WBEZ | SOTU http://www.wbez.org/tags/sotu Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Obama vows to flex presidential powers in speech http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-vows-flex-presidential-powers-speech-109595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP283719503471.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Seeking to energize his sluggish second term, President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to sidestep Congress &quot;whenever and wherever&quot; necessary to narrow economic disparities between rich and poor. He unveiled an array of modest executive actions to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers and make it easier for millions of low-income Americans to save for retirement.</p><p>&quot;America does not stand still and neither do I,&quot; Obama declared in his prime-time address before a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans watching on television.</p><p>Draped in presidential grandeur, Obama&#39;s address served as the opening salvo in a midterm election fight for control of Congress that will quickly consume Washington&#39;s attention. Democrats, seeking to cast Republicans as uncaring about the middle class, have urged Obama to focus on economic mobility and the gap between the wealthy and poor. His emphasis on executive actions was greeted with shouts of &quot;Do it!&quot; from many members of his party.</p><p>Declaring 2014 a &quot;year of action,&quot; Obama also sought to convince an increasingly skeptical public that he still wields power in Washington even if he can&#39;t crack through the divisions in Congress. Burned by a series of legislative failures in 2013, White House aides say they&#39;re now redefining success not by what Obama can jam through Congress but by what actions he can take on his own.</p><p>Indeed, Obama&#39;s proposals for action by lawmakers were slim and largely focused on old ideas that have gained little traction over the past year. He pressed Congress to revive a stalled immigration overhaul, pass an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education &mdash; all ideas that gained little traction after he proposed them last year. The president&#39;s one new legislation proposal calls for expanding an income tax credit for workers without children.</p><p>Republicans, who saw their own approval ratings fall further in 2013, have also picked up the refrain of income inequality in recent months, though they have cast the widening gap between rich and poor as a symptom of Obama&#39;s economic policies.</p><p>&quot;Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts and red tape,&quot; said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in the Republicans&#39; televised response to the president&#39;s speech.</p><p>The economy and other domestic issues, including health care, dominated the president&#39;s address. He touched only briefly on foreign policy, touting the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan this year and reiterating his threat to veto any new sanctions Congress might levy on Iran while nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic are underway.</p><p>Even as Washington increasingly focuses on income inequality, many parts of the economy are gaining strength, with corporate profits soaring and the financial markets hitting record highs. But with millions of Americans still out of work or struggling with stagnant wages, Obama has found himself in the sometimes awkward position of promoting a recovery that feels distant for many.</p><p>&quot;The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead,&quot; Obama said. &quot;And too many still aren&#39;t working at all.&quot;</p><p>The president garnered some of his loudest applause &mdash; at least from Democrats &mdash; when he took on lawmakers who oppose his signature health care law, which floundered in its initial rollout last fall. Obama said that while he doesn&#39;t expect to convince Republicans on the merits of the law, &quot;I know that the American people aren&#39;t interested in refighting old battles.&quot;</p><p>The president&#39;s speech drew an eclectic mix of visitors to the House chamber. Among those sitting with first lady Michelle Obama were two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as Jason Collins, an openly gay former NBA player. Republican House Speaker John Boehner brought business owners from his home state of Ohio who say Obama&#39;s health care overhaul is hurting their companies. Willie Robertson, a star of the television show &quot;Duck Dynasty,&quot; also scored a seat in the House gallery, courtesy of the Republicans.</p><p>Though Obama sought to emphasize his presidential powers, there are stark limits to what he can do on his own. For example, he unilaterally can raise the minimum hourly wage for new federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, as he announced, but he&#39;ll need Congress in order to extend that increase to all of America&#39;s workers.</p><p>The executive order for contractors, which Obama will sign in the coming weeks, is limited in its scope. It will not affect existing federal contracts, only new ones, and then only if other terms of an agreement change.