At the time in his tenure when most presidents fret over their waning clout, Barack Obama is redefining the concept of the lame duck. His administration has been energized by his aggressive use of executive power. Some of the most hard-won achievements of his early years in office are beginning to pay off. And his political luck seems to be turning. With a term and a half behind him, Obama’s prospects are brighter than they have been for years. Though Republicans paint Obama’s glass as half full, and argued that the administration is overstating its record, that hasn’t rattled the man in the Oval Office.
The new sense of serenity in the White House solidified this week with figures showing that more than 16 million people have now signed up for health plans under Obamacare, the president’s top domestic achievement. That news came on the heels of booming jobs growth numbers and a tangible feeling that after years of slow recovery, things are looking up economically. The unemployment rate, at 5.5%, is at its lowest point since May 2008, before the Great Recession. And the U.S. economy is in much better shape than most of its rivals in the developed world. The White House believes that its initiatives on community college funding, the president’s moves to regulate the Internet and actions to reshape the immigration system are delivering a political dividend,
reasoning that many Americans are happy to see gridlock broken and the president taking action, a factor that might be partly reflected in Obama’s better poll numbers. Obama, meanwhile, more relaxed than ever. He’s speaking about race more freely than any time since he became president, notably in his speech on the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights marches earlier this month. And the White House counts a climate accord with China and a visit to India earlier this year as big wins for its strategy of rebalancing foreign policy towards Asia. The GOP, for its part, is learning what the White House found out years ago — that winning the Senate last year, and with it control of both chambers of Congress, brings its own problems.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at a reception hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee on India’s Republic Day at the presidential palace
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave as they pose with President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi smile as they talk during a reception in the Mughal Gardens of the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace in New Delhi, India
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet guests
President Barack Obama speaks during the India-U.S business summit in New Delhi. President Obama urged business leaders to find ways to seize the “untapped potential” that could unleash greater trade between the U.S. and India
Honeywell CEO Dave Cote and Prime Minister Narendra Modi laugh at a remark by President Barack Obama during a CEO Roundtable and Forum at the India-U.S. Business Summit
President Barack Obama inspects a guard of honor during his welcoming ceremony
Wing commander Puja Thakur of the Indian Air Force leads the guard of honor
First Post: Wing Commander Puja Thakur Leads Guard Of Honour for Obama, Scores A Win For Modi Govt
US President Barack Obama’s visit to India for the Republic Day parade is on the path of turning out to be a gigantic public relations success for the Narendra Modi government. Just two days after the Prime Minister launched the government’s ambitious ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign, the country witnessed the first guard of honour in the country’s history led by a woman officer. Wing commander Puja Thakur of the Indian Air Force led the guard of honour in the Raj Bhavan in what is being hailed as a inspiring move by the Modi government.
NDTV reported: “President Obama was given a 21-gun salute at the forecourt of the majestic presidential palace, after which Wing Commander Thakur walked him for the inspection of the Guard of Honour. She is the first woman officer to lead a tri-services Guard of Honour.” Thakur told NDTV that while she was proud of the fact that she was allowed to lead the guard of honour, she really hoped that the incident inspired more women to join the armed forces in the country.
President Barack Obama pays tribute to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat
President Barack Obama folds his hands in a traditional Indian greeting gesture, as Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi laugh during a ceremonial reception at the Indian presidential Palace in New Delhi
The visitors’ book at Raj Ghat: “What Dr Martin Luther King Jr said then remains true today. The spirit of Gandhi is very much alive in India today. And it remains a great gift to the world. May we always live in the spirit of love and peace – among all people and nations.”
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to arrive in India at 11:30 PM ET (tonight) – but you know how it is, Air Force One might have the wind at its back, so they could arrive early – or vice versa!
