day of his Presidency.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
We prepared seven or eight classrooms for the families of the slain children and teachers, two or three families to a classroom, placing water and tissues and snacks in each one. Honestly, we didn’t know how to prepare; it was the best we could think of. The families came in and gathered together, room by room. Many struggled to offer a weak smile when we whispered, “The president will be here soon.” A few were visibly angry—so understandable that it barely needs to be said—and were looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Mostly they sat in silence.
“The President works on his Newtown speech at an auditorium in suburban Washington. Two days earlier, I had photographed him when John Brennan first briefed him on the shootings. Throughout that day, he reacted as we all did, which people witnessed when he delivered his statement a few hours later. Before we headed to Newtown for the Sunday night vigil, he went to watch his daughter Sasha, 11, at her rehearsal for the Nutcracker; he would be unable to attend her performance because of the trip to Newtown. During breaks in the rehearsal, he worked on his speech. His expression in this photograph may be subtle to the viewer, but not to me. There is emotion and resolve etched on his face, and he knew the importance of this speech for the nation.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.
And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer.
“Two days after the shootings at Newtown, the President traveled to Connecticut to meet with the victims’ families and give remarks at a prayer vigil. The President spent hours greeting family members. Difficult as that was for everyone, the one moment that helped sooth the pain was when he posed for a photo with the siblings and cousins of Emilie Parker, one of the 20 children who died that day in Newtown. I see both sadness and hope in this photograph, and I know after a lot of tears that day, it meant so much to the President that everyone was able to smile for a moment in this family photo. Thanks to the Parker family for allowing us to show this photograph publicly.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama walks to a meeting with House Democrats on Capitol Hill, July 31
President Obama is escorted by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Assistant Democratic Party Leader Rep. James Clyburn and Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus Rep. Joseph Crowley at the US Capitol after concluding talks with House Democrats
USA Today: … President Obama will appear on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday as part of a western swing next week, officials said.
…. In its announcement, the Tonight Show said Obama plans “to discuss his second term concentrating on his jobs initiatives and the economy.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president’s trip will also include a housing speech in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, and a talk with troops at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Amazon: President Barack Obama: The Kindle Singles Interview
In this Kindle Singles Interview, President Barack Obama decried the “change in culture” that has changed our view of the American Dream. “There was not that window into the lifestyles of the rich and famous,” the President said. “Kids weren’t monitoring everyday what Kim Kardashian was wearing, or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success.” He addressed the jobs issue from a personal perspective, reflecting on how his own life might have been different had he not experienced success in politics. “I could picture myself being a good teacher,” the President mused.
In the interview, which took place on July 30, 2013, at an Amazon facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Obama discussed the increasing need for government programs that can actually make a difference. Sticking close to his standard message, he spoke frankly about the increasing polarization of American politics since the Great Recession and Republican Party intransigence over his agenda. On a personal note, he reflected that he and First Lady Michelle Obama are constantly reminding their daughters of the “slightly unreal environment that they’re in,” as children of privilege in a world constrained by unemployment and recession.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington are getting ready for a four-week break, followed by a September in which House Republicans have only scheduled nine days of work for the entire month, and they’re leaving quite a to-do list behind. Four of the 12 appropriations bills that have to pass before the end of the fiscal year are being ignored; the farm bill is stuck; immigration reform is demanding attention; and a debt-ceiling crisis looms.
There is, in other words, real work that needs to get done, and in theory, members of Congress would be scrambling right now to get as much finished as possible.
Neil Heslin with his son Jesse Lewis, aged 6 – Jesse was one of the 20 children killed in in Sandy Hook
CTPost: A false fire alarm, 45-minute waits to get into the Capitol complex, even the heckling of a bereaved parent of a Newtown shooting victim marked Monday’s day-long legislative hearing on gun control.
“The Second Amendment!” was shouted by several gun enthusiasts in the meeting room as Neil Heslin, holding a photo of his 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, asked why Bushmaster assault-style weapons are allowed to be sold in the state.
