President Obama Archives - Page 3 of 24 - SaintPetersBlog

President calls into Tampa hip-hop station to urge Floridians to vote

Stressing the importance of Floridians voting in the presidential election, President Obama called into Tampa local hip-hop radio station 95.7 The Beat in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon.

“Your vote matters,” he told DJ Anjali “Queen B” in a nine-minute conversation. “And if we’re going to protect and build on the progress we made in the last eight years I need everybody in the Tampa Bay area to vote. So don’t wait.”

The president referred to the fact that early voting begins in many parts of the state next Monday, Oct. 24.

Hillary Clinton will also be seizing on the start of early voting by appearing in the Sunshine State next Tuesday and Wednesday, though the times and locations of her visits have yet to be announced.

Obama also gave out website and text addresses for people to learn how to vote by mail, which has been happening in Florida for the past two weeks.

Speaking about the election and the choice of Clinton or Donald Trump, the president said, “This should not be a tough election for people who care about opportunity, equality, justice, common decency, bringing the country together.”

The president emphasized how easy it is to vote, referring to how his eldest daughter Malia voted this year in the District of Columbia and was surprised it only took 10 minutes. “Young people I think sometimes think ‘aw, this is going to be some huge hassle.'”

Obama is scheduled to campaign for Clinton in Miami Gardens on Thursday, making up for a previous appearance canceled because of concerns of an approaching Hurricane Matthew. He was also scheduled to speak about the Affordable Care Act at the University of South Florida, which he will now do at Miami-Dade College on Thursday.

Marco Rubio decries FDA regulations over cigars while visiting Tampa factory

Marco Rubio‘s re-election campaign brought him to a 13o-year-old cigar factory in Tampa Wednesday, where he blasted proposed federal rules which could severely harm it and other cigar manufacturers in the U.S.

A recent FDA ruling initially intended to regulate smokeless tobacco products, but summarily expanded to include cigars, would compel manufacturers like the J.C. Newman Company to go through a rigorous and costly application before any new product could go on the market. Officials said the imposed verification process would radically slow the rate of new cigars going on shelves as well as the number of new cigars in general.

“This is one more added cost to production. It’s going to put these companies unfortunately out of business,” said Rubio, who received a tour of the factory before addressing the media. “When you tell any company you can no longer offer new products, without going through a very expensive process, any industry … I don’t care what you sell … you’re going to struggle to survive, especially facing unfair foreign competition.”

Eric Newman, president of the 130-year-old J.C. Newman Company located in Tampa’s V.M. Ybor section, calls the new proposal “draconian,” and said it would cost his company $2.5 million in compliance costs to fully implement.

Rubio and his U.S. Senate colleague from Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson, initially introduced legislation called the “Traditional Cigar Manufacturing & Small Business Jobs Preservation Act” in 2011, which would remove the FDA’s jurisdiction over the premium cigar industry by amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor filed similar legislation in the House. They’ve introduced similar bills in the 2013 and 2015 sessions, to no avail. Rubio said that he and Nelson would again push for that bill’s passage before the end of the year.

Rubio was joined by Tampa state House District 60 Republican Dana Young, who, like Rubio, is on the ballot next month, where she is running for the Senate District 18 seat.

“This is a classic example of how in a bipartisan way, at the state and federal level, we can work together and try to stop both regulations of small businesses like this one and needless red tape involved with lumping in one product that is part of our culture with others that cause harm to the public,” she said.

Adding insult to injury, both Newman and Rubio said, was President Obama’s announcement last Friday that it is eliminating a $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island. Travelers can now purchase unlimited quantities of Cuban cigars in any country where they are sold but they can only be for personal use and cannot be sold.

“We love the competition,” insisted Newman, but said it wouldn’t be a fair fight between his cigars and the ones imported from Cuba, since they won’t be required to do the compliance costs the FDA requires of American cigar manufacturers.

“At a time when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talk about bringing back American manufacturing jobs … the American government wants to shut us down, ” Newman said. “We’re horrified by that.”

Rubio also fielded questions on his Senate campaign, where the polls have suddenly tightened with Democrat Patrick Murphy with less than three weeks to go before Election Day.

“You don’t win in Florida in a presidential year as a Republican by 10 points. Or even by five points,” he said. “It is becoming the race I knew it would, which is a close race.” He then spent several moments listing what he said were his achievements in the Senate in the past six years.