President Barack Obama watches as First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during a Diwali candle lighting and performance at Holy Name High School in Mumbai, India, Nov. 7, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
All times Indian (10 hours and 30 minutes ahead of US ET)
Very approximately: 10:0 AM Sunday morning (11:30 PM ET, Saturday): President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive in India
12:0 PM (1:30 AM ET): The President participates in an official arrival ceremony with President Mukherjee, New Delhi
12:40 PM (2:10 AM ET): Participates in a wreath laying ceremony and tree planting, Raj Ghat, New Delhi
1:30 PM (3:0 AM ET): Participates in a working lunch with Prime Minister Modi, Hyderabad House
2:45 PM (4:15 AM ET): Participates in a walk and talk with PM Modi, Hyderabad House
3:05 PM (4:35 AM ET): Participates in an expanded meeting with PM Modi, Hyderabad House
4:10 PM (5:40 AM ET): The President and PM Modi deliver statements
6:45 PM (8:15 AM ET): The President and First Lady meet with Embassy personnel and families, ITC Maurya Hotel, New Dehli
7:35 PM (9:05 AM ET): The President participates in a courtesy call with President Mukherjee
7:50 PM (9:20 AM ET): The President and First Lady attend the state dinner, Rashtrapati Bhavan
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India en-route to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Sept. 30, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit the Martin Luther King Memorial
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and his wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur, for the State Dinner at the White House, Nov. 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Obama/Kerry = best policy team since Bush I/Jim Baker. Congress is finally becoming embarrassed by Netanyahu’s efforts to dictate US policy.
Washington Post: World Powers Reach Nuclear Deal With Iran To Freeze Its Nuclear Program
Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions. The agreement, sealed at a 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.
The deal, intended as a first step toward a more comprehensive nuclear pact to be completed in six months, freezes or reverses progress at all of Iran’s major nuclear facilities, according to Western officials familiar with the details. It halts the installation of new centrifuges used to enrich uranium and caps the amount and type of enriched uranium that Iran is allowed to produce.
Iran also agreed to halt work on key components of a heavy-water reactor that could someday provide Iran with a source of plutonium. In addition, Iran accepted a dramatic increase in oversight, including daily monitoring by international nuclear inspectors, the officials said. The concessions not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon without being detected, the officials said. In return, Iran will receive modest relief of trade sanctions and access to some of its frozen currency accounts overseas, concessions said to be valued at less than $7 billion over the six-month term of the deal. The sanctions would be reinstated if Iran violates the agreement’s terms.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has led a secret U.S. back channel to Iran going back to before the June election of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, U.S. officials told Al-Monitor. Burns was tapped to lead the US diplomatic effort to establish a bilateral channel with Iran, which gained momentum after the exchange of letters between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Rouhani in early August, US officials said.
Led by Burns, the US’s second highest ranking diplomat and a former lead US Iran nuclear negotiator, the US effort to form direct diplomatic contacts with Iran also includes two officials from the Obama White House: Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and Puneet Talwar, the National Security Staff senior director for Iran, Iraq, and Persian Gulf affairs, US officials confirmed. Talwar’s role in back channel discussions with Iran was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal.
LA Times: Iran’s Leaders Call Nuclear Deal A Success
Iran’s leadership Sunday hailed the interim nuclear deal brokered in Geneva between Iranian envoys and representatives of the United States and five other world powers. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, thanked President Hassan Rouhani and his negotiating team in a message that called the Geneva talks a “success,” a crucial sign of support from the nation’s ultimate arbiter of national security issues.
The Iranian president, meantime, gave a nationally televised address labeling the agreement a breakthrough that could eventually help eliminate the vise of international sanctions, which have put a stranglehold on Iran’s economy in recent years. Rouhani, a soft-spoken cleric and longtime government insider, was elected in June on a pledge to work toward alleviating the crippling sanctions and heighten Tehran’s engagement with the world. The deal brokered in Geneva represents a major political victory for the new president, who faces opposition at home from hard-liners opposed to any perceived compromise with the West.
After feverishly trying to derail the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran in recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now has little choice but to accept an agreement that he has derided as deeply flawed.
