Barack Obama Archives - Page 7 of 67 - SaintPetersBlog

Donald Trump’s hands-on management style to be tested by presidency

President-elect Donald Trump looked at hundreds of marble samples before selecting one for the lobby of Trump Tower. He can recall, in painstaking detail even decades later, how he stood in the cold and oversaw the ice-making process at Central Park’s rink. And, during the campaign, he personally reviewed every single campaign ad, rejecting some over the smallest of perceived flaws.

The hands-on, minutiae-obsessed management style that Trump has relied on for decades in the business world will now be tested by the presidency, an overwhelming job in which his predecessor says only the most challenging decisions even make it to the Oval Office.

“Somebody noted to me that by the time something reaches my desk, that means it’s really hard,” President Barack Obama has said. “Because if it were easy, somebody else would have made the decision and somebody else would have solved it.”

The president-elect, at times, has been reluctant to delegate. But while his multinational business is indeed vast, the scope of the federal government exceeds any of his previous endeavors.

Those close to him are gently suggesting that he will have to do some more delegating given the sheer volume of decisions needed to get his administration up and running, according to a person familiar with private discussions but not authorized to speak about them by name. Trump has chafed at that, but he has signaled willingness to relinquish some personal control.

Over his career, Trump has been highly involved with the decisions he cares deeply about. When building Trump Tower, the Manhattan skyscraper he calls home, he settled upon a rare marble, Breccia Pernice, for the building’s lobby.

But when he inspected the pieces that had been tagged for use, he found some blemishes — prompting a personal trip to Italy.

“So we ended up going to the quarry with black tape and marking off the slabs that were the best,” Trump wrote in his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.” ”The rest we just scrapped — maybe 60 percent of the total. By the time we finished, we’d taken the whole top of the mountain and used up much of the quarry.”

At the New York State Republican Dinner in April, Trump stood in front of a group of tuxedo-clad, moneyed, Manhattan peers, confidently pointing out the details in the Grand Hyatt hotel ballroom’s ceiling, remembering how he oversaw the construction process. He then recalled his push to fix Central Park’s Wollman Rink, going into remarkable detail about the contract negotiations, the depth of the concrete, the need to switch from copper piping to rubber hose to keep the ice frozen, and even the conversation he had with the Montreal Canadiens’ head ice-maker to make sure the process went smoothly.

“I hope that’s an interesting story,” Trump told the crowd. “Who the hell wants to talk about politics all the time, right? Politics gets a little boring!”

But Trump almost certainly won’t be able to exert that same of control over his new employees: The federal workforce is more than 2 million people.

Obama frequently cites an observation by his first defense secretary, Robert Gates: “One thing you should know, Mr. President, is that any given moment, on any given day, somebody in the federal government is screwing up.” While Obama praises federal workers, he adds: “Even if you’re firing at a 99.9 percent success rate, that still leaves a lot of opportunity for things not to go as planned.”

Other aspects of Trump’s management style may also not easily translate to the White House. His inner circle is famously small, consisting of longtime allies and his grown children, and his first key West Wing hires — chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon — bring no policy experience to their new roles.

Trump works long hours and expects those around him to do so as well. He can be quiet and disengaged in discussions about subjects with which he is unfamiliar but is prone to flash his temper and bark at aides. He is also known to go with his gut, is often swayed on positions by the last person he spoke to, and sometimes swoops in late and orders a change in plans, blowing up a travel schedule or policy rollout.

Aides also often float suggestions to him through the media, knowing that Trump is a voracious watcher of cable TV and might be persuaded by what he sees and hears.

Trump, whose TV catchphrase was “You’re fired,” is prone to pitting staffers against each other in both the business world and during his insurgent campaign. Over the summer, he hired Paul Manafort to prepare for the GOP’s convention and watched as staffers loyal to his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, repeatedly clashed with Manafort’s allies. Lewandowski lost the power struggle and was fired. Later, Manafort was dismissed, too, replaced by Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

Trump, in his 2004 book “How to Get Rich,” described his intense, loyalty-driven style. “I rely on a few key people to keep me informed,” he wrote. “They know I trust them, and they do their best to keep that trust intact.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Marco Rubio: Cuba reforms are rooted in America’s national interest

Sen. Marco Rubio made the rounds of Sunday morning shows this week, discussing Fidel Castro and the way forward for U.S./Cuba relations.

