Barack Obama Archives - Page 6 of 67 - SaintPetersBlog

Donald Trump’s inauguration set to test nation’s readiness to heal

One thing you can count on during inauguration season in Washington: People of all stripes will find a reason to show up — whether it’s to celebrate or commiserate.

There are parties and protests to attend, stars to gawk at, receptions to be worked, deals to be done, drinks to be consumed.

Less than two months out from Inauguration Day, there’s a different dynamic surrounding the planning for Donald Trump‘s swearing-in than the unbridled enthusiasm that swirled around the installation of the first black president in 2008.

Crowd expectations are down. Fewer A-list celebrities are likely to descend. Hotels still have rooms to be rented.

But congressional offices are maxing out on ticket requests for the Jan. 20 swearing-in. Trump’s inaugural committee is wooing big donors with candlelight dinners, exclusive luncheons and premier access to balls. Interest groups are lining up sideline events. And among those still mourning Hillary Clinton‘s loss, there is plenty of counter-programming afoot, including plans for a giant women’s march aimed at sending a defiant message to the incoming president.

Before the election, District of Columbia planners set an early estimate of 800,000-900,000 people for this year’s inauguration and they haven’t revised that number yet, according to Christopher Geldart, director of D.C.’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. But there’s scant expectation of replicating the 1.8 million people who descended on Washington for Barack Obama‘s first inaugural.

Nor will Hollywood turn out as it did for Obama, whose two inaugurals attracted the likes of Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Usher, Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey and many more A-listers.

“More than any election we’ve seen in a very long time, the Hollywood community was really behind Hillary, and a lot of people put their reputations on the line,” says longtime Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman. “Clearly those are people who are going to be taking their Xanax and Valium that day and staying in bed with the covers over them.”

But Bragman said there still will be Republican-leaning celebrities who turn out for Trump — and a larger contingent of Hollywood types who show up for counter events like the women’s march planned for the day after Trump’s inauguration.

While demand for hotel rooms and other venues is slower than at this point four and eight years ago, hoteliers remain “guardedly optimistic,” according to Elliott Ferguson, president of Destination DC, the city’s tourism bureau. Some hotels that set up four-day-minimum inaugural packages are rethinking that model, hoping to capture more business from those headed to Washington for the women’s march.

Hotels are noticing “more rooms being picked up on Saturday than on Friday,” Ferguson says, suggesting strong interest in the march, whose organizers hope to draw 200,000 people to the city.

Be advised: The president-elect’s own Trump International Hotel is sold out.

Still available: For $2.5 million, the J.W. Marriott is offering a package that includes four presidential suites, 325 guest rooms, a craft bourbon barrel tasting reception, special inauguration menus, and a private viewing party on the terrace overlooking the parade route, among other amenities.

There are always more affordable options through rental network Airbnb, which says local bookings for inauguration weekend spiked by 80 percent during the week after the election.

Airbnb host Jade Moore, a video editor and Democrat, doubled her prices to $200 a night for inauguration weekend and says she’s booked both Trump supporters and women marchers for her Anacostia home. Before her inaugural guests arrive, she’ll be removing the toilet paper bearing Trump’s photo and the sign in her bathroom that invites people to “take a dump on Trump.”

“I’m sure we’ll all get along,” says Moore, hopefully. “We don’t even have to bring up politics.”

Not all hosts are that dispassionate.

Another local Airbnb host, who asked that her name not be used to avoid getting in trouble for violating the company’s nondiscrimination policy, says she declined to accept a rental request that looked like it came from a Trump supporter and did accept a request that came from women planning to attend the march.

Interest groups, too, are adapting in different ways.

The Creative Coalition, a bipartisan advocacy group for the arts, has been holding inaugural balls for the past 20 years that typically attract top talent and celebrities. Coalition CEO Robin Bronk says interest in the ball remains strong and she expects it to feature top names once again.

“It’s an event that hopefully will be part of the healing of the nation,” Bronk says. Plus, she adds, “I would venture to say a lot of business gets done at our ball.”

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization that threw an “equality ball” eight years ago, this year is focused on making sure its members get involved in demonstrations, marches and other events on inauguration weekend and throughout the year, says spokeswoman Sarah McBride.