</p><p>Republicans quickly panned the executive initiative as ineffective. Said Boehner: &quot;The question is how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero.&quot;</p><p>White House officials countered by saying many more working people would benefit if Congress would go along with Obama&#39;s plan to raise the minimum wage across the board.</p><p>&quot;Give America a raise,&quot; Obama declared.</p><p>Among the president&#39;s other executive initiatives is a plan to help workers whose employers don&#39;t offer retirement savings plans. The program would allow first-time savers to start building up savings in Treasury bonds that eventually could be converted into traditional IRAs. Obama is expected to promote the &quot;starter&quot; accounts during a trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.</p><p>The president also announced new commitments from companies to consider hiring the long-term unemployed, the creation of four &quot;manufacturing hubs&quot; where universities and businesses would work together to develop and train workers, new incentives to encourage truckers to switch from dirtier fuels to natural gas or other alternatives and a proposed tax credit to promote the adoption of cars that can run on cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen, natural gas or biofuels.</p><p>The president&#39;s go-it-alone strategy is in many ways an acknowledgment that he has failed to make good on two major promises to the American people: that he would change Washington&#39;s hyper-partisanship and that his re-election would break the Republican &quot;fever&quot; and clear the way for congressional action on major initiatives.</p><p>Some Republicans have warned that the president&#39;s focus on executive orders could backfire by angering GOP leaders who already don&#39;t trust the White House.</p><p>Obama isn&#39;t abandoning Congress completely. He made a renewed pitch for legislation to overhaul the nation&#39;s fractured immigration laws, perhaps his best opportunity for signing significant legislation this year. But the odds remain long, with many Republicans staunchly opposed to Obama&#39;s plan for creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally.</p><p>Seeking to give the GOP some room to maneuver, Obama did not specifically call for a citizenship pathway Tuesday, saying only, &quot;Let&#39;s get it done. It&#39;s time.&quot;</p><p>Opening a new front with Congress, the president called for an extension of the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Obama wants it broadened so that it provides more help than it does now to workers without children, a view embraced by some Republicans and conservative economists.</p><p>Obama singled out Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has proposed replacing the tax credit with a federal wage supplement for workers in certain low-paying jobs. Unlike Obama, however, Republicans have suggested expanding the tax credit as an alternative to increasing the minimum wage.</p><p>Pivoting briefly to foreign policy, Obama reaffirmed that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan will formally conclude at the end of this year. But he said a small contingent of American forces could be left behind if the Afghan government quickly signs a bilateral security agreement, a prospect that looks increasingly uncertain.</p><p>The president also warned lawmakers in both parties against passing new economic sanctions against Iran while the U.S. and international partners are holding nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic. He renewed his commitment to veto sanctions legislation if it passes, arguing that a new round of penalties would upend the sensitive diplomacy.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 21:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-vows-flex-presidential-powers-speech-109595 Sen. Kirk talks guns, health - and the presidential fist bump http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-talks-guns-health-and-presidential-fist-bump-105516 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/kirk_fist_bump.png" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79124427" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>A day after President Barack Obama urged lawmakers to bring new gun control legislation up for a vote in Congress, Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says he&rsquo;s cautiously optimistic about gun control measures he&rsquo;s pushing in the Senate.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m trying to be very Midwestern about this &ndash; you know, practical changes that can actually change laws, that can actually save lives,&rdquo; Kirk said in an interview with WBEZ Wednesday.</p><p>Tuesday night&rsquo;s State of the Union was Kirk&rsquo;s first since returning to work last month, after having suffered a massive stroke that kept him off Capitol Hill for nearly a year. He&rsquo;s now one of a handful of senators negotiating new gun control legislation, following the mass shooting at Newtown, Conn. in December.