Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Transcript: President Obama’s Missouri Town Hall Meeting (4-29-09)

Read the complete transcript. Excerpt below:

Now, back -- back in November, some folks were surprised that we showed up in Springfield at the end of our campaign. But, then again, some folks were surprised that we even started our campaign in the first place.


They didn’t give us much of a chance; they didn’t think we could do things differently; they didn’t know if this country was ready to move in a new direction.

OBAMA: But here’s the thing: My campaign wasn’t born in Washington. My campaign was rooted in neighborhoods just like this one, in towns and cities all across America, rooted in folks who work hard and look after their families and seek a brighter children -- future for their children and for their communities and for their country.

It was driven by workers who were tired of seeing their jobs shipped overseas, their health care costs go up...


... their dreams slip out of reach. It was grounded in a sense of unity and common purpose with every single American, whether they voted for me on Election Day or voted for somebody else. It was energized by every citizen who believed that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics.

My campaign was possible because the American people wanted change. I ran for president because I wanted to carry those voices, your voices, with me to Washington.


So I just want everybody to understand you’re who I’m working for every single day in the White House. I’ve heard your stories. I know you sent me to Washington because you believed in the promise of a better day. And I don’t want to let you down.

You believed that after an era of selfishness and greed that we could reclaim a sense of responsibility on Wall Street and in Washington as well as on Main Street. You believed that instead of huge inequalities and an economy that’s built on a bubble we could restore a sense of fairness to our economy and build a new foundation for lasting growth and prosperity.

You believed that a time of war we could stand strong against our enemies and stand firmly for our ideals and show a new face of American leadership to the world. That’s the change you believed in. That’s the trust you placed in me. It’s something I will never forget, the fact that you made this possible.

So, today, on my 100th day in office, I’ve come back to report to you, the American people, that we have begun to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, and we’ve begun the work of remaking America.


We’re working to remake America.


Now, we’ve got a lot of work to do because on our first day in office, we found challenges of unprecedented size and scope. Our economy was in the midst of the most serious downturn since the Great Depression. Banks had stopped lending. The housing market was crippled. The deficit was at $1.3 trillion. And meanwhile, families continued to struggle with health care costs, too many of our kids couldn’t get the education they needed. The nation remains trapped by our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

Now, these challenges could not be met with half measures. They couldn’t be met with the same, old formulas. They couldn’t be confronted in isolation. They demanded action that was bold and sustained. They demand action that is bold and sustained. They call on us to clear away the wreckage of a painful recession but also, at the same time, lay the building blocks for a new prosperity. And that’s the work that we’ve begun over these first 100 days.

To jumpstart job creation, get our economy moving again, we passed the most ambitious economic recovery plan in our nation’s history. And already, we’re beginning to see this change take hold.

In Jefferson City, over 2500 jobs will be created on Missouri’s largest wind farm so that American workers are harnessing clean, American energy.

Obama 100 Days News Conference Transcript (4-29-09)

Read the complete transcript of obama's news conference given on his 100th day as President:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. With the flu outbreak spreading and worsening, can you talk about whether you think it's time to close the border with Mexico and whether -- under what conditions you might consider quarantining, when that might be appropriate?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, as I said, this is a cause for deep concern, but not panic. And I think that we have to make sure that we recognize that how we respond intelligently, systematically, based on science and what public health officials have to say, will determine in large part what happens.

I've consulted with our public health officials extensively on a day-to-day basis, in some cases an hour-to-hour basis. At this point, they have not recommended a border closing. From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States.

We have ramped up screening efforts, as well as made sure that additional supplies are there on the border so that we can prepare in the eventuality that we have to do more than we're doing currently.

But the most important thing right now that public health officials have indicated is that we treat this the same way that we would treat other flu outbreaks, just understanding that, because this is a new strain, we don't yet know how it will respond.

So we have to take additional precautions, essentially, take out some additional insurance. Now, that's why I asked for an additional $1.5 billion, so that we can make sure that everything is in place should a worst-case scenario play out.

I do want to compliment Democrats and Republicans who worked diligently back in 2005 when the bird flu came up. I was part of a group of legislators who worked with the Bush administration to make sure that we had beefed up our infrastructure and our stockpiles of antiviral drugs, like Tamiflu.

OBAMA: And I think the Bush administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond. For example, we've got 50 million courses of anti-viral drugs in the event that they're needed.

So, the government is going to be doing everything that we can. We're coordinating closely with state and local officials. Secretary Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security, newly installed Secretary Sebelius of Health and Human Services, our acting CDC director, they are all on the phone on a daily basis with all public health officials across the states to coordinate and make sure that there's timely reporting, that if -- as new cases come up, that we're able to track them effectively, that we're allocating resources so that they're in place.