Rubio, a frequent and fierce critic of the current president’s accommodation toward the Cuban government, has voiced an interest in applying more pressure on Havana in the Trump era. His comments Sunday were consistent with that theme, while advancing an interest in making change conditional on real Democratic reforms.

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On Meet the Press, Sen. Rubio said that “as far as the practical day to day affairs … Cuba today is governed the same way it was 48 hours ago.”

Rubio noted that Raul Castro is 85 years old himself.

“He’s not Gorbachev. He’s not a reformer thinking of the interests of Cuba long term.”

Rubio believes that Castro wants to continue protecting his friends and family in positions of power, and posited that Fidel hasn’t been in charge for a decade.

Regarding policy, Rubio urged a holistic “look at all changes” in Cuba policy, examining them in the context of the “national interest of the United States.”

“Banking changes,” for example, should be conditional on “specific changes” in Cuba opening its society.

Rubio noted that Cuban policy contravenes American interests in many ways, citing Cuba “harboring fugitives” such as New Jersey cop killer Joanne Chesimard, and Cuba’s quashing of freedoms of press, expression, and organization.

While Rubio is against the kinds of “unilateral changes” that he sees the Obama administration having committed to, he does see a way forward, making moves toward rapprochement conditional on the kinds of changes that happened in Myanmar.

“Our goal is not to punish. Our goal is to figure out what can we do, through U.S. policy, to … look out for the national interest of the United States … to help create an environment where we are creating the potential for a transition to democratic order in Cuba at some point in the near future.”

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On Face the Nation, Rubio hit similar themes, saying that a reformed Cuba policy should be linked to Democratic reforms, including expansion of the “free press,” a commitment to “independent political parties,” and the “kinds of things you find in every country in the western hemisphere besides Cuba and, increasingly, Venezuela.”

“Our #1 obligation is to act in the national interest of the United States of America,” Rubio added, and “democracy” in Cuba is key to that.

“I am not against change,” Rubio said, but he wants there to be reciprocity and a “pathway to democracy” in Cuba.

Rubio expects a “generational leadership change” and a “Democratic transition,” and it won’t be a moment too soon for American interests.

Cuba, said Rubio, is a “source of instability in the region,” with an anti-American government that aids and abets Chinese and Russian intelligence efforts, and “harbors fugitives from American justice,” including people who have committed Medicaid fraud and found refuge in the island nation.

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The Hill also offered Rubio’s quotes from Sunday on CNN on President Obama’s “pathetic” statement in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death.

Barack Obama is the president of the most powerful country in the world. And what I called pathetic is not mentioning whatsoever in that statement the reality that there are thousands upon thousands of people who suffered brutally under the Castro regime,” Rubio said.

“He executed people.  He jailed people for 20 to 30 years.  The Florida Straits, there are thousands of people who lost their lives fleeing his dictatorship. And not to acknowledge any of that in the statement, I felt was pathetic, absolutely.”

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Weeping, hopeful, Cubans look to future without Fidel Castro

Music fell silent, weddings were canceled and people wept in the streets Saturday as Cubans faced their first day without the leader who steered their island to both greater social equality and years of economic ruin.

Across a hushed capital, dozens of Cubans said they felt genuine pain at the death of Fidel Castro, whose words and image had filled schoolbooks, airwaves and front pages since before many were born. And in private conversations, they expressed hope that Castro’s passing will allow Cuba to move faster toward a more open, prosperous future under his younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro.

A woman speaks on a public telephone as a man repairs a wheel in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, the day after Fidel Castro’s death. Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half-century rule of Cuba, died at age 90 in Cuba late Friday, Nov. 25. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Both brothers led bands of bearded rebels out of the eastern Sierra Maestra mountains to create a communist government 90 miles from the United States. But since taking over from his ailing brother in 2006, the 85-year-old Raul Castro has allowed an explosion of private enterprise and, last year, restored diplomatic relations with Washington.

“Raul wants the country to advance, to do business with the whole world, even the United States,” said Belkis Bejarano, a 65-year-old homemaker in central Havana. “Raul wants to do business, that’s it. Fidel was still holed up in the Sierra Maestra.”

In his twilight years, Fidel Castro largely refrained from offering his opinions publicly on domestic issues, lending tacit backing to his brother’s free-market reforms. But the older Castro surged back onto the public stage twice this year — critiquing President Barack Obama‘s historic March visit to Cuba and proclaiming in April that communism was “a great step forward in the fight against colonialism and its inseparable companion, imperialism.”

