|Weekly Address: America’s Resurgence Is RealIn this week’s address, the President reflected on the significant progress made by this country in 2014, and in the nearly six years since he took office.
This past year has been the strongest for job growth since the 1990s, contributing to the nearly 11 million jobs added by our businesses over a 57-month streak. America is leading the rest of the world, in containing the spread of Ebola, degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL, and addressing the threat posed by climate change. And earlier this week, the President announced the most significant changes to our policy towards Cuba in over 50 years.
America’s resurgence is real, and the President expressed his commitment to working with Congress in the coming year to make sure Americans feel the benefits.
|A Look Back at 2014As 2014 winds down, President Obama stopped by the press briefing room in the White House yesterday to offer his thoughts on what the past year has meant for the country.
“I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America,” he said. “And it has been.”
If you missed the President’s news conference, check it out here:
The United States and Cuba are separated by no more than 90 miles of water, but an ideological and economic barrier has hardened between our two countries for the past 50 years. On Wednesday, however, President Obama announced historic new steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba.
“Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future — for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world,” he said.
Take a deep-dive into the President’s historic actions at WhiteHouse.gov/Cuba-policy.
On Monday, the President traveled to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey to offer his thanks to the U.S. military members and families stationed there and across the world for their service to our country.
“The message I’m here to deliver on behalf of the American people is very simple,” he said. “It’s just to say thank you.”
The President also marked an important milestone: After more than 13 years, we are finally bringing a responsible end to America’s war in Afghanistan.
When the President took office, we had nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of this month, we’ll have fewer than 15,000 in both countries. Over the course of six years, we have brought home 90 percent of our troops. And this month, Afghans will take full responsibility for their security.
Yesterday, after more than 50 years, we began to change America’s relationship with the people of Cuba.
We are recognizing the struggle and sacrifice of the Cuban people, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, and ending an outdated approach that has failed to advance U.S. interests for decades. In doing so, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.
I was born in 1961, just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just as the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with that country.
Our complicated relationship with this nation played out over the course of my lifetime — against the backdrop of the Cold War, with our steadfast opposition to communism in the foreground. Year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between us.
That previous approach failed to promote change, and it’s failed to empower or engage the Cuban people. It’s time to cut loose the shackles of the past and reach for a new and better future with this country.
First, I have instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations that have been severed since 1961. Going forward, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will once again visit Cuba.
Second, I have also instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism — a review guided by the facts and the law. At a time when we are focused on threats from ISIL and al Qaeda, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces terrorism should not face such a sanction.
Third, we’ll take steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to — and from — Cuba. These steps will make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba. They will make it easier for Americans to conduct authorized trade with Cuba, including exports of food, medicine, and medical products to Cuba. And they will facilitate increased telecommunications connections between our two countries: American businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.
These changes don’t constitute a reward or a concession to Cuba. We are making them because it will spur change among the people of Cuba, and that is our main objective.
Change is hard — especially so when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.
Our country is cutting that burden loose to reach for a better future.
President Barack Obama
Team Turner -
I’ve heard from so many of you since Election Day, and I want you to know how much I appreciate your heartfelt words of encouragement and your interest in my future plans. And thanks to each and every one of you – your emails, your phone calls, your hand shakes, and your five and ten dollar donations – I was reminded that although my campaign for Secretary of State came to a disappointing end, the struggle for which we all collectively toiled did not end.
In fact, almost four weeks ago David Pepper and I came together as a team to campaign for our shared vision of how to best lead the Ohio Democratic Party moving forward (see below for details).
I’m excited to share with you that on Tuesday, December 16, the Pepper-Turner vision for the future of our Party was embraced, and David was officially elected as Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party! I will serve as the Chair of David’s Leadership Team – an ad hoc committee tasked with overseeing the development of a strategic plan to rebuild our infrastructure from the ground up and win elections every year.
All of the Democratic values for which I fought as a State Senator and candidate for Secretary of State matter now more than ever. And your grassroots support, your people power, and your engagement in this process matters just as much as it did during my campaign.
We did not get here on our own, and we can not move forward without you. We can not fight for a better Ohio, for a better nation and for a stronger democracy without you by our side.
I wish you a very joyous holiday season and look forward to continuing our journey towards progress in the new year!
All the very best,
P.S. Please see below for the shared vision David and I have for the Party moving forward.
Thanks for all you do,
The Daily Kos team
The debate in the Democratic Party is being framed in much of the mainstream media as a struggle between a “pragmatic center” that wants to “get things done” and an angry populist wing – led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and others – that vilifies enemies and creates division. This week, William Galston, a veteran New Democrat scribe, used his perch on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page to second Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in making the case for a “nonpopulist liberalism, more interested in diagnosing conditions than in identifying enemies.” … So what is the agenda of a pragmatic liberalism in a populist reality? … Galston’s offering is a version of Gertrude Stein’s Oakland: There’s no there there.