Netanyahu believes the six-month deal leaves Iran’s military nuclear capabilities largely intact, while giving Iran relief from painful economic sanctions, undermining negotiations on the next stage. At the same time, Israel’s strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, seems to be out of the question despite Netanyahu’s insistence it would remain on the table.
U.S. officials said Sunday’s deal was just a first step and further negotiations aim for a final agreement that would prevent any threat from Iran’s nuclear program. They said the relief from sanctions was minimal and that the most biting economic measures, including sanctions on Iran’s vital oil industry, remained in place and more could be imposed if Iran fails to follow through.
The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West. President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
Government of the People. That’s what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg one hundred and fifty years ago this week. Government of the People, by the People, and for the People. Lincoln was, of course, referring to the Preamble of the United States’ Constitution, the bit that goes “We the People of the United States…”
More, Lincoln’s speech reached directly back to the fundamental principles outlined by the grievances in the Declaration of Independence, i.e. the Founder’s demand for a government that does the business of its people first and foremost, one that operates with the consent of the governed, and a government that is directly answerable to its citizens.
That’s the idea, right? That’s how America is supposed to work. We can all of us, left and right, republican and democrat, moderate and progressive, whateverside of America we’ve chosen to plant our flag on, surely we can all at least agree to that basic principle. Right? Right. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And sure, that sounds good. In theory. As a sound bite. There’s just one problem. The people.
Washington Post: In Rural Kentucky, Health-Care Debate Takes Backseat As Long Uninsured Sign Up
in a state where the rollout has gone smoothly, and in a county that is one of the poorest and unhealthiest in the country, Courtney Lively has been busy signing people up: cashiers from the IGA grocery, clerks from the dollar store, workers from the lock factory, call-center agents, laid-off coal miners, KFC cooks, Chinese green-card holders in town to teach Appalachian students.
Now it was the beginning of another day, and a man Lively would list as Client 375 sat across from her in her office at a health clinic next to a Hardee’s. “So, is that Breathitt County?” she asked Woodrow Wilson Noble as she tapped his information into a laptop Thursday morning. “Yeah, we live on this side of the hill,” said Noble, whose family farm had gone under, who lived on food stamps and what his mother could spare, and who was about to hear whether he would have health insurance for the first time in his 60-year-old life. “All right,” she said. “We’ve got you eligible for Medicaid.”
“Okay, Woodrow, now you get to shop a little bit,” she said, explaining options he’d never had before. “If you go to the doctor, all you’re going to pay is $1,” she began. “If you’re in the hospital for an extended period, you should only be billed $5. . . . If you get medicine, generics are $1 and brand is $4. . . . You can go to the dentist once a month — exams, X-rays and cleanings are covered. . . . Now for your teeth, the plan does take care of having them pulled and does take care of fillings,
Chicago Sun-Times: Affordable Care Act Counselor Tries Health Insurance Marketplace For First-Hand Knowledge
As one of those people who is supposed to help Illinoisans find new options for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Joann Boblick figured she should check out healthcare.gov and see how it works. Glitches with the website have kept many Americans from viewing insurance plans available. But Boblick was able to get through to Illinois’ marketplace on healthcare.gov. She also found an insurance plan that will be cheaper than the one she has.
“The first time, I got nowhere. The site just said come back later. The second time, I decided to come back later because I was waiting too long,” said Boblick, 36, of Western Springs. “The third time was the charm.” Boblick currently pays a premium of $340 a month with a deductible of $6,000. The Blue Choice Bronze PPO 006 that she enrolled in on Oct. 7 costs $185 a month with the same deductible and offers the same doctors, dentists and hospitals she has now. That’s even though Boblick made too much money — about $65,000 — to qualify for a subsidy to pay for a new insurance plan.
For those still waiting to log on at HealthCare.gov, Boblick suggested people think of getting insurance as they would think of getting a new iPhone the first day. “People wait days for an iPhone. Care about it that much,” she said. “Realize it’s more important than the iPhone.”