People with images of Fidel Castro gather one day after his death in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Cuba will observe nine days of mourning for the former president who ruled Cuba for half a century. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Ailing and without any overt political power, the 90-year-old revolutionary icon became for some a symbol of resistance to his younger sibling’s diplomatic and economic openings. For many other Cubans, however, Fidel Castro was fading into history, increasingly at a remove from the passions that long cast him as either messianic savior or maniacal strongman.

On Saturday, many Cubans on the island described Fidel Castro as a towering figure who brought Cuba free health care, education and true independence from the United States, while saddling the country with an ossified political and economic system that has left streets and buildings crumbling and young, educated elites fleeing in search of greater prosperity abroad.

“Fidel was a father for everyone in my generation,” said Jorge Luis Hernandez, a 45-year-old electrician. “I hope that we keep moving forward because we are truly a great, strong, intelligent people. There are a lot of transformations, a lot of changes, but I think that the revolution will keep on in the same way and always keep moving forward.”

“Fidel’s ideas are still valid. But we can’t look back even for a second,” says Edgardo Casals, a 32-year-old sculptor

In 2013, Raul Castro announced that he would step aside by the time his current presidential term ends in 2018, and for the first time named an heir-apparent not from the Castro’s revolutionary generation — Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56.

Fidel Castro’s death “puts a sharper focus on the mortality of the entire first generation of this revolution,” said Philip Peters, a Cuba analyst and business consultant, “and brings into sharper focus the absence of a group of potential leaders that’s ready to take over and politically connected to the public.”

For Cubans off the island, Castro’s death was cause for celebration. In Miami, the heart of the Cuban diaspora, thousands of people banged pots with spoons, waved Cuban and U.S. flags in the air and whooped in jubilation.

“We’re not celebrating that someone died, but that this is finished,” said 30-year-old Erick Martinez, who emigrated from Cuba four years ago.

The Cuban government declared nine days of mourning for Castro, whose ashes will be carried across the island from Havana to the eastern city of Santiago in a procession retracing his rebel army’s victorious sweep from the Sierra Maestra to Havana. State radio and television were filled with non-stop tributes to Castro, playing hours of footage of his time in power and interviews with prominent Cubans affectionately remembering him.

Bars shut, baseball games and concerts were suspended and many restaurants stopped serving alcohol and planned to close early. Official newspapers were published Saturday with only black ink instead of the usual bright red or blue mastheads.

Members of the Cuban community react to the death of Fidel Castro, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, in the Little Havana area in Miami. Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half-century rule, died at age 90. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Many Cubans, however, were already imagining the coming years in a Cuba without Fidel Castro.

“Fidel’s ideas are still valid,” said Edgardo Casals, a 32-year-old sculptor. “But we can’t look back even for a second. We have to find our own way. We have to look toward the future, which is ours, the younger generations’.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who defied U.S. for 50 years, dies at 90

Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule of Cuba, has died at age 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”

Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died 10 years after ill health forced him to hand power over to Raul.

Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.

His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.

“Socialism or death” remained Castro’s rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.

He survived long enough to see Raul Castro negotiate an opening with U.S. President Barack Obama on Dec. 17, 2014, when Washington and Havana announced they would move to restore diplomatic ties for the first time since they were severed in 1961. He cautiously blessed the historic deal with his lifelong enemy in a letter published after a monthlong silence. Obama made a historic visit to Havana in March 2016.

Carlos Rodriguez, 15, was sitting in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood when he heard that Fidel Castro had died.

“Fidel? Fidel?” he said, slapping his head in shock. “That’s not what I was expecting. One always thought that he would last forever. It doesn’t seem true.”

“It’s a tragedy,” said 22-year-old nurse Dayan Montalvo. “We all grew up with him. I feel really hurt by the news that we just heard.”

But the news cheered the community of Cuban exiles in Florida who had fled Castro’s government. Thousands gathered in the streets in Miami’s Little Havana to cheer and wave Cuban flags.

Fidel Castro Ruz was born Aug. 13, 1926, in eastern Cuba’s sugar country, where his Spanish immigrant father worked first recruiting labor for U.S. sugar companies and later built up a prosperous plantation of his own.