&nbsp;</p><p>For now, Kirk said the focus is on expanding background checks for would-be gun owners, rather than an all-out ban on military-style firearms that many gun rights advocates oppose.</p><p>&ldquo;I will tell you the assault weapon ban is the harder lift,&rdquo; Kirk said, adding later: &ldquo;And so what I think &ndash; the one that is most likely is background checks that we could probably get through the Congress this time.&rdquo;</p><p>The senator also met Wednesday with the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl whose shooting death has thrust Chicago gun violence into the national spotlight. Pendleton&rsquo;s parents were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday&rsquo;s speech, and the president invoked her murder to push for tougher gun control laws.</p><p>On Wednesday, Kirk said he received permission from Pendleton&rsquo;s parents to name an anti-gun trafficking bill after their daughter, prompting Kirk to dub Hadiya Pendleton &ldquo;our silver-lining child.&rdquo;</p><p>At the same time, Kirk said he does not want to &ldquo;over-promise&rdquo; on what might be included in a final gun control package, given fierce opposition from some fellow Republicans, and a tough fight in the GOP-led House of Representatives.</p><p>On a lighter note, Kirk also reflected on the &ldquo;<a href="http://gawker.com/5983860/this-gif-of-obamas-exploding-fist-bump-is-the-state-of-the-union-highlight" target="_blank">exploding fist bump</a>&rdquo; he shared with Obama as he entered House chamber, minutes before giving the State of the Union. (See video below.)</p><p>That goodwill hand gesture &ndash; in which both parties bump their closed fists together, then splay their fingers open to &ldquo;blow it up&rdquo; &ndash; has since spawned a popular internet meme, in which the president seems to be mouthing the word &ldquo;boom&rdquo; upon impact.</p><p>&ldquo;I thought to myself, &lsquo;Here I got a chance to do the famous Obama fist-bump, with the guy who has &hellip; made it ubiquitous across the country,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kirk told WBEZ.</p><p>&ldquo;And I was very pleased when some press outlets said, &lsquo;Best Fist-Bump Ever,&rsquo;&rdquo; Kirk said, adding, &ldquo;These are small things that add up to the bipartisan cooperation necessary to keep this place running.&rdquo;</p><h2><strong>The fist bump (via WashingtonPost.com)</strong></h2><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="399" scrolling="no" src="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/video/videoEmbed.html?uuid=617759fa-7579-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb&amp;noheadline=0" width="610"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 16:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sen-kirk-talks-guns-health-and-presidential-fist-bump-105516 Mr. Rubio, that was no rebuttal http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/mr-rubio-was-no-rebuttal-105509 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7011_AP313871457342-scr.jpg" style="float: right; height: 182px; width: 300px;" title="Senator Marco Rubio" />Everybody&rsquo;s having fun with Sen. Marco Rubio&rsquo;s big gulp, even <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/02/13/rubio-water-obama-sotu-response/1915955/">Rubio himself</a>, during the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama&rsquo;s State of the Union. And perhaps it&rsquo;s moments like that parched, wild-eyed lunge of Rubio&rsquo;s for the Poland Springs that will justify keeping the circus going but, honestly, can we just cut the crap?</div><p>The State of the Union is <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_the_Union_address#Opposition_response">constitutionally mandated</a>, no matter who the president is: a war criminal like George W. Bush or a socialist fool like Obama.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s right there in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: &ldquo;He shall from time to time give Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.&rdquo;<br /><br />But here&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s not constitutionally mandated: the opposition response. In fact, it&rsquo;s only been a real thing since the 1966, when Republicans decided to talk back to Lyndon B. Johnson on TV.<br /><br />But that relatively young tradition has now gone from rebuttal to nothing even close to a rebuttal, to free air time for the opposition party to try out, &ldquo;American Idol&rdquo;-style, potential presidential candidates. Before Rubio, the parade included Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan and Mitch Daniels.<br /><br />Just consider Rubio&rsquo;s response last night. First and foremost, it wasn&rsquo;t a rebuttal &ndash; the reason the GOP got the air time in the first place. Rubio&rsquo;s speech was a stump <a href="http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/rubios-rebuttal/?hp">written long before the president even delivered the State of the Union</a>, simple as that.