The Latino Victory Project, which four years ago helped mount a huge Kennedy Center gala featuring Eva Longoria, George Lopez and other top Latino entertainers, this time is putting together events that put the Trump administration on notice that Latinos will fight “his hateful rhetoric and policies,” says project president Cristobal Alex.

“I wouldn’t call it a party,” Alex said of this year’s yet-to-be-announced events. “What I would call it is a moment to learn” from the last election.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Poll: Only about 1 in 4 wants Donald Trump to repeal health law

Only about one in four Americans wants President-elect Donald Trump to entirely repeal his predecessor’s health care law that extended coverage to millions, a new poll has found.

The postelection survey released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation also found hints of a pragmatic shift among some Republican foes of “Obamacare.”

While 52 percent of Republicans say they want the law completely repealed, that share is down from 69 percent just last month, before the election. And more Republicans now say they want the law “scaled back” under the new president and GOP Congress, with that share more than doubling from 11 percent before the election to 24 percent after.

Kaiser CEO Drew Altman said the foundation’s polling experts aren’t quite sure what to make of that finding, and will continue to track the apparent shift in future polls. The organization is a clearinghouse for information and analysis about the health care system.

It could be that some Republicans “got a protest vote off their chests, and they’re done with that,” Altman said. “They now have a more moderate position.”

After branding the Affordable Care Act a “disaster” during an election campaign that saw big premium hikes unveiled in its closing days, Trump has been saying he’d like to keep parts of the law.

On Capitol Hill, Republican leaders are trying to choreograph a legislative dance that would let them quickly repeal “Obamacare,” then allow an interlude to segue to a replacement. The complex undertaking is fraught with political risk, because success is not guaranteed. It could disrupt coverage for millions by destabilizing the law’s already fragile health insurance markets, such as HealthCare.gov.

The poll found some skepticism about that approach. Forty-two percent of those who want the 2010 health care law repealed said lawmakers should wait until they figure out the details of a replacement plan before doing so.

Americans were divided on next steps for President Barack Obama‘s signature law. Overall, 30 percent said the new president and Congress should expand what the law does, and another 19 percent said it should be implemented as is. On the other side, 26 percent said the law should be entirely repealed and 17 percent called for it to be scaled back.

Among Trump voters, 8 in 10 viewed the health care law unfavorably, and half wanted it entirely repealed.

As Republicans start to make changes in health care, potentially revamping Medicare and Medicaid as well, the politics of the issue could turn against them, Altman said. “They are going to go from casting stones to owning the problem,” he said.

The poll found majorities across party lines support many of the health care law’s provisions, but not its requirement that individuals have coverage or risk fines, and its mandate that medium-to-large employers pay fines if they don’t offer health insurance.

Among the provisions with support across party lines:

— Allowing young adults to stay on a parent’s insurance until age 26.

— No co-payments for many preventive services.

— Closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.”

— Financial help for low- and moderate-income people to pay their insurance premiums.

— A state option to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

— Barring insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person’s medical history.

— Increased Medicare payroll taxes for upper-income earners.

The telephone poll was conducted from Nov. 15-21 among a nationally representative random digit dial sample of 1,202 adults, including people reached by landlines and cellphones. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump’s idea of ‘presidential’ diverges from past presidents

Donald Trump, that most unconventional of presidential candidates, last spring pledged that he would act perfectly presidential when the time was right.

“I will be so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Donald, you have to stop that, it’s too much,'” he promised during a March television interview.

Less than two months from Inauguration Day, there are growing signs that Trump’s idea of what’s presidential may never sync up with past norms — to the delight of some and dismay of others.

The president-elect has kept up his habit of sending unfiltered tweets, directly challenged the First Amendment right to burn the flag and selected a flame-throwing outsider for a top adviser. He’s shown no hesitation to traffic in unsubstantiated rumors, has mixed dealings in business and government, and has flouted diplomatic conventions to make his own suggestion for who should be Britain’s ambassador to the U.S., a job that happens to already be filled. He’s picked numerous fights with individual journalists, disregarded past practices on press access and dabbled in the name-calling that was commonplace during his candidacy.

Trump’s search for Cabinet nominees has played out like a reality TV show, with a number of candidates engaged in unabashed self-promotion while their assets and liabilities are publicly debated by members of the president-elect’s own transition team. (It’s normally a hush-hush process until the unveiling of an appointee). Trump’s tweet that “Fidel Castro is dead!” had none of the diplomatic subtleties normally associated with such an international development.