Castro attended Jesuit schools, then the University of Havana, where he received law and social science degrees. His life as a rebel began in 1953 with a reckless attack on the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago. Most of his comrades were killed and Fidel and his brother Raul went to prison.

Fidel turned his trial defense into a manifesto that he smuggled out of jail, famously declaring, “History will absolve me.”

Freed under a pardon, Castro fled to Mexico and organized a rebel band that returned in 1956, sailing across the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba on a yacht named Granma. After losing most of his group in a bungled landing, he rallied support in Cuba’s eastern Sierra Maestra mountains.

Three years later, tens of thousands spilled into the streets of Havana to celebrate Batista’s downfall and catch a glimpse of Castro as his rebel caravan arrived in the capital on Jan. 8, 1959.

The U.S. was among the first to formally recognize his government, cautiously trusting Castro’s early assurances he merely wanted to restore democracy, not install socialism.

Within months, Castro was imposing radical economic reforms. Members of the old government went before summary courts, and at least 582 were shot by firing squads over two years. Independent newspapers were closed and in the early years, homosexuals were herded into camps for “re-education.”

In 1964, Castro acknowledged holding 15,000 political prisoners. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled, including Castro’s daughter Alina Fernandez Revuelta and his younger sister Juana.

Still, the revolution thrilled millions in Cuba and across Latin America who saw it as an example of how the seemingly arrogant Yankees could be defied. And many on the island were happy to see the seizure of property of the landed class, the expulsion of American gangsters and the closure of their casinos.

Castro’s speeches, lasting up to six hours, became the soundtrack of Cuban life and his 269-minute speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 1960 set the world body’s record for length that still stood more than five decades later.

As Castro moved into the Soviet bloc, Washington began working to oust him, cutting U.S. purchases of sugar, the island’s economic mainstay. Castro, in turn, confiscated $1 billion in U.S. assets.

The American government imposed a trade embargo, banning virtually all U.S. exports to the island except for food and medicine, and it severed diplomatic ties on Jan. 3, 1961.

On April 16 of that year, Castro declared his revolution to be socialist, and the next day, about 1,400 Cuban exiles stormed the beach at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s south coast. But the CIA-backed invasion failed.

The debacle forced the U.S. to give up on the idea of invading Cuba, but that didn’t stop Washington and Castro’s exiled enemies from trying to do him in. By Cuban count, he was the target of more than 630 assassination plots by militant Cuban exiles or the U.S. government.

The biggest crisis of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow exploded on Oct. 22, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy announced there were Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba and imposed a naval blockade of the island. Humankind held its breath, and after a tense week of diplomacy, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev removed them. Never had the world felt so close to nuclear war.

Castro cobbled revolutionary groups together into the new Cuban Communist Party, with him as first secretary. Labor unions lost the right to strike. The Catholic Church and other religious institutions were harassed. Neighborhood “revolutionary defense committees” kept an eye on everyone.

Castro exported revolution to Latin American countries in the 1960s, and dispatched Cuban troops to Africa to fight Western-backed regimes in the 1970s. Over the decades, he sent Cuban doctors abroad to tend to the poor, and gave sanctuary to fugitive Black Panther leaders from the U.S.

But the collapse of the Soviet bloc ended billions in preferential trade and subsidies for Cuba, sending its economy into a tailspin. Castro briefly experimented with an opening to foreign capitalists and limited private enterprise.

As the end of the Cold War eased global tensions, many Latin American and European countries re-established relations with Cuba. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II visited a nation that had been officially atheist until the early 1990s.

Aided by a tourism boom, the economy slowly recovered and Castro steadily reasserted government control, stifling much of the limited free enterprise tolerated during harder times.

As flamboyant as he was in public, Castro tried to lead a discreet private life. He and his first wife, Mirta Diaz Balart, had one son before divorcing in 1956. Then, for more than four decades, Castro had a relationship with Dalia Soto del Valle. They had five sons together and were said to have married quietly in 1980.

By the time Castro resigned 49 years after his triumphant arrival in Havana, he was the world’s longest ruling head of government, aside from monarchs.

In retirement, Castro voiced unwavering support as Raul slowly but deliberately enacted sweeping changes to the Marxist system he had built.

His longevity allowed the younger brother to consolidate control, perhaps lengthening the revolution well past both men’s lives. In February 2013, Raul announced that he would retire as president in 2018 and named newly minted Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel as his successor.