</p><p>But let&rsquo;s say it&rsquo;s fair that the Repubs have a speech ready, then adjust it to actually contest the President&rsquo;s proposals. I&rsquo;d be for that. Except that&rsquo;s not what happened.<br /><br />What we got instead was Obama saying, yup, we need to deal with Medicare with &ldquo;modest reforms&rdquo; &ndash; a huge admission on the part of this president &ndash; and Rubio, as if he hadn&rsquo;t heard a thing, saying, &ldquo;Anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.&rdquo;<br /><br />Or this: The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/us/politics/obamas-2013-state-of-the-union-address.html?_r=0">president saying</a>, &ldquo;It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.&rdquo;</p><p>And Rubio&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/13/full-text-and-video-of-marco-rubio-s-state-of-the-union-response.html">ridiculous response</a>: &ldquo;Presidents in both parties &ndash; from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan &ndash; have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity. But President Obama? He believes it&rsquo;s the cause of our problems.&rdquo;<br /><br />Who was Rubio talking to? The choir, the same Republican echo chamber that convinced millions of people that Mitt Romney wasn&rsquo;t just going to win but to whomp Obama and then got up on a Wednesday in November and wondered who betrayed them. (A few, apparently, have continued their wake state and walked away from Fox, <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/republicans-still-trust-fox-news-conservatives-not-so-much-1069926">giving the channel its lowest numbers in years</a>, both in actual ratings and in credibility.)<br /><br />As a result, Rubio saddled forth with matters that are standard GOP talking points &ndash; facts be damned -- but weren&rsquo;t even vaguely hinted at in Obama&rsquo;s speech, like this <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/13/full-text-and-video-of-marco-rubio-s-state-of-the-union-response.html">gem</a> of a paragraph:</p><p>&quot;For example, Obamacare was supposed to help middle class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because Obamacare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren&rsquo;t hiring. Not only that; they&rsquo;re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.&rdquo;<br /><br />This morning Rubio finally addressed a specific in the president&rsquo;s speech. Responding to Obama&rsquo;s call for a higher minimum wage, from $7.25 to $9, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/marco-rubio-minimum-wage_n_2676570.html">Rubio said</a>, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think minimum wage laws work.&rdquo;</p><p>Instead, he&rsquo;d like to foster an environment for &ldquo;good paying jobs&rdquo; &ndash; but how he&rsquo;s gonna do that, and encourage employers to pay a decent wage based on the goodness of their hearts (as thousands of years of human history have shown of man just doing right by man over and over &hellip; ), well, that&rsquo;s still up in the air.<br /><br />And by the way, that working class neighborhood Rubio talked about, the place where he lives? His <a href="http://current.com/community/94048401_marco-rubio-puts-miami-house-for-sale-for-675-000-to-move-family-to-dc-photos.htm">house there is up for sale</a>&ndash; for $675,000. Either he&rsquo;s an ostentatious bastard in his working-class neighborhood, or that&rsquo;s no working class neighborhood.<br /><br />And, no, in spite of Rubio&rsquo;s office&rsquo;s best efforts to make us believe otherwise, last night was not the first time the SOTU rebuttal has been bilingual, not even bilingually by the same guy: That tradition began in 2004 with then New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Rubio&rsquo;s not even the first Republican or even the first Cuban-American to give it: fellow Cuban-American, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, gave the Spanish-language rebuttal for the GOP in 2011.<br /><br />Of course, it wasn&rsquo;t just Rubio who attempted to rebutt last night. Sen. Rand Paul stepped up for the Tea Party, with a speech that was not much more rebuttal than Rubio&rsquo;s, but which at least endorsed some <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/02/tea-party-rebuttal-text-of-rand-paul-response-87557.html">ideas worth discussing</a>: the president&rsquo;s kill list, cutting military spending, education reform.<br /><br />I realize the news outlets can&rsquo;t help themselves. They&rsquo;re like a junkie who&rsquo;s just been handed the last heroin baggie and will lick at any last possibility to get their high.<br /><br />But it makes me wonder: When the GOP takes the White House again &ndash; God help us &ndash; will the networks let the Dems and, say, the Greens, respond to the State of the Union?