Rick Scott wants feds to declare ‘major disaster’ in Florida after Matthew

In St. Augustine Monday for an event promoting tourism in America’s oldest city, Gov. Rick Scott reiterated his call for the federal government to approve Florida’s entire request for a “major disaster declaration.”

The federal government has not approved funding, asserts the governor’s office, “for individual assistance or for permanent work to roads, parks, and government buildings in local communities.”

Scott, who has been pushing for such since Hurricane Matthew, is understandably nettled.

“Since Hurricane Matthew impacted our state, I have continued to travel along Florida’s east coast meeting with Floridians who were affected by this storm. Many families and businesses have lost everything. Homes were destroyed, businesses have shut down and are unable to pay their employees, roads are torn up, and many of our beaches have suffered severe erosion,” Scott said, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“I am very disappointed that President Obama has not yet approved our entire request for a major disaster declaration. We are waiting on the president to approve funding to help families and businesses pay for things like temporary housing, home repairs, and living expenses,” Scott’s statement continues.

“Today I was in St. Johns County and, while many people are trying to rebuild, they need this key federal funding so they can start the process.

“At the state level,” Scott added, “we are helping our communities any way we can and I am going to continue to fight for every available resource from the federal government so our families and businesses can get back to normal. I am going to continue to call on the president to help our state because Floridians deserve nothing less. I hope President Obama approves our request today.”

While there has been no public statement either way on this from the White House, perhaps that declaration is coming.

Action News Jax reports FEMA officials are in Duval County on Monday, inspecting the damage with an eye toward (perhaps) further relief.

Meanwhile, FEMA was touring St. Johns County Friday, according to News4Jax.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.29.16 — Congress is free to go home. Again.

First of all, congratulations to the uber-hip readers at Creative Loafing who, in their Best of the Bay voting for Best Reporter in 2016, selected a columnist who retired two years ago.

Congratulations also to our U.S. Congress who, by voting for a budget bill last to avoid a government shutdown, now gets to skip town for another two months before returning for an inevitable lame-duck session.

Wait a minute, some of you might think — didn’t they just have a seven-week summer break? Hey, that ended more than three weeks ago, silly.

Actually, let’s look at the details: Part of the deal includes passing a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill, as well as $500 million to Louisiana and other states facing natural disasters.

One of the hangups with why Congress hadn’t previously passed a Zika bill was that the GOP wanted to strip money for Planned Parenthood to combat the mosquito-borne virus. But they lost that gambit, as PP does get funding in the new bill.

Not that all of the Democrats were gracious in victory.

“It is deeply disappointing that until now, Republicans have insisted that the most appropriate response to a virus that overwhelmingly affects pregnant women was to place a politically motivated ban on funding for reproductive healthcare providers,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Indeed, there’s nothing like a deadline. Government funding is scheduled to run out tomorrow. And, of course, there are elections to campaign in. You know, elections for the 435 members of the House where 96 percent of them are expected to win re-election.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are pissed again, saying Republican members sold out — again. POLITICO reports Heritage Action’s Dan Holler is blasting the deal, saying “House Republicans accept being jammed and essentially sit on the sidelines” and Hill Republicans “negotiate behind closed doors with Democrats, essentially giving them what they want.”

In other news …

After several disasters and many attempts, Florida finally scored yesterday when President Obama declared the state after Hurricane Hermine to be a disaster area, which is good news locally for folks in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Hillsborough County Commission District 1 Democratic candidate Jeff Zampitella is challenging Sandy Murman in her bid for re-election this fall.

House District 66 candidates Larry Ahern and Lorena Grizzle were the only direct combatants at Wednesday’s Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting.

Meanwhile, Clearwater state Rep. Chris Latvala is the latest Pinellas Republican to throw some shade at the St. Pete Democratic administration in the wake of “Sewergate.”

And Michelle Obama wasn’t only in Pennsylvania campaigning for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, but she also cut her first TV ad for the Democratic nominee, pushing the whole “role model” thing in comparison to you-know-who.

Bill Nelson seconds Rick Scott’s call for Hermine disaster declaration

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has joined Gov. Rick Scott’s appeal to the Obama administration to declare much of Florida a disaster zone.