“I’ll be 90 years old soon,” Castro said at an April 2016 Communist Party congress where he made his most extensive public appearance in years. “Soon I’ll be like all the others. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of the Cuban Communists will remain as proof that on this planet, if one works with fervor and dignity, they can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need and that need to be fought for without ever giving up.”

Cuba’s government announced that Castro’s ashes would be interred on Dec. 4 in the eastern city of Santiago that was a birthplace of his revolution. That will follow more than a week of honors, including a nearly nationwide caravan retracing, in reverse, his tour from Santiago to Havana with the triumph of the revolution in 1959.

Reprinted with the permission of the Associated Press.

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Bob Buckhorn disappointed that TPP is dead

Donald Trump made it official earlier this week: The Trans-Pacific Partnership is DOA in his upcoming administration.

“On trade, I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country,” Trump said on Monday in a brief video outlying his first 100 days that was posted on YouTube. Instead, he said, he said he would “negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back”.

The TPP, a 12-country Pacific Rim trade agreement signed in 2015 but not ratified, did not have a lot of support in Congress, at least not while Barack Obama remained in power. It certainly had its supporters in the U.S., including farmers and ranchers. The TPP had promised to slash tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods in large markets such as Japan and Vietnam, as well as eliminate agricultural subsidies that gave competitors in the trade bloc an edge.

Several world leaders say without U.S. participation, the deal is completely dead.

Among those disappointed by the decision is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was chair of the TTP task force with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. His unbridled support entitled him to an invitation to a White House State Dinner in August when the Prime Minister of Singapore came to Washington. Singapore was one of the signatories to the pact.

Speaking to SPB last week, Buckhorn said he was disappointed that Trump would not commit to the agreement, largely because he says the U.S. can’t retreat from competing in a global environment.

 “We have relationships, we have alliances we want to reduce barriers, we want to reduce tariffs we want to engage and produce made in America products all over the globe. That’s good for America, that’s good for American jobs,” he said.

The TPP was opposed by labor group groups in the U.S. and their champions in Congress like Bernie Sanders. But Buckhorn says it’s wrong to think that trade agreements cause the economic dislocation that has so negatively hurt American workers.

“It’s the technology that is changing the way that American workers are working,  and so to hear the demogogery on both sides of the aisle over trade, was disappointing, because I don’t think that’s  reflection of American values and the way that America has competed around the globe,” Buckhorn said. “We need to be the leader, because if we don’t, then other people will, and if certainly in the case about TPP. The void by our absence will befilled by China, and the TPP criteria, whether it was on intellectual capital,whther it was on labor, whether it was on unions, the environment,  will not be nearly to the standard that the TPP would have been. So yeah, for me that’s disappointing and I hope it’s only a temporary condition in America.”

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In wake of loss to Donald Trump, Hillsborough County Democrats get surge of requests to join their party

At their first event since being devastated by the results of the presidential election, there was literally not enough room to contain the number of Democrats who showed up at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Ybor City Monday night. A second room adjoining the main boardroom at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County facility was opened to contain the overflow crowd.

“We’ve been inundated since the election,” said Ione Townsend, the chair of the Hillsborough County DEC.

Although officially only 14 people were sworn in as new members of the Executive Committee Monday, there were several dozen more people who were first-time visitors to a DEC meeting. Townsend said those 14 people had already completed applications in advance of the meeting. In addition, she said party officials received a “number” of completed applications on Monday, with other applications distributed to people in the last two weeks who weren’t in attendance at Monday’s meeting. A number of other people left the meeting taking an application form with them.

“There’s a great deal of disappointment in the national election with Hillary’s loss and the election of Trump,” she said about the interest over the past two weeks. “People are saying, ‘maybe I should have been more involved, I need to be involved.’ There were people who said ‘I sat this out and I shouldn’t have’ and, whatever their reasons are, we’re just glad that they want to be engaged.”

Although it wasn’t a perfect night by any stretch for Hillsborough Democrats, the county did vote strongly for Clinton. The voters also voted in support of all the constitutional officers on the ballot (such as Clerk of the Court Pat Frank, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer and Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez) re-elected, as well as Andrew Warren defeating Mark Ober for state attorney.

Townsend is running for re-election to the party chair position on Dec. 5, and no one is challenging her. She was elected in January, after serving as vice-chair in the previous year.