“There are a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened,” said Heslin, who grew up using guns and seemed undisturbed by the interruption of his testimony…..
President Obama signs executive orders on gun violence flanked by 8-year old letter writer Hinna Zeejah (L), 10-year old letter writer Taejah Goode (3rd L), 11-year old letter writer Julia Stokes and 8-year old letter writer Grant Fritz (R)
Julia and Taejah’s letters
President Barack Obama signs letters written by Hinna Zeejah, Grant Fritz, Julia Stokes, and Teja Goode backstage in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium after unveiling new gun control proposals as part of the Administration’s response to the Newtown, Conn., shootings, and other tragedies, Jan. 16. The children wrote to President Obama in the wake of the Newtown tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama in the Connecticut Post: As a society, our first task must be to care for our children – to shield them from harm and give them the tools they need not only to pursue their dreams, but to help build this country. That is how we will be judged. And in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, it’s clear we have a long way to go.
That’s why, last month, I asked Vice President Biden to lead an effort to come up with concrete steps we can take right now to keep our kids safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. And on Wednesday, I put forward a specific set of proposals based on Joe’s recommendations. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence – if even one life can be saved – we have an obligation to try.
As President, I’m committed to doing my part. That’s why I signed 23 executive actions giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and the public health community the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.
President Obama: “…. the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.
…. I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won’t prevent them all – but that can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy – but that can’t be an excuse not to try.”
Full transcript of the President’s remarks today (video in post below)
Charles Pierce: Following the announcement by Cerberus, the capital management firm that said yesterday that it was getting out of the firearms business, it appears that the notion of divestment is starting to catch on around the country:
The $150.1 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund is reviewing its investments in firearm manufacturers, a spokesman for New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said on Tuesday. New York City’s pension funds are also reviewing investments and may sell nearly $18 million worth of stock in four companies that manufacture guns and ammunition, a spokesman said on Tuesday….
…. If you’re wondering why the NRA is extending what Joe Scarborough called “the olive branch” this time, there’s your reason … These clowns didn’t grow a conscience over the weekend. Their sugar daddies are losing money, and that’s all that ever has mattered.
Greg Sargent: The White House press corps didn’t seem to think President Obama’s press conference on guns today was that newsworthy — reporters were more interested in asking him about the imminent fiscal cliff deadline. But I believe Obama’s pledge today to pursue sustained action to combat gun violence was a very important moment, and demonstrates what presidential leadership on this issue is supposed to look like.
…. No question, it’s easy to remain skeptical about the prospects for real reform and about whether lawmakers, Obama included, will remain engaged once the Newtown headlines fade. But Obama did demonstrate today what presidential engagement on this issue looks like. And in so doing, he invited us to insist that he sustain it for the foreseeable future.
ThinkProgress: The National Rifle Association finally broke its silence and announced they would hold a press conference a week after the massacre of 27 people, most of them children around 6 years old, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. In the official statement, gun advocates’ most prominent lobby suggested they would make “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again”.
While the nature of these “meaningful contributions” will be revealed at Friday’s conference, the NRA’s response to other mass shootings is historically to offer condolences to victims’ families and continue to push a radical agenda to make it easier to get guns and carry them in more places. In fact, some of their most extreme legislation has been passed in the wake of a mass shooting….
Donkeylicious: …. the government of Australia banned the manufacture and possession of semiautomatic long guns (rifles and shotguns) and high capacity magazines in 1996. They then spent about $500 million buying back existing guns, compensating gun dealers and for loss of business, etc. In total, roughly 650,000 guns were reclaimed and destroyed.
…. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since…
…. The practical effect of such a buyback in the United States would be much more muted. The best estimates suggest there are between 2.5 and 4 million semiautomatic long guns in the US. That’s roughly 1% of the total gun inventory, rather than the 30% that such guns made up in Australia. Still, semiautomatic guns are used in a number of spree shootings, and high capacity magazines are almost always used. Buying back those magazines would almost certainly be worth it.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk in a West Wing hallway of the White House, following the President’s statement to the press, Dec. 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“He leans back, tea at his side, legs crossed, to explain what he thinks just happened. ‘It was easy to think that maybe 2008 was the anomaly,’ he says. ‘And I think 2012 was an indication that, no, this is not an anomaly. We’ve gone through a very difficult time. The American people have rightly been frustrated at the pace of change, and the economy is still struggling, and this President we elected is imperfect. And yet despite all that, this is who we want to be.’
Pete Souza: “The President works on his Newtown speech. Two days earlier, I photographed him when John Brennan first briefed him on the shootings. Throughout that day, he reacted as we all did, which people witnessed when he delivered his statement a few hours later. Before we headed to Newtown for the Sunday night vigil, he went to watch his daughter Sasha, 11, rehearse for her ballet performance in the Nutcracker. He was going to miss her performance that night because of the trip to Newtown. During breaks in the rehearsal, he worked on the speech. His expression in this photograph may be subtle to the viewer, but not to me. There is emotion and resolve etched on his face, and I know this was perhaps the toughest day of his Presidency.”
NYT: President Obama has ordered Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lead an interagency group to develop a multifaceted response to last week’s mass shooting at a Connecticut school, a White House official said.
Mr. Obama will appear in the White House briefing room alongside Mr. Biden at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday to announce the assignment but an aide said they will not announce any major policy decisions. Instead, the aide said the president will lay out a process for developing new policies.
Greg Sargent: I continue to be cautiously — or perhaps foolishly — optimistic that we may really see Democrats attempt gun law reform in the wake of the Newtown carnage, and today brings fresh reasons for that optimism.
At the White House briefing, press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that President Obama supports Senator Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to renew the assault weapons ban, which she intends to introduce on the first day of the new Congress.
Here’s more: A top member of the Senate Democratic leadership tells me Dems are very likely to introduce a whole package of reforms — not just the assault weapons ban; that plus a host of other initiatives — during the first half of 2013.
President Barack Obama listens to Cecilia Muñoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 18, 2012. At right is Roberto Rodriquez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Time: A social media director for the Obama campaign tells the story of how a well-timed photo of Barack and Michelle Obama broke records for Twitter and Facebook.
Statement by the President on the Passing of Senator Daniel Inouye
Tonight, our country has lost a true American hero with the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye. The second-longest serving Senator in the history of the chamber, Danny represented the people of Hawaii in Congress from the moment they joined the Union. In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve. But it was his incredible bravery during World War II – including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor – that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Inouye family.
Ezra Klein: …. a “fiscal cliff” deal seems to be coming together … Boehner offered to let tax rates rise for income over $1 million. The White House wanted to let tax rates rise for income over $250,000. The compromise will likely be somewhere in between….
On the spending side, the Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI (see here), which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits…..
…. On stimulus, unemployment insurance will be extended, as will the refundable tax credits. Some amount of infrastructure spending is likely. Perversely, the payroll tax cut, one of the most stimulative policies in the fiscal cliff, will likely be allowed to lapse, which will deal a big blow to the economy…..
….. As is always the case, the negotiations could fall apart, or the deal could change. But right now, the participants sound upbeat….
Paul Krugman: It sounds as if Ezra Klein is hearing more or less the same things I’m hearing: Republicans willing to give up a lot more on tax rates, although not fully undoing the Bush tax cuts in the 250-400 range; additional tax hikes via deduction limits in a form that hits the wealthy, not the upper middle class; unemployment extension and infrastructure spending; but “chained CPI” for Social Security, which is a benefit cut.
… this contains stuff that Obama can’t get just by letting us go over the cliff: more revenue than he could get just from tax-cut expiration, unemployment and infrastructure too. But it has a cost, those benefit cuts.
Those cuts are a very bad thing, although there will supposedly be some protection for low-income seniors. But the cuts are not nearly as bad as raising the Medicare age….
