Barack Obama

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Trump on track to spend exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars on travels

By one estimate the president has already rung up as much in travel costs as the Obama and Biden families did in eight years all at the expense of taxpayers

Nothing used to rile devoted Barack Obama critics like the presidents winter Hawaiian vacation. A watchdog group once calculated that the Aloha state trips cost taxpayers $3.5m a pop in airfare, security arrangements, communications and medical staff.

Among the harshest critics of Obamas travel was Donald Trump, then a private citizen. President Obamas vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars—-Unbelievable! Trump tweeted in 2012. Two years later, Trump tweeted that Obamas motto was: If I dont go on taxpayer funded vacations & constantly fundraise then the terrorists win.

The joke, it turns out, is on Trump. Now he is the president and it appears that he is on track to spend many more millions of taxpayer dollars on trips that might be construed as vacations for him and his family than Obama ever dreamed of. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward… Mar-a-Lago?

By one sketchy estimate, Trump and his family, in their security and travel demands, have already rung up as much in accounts payable by taxpayers as the Obama and Biden families did in eight years, a figure elsewhere calculated, by the Washington DC-based Judicial Watch, as topping $97m.

How is it possible? The complicated receipt involves weekend trips by Trump to Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida; travel by his children and their government security details on Trump family business; and costs associated with protecting Trumps Manhattan home, the high-rise Trump Tower building, where Trumps wife and youngest child live but where the real estate mogul himself has not set foot since becoming president.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/04/donald-trump-travel-costs-mar-a-lago-taxpayers


The Guardian view on the US presidency: the time is right for a female leader | Editorial

Editorial: Hillary Clinton failed to take account of the populist anger and lost ground to the rightwing demagoguery of Donald Trump. But in belatedly recognising widespread frustration with elites she deserves to win

The final presidential debate, thankfully the last set piece in a wretched campaign, revealed what is admirable and loathsome in American politics. Hillary Clinton displayed a razor-sharp intelligence and a quick wit. Her facility with facts trumped Donald Trumps lack of them. Americans finally saw on Wednesday why Secretary Clinton had got rich from giving lectures after leaving office. Her fluency with words, which has earned her $22m in speaking fees, appeared to silence her opponent. Mr Trump, a boastful, thin-skinned billionaire who trades in racism and misogyny, was left squawking on the sidelines of the debate. His jibes revealed aman out of his depth. His answer was to plunge down deeper. By disgracefully refusing to rule out calling this a rigged election he gave up a fight he had by then lost.

Americans should vote for Secretary Clinton as an able and proven politician. A Trump presidency would be bad for America and dangerous for the world, so a vote for Secretary Clinton is the most effective way of preventing it. Mr Trump has been exposed for questionable tax arrangements, outrageous business practices and irregularities at his charity. The billionaire is a grabber and kisser of women who he presumed gave consent because he was famous. There are numerous allegations of sexual assault by Mr Trump. He has demonstrated that he has neither the conscience, training nor sense of history and the desire to be judged well by it to occupy the White House. Secretary Clinton possesses such attributes. She has a serious and sustained commitment on issues like education, healthcare and equality, and she has stood consistently for the rights of women, ethnic minorities, children and the disabled through her long career.

However, there are fewer reasons to vote for Secretary Clinton than one would have hoped. For more than two decades she has been part of a political establishment that shaped a dysfunctional country. She has been unable to escape being tarnished by the most damaging policies notably around criminal justice ofher husbands administration. There are well-founded concerns, highlighted by transcripts of her speeches, that she is too close to Wall Street to be an effective check onits excesses ifelected.

The mood for change

Even so, as the first female president she would represent a symbolic transformative change in American politics. In some ways what Secretary Clinton has had to deal with are ingrained cultural attitudes about what success and leadership look like. These were exposed by the finding that Mr Trump would win if only men voted and Secretary Clinton would win if only women voted. That most men favor MrTrump over Secretary Clinton demonstrates at some level a more insidious sexism than the one Mr Trump peddles: that centred on the mind, not the body. It is a hostility deeply embedded but rarely conceded against seeing women as genuinely equal.