One factor that certainly has helped the party is the fundraising prowess unleashed by Mark Hanissee, the former Pinellas County DEC chair who lost his bid for re-election there to Susan McGrath two years ago.

Under Hanissee, the Hillsborough Democrats have created two fundraising vehicles — one being the Hillsborough Society, created in 2015 by Alex Sink and Tucker/Hall co-founder Tom Hall. That group was able to raise $40,000 in the past year to help with get-out-the-vote efforts, including slate cards, digital media, phone banking, website upkeep, and social media.

Then there is their Victory Fund. Hannisee said when he was originally hired by the party in the fall of 2014, his goal was to bring in $200,000 by this past election to that fund. In fact, he said, they raised more than $309,000.

During the meeting, Townsend said the party also did a great job in registering voters. On April 30 the Democrats had 305,887 registered in Hillsborough County. They then registered 32,113 between May and Oct. 18, increasing their numbers to over 338,000.

“We actually delivered the vote for Hillary Clinton,” she said to cheers from the audience.

But obviously, Clinton’s loss in Florida was pivotal in the Democratic nominee’s failure to win the state’s 29 electoral votes. After the 2012 presidential election, when Barack Obama won re-election days before the final vote in Florida was counted (he ultimately defeated Mitt Romney here by less than one percentage point), Democrats’ attitude was that while Clinton could afford to lose Florida, Trump could not. Yet that was going by the old Electoral College map, which had states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin going for Clinton. They didn’t, however.

“We share your pain. We share your disappointment,” Townsend told the dozens of new members in the audience. “I encourage you to stay engaged. We can turn out more Democratic voters with more hands for sure.”

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Barack Obama mentoring Donald Trump on world leadering

It’s the last thing President Barack Obama ever expected he’d be doing in his final months in office: Coaching Donald Trump on how to be a world leader.

As the president-elect holes up in his skyscraper, Obama is giving Trump policy advice, style tips and gentle nudges to let the fervor of the campaign give way to the sobriety of the Oval Office. And as Obama completes his last world tour, he’s been thrust into the unexpected role of Trump translator to anxious U.S. allies.

Standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Obama said Trump would quickly see that a president’s responsibilities can’t be treated casually and that diverse countries can only be governed by “listening and reaching out.”

“It is my hope that that is what will happen,” Obama said. “And I’m going to do everything I can over the next two months to help assure that that happens.”

Though the outgoing president made clear his profound disdain for Trump throughout the campaign, perhaps no one is better positioned than Obama to get him up to speed in a matter of weeks.

It’s unclear, though, how much help Trump wants or will accept from Obama. And no one expects that the executive tutoring will substantially change Trump’s vast differences with Obama, who he called the worst president in U.S. history.

After meeting with Trump following the election, Obama resolved to spend more time helping prepare Trump than he might under different circumstances — say, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, aides said.

Trump, to the surprise of many, seemed game. He said he wanted Obama’s “counsel” and looked forward to “many, many” more meetings.

In the run-up to the election, the White House had planned only perfunctory, refresher-style briefings for Clinton, who is no stranger to the White House and whose transition team had prepared extensively for an expected takeover.

Soon after Trump’s victory, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough directed that his preparatory materials be thickened and his intelligence briefings expanded to include more basic information, according to U.S. officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and requested anonymity.

Obama and his closest advisers were irritated when it leaked out that Trump, during his White House visit, had displayed a lack of thorough knowledge about key issues while Trump’s aides appeared unfamiliar with the process of staffing up a White House, officials said.

They were concerned if Trump felt insulted or aggrieved, he might pull the plug on accepting Obama’s advice and help. After all, Obama’s aides had been pleasantly surprised when Trump, after their Oval Office chat, had agreed to preserve key elements of the “Obamacare” health law, which he’d pledged during the campaign to repeal.

If Trump has felt patronized by Obama, so far he hasn’t shown it. Asked why Trump’s meeting this week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was closed to the press, senior transition adviser Kellyanne Conway pointed out that Obama was traveling overseas.

“We are very deferential and respectful of the fact that we already have a president of the United States, Barack Obama,” Conway told reporters. “President Obama is still in office for the next two months, and we won’t be making diplomatic agreements today.”