Is all of this, then, the “new normal” for what to expect from a Trump administration or a reflection of the growing pains associated with any presidential transition?

President Barack Obama, who knows a thing or two about making the big leap to the Oval Office, has expressed hope that the weight of the office will ultimately have a sobering effect on Trump, cautioning people against assuming “the worst.”

“How you campaign isn’t always the same as how you govern,” Obama said in one of a string of recent comments trying to provide some measure of reassurance to those concerned about the next president. “Sometimes when you’re campaigning, you’re trying to stir up passions. When you govern, you actually have reality in front of you, and you have to figure out, ‘How do I make this work.'”

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a strong conservative and a Trump defender, said of the transition, “You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.”

But Thomas Mann, a longtime scholar of government from the Brookings Institution, said that while people can hope for the best, “There’s no reason to take what’s going on with anything other than great uneasiness and caution about the kind of government that is preparing to take control in the United States.”

“To call this the ‘new normal’ is to make light of the seriousness of what’s going on,” Mann said.

Trump has “got to get some discipline,” said New York University’s Paul Light, another scholar of government. “He’s just got to get on this.”

On the matter of Trump’s tweeting, Light said, “If he’s up at 3 a.m. about to tweet, he should start reading something about his agenda instead. He’s under-informed and so is his staff.”

The concerns extend well beyond matters of style.

— Trump’s out-of-the-blue tweet this week that people who burn the flag should face jail time or a loss of citizenship had Republicans stepping forward to defend First Amendment rights.

— His unfounded charges that millions of Americans voted illegally sow distrust in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system.

— On matters of press access, the idea that the whereabouts of the president or president-elect might be unknown in a time of national emergency has troubling implications beyond mere inconvenience for reporters.

And experts on government ethics say that if the president doesn’t sell off his vast business buildings, he’ll be subject to a never-ending string of conflict-of-interest questions that will cast a cloud over his policy actions.

For all of that, though, polls show Trump’s favorability ratings have ticked up since the election, even if they are still extremely low for an incoming president.

A CNN survey released last week found that Trump’s favorability rating had gone from 36 percent a few weeks before the election to 47 percent 10 days after the vote. A little less than half of Americans said Trump’s actions since the election had made them more confident in his ability to serve as president.

A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans thought Trump should shut down his personal Twitter account. More than half were concerned that Trump might veto legislation that’s good for the nation if it hurt his business interests.

Trump has offered postelection reassurances that he’ll be “very restrained” in his tweets and more going forward. His actions haven’t always confirmed that.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump taps Tom Price to lead HHS, plans 2nd meeting with Mitt Romney

President-elect Donald Trump moved to fill out his Cabinet Tuesday, tapping Georgia Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Aides signaled that at least one other Cabinet nomination was imminent.

The president-elect appeared to still be torn over his choice for secretary of state. He summoned former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to New York for dinner Tuesday night to discuss the post for a second time. He was also meeting with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was getting new attention from Trump’s team. On Monday, Trump spent an hour with retired Gen. David Petraeus, another new contender.

Trump’s decision to consider Romney for the powerful Cabinet post has sparked an unusual public backlash from some of his closest aides and allies. Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway has warned that it would be a “betrayal” to Trump supporters if he selected Romney, who was a fierce critic of the president-elect.

Three people close to the transition team said Trump was aware that Conway planned to voice her concerns about Romney in public and they pushed back at suggestions that the president-elect was angry at her for doing so.

Even as he weighed crucial Cabinet decisions, Trump appeared distracted by outside forces — or eager to create distractions himself. He took to Twitter early Tuesday to declare that “nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag.” He warned that those who do should face “perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Trump offered no context for his message. The Supreme Court has ruled that flag burning is protected by the First Amendment.

The president-elect spent the weekend tweeting his opposition to a recount effort in up to three states that is led by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and joined by Hillary Clinton‘s team. He also falsely claimed that millions of people had voted illegally in the presidential election and provided no evidence to back up the baseless charge.

Trump won praise from Republicans Tuesday for his pick of Price to serve as health and human services secretary. A six-term congressman and orthopedic surgeon, Price has been a leading critic of President Barack Obama‘s health care law. If confirmed by the Senate, he’ll be a leading figure in Republican efforts to repeal the measure.

Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Price “has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want” for programs that help seniors, women, families and those with disabilities. His nomination, Schumer said, is “akin to asking the fox to guard the henhouse.”

Trump’s team also announced Tuesday that Seema Verma had been chosen to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Jason Miller, a transition team spokesman, said at least one other Cabinet post would be announced in the afternoon. He did not elaborate.

Transition aides said Trump was likely at least a few days away from a decision on secretary of state. Romney has supposed from Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is heading the transition efforts.

Romney was fiercely critical of Trump throughout the campaign, including his preparedness for the foreign policy and national security decisions that confront a president. Still, he is said to be interested in serving in the administration and held a lengthy initial meeting with Romney before Thanksgiving.

Other top Trump allies, notably Conway, have launched a highly unusual public campaign against a Romney nomination. Conway’s comments stirred speculation that she is seeking either to force Trump’s hand or give him cover for ultimately passing over Romney.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a loyal Trump ally, was initially seen as the leading contender to helm the State Department. But questions about his overseas business dealings, as well as his public campaigning for the job, have given Trump pause.

Trump is now said to be considering Giuliani to head the Homeland Security Department, according to those close to the transition process.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Mitch Perry Report for 11.29.16 — Will President Trump ‘terminate’ Obama deal with Cuba?

The first regularly scheduled flight in more than 50 years flew from Miami to Havana yesterday morning, just in time to begin the formal mourning for Fidel Castro, which leads to the question du jour — What will Donald Trump do with the Cuba-U.S. relations?

The President-elect tweeted that “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

To date, Cuba hasn’t appeared to reciprocate very much in terms of the U.S.’s lifting of travel, banking, and commercial sanctions. The White House pushes back on that, but that is very much the perception, and that’s why Trump is saying Raul Castro needs to do something to ensure the new policy stays in place.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also said with so many American companies now doing business in Cuba, it won’t be so easy to roll back the Obama policies. That includes 110 flights daily from the U.S. to Cuba from various American cities, including Tampa, that will soon commence.

You could argue that when Trump gets his national security team in place, Cuba will rank far below other hot spots they will be concerned about, with Syria, Afghanistan, the Middle East, China, and Russia taking the lead.

Yet Fidel’s death puts this situation in his face — and ours.

Like so much else with the PEOTUS, what will his foreign policy be, especially from such a business-oriented individual? It sounds lame, but nobody really has the answer now. Or do you?

In other news …

Luis Viera and Jim Davison will debate tonight in New Tampa. Viera has now raised more than five times as much money than Davison in the race, for whatever that’s worth in this small local election.

Jack Latvala is still upset that a handful of NFL players are choosing to sit down during the playing of the national anthem.

Although there are through analyses that debunk the theory that President Obama’s diplomatic moves towards Cuba alienated the Cuban-American community in this month’s presidential election, strident  Castro critic Ralph Fernandez thinks otherwise.

And House Minority Leader Janet Cruz says she’s good with the new rules voted on last week by the entire House that came from Speaker Richard Corcoran — except for that thing about allowing members to bring guns onto the floor.

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Donald Trump drama rolls on: Disputes, falsehoods hit transition

The drama, disputes and falsehoods that permeated Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign are now roiling his transition to the White House, forcing aides to defend his baseless assertions of illegal voting and sending internal fights spilling into public.

On Monday, a recount effort, led by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and joined by Hillary Clinton‘s campaign also marched on in three states, based partly on the Stein campaign’s unsubstantiated assertion that cyberhacking could have interfered with electronic voting machines. Wisconsin officials approved plans to begin a recount as early as Thursday. Stein also asked for a recount in Pennsylvania and was expected to do the same in Michigan, where officials certified Trump’s victory Monday.

Trump has angrily denounced the recounts and now claims without evidence that he, not Clinton, would have won the popular vote if it hadn’t been for “millions of people who voted illegally.” On Twitter, he singled out Virginia, California and New Hampshire.

There has been no indication of widespread election tampering or voter fraud in those states or any others, and Trump aides struggled Monday to back up their boss’ claim.

Spokesman Jason Miller said illegal voting was “an issue of concern.” But the only evidence he raised was a 2014 news report and a study on voting irregularities conducted before the 2016 election.