…. we shouldn’t be doing benefit cuts at all; but if benefit cuts are the price of a deal that is better than no deal, much better that they involve the CPI adjustment than the retirement age….
President Barack Obama works with senior advisors in the Oval Office, Dec. 17. Standing, from left, are: Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Chief of Staff Jack Lew. (Photo by Pete Souza)
National Journal: Republicans alarmed at the apparent challenges they face in winning the White House are preparing an all-out assault on the Electoral College system in critical states, an initiative that would significantly ease the party’s path to the Oval Office.
Senior Republicans say they will try to leverage their party’s majorities in Democratic-leaning states in an effort to end the winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes. Instead, bills that will be introduced in several Democratic states would award electoral votes on a proportional basis.
….. if more reliably blue states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were to award their electoral votes proportionally, Republicans would be able to eat into what has become a deep Democratic advantage.
All three states have given the Democratic nominee their electoral votes in each of the last six presidential elections. Now, senior Republicans in Washington are overseeing legislation in all three states to end the winner-take-all system.
Charles Pierce: There is no longer any reason to believe that the Republican party has any intention of changing itself to adapt to a changing America. Every story you read to that effect is a lie. Every apparent attempt by the party to convince you that it is planning to do it is a fake. They are not planning on adapting to a changing country. What they’re planning is to change the system of presidential elections so that they never have to do so. I’m not sure it will work, but that hasn’t stopped them recently….
Jonathan Bernstein: There was a lot of chatter today about National Journal’s report that national Republicans are pushing a plan to…well, there’s no other way to say it: they’re pushing a plan to rig presidential elections.
…. Fortunately, it’s unlikely that it will happen. As I’ve argued, unlike the cases in which state Republican parties have tried to strip unions of resources or engaged in gerrymanders, the incentives on this one are at cross-purposes. What’s good for the national GOP would be quite bad for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and probably even worse for Republican legislators and governors in those states.
E.J. Dionne: …. There was a different quality to President Obama’s response to this mass shooting, both initially and during his Sunday pilgrimage to offer comfort to the families of victims. I think I know why. It is not just that 20 young children were killed, although that would be enough.
For some months now, there have been rumblings from the administration that Obama has been unhappy with his own policy passivity in responding to the earlier mass shootings and was prepared in his second term to propose tough steps to deal with our national madness on firearms.
He spoke in Newtown in solidarity with the suffering, but pointed toward action. No, he said, we are not “doing enough to keep our children, all our children, safe.” He added: “We will have to change.”
Charles Pierce: ….. Too many people make too much money on guns and ammo …. Profit is what gives the NRA its real power; it lobbies less for the rights of its membership than for the right of weapons manufacturers to make a pile….
…. You want to eliminate the guns? Take the profit out of them. Take the fight to the people who make the weapons, not to the people who sell them or the people who buy the politicians so that selling them will be easier….
…. Too much of our entire national economy is based on violence — physical violence, emotional violence, environmental violence, economic violence — and there is too much profit to be made out of the production of violence. You want the violence to stop, break the people who are getting rich off it. Break their fortunes and you can break their power. The money comes first. It always does.
NY Mag: At 7:58 p.m. on Saturday evening, gun control’s newest advocate took to Twitter to call for stricter firearm legislation. “Nice words from POTUS on shooting tragedy,” wrote News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch, “but how about some bold leadership action?” Around the same time at Fox News, one of Roger Ailes’s deputies was sending a very different message.
According to sources, David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air. “This network is not going there,” Clark wrote one producer on Saturday night….
Steve Benen: With gun legislation practically non-existent in recent years, it’s easy to forget that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), before he became his caucus’ leader, voted against the assault weapons ban. But in light of Friday’s violence, Reid is joining his Democratic colleagues in looking anew at possible changes.
…. can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.
…. We can’t tolerate this anymore ….. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that – then surely we have an obligation to try.
….. We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?