</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 13:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-02/mr-rubio-was-no-rebuttal-105509 Worldview: Foreign policy in the State of the Union, happy World Radio Day and Libya's post-Qaddafi music scene http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-02-13/worldview-foreign-policy-state-union-happy-world-radio-day-and-libyas <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP764771037067_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79106238&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-the-state-of-the-union-a-global-perspect.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-the-state-of-the-union-a-global-perspect" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Foreign policy in the State of the Union, Happy World Radio Day, and a personal view of Libya's music scene" on Storify</a>]<h1>Worldview: Foreign policy in the State of the Union, Happy World Radio Day, and a personal view of Libya's music scene</h1><h2>Worldview digs into Obama’s foreign policy objectives. February 13th is World Radio Day, a chance to examine radio's past, present, and future. A Libyan-American rapper tells us about his home country's music scene.</h2><p>Storified by <a href="http://storify.com/WBEZ"></a>&middot; Wed, Feb 13 2013 09:23:02</p><div>Obama's Full 2013 State of the Union Address - SOTU 2013wsjdigitalnetwork</div><div><p><b>State of the Union, global-style&nbsp;</b></p><p><b><br></b></p><p>In his <a href="http://on.aol.com/video/state-of-the-union-2013-517671162" class="">State of the Union address</a> last night, President Obama stuck mostly to domestic issues. &nbsp;However, he did announce the withdrawal of 34,000 troops in Afghanistan.&nbsp;<i>Worldview </i>goes over these issues&nbsp;with <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/steve-clemons/" class="">Steve Clemons</a>, Washingtoneditor-at-large for <i>The Atlantic.</i></p></div><div>President Obama's State of the Union address full textThe text of the State of the Union address as prepared for delivery by President Barack Obama, and provided by the press office of the Wh...</div><div><p><b>Happy World Radio Day</b></p><p><br></p><p>Put on by UNESCO, <a href="http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/world-radio-day/" class="">World Radio Day</a> is intended to draw attention to the vital role that radio plays in keeping people safe, informed, and connected the world over.&nbsp;<i>Worldview</i>&nbsp;will speak to <a href="http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/profile/34-john-dinges/10" class="">John Dinges</a>, a veteran NPR journalist and professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, who is taking part in a panel discussion today at UN headquarters to celebrate the day. And, as a reminder of the vital role radio plays in less developed countries, we’ll speak with Jan McArthur of <a href="http://www.internews.org/" class="">Internews,</a> an organization that trains journalists overseas. She is their country director for Afghanistan, and she’ll tell us how she started <a href="http://www.salamwatandar.com/" class="">Salam Watandar</a>, a network of 53 radio stations throughout the country.</p></div><div>February 13th is World Radio DayWednesday (2/13) is World Radio Day. The United Nations describes it as a day to celebrate the medium and encourage major networks and co...</div><div><b>Global Notes</b><div><br></div><div>Libya’s vibrant music scene was crushed when Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi came to power. He insisted on handpicking which musicians could be heard on the radio and music about politically sensitive topics was off limits. As a result, many artists were sidelined or silenced. But things began to change during the revolution, where music played a prominent role in helping to drive out the Ghaddafi regime. Libyan-American hip-hop artist <a href="http://thisiskhaledm.com/" class="">Khaled M</a> just returned from Libya, where he was helping to re-develop the country’s cultural infrastructure. He tells us about some of artists to watch.</div></div><div>Khaled M. - My Levelthisiskhaledm</div></noscript></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 11:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-02-13/worldview-foreign-policy-state-union-happy-world-radio-day-and-libyas What President Obama didn't say about foreign policy http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/%5Bfield_program_ref-title-raw%5D/what-president-obama-didnt-say-about-foreign-policy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//96449383.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It was no surprise that President Obama&rsquo;s State of the Union speech focused on domestic issues and the economy. He did get to foreign policy close to the end of the hour, however the issues he failed to mention happen to be some of our thorniest. Elizabeth Dickinson, the assistant managing editor for <em>Foreign Policy</em> magazine, discusses some of those raised in her most recent article, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/24/10_global_issues_obama_wont_talk_about_but_should">&ldquo;10 Global Issues Obama Won&rsquo;t Talk About but Should.&rdquo;</a></p></p> Wed, 26 Jan 2011 17:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/%5Bfield_program_ref-title-raw%5D/what-president-obama-didnt-say-about-foreign-policy