Trump met Monday with candidates for top Cabinet posts, including retired Gen. David Petraeus, a new contender for secretary of state. Trump is to meet Tuesday with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who is also being considered more seriously for the diplomatic post, and Mitt Romney, who has become a symbol of the internal divisions agitating the transition team.

Petraeus said he spent about an hour with Trump, and he praised the president-elect for showing a “great grasp of a variety of the challenges that are out there.”

“Very good conversation and we’ll see where it goes from here,” he said. A former CIA chief, Petraeus pleaded guilty last year to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information relating to documents he had provided to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is heading the transition effort, teased “a number of very important announcements tomorrow” as he exited Trump Tower Monday night.

Pence is said to be among those backing Romney for State. Romney was fiercely critical of Trump throughout the campaign but is interested in the Cabinet position, and they discussed it during a lengthy meeting earlier this month.

Other top Trump allies, notably campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, have launched a highly unusual public campaign to warn the president-elect that nominating Romney would be seen as a betrayal by his supporters. Conway’s comments stirred speculation that she is seeking to either force Trump’s hand or give him cover for ultimately passing over Romney.

Three people close to the transition team said Trump had been aware that Conway planned to voice her opinion, both on Twitter and in television interviews. They disputed reports that Trump was furious at her and suggested his decision to consider additional candidates instead highlighted her influence.

Conway served as Trump’s third campaign manager and largely succeeded in navigating the minefield of rivalries that ensnared other officials. Trump is said to have offered her a choice of White House jobs — either press secretary or communications director. But people with knowledge of Conway’s plans say she is more interested in serving as an outside political adviser, akin to the role President Barack Obama‘s campaign manager David Plouffe played following the 2008 election.

The wrangling over the State Department post appears to have slowed the announcements of other top jobs. Retired Gen. James Mattis, who impressed Trump during a pre-Thanksgiving meeting, was at the top of the list for Defense secretary, but a final decision had not been made.

Trump was also considering former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Homeland Security secretary, according to those close to the transition process. Giuliani was initially the front-runner for State and is still in the mix. But questions about his overseas business dealings, as well as the mayor’s public campaigning for the job, have given Trump pause.

Those close to the transition insisted on anonymity in commenting because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the private process.

Even as Trump weighs major decisions that will shape his presidency, he’s been unable to avoid being distracted by the recount effort. He spent Sunday on a 12-hour Twitter offensive that included quoting Clinton’s concession speech, in which she said the public owed Trump “an open mind and the chance to lead.”

His final tweets challenging the integrity of an election he won were reminiscent of his repeated, unsubstantiated assertions during the campaign that the contest might be rigged. Those previous comments sparked an outcry from both Clinton and some Republicans.

Clinton lawyer Marc Elias said the campaign has seen “no actionable evidence” of voting anomalies. But the campaign still plans to be involved in Stein’s recount to ensure its interests are legally represented.

Trump narrowly won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. All three would need to flip to Clinton to upend the Republican’s victory, and Clinton’s team says Trump has a larger edge in all three states than has ever been overcome in a presidential recount.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Americans thinking nation is divided hits all-time high, new polling shows

The number of Americans who think the nation is divided has reached an all-time high according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll found 77 percent of Americans see the country as divided, while 21 percent said the country was united.

In 2012, the last time Gallup measured perceptions of unity, 69 percent of respondents said the country was divided, with 29 percent saying American was united.

The lack of optimism is nothing new. Outside of a pair of polls shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans have tended to perceive the country as divided.

The perception of a divided America is more intense among Democrats (83 percent) and independents (78 percent), likely due to the outcome of the presidential election, though more than two-thirds of Republicans hold the same view.

The party split was more apparent when respondents were asked whether President-elect Donald Trump would do more to unite or divide the country.

Nearly nine out of 10 Republicans think he will do more to unite the country, and 43 percent of independents felt the same. Just 12 percent of Democrats think Trump will act as a uniter, compared to 81 percent who think he will divide the country further.

Overall, 49 percent of Americans think Trump will do more to divide the country.

In 2012, 55 percent of Americans saw President Barack Obama would unite the country, and in 2004, 57 percent thought the same of former President George W. Bush.