There is little doubt that the 2016 presidential campaign has been one of the most confrontational contests of the modern era. The mood for change has been more pervasive and volatile, and has been supercharged by Mr Trump, a braggart with tyrannical instincts. The backdrop to this election has been genuine and understandable public anger about economic insecurity, growing inequality and frustration with elites. Mr Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left have reflected that mood in their very different ways. That is not going to disappear after 8 November. The election has also raised real questions about the crisis of American democracy. Mr Trump encouraged violence against opponents and threatened to jail Secretary Clinton if he took office.

The civility that has marked out US democracy as ordered and restrained appears dead. The next president will have to resurrect it. The political topography of a polarized and resentful nation has been obscured by the preternatural equanimity of Barack Obama. Mr Trump has in some ways skilfully exploited these divisions. On social security he has moved to the left on the campaign trail, telling jobless Americans that he would not touch their benefits. Mr Trump also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the landmark measure that increases health coverage for low-wage workers and benefits large numbers of immigrants and minorities. This contrasts with the real estate magnates offer to expand the US health programme for the elderly Medicare which benefits overwhelmingly older, whiter voters.

These dog whistles have been part of American politics for decades. But they come at a time when there is a sense that there are too many losers from economic growth in the country. Driving discontent in the US is a system that no longer defuses high levels of inequality with opportunities for all. Themiddle classes are poorer today than in 2000. Since the Great Recession the top 1% of families in the US have captured 52% of the income growth. Theres understandable anger that the wealthy were bailed out while ordinary Americans were hollowed out. Voters rage that, in the current incarnation of globalization, jobs that disappeared when the US decided to import rather than manufacture did not come back they simply popped up elsewhere, usually in China.

The Sanders effect

Nowhere has this fury been more keenly felt than in the countrys former manufacturing heartlands, tapping into Americas long history of resistance to free trade and making protectionism a potent political force once again. The politician who has shaped the politics of the country and accounted for populist anger is Senator Sanders. The man from Vermont understood, earlier than most, that voters see the economy as rigged against them by a political system that has been corrupted by big money. His campaign was backed three to one by millennials in the Democratic primaries. This month his favorability ratings in opinion polls are only bettered by MichelleObama.

Senator Sanders insurgent campaign has transformed Democratic politics forcing Secretary Clinton to adopt, albeit sotto voce, key planks of his program such as a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour, tuition-free public college and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership President Obamas big trade deal. Until this week, Secretary Clinton failed to outline enough of a bold reform program. Tellingly, she offered signs of one in the final televised debate, making unprompted promises to push immigration reforms, a key Sanders point, within the first 100 days of her presidency.

Although domestic politics has framed the campaign, Secretary Clintons election would be greeted with relief and optimism in most world capitals other than Moscow and Damascus. Despite her hawkish outlook, she will have no alternative but to recognize that the 21st century no longer always looks to the United States as an indispensable hegemon, whether benign or threatening. Secretary Clinton should focus on US soft, not hard, power dealing with climate change and working out fairer global trade arrangements.

If Secretary Clinton is elected she must recognize the mood without pandering to its demons. She needs to bring the bold ambition about the role of government to this era that Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt each did in earlier times. She has the intelligence, the seriousness and the experience to do this. TheUS presidency is hugely powerful: 10% of all posts in federal government are allocated on the basis of political patronage. Secretary Clinton offers the best chance of ensuring those jobs go to competent people. Her choice of Treasury secretary in the aftermath of the banking crisis will be watched with special care, as will an olive branch appointment to Senator Sanders of the kind that president Obama made to her in 2008. She offers the greatest hope that the supreme court defends abortion rights and looks again at issues like campaign finance as well as background checks on gun owners. Yet America will soon find itself weakened at home and abroad if the new president is as badly served by congress as Mr Obama has been for most of his tenure.