So how should we rate the interim deal? At first sight it appears to be a good one – certainly from the big powers’ perspective, going further than perhaps many commentators had expected. The chief goal was to prevent Iran from forging ahead with its nuclear activities even as talks were continuing. If fully implemented the deal seems to do just that: All uranium enrichment above 5% is to be halted. The entire stockpile of 20% enriched material to be diluted or converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment. This 20% enriched uranium is the feedstock that Iran could use to “dash” towards weapons grade material.
No more centrifuges (the machines used to enrich material) are to be installed, and large numbers of the existing banks of centrifuges are to be left inoperable. Iran’s stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium is to remain the same between now and the end of the six-month period. So any excess material will have to be converted to oxide form. In broad terms there will be no further construction or experimental work for the Arak reactor which Western experts fear could be used – once it is commissioned – for its plutonium, giving Iran a second route towards a nuclear bomb
In return Iran has received what the White House insists is “limited, temporary and reversible relief” in terms of economic sanctions.. For a start if Iran abides by the deal there will be no new economic sanctions over the coming six months. Certain sanctions on gold, precious metals, Iran’s auto sector and Iran’s petrochemical exports are to be suspended, providing Iran with about $1.5bn of revenue. Safety-related repairs and inspections are to be sanctioned for some of Iran’s civil airliners. Some $4.2bn from Iranian oil sales will be allowed to be transferred to Iran. Some $400m of Iranian funds can be transferred to educational institutions in third countries to pay the fees of Iranian students studying there
First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Mrs. Gursharan Kaur in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, Nov. 24, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
First Lady Michelle Obama claps during the entertainment portion of the State Dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and First Lady wait for Indian Prime Minister Singh’s motorcade to depart the White House at the conclusion of the first official state dinner for the Obama administration, Nov. 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets the Sinkfield family in the Outer Oval Office, Nov. 24, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with a young customer as he packs and delivers bags of food to area residents at Martha’s Table, November 24, 2010
Nov. 24, 2011 – Pete Souza: “I photograph a lot of presidential phone calls from the Oval Office. But rarely is the light like this, backlit and reflecting back from a briefing paper. On Thanksgiving Day, the President made phone calls to 10 U.S. military service members — two each from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy — to thank them for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.”
President Obama arrives at ‘One More Page Books’ on Small Business Saturday, Arlington, Virginia, November 24, 2012
President Obama talks with Director of Speechwriting Cody Keenan in the Oval Office, July 23 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Yahoo: President Barack Obama’s speech on economic policy Wednesday will be the first in an ambitious series of six addresses laying out a sweeping vision for America’s future. The philosophy at the core of the campaign will be familiar, but there will be “aggressive new ideas.”
That’s according to Cody Keenan, the speechwriter in charge of crafting what may be Obama’s most far-reaching second-term effort to get Americans to sign on to his plans.
… Obama’s six speeches will cover education, housing, retirement security, health care, poverty and jobs, Keenan said…
“In the weeks ahead — especially when it comes to college costs, which is something he’s obsessed with — we’ll have some aggressive new ideas,” said Keenan.
Time: Why Obama Keeps Going Back to One Small Illinois College
…. Knox has a special place in the President’s heart and in American history. “It’s the place where I gave my first big speech after I had been elected to the U.S. Senate,” Obama said at a recent event in Washington. Wednesday marks his third visit – once as a Senate candidate, once as a Senator and now as commander-in-chief – adding to a long history of presidents and political figures who have left a mark on the college.
Founded in 1837 by religious missionaries who opposed slavery, Knox College was, from its beginning, a progressive institution that welcomed women and people of color. In 1858, the college was the site of the fifth of seven Lincoln-Douglas debates, where Abraham Lincoln, challenging incumbent Senator Stephan A. Douglas, debated the nature and future of slavery.
Leaders of the Republican Party are still predicting that Obamacare will be a disaster, one that will wreak havoc on American health care. Most of their allies in the media say the same thing. But a small group of conservative intellectuals has been warning that the law might not be so apocalyptical — that, with full implementation about to begin, wholesale repeal may no longer be possible…
… Once Americans can take advantage of the law’s benefits — once more low-income people become eligible for Medicaid, and once more low- and middle-income people start to get subsidies that will help them buy private insurance — taking those benefits away will be nearly impossible, particularly since Republicans still haven’t proposed an alternative that would come close to providing the same level of security.