The key now I think is to make sure that we're maintaining great vigilance, that everybody responds appropriately when cases do come up, and individual families start taking very sensible precautions that -- can make a huge difference.

So wash your hands when you shake hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. I know it sounds trivial, but it makes a huge difference. If you are sick, stay home. If your child is sick, keep them out of school.

To -- if you are feeling certain flu symptoms, don't get on an airplane, don't get on a -- any system of public transportation where you're confined and you could potentially spread the virus.

So those are the steps that I think we need to take right now. But understand that because this is a new strain, we have to be cautious. If this was a strain that we were familiar with, then we might have to -- then I think we wouldn't see the kind of alert levels that we're seeing, for example, with the World Health Organization. OK?

First 100 Days: So Far, So Good

What's so special about the first 100 days. This is really a media hype. It just so happens President Obama's Presidency might have reached it's peak in the first 100 days. He faces lots of problems in the days and years ahead.

One view found in Huffington:

With the glaring exception of the troubled, potentially disastrous bank bailout plan that could undercut any economic recovery, the Obama administration deserves at least an A- when it comes to taking action on behalf of workers.

Then there is view found in the anti-Obama FOXNews:
Even the European press recognize the Obamas’ first 100 days marker as rife with broken promises, crippling debt and bizarre and dangerous domestic and foreign policy, yet that’s not the message you’ll hear from the fawning orgiastic American Establishment Media for the next several days. — You will also likely not hear a peep about Roxana Saberi, Laura Ling and Euna Lee. They’re too much an an inconvenient truth.

Roxana, Laura and Euna. All three American journalists, all women of color, who languish as hostages in foreign prisons of state-based terrorists.

That same media outlet hates the President so much they won't even cover his news conference. Even if it's marking his first 100 days:
President Obama’s prime time press conference will air on one fewer channel this week.

Fox is “sticking with its regular schedule” on Wednesday night, The Associated Press reports, marking “the first time a broadcast network has refused Obama’s request” for airtime.

The press conference, scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, will be Mr. Obama’s third of the year. It will mark his first 100 days in office. ABC, CBS and NBC, along with a multitude of cable networks, will carry the press conference live.

Counting his not-State of the Union address in February, it will be Mr. Obama’s fourth interruption of the prime-time TV schedule. Broadcasters have grumbled, mostly anonymously, about the repeated interruptions. “His economic stimulus package apparently does not extend to the TV networks,” one of the anonymous network types said to The Washington Post in February.

In a statement, Fox said an on-screen graphic would alert viewers to coverage of the press conference on Fox News Channel and the Fox Business Network. The drama “Lie to Me” will air at 8 p.m.

The networks are not required to show presidential press conferences, but they generally take White House requests for airtime very seriously. Millions of viewers who rely on over-the-air TV signals do not have access to cable news networks or C-SPAN.

How has he done with our military. This from
Since his inauguration 100 days ago, Obama has made good on his promise for sweeping change in the military, a new tone in the White House's relationship with troops and a personal investment in easing the burden of military service.

But so far his record has been met with controversy, both for its marked consistency with the policies of George W. Bush and for its radical break from the past that some see as reckless.

Obama was quick to apologize for American conduct in the war on terrorism and relations with some of its allies during his trip to Europe in early April. He called for "mutual respect" toward Iran, which commanders in Iraq say supplies deadly roadside bombs to insurgents. And he has agreed to the release of reportedly gruesome photos of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, an action that some insiders claim will worsen morale in a military service only now recovering from the tarnished public perception stemming from that terrible chapter.

Likewise, in his first 100 days Obama has met several times with veterans organizations to assure them of his personal investment in their care. He's taken on the largest defense firms with a sweeping Pentagon budget reform that slashes costly programs at a time of economic turmoil. And he's proven immensely popular with troops in the field; for instance, last month he was given a standing ovation from those serving in Iraq even as he asked them for continued long-term commitments to Afghanistan.

His record on the economy from a foreign point of view. This from the BBC:
His first 100 days contain at least one notable achievement - the $787bn (£539bn) stimulus plan.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to give it its proper title, was signed into law by the President less than a month after he took the oath of office.

It is the single biggest peacetime spending initiative in US history and was passed in record time.

But it failed to gain the bi-partisan support in Congress that President Obama was looking for and has become a rallying point for Republican opposition.

Rising unemployment

The administration claims that the Act is already having an impact, with the go-ahead given to numerous transport projects, such as road and bridge building. Money has also been used to save jobs in public services, like the police.