Banks Win Another
Banks win Volcker Rule delay. Bloomberg:“The Federal Reserve granted the delay yesterday after banks said selling the stakes quickly might force them to accept discount prices … Extending the Volcker deadline until July 2017 will let banks get out of their investments ‘in an orderly manner,’ the Fed said in an order … ‘It is striking, that the world’s leading investment bankers, noted for their cleverness and agility in advising clients on how to restructure companies and even industries however complicated, apparently can’t manage the orderly reorganization of their own activities in more than five years,’ Paul Volcker said in an e-mailed statement.’Or, do I understand that lobbying is eternal, and by 2017 or beyond, the expectation can be fostered that the law itself can be changed?’”
But Wall Street shrinking in size. Bloomberg:“Wall Street firms have failed to keep up with a stock market that’s boomed for more than five years … There were just 32 U.S. financial firms among the world’s largest 500 companies by market capitalization when trading closed yesterday in New York. That compares with 41 at the end of 2006, the last full year before the credit crisis. Some companies that remain on the list, like Citigroup Inc. and American International Group Inc., have shrunk to a fraction of the size of tech giants like Apple Inc. … Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has a lower market value than its peak in 2007.”
Obama Reshapes Judiciary
Senate runs up big numbers on judicial confirmations. Roll Call:“White House Counsel Neil Eggleston on Wednesday highlighted the 134 judges confirmed in the 113th Congress alone, saying that was 44 percent of the total confirmed during President Barack Obama’s tenure. That number included 132 federal district and circuit judges … that never would’ve happened without the fundamental shift in Senate operations that came last November when the sweeping change in precedent allowed Democrats alone to get Obama’s nominees through to confirmation. A grand total of 96 judges have been confirmed since that event…”
Most diverse group of judges ever. Time:“‘What Obama has done within terms of his judicial legacy is what no other president has ever done before and it’s doubtful that any future president is going to match it,’ says Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst … as a recent political science study notes, Obama is ‘on track to be the first president in U.S. history to have a majority of his judicial nominees be either women or persons of color,’…”
Progressive Caucus Chair Touts Warren ’16
Rep. Keith Ellison encourages Warren run for president. The Hill:“‘I would love to see Elizabeth Warren in this race,’ Ellison said on a conference call with members of the liberal group Democracy for America (DFA). ‘I think it would be fantastic. I think that it would help the quality of the debate and she may win, but even if she doesn’t, I think she’ll make Hillary Clinton a better candidate,’ he added.”
WSJ explores Warren’s rise and the Dem divide:“Democrats looking for a way forward after their election losses this year have wound up in a debate over how best to frame the party’s economic message, with the most liberal members rallying behind Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and her calls for a focus on income inequality … Other Democrats say Ms. Warren’s message will lead only to more electoral defeats, as many voters will reject the focus on income inequality and instead want policies aimed at broad economic growth.”
Senate GOPers eye moderate Dems. USA Today:“Come January, there will be about a dozen moderate Democrats left in the Senate, down from at least 18 in 2011 … Progressives fear that, even in smaller numbers, moderate Democrats can do big damage to the advancement of a populist economic agenda by voting to help cut entitlement benefits, pass trade deals that move jobs overseas or cut taxes for corporations.”
GOP congressman predicts faction won’t vote for Boehner as Speaker. Buzzfeed:“‘Right now, I’ve been meeting with a small group, and we — about 16, 18 — and we’re hoping to have a name of a sitting member of Congress that we can call out their name,’ [Rep. Walter] Jones said on the North Carolina-based Talk of the Town radio program.”
Uninsured rate continues to drop thanks to Obamacare. The Hill:“The percent of Americans without insurance is on track to reach a historic low after the country’s unprecedented surge in healthcare sign-ups last year, newly released government data show. About 9.7 million people gained healthcare in ObamaCare’s first year … A total of 11.3 percent of Americans were uninsured in the first half of this year, down from 14.4 percent last year before the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.”
Nebraska court ruling on Keystone could happen soon. The Hill:“The Nebraska Supreme Court could rule as early as Friday on whether the governor had authority to approve a route for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state … The Obama administration froze its review of the pipeline in April to let the Nebraska court fight play out, enraging Republicans, the oil industry and pipeline developer TransCanada. If the court doesn’t hand down a decision by Friday, the ruling will likely come early next year.”
Conservatives push anti-union municipal ordinances. NYT:“…groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation and a newly formed nonprofit called Protect My Check are working together to influence local governments … A carefully devised plan began to unfold last week, when the Warren County Fiscal Court met here and preliminarily approved, in a 6 to 1 vote, a ‘right to work’ ordinance … Supporters of the effort say that if they are successful in Kentucky, they will try to pass similar local laws in Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other places that do not have a statewide right-to-work law. Protect My Check is promising to pay for the legal battles of any local government that tries it.”