The survey took in 1,019 responses from adults living in all 50 states and Washington D.C., and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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Miami Cuban celebration turns to reflection on Castro death

Celebration turned to somber reflection and church services Sunday as Cuban-Americans in Miami largely stayed off the streets following a raucous daylong party in which thousands marked the death of Fidel Castro.

One Cuban exile car dealer, however, sought to turn the revolutionary socialist’s death into a quintessential capitalist deal by offering $15,000 discounts on some models.

And on the airwaves, top aides to President-elect Donald Trump promised a hard look at the recent thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba.

At St. Brendan Catholic Church in the Miami suburb of Westchester, a member of the chorus read a statement by Archbishop Thomas Wenski about Castro’s death before the service. There was no overt mention of Castro during the Sunday Mass. But during the reading of the Prayers of the Faithful, one of the two priests celebrating the Mass prayed for “an end to communism, especially in Cuba and Venezuela.”

“Lord, hear our prayers,” churchgoers responded.

Outside the church, Nelson Frau, a 32-year-old Cuban-American whose parents fled the island in 1962, said he wasn’t surprised that Castro was not mentioned. He said Wenski’s statement reflected the role of the Catholic Church in Miami as a mediator toward peace between the Cubans in Miami and those on the island.

“I think the church is trying to act as a mediator at this point, to try to move the Cuban people forward rather than backward, not only the exile community here, but also the Cuban people on the island,” said Frau, who works in customer service.

Frau said celebrations of Castro’s death on the streets of Miami were a “natural reaction.”

“Let’s not forget that this is an exile community that has suffered a lot, over 50 years,” Frau said. “He’s an image of pain to a lot of people. It’s a celebration not of his death, but a celebration of the end of this image of pain and suffering.”

The pot-banging, car horn-honking, flag-waving throngs were much thinner in Little Havana and other Cuban-American neighborhoods on Sunday. People quietly sipped their morning coffee outside the Versailles restaurant – which had put up signs in Spanish calling itself the “House of the Exiles” – where many of the demonstrations have been centered along Calle Ocho, or 8th Street.

Later Sunday afternoon, people gathered anew outside the restaurant, forcing police to close the street down again as a chanting group carried a large Cuban flag. One group of Cuban exiles held a news conference at the Bay of Pigs museum, which commemorates the failed CIA-backed invasion in 1961. They called for a large rally Wednesday afternoon in Little Havana.

Castro was still on the minds of many, however, including exile Arnaldo Bomnin of Bomnin Chevrolet. He was offering $15,000 off on Corvettes and several sports-utility vehicle models.

Bomnin said the idea for the discount sprang from a conversation with a marketing company about a press release discussing his Cuban heritage after Castro’s death. Bomnin said he studied medicine in Cuba, but left the island after finding out the government was planning to place him as a doctor with a military unit. He arrived in Miami in 1996, and worked at an avocado farm and selling seafood before moving on to real estate and car sales.

The offer is not intended as a gimmick to sell more calls and profit on Castro’s death, he said. Instead, it’s a way for him back to the community and reflect the hope that Miami’s Cubans now have for a democratic government on the island.

“I don’t celebrate the death of anybody, he said. “What we’re celebrating is that we’re one step closer to democracy in Cuba; we’re one step closer to freedom in Cuba, to a free society in Cuba.”

Cuba also was a main topic on all the Sunday news programs, particularly Trump’s plans for U.S. relations with the communist island and whether he will reverse the thaw pushed by President Barack Obama.

Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, both said Trump wants to ensure Cuba is not benefiting from unilateral decisions that don’t benefit the American people or Cubans living on the island.

“We’re not going to have a unilateral deal coming from Cuba back to the United States without some changes in their government,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Repression, open markets, freedom of religion, political prisoners – these things need to change in order to have open and free relationships, and that’s what President-elect Trump believes,” he said.

The two aides would not discuss details. And Conway said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump is not flatly opposed to a changed relationship with Cuba.

“He is open to researching and, in fact, resetting relations with Cuba,” she said. “But his criticism of what has happened in the last couple of years is very simple: it’s that we got nothing in return.”

Back in Miami, the Rev. Martin Anorga, 89, was a pastor at a Presbyterian church in Cuba, starting when he was in his 20s. He fled Cuba, and later served as head pastor of the First Spanish Presbyterian Church in Miami for nearly three decades before retiring.