But evidence that it is making a big difference is lacking.

In the short term, the Act cannot reverse the recession; all it can do is cushion the impact of rising unemployment and lay the groundwork to support future growth.

The Act will also have one very serious negative effect.

It will add to the spiralling US budget deficit - forecast to hit a massive $1.75 trillion this year.

The polls show what the public thinks of the President's start:
The latest New York Times/CBS poll: “Barack Obama’s presidency seems to be altering the public perception of race relations in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July… Despite that, half of blacks still say whites have a better chance of getting ahead in American society.”

More: “Mr. Obama’s 68 percent job approval rating is higher than that of any recent president at the 100-day mark. Mr. Bush had the approval of 56 percent of the public at this juncture. But while Americans clearly have faith in Mr. Obama, the poll revealed something of a disconnect between what the public thinks the president has already accomplished and what it expects him to achieve. Fewer than half of those surveyed, 48 percent, said Mr. Obama had begun to make progress on one of his major campaign promises, changing the way business is conducted in Washington. And just 39 percent said he had begun to make progress on another major promise, cutting taxes for middle-class Americans, even though the stimulus bill he signed into law does include a middle class tax cut.”

The new CNN poll: “The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll … indicates that 63 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is handling his duties as president. One in three questioned in the poll disapprove. Democrats overwhelmingly approve of how Obama is handling his job as president; 61 percent of independents agree. Only 28 percent of Republicans say the president is doing a good job in office.”

Even some of his political enemies have to admit President Obama is doing good:
I’ve been impressed by what he has done. He is a young man but he is extremely gifted. He has acted with strength, I think, and purpose in Iraq and Afghanistan, rebuilt some of our relations around the world and acted very boldly here at home on the economy where we needed him to particularly with the stimulus package.

But it’s early but I would say he is off to a very good start.

Bailed-out Citigroup Wants to Give Bonuses to It's Employees

Where is the outrage this time around. Another major tottering financial institution wants to spit in the faces of the American taxpayer and we expected to just stand for it. The question is whether the Wall St. dominated Obama administration cave in, again.

Citigroup Inc., soon to be one-third owned by the U.S. government, is asking the Treasury for permission to pay special bonuses to many key employees, according to people familiar with the matter.

The request comes as Citigroup is grappling with broad government pay restrictions that could break apart its legendary energy-trading unit. People at that unit, Phibro, are threatening to leave because of pay caps tied to the U.S. bailout of Citigroup. Phibro has been the source of hundreds of millions of dollars in profits for the bank, and has paid out hefty compensation, including a roughly $100 million windfall last year for the unit's leader, Andrew Hall.

Citigroup is trying to get U.S. approval for special bonuses for many of its employees. In a meeting earlier this month with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit made the case for the stock-based bonuses. Executives are describing the bonuses as "retention" awards to perk up demoralized employees who the company worries are vulnerable to poaching by rival firms, people familiar with the matter said.

A person familiar with Geithner's thinking said the Treasury hadn't made a decision on whether to allow the bonuses. It is unclear how much Citigroup would pay out in bonuses if the government approved the move. A Citigroup spokesman declined to comment on details of the proposed compensation plans.

Citigroup's request comes after Congress, the public and the president blasted pay practices on Wall Street. Bonuses at American International Group Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. ignited political infernos in Washington.

And this has been in the works for some time now:
AIG isn't the only bailed-out financial firm paying big bucks to managers who helped steer their company to near collapse. Citigroup has pledged millions of dollars in bonuses to senior executives for the next few years, despite lawmakers efforts to eliminate such payments.

It's not clear whether the bonuses, which Citigroup says are for 2008 but won't start paying out until 2010, will be allowed. Under compensation rules passed by Congress in mid-February, cash bonuses are barred for top executives at bailed-out banks.

But Citi finalized its bonus program shortly before the new rules were introduced. That might make the payments permissible, though they could be made almost worthless by new tax rules just passed by the House of Representatives and headed for consideration in the Senate. Even so, Citigroup's move in January to set in place bonus payments for years to come raises questions about whether it was trying to evade compensation rules it knew were coming.

Then there is Morgan Stanley which is trying to con Uncle Sucker:
Anticipating restrictions on bonuses, officials at Citigroup Inc and Morgan Stanley are exploring ways to sidestep tough new federal caps on compensation, the Wall Street Journal said.

Executives at these banks and other financial institutions that received government aid are discussing increasing base salaries for some executives and other top-producing employees, the paper said, citing people familiar with the situation.

The discussions are at an early stage, partly because the government has not yet issued specific rules on the bonus payments that will be allowed at companies that received aid under the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, the paper said.