“I am writing to urge that you approve the State of Florida’s request for a major disaster declaration related to Hurricane Hermine as soon as possible,” Nelson wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Wednesday.

“The eye of Hurricane Hermine made landfall on Sept. 2, 2016, in northern Florida, but the impacts of the storm affected many counties across the state, including flash flooding far down the western coast of Florida,” Nelson said.

“State and local government officials have led a concerted effort to help their communities recover, but federal assistance is needed. A major disaster declaration from you would provide vital resources to bolster Florida’s response and recovery.”

Scott wrote his letter to Obama Tuesday, noting that Hermine left $36 million in damage in the state.

A presidential disaster declaration would provide federal resources to support recovery efforts, both in individual assistance for families and public assistance to state agencies and local governments.

Thirty-eight counties have declared local state emergencies, 39 opened emergency operations centers and 34 opened shelters, Scott said.

“During the preceding 12 months, the state of Florida experienced repeated emergencies that required the development of significant state resources,” he wrote. “Individually these incidents may not have overwhelmed the ability of the State of Florida to respond. Cumulatively, however, these emergencies significantly impacted the state’s capability to provide financial support following Hurricane Hermine.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democrat whose district includes Tallahassee, also supported a federal disaster declaration.

“I fully support Governor Rick Scott’s request for federal assistance and renew my call on President Obama to approve all available and applicable help for North Florida quickly,” Graham said Tuesday.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.16.16 — What will become of Edward Snowden?

Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” arrives in theaters today, and with it comes a campaign to have the former NSA contractor receive a pardon from the commander in chief.

At a press conference Wednesday, representatives from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International spoke out in support of getting President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden.

“Cases like Edward Snowden’s are precisely why the presidential pardon power exists,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, who referred specifically to cases when mitigating circumstances merit forgiveness for a crime.

But comments by the current occupant of the White House and the two people competing to replace him don’t indicate any newfound desire to grant him that pardon. Hillary Clinton has said Snowden shouldn’t be brought home “without facing the music,” while Donald Trump has said, “I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly.”

In an op-ed published in the New York Times Thursday, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch and Salil Shetty with Amnesty International wrote, “The enormous value of Mr. Snowden’s revelations is clear. What was their harm? Scant evidence has been provided for many officials’ ominous statements. Some officials have warned that the terrorism-related activity of certain groups has become harder to monitor, but the most dangerous adversaries have always taken precautions against surveillance, with at least one independent study showing little impact from the Snowden revelations.”

They went on to write that, “what has changed is that since the staggering extent of government surveillance became known, the public has sought greater privacy, and corporations have begun to provide it on widely used platforms. No doubt, among the millions of users of encrypted technologies there are a few who hide criminal activity. But the rest of us just want our privacy back.”

Members of our military, however, say Snowden gave away a lot. In 2014, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said that “the vast majority of the documents … had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities,” but “were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

I loved Oliver Stone’s films from the ’80s like “Salvador,” “Wall Street,” and “Platoon.” Can he still come up with the goods? It’s got a high bar to cross: Laura Poitras’ electrifying documentary on Snowden, “Citizenfour,” won the 2015 Oscar for Best Documentary.

In an interview with USA Today, Stone says the U.S. is doing far more than people know when it comes to cyber-warfare, which makes sense, actually.

“They see the surface of the news — the Russians are attacking us, the Chinese are hacking us — but they never hear we’re hacking them first,” he says. “But when you do this kind of warfare, it comes back to haunt you.”

In other news …

The Tampa City Council has approved red-light cameras in the city for at least another two years.

Councilman Charlie Miranda went off an epic rant about taxpayer support for major league sports franchise stadiums, and other things yesterday.

Patrick Murphy joined nearly all of his House Democratic colleagues (sans Gwen Graham) in opposing a GOP bill preventing any more transfers of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

Dennis Ross co-sponsors bill to prohibit ransom payments to Iran

Last month, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran over a long-held dispute over a failed arms deal just before the Shah of Iran lost power in 1979.

After that news broke, White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected suggestions the money transfer to Iran was ransom or a secret.

Two weeks later, however, the State Department confirmed the U.S. conditioned the release of that cash payment to Iran on the departure of American prisoners from Tehran.