There is a danger, if Mrs Clinton wins, thatthe Republicans will relapse into the Hillary-hatred that has marked them for a quarter century. The tragedy of this election isthat, to become president, Secretary Clinton has had to talk more radically than she actually felt; to be an effective president she may be compelled to act more conservatively than shenow says she wants to do.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/21/guardian-view-on-us-presidency-time-is-right-for-female-leader-hillary-clinton


Clinton and Trump join families of 9/11 victims at ‘place of reverence’

Survivors and relatives share stories and moments of silence at Ground Zero, where nominees make rare joint appearance until Clinton leaves after feeling unwell

Presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump visited Ground Zero in New York on Sunday, for ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001. Their unusual appearance at the same event ended early, when Clinton felt unwell and left.

Just two weeks before the first presidential debate and 58 days before election day on 8 November, the Democratic and Republican nominees were present to pay silent tribute to the almost 3,000 people who died in the attacks 15 years ago.

Politicians are invited to attend ceremonies every year at the site where the World Trade Center was destroyed by two hijacked jets, but not to speak. The event centers on those who lost loved ones. Some of the families gathered to commemorate their relatives, however, cheered and clapped as Trump arrived.

According to a spokesman for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum that now stands at Ground Zero, it was the first time the New York real-estate billionaire had attended the official ceremony.

Trump, who was born in Queens, grinned as people waved, and posed so they could take photographs. Clinton, who in 2001 was the junior US senator from New York, arrived quietly, greeting some families on her way into the site, and did not prompt applause like her rival. Both candidates issued short statements about the need to mark the day solemnly.

In Washington, Barack Obama observed a moment of silence in the White House and spoke at a commemoration of those who died in the attack on the Pentagon.

People also gathered at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the planes hijacked by terrorists crashed into a field.

In lower Manhattan, family members of those who died, New York firefighters who lost 343 of their colleagues, police officers and survivors gathered under overcast skies. It was humid and haze obscured the top of One World Trade, the skyscraper that now dominates the New York skyline, in contrast to the clear blue skies that dawned on the day 15 years ago that changed the course of history.

In total, 2,977 people were killed. In Manhattan on Sunday, wives who lost husbands, children who lost fathers and mothers and other family members and friends laid flowers on the names of the dead that are engraved into the stone surrounds of two huge reflecting pools with waterfalls, constructed on the exact sites where the twin towers stood. The stage for the event sat between the two pools.

A youth choir from Brooklyn sang the Star-Spangled Banner, to warm applause. A group of first responders in dress uniform held up the torn flag that was raised over the wreckage at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attack, before marching away to the sound of a piped band.

Then the site went still, for a moment of silence at 8.46am, the time the first jet hit, near the top of the north tower.

Monica Iken Murphy, 46, from New York, attended with her daughters Madison, 10, and Megan, eight. On 11 September 2001 her husband, Michael Iken, a bond trader, was working on the 84th floor of the south tower.

Monica
Monica Iken Murphy holds a picture of her husband, Michael. Photograph: Joanna Walters/the Guardian

He called me that morning to tell me to watch the TV because a commuter plane had flown into the north tower, thats what they thought had happened, she said. But they could not see what I saw when I switched on the TV the big, gaping hole in the other side of the north tower.

He told her he was fine. Some workers had left the building but he and some others were trying to help a colleague who was quaking with fear and hiding under a desk. A few minutes later, he called again.

The last thing he said was, People are jumping out of the windows, then I have to go. But no-one thought the towers would fall.

He told me to start calling friends and family and thats what I was doing when I saw on the TV the second plane hit the south tower. I froze, I could not believe what I was witnessing.

The second plane hit the south tower about 20 minutes after the first impact. Michael Iken died when the tower collapsed, a short time later.

His wife now comes to the site as a place of reverence, she said, and because, like many relatives of those who died, she never received any remains.

But this is where these people took their last breath, she said.

After the overcast start to the morning, the sun suddenly shone. Iken Murphy stepped into its rays.

When the sun comes out, she said, I feel his warmth and a connection to him as if he is communicating with me or hugging me. Even if its raining, somehow the sun always comes out when I come down here.

Ten years ago, she married a New York firefighter, Robert Murphy. She also met Clinton when she was campaigning to have the memorial to the victims built at the actual site of the World Trade Center, not nearby.