Anorga said he participated in anti-Castro groups in Miami for years. But in church services, he only would talk about the victims of Castro’s regime, not the man himself.

“During services, they won’t talk about politics,” Anorga said. “When I was a pastor, we would pray for the victims of Castro in Cuba. The people who were hurt by Castro will never recover. Families were separated, estranged. We would pray for them.”

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press.

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Ralph Fernandez convinced Obama policy on Cuba a major factor in Florida going red

Did President Obama’s latest executive actions regarding Cuba policy in October incite hardline exiles to vote for Donald Trump in large enough numbers to help him win Florida? That belief was pushed by some in the immediate days after the election, and is getting more life from a Hillary Clinton supporter who knows the Cuban exile community very well in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death over the weekend.

Ralph Fernandez is a lifelong Democrat who helped raise money for Clinton’s campaign in Tampa this year. He’s also an attorney who defended many who went up against Castro’s government, and he says the exile community did everything possible to make sure that Clinton didn’t win the state.

“I knew that the efforts from Tampa – Kathy Castor, the presidential announcement, the way that it was carried out – was going to create problems for Hillary in the elections, and it did, because the dinosaurs … came together as they had never done to vote for Trump, a president-elect who will do nothing for Cuba, despite what he promised,” Fernandez said on Saturday.

Obama’s rapprochement with the Castro government began in December 2014, when he announced he had reached a deal with Cuba to begin to normalize relations. Since then, embassies have reopened in both countries, the U.S. has loosened trade and travel restrictions, and Obama visited the island there in March.  His latest foray took place last month,  when he announced that he was removing limits on the import of Cuban cigars and rum. Shortly after that, he ordered U.N. Ambassador Samantha Powers to abstain from a vote condemning the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba. Whether those moves changed opinion among Cuban-Americans in Florida, the fact of the matter is that support for Trump among that demographic shifted from 33 percent in September to 52 percent just before the election, according to a New York Times/Sienna poll.

Although a virulent anti-Castro critic, Fernandez is a Democrat who backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and raised funds for Clinton in 2016. He also used to be an ally of Castor, but their relationship was fractured after Castor returned from Cuba in 2013 and called for an end to the fifty-year plus economic embargo against the communist island.

“I told her this was only the wrong thing to do, but it was just going to piss off these old Cubans in Miami that were out to pasture already and may have found that it was too hot or too inconvenient to go out that day, too difficult to read through the lengthy ballot and so forth, and it would just decrease the numbers, and decrease the interest,” Fernandez says.

While public opinion polls have shown a generational divide on the president’s moves towards Cuba (and general support overall for the policy change), the older generation of the Cuban-American community in Florida are in many cases single-issue voters regarding Cuba, Fernandez says. “They were constantly being confronted by the issue of the consulate and this and that, and so it just upset them so that their numbers were astronomic.” But he believes that many of those Cuban exile voters who supported Trump will  be solely disappointed by what they end up getting, and says it should have been just as upsetting that the president-elect was attempting to do business in Cuba as well, as alleged by Newsweek and Bloomberg.

“I told many of my friends, ‘can you believe that you are going to support the guy who was trying to do business in Cuba when I was representing the shoot down of the Brothers to The Rescuewhen I spent 1,000 hours on the skyjacking case or when I represented Rene Cruz in the California case with the two other defendants out there, while I was dedicating my life and and thousand of hours pro bono, and I’m nearly a million dollars out of my pocket defending these causes, and we were adamant about anybody violating the Trading with the Enemy Act going to prison, and now this you’re overlooking this?” Fernandez said with exasperation.

He said those same friends didn’t want to hear about that, and instead would shift the conversation about how President Obama had offended them and they were concerned about a Cuban consulate coming to Tampa. “And that’s all you heard in that community,” he says.

Not everyone agrees with Fernandez theory.

A week after the election results, Cuban American communication strategist Giancarlo Sopo’s wrote up an analysis of the Cuban American vote in Florida, and concluded that it was “fiction” to conclude that Obama’s Cuban policy cost Clinton Florida in the election.

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Rick Scott may serve as model, and warning, for Donald Trump

He was opposed by the Republican establishment. During a contentious campaign, he spoke forcefully about the need to crack down on immigration. And he used millions of his own money to bolster his political career.