The news outraged Republicans, with some calling for a congressional hearing to discuss the matter further.

Now comes legislation co-sponsored by Polk County Republican Dennis Ross that will prohibit further cash payments to the Iranian government.

“I co-sponsored H.R. 5931 because the president must be held accountable for putting American lives and our national security at risk,” Ross said in a statement on Tuesday. “The $400 million cash ransom the Obama Administration easily handed over to Iran is unsettling and calls into question the president’s actions as they pertain to the ‘no concessions’ policy.”

Congressional Republicans never signed on to the landmark nuclear deal that the U.S. made with the P5 +1 group of world powers last fall, and the report about the $400 million cash made public last month has only angered them further.

“The Obama Administration continues to mislead the American people about this horrible deal, while Iran repeatedly violates the deal with no repercussions,” Ross said. “Not only has Iran been permitted to improve its capability of producing enriched uranium, it also has been allowed to develop advanced uranium centrifuges, deny IAEA inspectors access to its facilities, acquire nuclear technology, and deploy an advanced Russian missile defense system to protect its uranium enrichment facility from airstrikes.”

Ross says that this bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California, ensures a similar transfer of funds to Iran can’t happen again. “H.R. 5931 makes clear the Obama Administration violated longstanding U.S. policy by releasing prisoners and paying ransom for the return of Americans held hostage by Iran, prohibits cash payments to Iran, and demands transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not used to pay ransom.”

The bill has drawn 44 Republican co-sponsors, and will be brought up before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Senate introduced a similar bill under Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would prohibit the federal government from paying ransom. It would also stop payments to Iran from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund until Iran returns money it received and pays American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed.

Ross is running for re-election to his seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, running against Democrat Jim Lange.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.26.16 – Mason-Dixon says the presidential race in Florida is super close

Attention, Florida Democrats: Time to get off you a** if you want Hillary Clinton to win the state in November.

A Mason-Dixon poll shows the Trump-Clinton battle in a virtual tie, with the former secretary of state up by two points, 44 percent to 42 percent.

As has been said a thousand times, Trump cannot win the presidency without winning Florida, but according to this poll 10 days before Labor Day, he could win the Sunshine State in November.

By any stretch, this has been one of the most extraordinary weeks of the presidential campaign to date. Trump’s flip-flop on immigration has been absolutely fascinating to watch (as is seeing his surrogates trying to explain where he’s now at). And Clinton’s speech on the alt-right in Reno yesterday was something I don’t know if we’ve ever heard in a national campaign like this.

“When he was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants,” Clinton said. “Their applications would be marked with a ‘C’ — ‘C’ for ‘colored’ — and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn’t changed. And the pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump’s casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turnover rate for his minority employees was way above average.”

That’s tough stuff.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a major story today on Saudi Arabia and rigid and fundamentalist strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. Concurrently, some members of Congress this week have penned a letter to President Obama, calling on him to withdraw his Congressional approval for a $1.15 billion sale of weapons to the Saudis, “until Congress can have a broader debate about American military support for the Saudis,” according to the Times. 

Will Obama listen to them?

In other news..

Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn confronted each other in the waning moments of the radio debate between the two House District 68 Democratic candidates on Thursday.

Tim Canova made history yesterday by announcing he has received more than 200,000 individual contributions in his campaign to defeat Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District next Tuesday. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of them are inside the district, which is why DWS remains the favorite in the race.

More than 86,000 voters have participated in the primary election in Hillsborough County as of Thursday morning.

Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward says his department continues to cite bicyclists less.

A Southern Heritage group is tagging state Rep. Ed Narain with an F-minus grade, but the SD 19 candidate isn’t losing any sleep over it.

Pat Frank campaign ad riles some of those photographed with her

An ad featuring a photo of Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts Pat Frank surrounded by a group of African-Americans in the Florida Sentinel-Bulletin is upsetting some of those photographed. They say that it appears that they support her candidacy, when in fact they say they don’t.

Frank is running for re-election to the clerk’s position, a position she’s held since 2004. She’s facing a primary challenge in fellow Democrat Kevin Beckner in the Aug. 30 primary.

The ad in question ran in a recent edition of Sentinel-Bulletin, the bi-weekly newspaper serving the Tampa Bay Area African-American community. With the exception of Andrew Warren, a Democrat running for state attorney in Hillsborough this fall, everyone else in the photo happens to be black — and in comments on Facebook, a few of those featured in the ad are unhappy about it.