The speaker says Republicans should be judged on how many laws they repeal. This is unprecedented, irresponsible, and terrifying. …
It would be impossible to name the craziest thing said by a Republican so far this year….
New entrants arrive constantly and the competition is feral. And yet paradoxically they don’t even shock anymore. But one recent Republican remark should arrest you and deserves your contemplation: John Boehner’s statement on Face the Nation Sunday that he and his House Republicans “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”
It’s not an outrageous statement in the Obama-wants-to-impose-Sharia vein, but in its way it’s more disturbing. The Republican Party now sees dysfunction as not just an unfortunate consequence of a set of historical factors, something that they might work every now and again to correct. Now, the Republican Party sees dysfunction as its mission.
Family values are a pillar of traditional Republican discourse. But as soon as it comes time to address immigration issues, all of their emphasis on family unity goes out the window, replaced by advocacy for division.
This is the logical conclusion that follows from the KIDS Act, being developed by the House of Representatives. While this House bill would legalize the status of minors brought to the United States without papers by their parents, it would be the only measure the lower house would approve to regularize the status of anyone undocumented, unlike the Senate bill that initially aspired to benefit 11 million people.
The bill’s sponsor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, speaking in favor of the measure, stated that this is a matter of “decency and compassion”…..
If high-level visits were a positive indicator of the state of bilateral ties, India-US relations would be in fine shape.
American Vice-President Joe Biden arrives in India on Monday, and it comes barely a month after Secretary of State John Kerry came for the India-US Strategic Dialogue. Last week Finance Minister P Chidambaram was in Washington, and in September Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel there.
Moreover, both sides have set an ambitious agenda for themselves, including untangling the nuclear commercial issues by the time the prime minister goes to Washington.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to undertake a six-day visit to the US from September 20, during which he will have a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington besides attending the UN General Assembly in New York.
This emerged from a 75-minute meeting that Singh had here on Tuesday with visiting US Vice President Joseph Biden, sources said.
Singh and Biden discussed a whole range of issues, including implementation of the landmark civil nuclear deal and ways to enhance commerce, the sources said. The two leaders agreed to take these issues forward. In this context, the Prime Minister told Biden that he looks forward to meeting Obama in September, the sources said.
US Vice President Joe Biden in India, will focus on trade, security
New Delhi: US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in India on Monday on a trip that will focus on boosting trade and regional security ties and strengthening a strategic partnership that has languished in recent years.
Biden’s four-day visit, which will include a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is viewed as a major step in promoting President Barack Obama’s focus on forging strong partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region aimed at counterbalancing China’s power.
NEW DELHI — Secretary of State John Kerry called Monday for a bilateral investment treaty with India, and said he would like to see the two countries fully embrace a nuclear energy deal that has so far frustrated U.S. companies.
Kerry, in India for the fourth round of the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, a mechanism started in 2009 to strengthen ties, also said that New Delhi could play a greater role in negotiations with Afghanistan and Iran, adding that Washington would protect India’s back in Afghan developments.
“The secretary has said he will ensure that none of the concerns of India are overlooked or undermined,” Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said at a joint news conference after the talks.
NEW DELHI — US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in India on Monday for a four-day visit designed to revive flagging diplomatic ties and fire up bilateral trade.
Biden, the first US vice president to visit India in three decades, will meet senior leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Tuesday before heading to the financial hub Mumbai to deliver a keynote speech on the economy.
Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, landed in New Delhi shortly after 5 pm (1130 GMT), and immediately visited a museum in the capital dedicated to independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.
“What a high honor and great privilege to be here in this sacred spot — memorializing one man who changed the world,” he wrote in the visitors’ book at Gandhi Smriti, the revered place where Gandhi’s life ended on January 30, 1948.