President-elect Donald Trump? No, Rick Scott, the current governor of Florida.

While they are oceans apart in temperament and public demeanor, Scott and Trump were both political neophytes who came from a business background and won elections despite being viewed as longshots unable to convince voters to look past their controversial histories. Scott and Trump, who is vacationing this week at his home in Palm Beach, are also long-time friends.

“One of the reasons I always believed he would win Florida … is that Florida had already elected someone similar to him,” Scott said when discussing Trump’s nearly 113,000-vote victory in the Sunshine State, which helped propel him to victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

And as the country gets ready for a Trump administration his friend and political ally Scott may prove a valuable example of the challenges that lie ahead.

After being in office for five years Scott has been forced to drop campaign promises, alter his stance on key issues and deal with an ongoing divide with members of his own party.

But Scott has also shown that it can be wrong to underestimate him.

When he first ran for office in 2010, Scott, a multi-millionaire, used his experience as a former health care executive and outsider as a tonic for Florida’s double-digit unemployment rate and struggling economy. His bid for governor was staunchly opposed by GOP leaders who were backing then-Attorney General Bill McCollum.

With a campaign aided by one of the same pollsters who helped Trump, Scott poured tens of millions of his own money to pay for television ads that hammered McCollum over immigration. In the ads, Scott promised to push a law styled on one in Arizona that would allow police to check someone’s immigration status.

Scott’s first-ever foray into campaigning was characterized by his steadfast refusal to meet with editorial boards or seek newspaper endorsements. When he defeated McCollum, he vowed to crack down on the special interests and lobbyists who he contended were “crying in their cocktails” due to his primary victory.

Yet Scott was still considered an underdog against Democrat Alex Sink because back in 1997 he had been forced out of his job as the head of Columbia/HCA amid a federal investigation into fraud. Although Scott was never charged with any wrongdoing the company paid a then-record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Sink hit at Scott, saying Floridians couldn’t trust him. Scott fired back with his own ads that questioned Sink’s dealings while serving as Florida’s elected chief financial officer. He also accused her of cheating during a televised debate because she read a message from a campaign adviser during a commercial break.

After spending more than $70 million of his own money, Scott edged Sink by more than 61,000 votes.

There are key differences between Scott and Trump, points out Brian Burgess, who started working for Scott when he created a group to oppose President Barack Obama‘s health care overhaul and would later serve as Scott’s first communications director. Burgess calls Scott reserved and extremely disciplined, while Trump is more a showman who speaks off the cuff.

“They are totally different personalities, but both are good guys and both of them are misread by the public more so than any other politicians I know,” said Brian Ballard, a top Republican fundraiser in Florida who has worked for Trump as a lobbyist the past several years.

But Scott’s two victories have not ensured him success and he has discovered that being governor is not the same as being a CEO.

When he first started, Scott barred lobbyists from entering his office. He brought in other outsiders as his top staff and initially talked about aggressively pushing his agenda through the Legislature. That changed, however, after legislators scaled back, or rejected many of his ideas, including his push for massive tax cuts. Scott then turned to Tallahassee insiders to help him negotiate with the Legislature.

After the Legislature deadlocked on toughening immigration laws, Scott abandoned the idea. Ahead of his 2014 campaign, Scott even signed into law measures that guaranteed in-state tuition rates to the children of immigrants who entered without legal permission. Scott came into office railing against Obama’s health care overhaul but has changed his position twice on whether to expand Medicaid as allowed under the overhaul.

The governor now finds himself at odds with members of his own party, especially new House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who helped scuttle Scott’s push this year to increase state spending on incentives to lure new businesses to the state. Due to the rifts, Scott has stopped raising money for the Republican Party of Florida.

Another clear parallel between Scott and Trump is that both men are entering office with enormous wealth.

Scott has foregone his $130,000 a year salary, but not his state-subsidized health insurance, and he sold off the state plane and instead uses his own private jet for travel. He placed his assets in a blind trust controlled by a long-time business partner, although that has not shielded him completely from questions of conflicts.

Scott said that Trump would be better off if he followed the Florida governor’s lead on assets. Trump has said he will use a blind trust, but he has said he will place his children in charge of his business empire.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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