Jeffery Alex James Johnson, wrote, “That picture wasn’t taken for an endorsement. I’m pictured in their (sic) and that wasn’t purpose of the picture.”

Sam Wright Sr. writes, “She wants the community to know that Negroes are supporting her. She should be ashamed to exploit Negroes in that matter!”

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Ian Whitney is a spokesman for the Frank campaign. In a statement sent to SPB Tuesday afternoon, he said Frank will replace the photo in the ad with a photo of her with President Obama.

As a school board member, Pat Frank was on the front line of the fight to desegregate Hillsborough County schools. She fought for equal resources for schools in traditionally black neighborhoods. As a legislator, she wrote the law creating mandatory kindergarten and worked tirelessly to fund Florida A&M University. She fought to create Martin Luther King Jr. Day and was a leader in the efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. As Clerk, Pat Frank fought against an attempt to turn probation services over to controversial for-profit corporation that the New York Times said created a perpetual cycle of poverty.
She is proud to have met with this group of influential African-American pastors, hear their concerns and talk about her office. Black pastors have always played a most critical and fundamental role in the fight for civil rights, voting rights, and justice. Even though this meeting took place as a tropical storm made landfall and government offices were closing, she wouldn’t have missed it.
A few other candidates also attended the meeting, and were included in a photo that our campaign specifically took for inclusion in the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. The campaign included the photo to showcase Clerk Frank’s outreach to the African-American community in an ad that also featured the endorsement of Clerk Frank by the Florida Sentinel Bulletin. We did not intend to imply the support of any individual candidates or individuals.”
“We are replacing the photo in this ad with one of Clerk Frank and President Obama, and would like to emphasize that this is not intended to imply that Clerk Frank has been endorsed by the president, though she would be delighted if she were. It does, however, reflect her strong support of the president.
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Mitch Perry Report for 8.22.16 — Who’s down with TPP?

Good morning, y’all. Welcome to the last full week of campaigning before your Aug. 30 primary election in the Sunshine State.

Before we get into the news of the day, how was your weekend? I went and saw a couple of good, if somewhat overrated movies (“Come Hell or High Water,” “Don’t Think Twice”), and finished reading an underrated novel (Jay McInerney‘s “Bright, Precious Days”).

I also voted, as the majority of Floridians will do, before next week’s primary election. Not much more to say about that, other than I now have to contact the supervisor of elections to return to being a Non-Party Affiliated voter.

One of the issues Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on is they don’t like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the regional trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

Although a lot of progressives don’t trust Clinton’s conversion on the agreement and fear she’ll turn around and push for it if she’s elected in the fall, the fact of the matter is, the agreement may already be approved before either her or Trump is inaugurated in January.

As the New York Times Jackie Calmes reports, President Obama will be making a big push for Congress to pass the agreement during the lame duck session of Congress, probably in December.

John Kerry, Ash Carter, Michael Mullen, and former GOP Maine Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen will also be making the rounds to campaign for the TPP.

Will it be enough? Obama will also have surrogates like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushing that the deal will be good for the Tampa Bay and Florida economy.

But with opposition to trade deals being a major tangible issue that both the far-right and far-left can agree on, can POTUS get that last legislative and diplomatic achievement added to his ledger as he closes out his presidency?

In other news …

A poll published yesterday has Debbie Wasserman Schultz leading Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District by 10 percentage points.

After our story last week about the fact that it looked Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond wouldn’t be engaging in a one-on-one debate before the Aug. 30 primary, we offered up the weekly radio show I host as a possible venue — and the candidates have accepted.

HD 60 candidate Jackie Toledo has been talking tough on immigration, despite the actions of her spouse a few years ago.

Kevin Beckner reacted Friday to Mike Deeson‘s report about the Hillsborough PTC pulling their money out of the clerk of the court’s office.

The candidates in the Senate District 19 race met up at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum on Friday.

Tim Schock hasn’t said much about Jim Norman‘s “issues” in their Hillsborough County Commission District 6 Republican race — until now.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin was all over the Tampa Bay area this weekend making the rounds for her new book on the U.S.- Saudi Arabia relationship. You can read our interview with her here.

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