Though Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have spoken by phone to more than 30 heads of state since the election, Trump hasn’t been heard from publically, save for one television interview and occasional tweets. From his suite in Trump Tower, he and top aides have been interviewing candidates for the 4,000-odd roles they must fill.

Unsure how Trump as president may shake up foreign relations, world leaders have turned to Obama for information about what to expect. Traveling this week to Greece, Germany and Peru, Obama has tried to reassure U.S. partners that Trump, in their Oval Office meeting, expressed a “full commitment” to NATO.

“I am encouraged by the president-elect’s insistence that NATO is a commitment that does not change,” Obama said in Germany.

During the campaign, Trump said the U.S. didn’t “really need NATO in its current form,” calling it obsolete and threatening not to defend NATO allies unless they pay more into the alliance. Though Trump has since softened those comments, he hasn’t offered the explicit reassurances in public that Obama said he offered in private.

But Obama said he was “cautiously optimistic” that transitioning from candidate to president-in-waiting would force Trump to focus and get serious about “gaining the trust even of those who didn’t support him.”

“That has to reflect itself not only in the things he says, but also how he fills out his administration,” Obama said. “And my hope is that that’s something he is thinking about.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Tim Kaine says he’s not going to run for president in 2020

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine says he’ll seek re-election in 2018 but is ruling out a presidential bid in 2020.

The former Democratic vice presidential nominee said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that his place is in the Senate and his decision not to run in 2020 is final.

“Period. Full stop,” Kaine said.

With a heightened national profile after campaigning across the country for more than three months as Hillary Clinton‘s running mate, Kaine could have chosen to pursue his own White House ambitions or tried and play a leading role charting a reeling Democratic Party’s direction in the Donald Trump era.

But the first-term senator and former governor said he belongs in the upper chamber, where he will be part of a Democratic minority whose ability to filibuster will be “the only emergency brake there is” on Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.

Kaine has already been a vocal critic of Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as a senior advisor. Kaine said Bannon’s ties to white nationalism and anti-Semitism disqualify him from a senior role in the White House.

Kaine said he would continue to guard against the “normalization” by Trump of what Kaine said were un-American values, but he added that he’s keeping an open mind about the billionaire businessman’s presidency.

“I have a lot of concerns, but I don’t think it’s fair to the administration to just assume everything that was said during the campaign will be done,” Kaine said, noting that Trump had already shown some post-Election Day flexibility on issues like gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act.

Kaine said there were some issues Democrats could work with Trump on, including increased infrastructure spending and raising the tax rate on carried interest, which is often used by managers for private equity firms and hedge funds to reduce tax payments.

Kaine said he plans to use his higher national profile to continue to advocate for issues he’s long cared about, notably on increasing Congress’ role in war-making powers.

“I’ve been willing to stand up and do that with a president of my own party and I tell you, I’m sure going to be willing to stand up to President Trump,” Kaine said.

Kaine has twice come close to being vice president. He was on President Barack Obama‘s shortlist in 2008 and many expected Clinton to win this year.

On the campaign trail this year, the deeply spiritual Kaine often told supporters that the election would work out the way things are supposed to.

Kaine said Clinton’s loss was “hard” to take, but didn’t shake his faith that the outcome was for the best.

“Maybe the whole reason I’m in the Senate was less being in the Senate when there was President Obama, who was a friend of mine. Maybe the reason I’m in the Senate is for the next four years,” Kaine said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

 

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Joe Henderson: Facing many hurdles, Bob Buckhorn could make a good governor

The rebirth of downtown Tampa brought inevitable speculation that Mayor Bob Buckhorn might parlay it into a shot at the governor’s mansion in 2018. The job obviously has appeal for someone like Buckhorn, who likes a big stage and challenge.

Asking him to tip his hand about a possible run, though, has proved to be a necessary, but ultimately fruitless, endeavor.

As he told Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com Wednesday, “Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead.”

He then added, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.”

Oh, I think a big part of him wants to do it. I also believe Democrats have a path to victory in the race to succeed Rick Scott. Whether Buckhorn can lead his party down this road and win is another question, though.

I like Buckhorn. I like his style. I like what he has done as Tampa’s mayor. I like his determination. I have known him for a long time, dating to his days on the Tampa City Council in the 1990s. I think he would make a good governor.

Whether any of that matters won’t be decided for a while and Buckhorn has a lot of hurdles to overcome, starting with his own party. U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham from Tallahassee has all but declared her intention to run, and high-profile attorney John Morgan might get into the race as well.