Asked how she felt about Clinton and Trump attending the ceremony on Sunday, she said: As long as they were not doing any of their politicking, thats fine.

After the first moment of silence was marked with the tolling of a bell, Jerry DAmadeo approached the microphone to talk about his father, Vincent DAmadeo, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center and was killed when Jerry was 10. DAmadeo choked up as he recalled how many people helped him in the years since 9/11.

He told those gathered that he had recently attended a childrens camp for those who lost family and friends in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in December 2012.

Suddenly I was able to be there for people and use my experience to help them, he said. DAmadeo now acts as a visitors host at the museum at the World Trade Center site.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/11/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-9-11-anniversary-ceremony-obama


Obama’s nomination of first Muslim federal judge praised by advocates

Abid Qureshi was selected to serve on Washingtons US district court weeks after Donald Trumps remarks that Muslim judges could be biased against him

Barack Obama has taken the historic step of nominating the first Muslim candidate to become a federal judge.

The announcement comes just weeks after White House candidate Donald Trump made controversial remarks that it was possible, absolutely that Muslim judges could be biased against him.

US judges who are Muslims have served at state level but never the echelons above as appeals, federal or supreme court judges, according to Muslim Advocates, a national advocacy organization.

Abid Qureshi, a litigation and pro bono specialist practicing in Washington, was put forward on Tuesday night to serve on the federal judiciary at the US district court for the District of Columbia.

I think its past time for an American Muslim to be nominated as a federal judge. Im absolutely thrilled, Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, told the Guardian on Wednesday.

Khera had lobbied both Obama, during a meeting at the White House in 2015, to nominate a Muslim to the federal bench, and Qureshi to apply, she said.

A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included, she added.

The selection of Qureshi, who was born in Pakistan and settled in the US as a young child, became the latest milestone in a significant increase in judicial diversity under Obama.

Since becoming president, Obama has led a push to nominate more women, African American, Latino, Asian American and openly gay judges.

Of Qureshi, Obama said: I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.

Qureshi, 45, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997 and is a partner at the US legal giant Latham & Watkins.

A statement issued by the firm said: Abid is an exceptional litigator He practices with the highest level of integrity.

The firm said it was declining media requests to interview Qureshi.

In his commercial work he specializes in litigating healthcare fraud cases. But he is more widely known for pro bono work. He has been the head of the firms pro bono committee since 2012. And since 2015 he has served on the DC Bar Associations legal ethics committee.

Khera said: Every judge brings their legal and real-life experience to the job and this countrys jurisprudence is strengthened by diversity on the bench but a persons faith has no place in the consideration of whether they are qualified to be a judge. He has represented Americans of all faiths.

She said Latham & Watkins provided pro bono co-counsel on a recent civil rights lawsuit in New York that prompted a court to lift the local transportation authoritys block on satirical ads promoting a documentary about American Muslim comedians.

Khera and other experts pointed out, meanwhile, that the timing of the nomination shortly after Trumps comments was undoubtedly a coincidence.

The nominating process takes many months, said Christopher Kang, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and a former deputy assistant and deputy counsel to Obama.

He praised Obamas selection of Qureshi.

The presidents candidates continue to be the most diverse nominations for the federal judiciary in history and he has sent a powerful message, whether to those who are thinking of applying to be a federal judge or just someone considering a legal career in the future that you can do so regardless of your gender, race, sexual orientation or religion, he said.

Kang said it was vital for the judiciary to reflect the diversity of American society, as well as act as role models.

He added that Trumps remarks about Muslim judges were racist and offensive. The Republican presidential candidate made the remarks in June, having announced last December that as president he would ban Muslims from entering the US.

The June comments followed on from his lambasting the California federal judge Gonzalo Curiel and demanding he be recused from presiding over a class action lawsuit against the defunct Trump University, because of his Mexican heritage.

The furor about his statement on Muslim judges actually served to highlight the lack of any such individuals serving in the upper levels of the judiciary.

But even if the timing of Qureshis nomination has nothing to do with the political storm stirred up by Trump, Qureshi will have to survive the politics in Congress if he is to be confirmed by the Senate.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/07/barack-obama-muslim-judge-abid-qureshi


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