Graham is the daughter of one of Florida’s legendary politicians, former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham. Morgan has been on TVs around the state nearly every night for years with his relentless “For the People” slogan, and voters just strongly approved his signature issue — making medical marijuana legal.

Escaping the shadow of either of those two would be a huge challenge for Buckhorn, or anyone else.

Plus, statewide Democrats may have a case of Tampa Bay Fatigue. There have been four races to be Florida’s governor in this century and a Democrat from the Tampa Bay area has been atop the ticket each time — Bill McBride (2002), Jim Davis (2006), Alex Sink (2010) and Charlie Crist (2014).

They all lost.

Buckhorn is a loyal Democrat, though. He went all-in for Hillary Clinton in this year’s election and worked for Barack Obama here before that. He has been outspoken in his disdain for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. That’s all fine, but Clinton lost, Rubio won, and Obama is leaving office.

One thing to keep in mind: Buckhorn isn’t afraid of losing.

He lost in a primary for state House seat in 1992. He finished third out of five candidates running for mayor in 2003. And then there was the humiliating loss to former pro wrestler and first-time candidate Brian Blair in a 2004 county commission race.

He came back to take an upset win for mayor in 2011 and was re-elected without serious opposition.

Buckhorn always says being mayor of Tampa was his dream shot. Whenever I’ve told him it looks like he never sleeps, he responds that there will time to sleep when his second term is up. Whether he decides to postpone that nap to run for governor remains to be seen.

At this point, I don’t like his chances.

But knowing Buckhorn, he will figure out a way to be involved even if he is not on the ballot. He loves this stuff too much.

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Mitch Perry Report for 11.17.16 — Will there be a Democrat ready to challenge Nancy Pelosi?

If it were up to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Caucus would be voting for their leadership later today, where she would win another term as House minority leader, since there is no opposition to her leadership role.

Not yet, anyway.

In an ominous note for the 76-year-old representative from San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers at a closed-door meeting earlier this week called on her to delay leadership elections for a couple of weeks.

Although their chances to retake the House last week were always slim, the Democrats did underperform in House races, and the question now is — can the opposition get behind one candidate by the time they do sit down to vote on leadership Nov. 30?

As of now, only Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan from outside of working-class Youngstown has emerged. “Who is the leader that can go into those Southern states, who is the leader that can go into the Midwestern states and begin to pull those voters back in our corner?” Ryan told the Wall Street Journal. He hasn’t officially decided to run. “A guy like me — it doesn’t have to be me — a guy like me could go into the Southern states, and we need someone who can go into every congressional district.”

There are also reports New York Rep. Joe Crowley is also interested in running against Pelosi.

The last time Pelosi was as vulnerable was in the aftermath of the 2010 midterms, when the Democrats were “shellacked,” in the words of Barack Obama.

Working in Pelosi’s favor is her formidable reputation as a fundraiser. She has raised a reported $568 million for fellow Democrats since taking over as House Democratic leader in 2002. Representing San Francisco is literally a turnoff for the same Democrats who worry the party has become a party of professionals and not the working class. The cost of living in SF has exacerbated dramatically in just the past five years due to the explosion of Google and other Silicon Valley workers who’ve chosen to move to the city and commute to the peninsula.

Mind you, this is a different discussion than who will head the Democratic National Committee, where it appears to be a battle between Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jamie Harrison.

In other news …

Bob Buckhorn says it’s time for some serious reflection for Democrats in Florida and around the nation following last week’s election.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel want Steve Bannon out of the White House before he ever gets into it.

After waiting for weeks, Gwen Graham finally receives emails from the DEP regarding the Mosaic sinkhole in Polk County, and still isn’t satisfied.

As mayors and police chiefs from some of the biggest cities in the nation say they’ll continue to shield undocumented immigrants from being detained, Sarasota GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan once again calls on a ban on federal funds for all such municipalities. 

After an eight-year run on the Hillsborough County Commission that even his fiercest critics must acknowledge was extremely productive, Kevin Beckner is officially no longer a politicianafter he served his last day on the board on Wednesday.

Shawn Harrison is backing Jim Davison in the Tampa City Council District 7 race.

A new report says USF’s “Innovation Enterprise” contributes close to $395 million to the Tampa Bay area economy, according to a new report issued Wednesday.

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