February 18, 2016

Marco Rubio wants President Obama to 'reconsider' Cuba trip

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio's Senate office sent President Barack Obama a letter Thursday urging him to "reconsider" his trip to Cuba next month.

The Florida Republican argued Obama's visit "will send the message to the oppressed Cuban people that you stand with their oppressors."

Here's the text of Rubio's letter:

Continue reading "Marco Rubio wants President Obama to 'reconsider' Cuba trip" »

February 17, 2016

Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

News of President Barack Obama's impending trip to Cuba -- in March, sources told the Miami Herald -- prompted quick backlash from Miami politicians, many of them of Cuban descent.

Here's reaction, which we will update as it comes in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president

 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is running for president

 

Continue reading "Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba" »

Sources: Obama plans to visit Cuba next month

via @HeraldMimi

As part of his opening to Cuba, President Barack Obama is expected to visit the island in March, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to travel there in almost 90 years, sources said Wednesday.

The president is expected to arrive March 21, sources said. That timetable would put him in Cuba during a week when Havana is awash in special events. On the 20th, the Rolling Stones are expected to conclude their Latin America tour with a concert in Cuba and on March 22, Cuba’s national baseball team will play the Tampa Bay Rays in Havana. It’s unclear whether the president will attend the baseball game.

ABC News reported Wednesday that the National Security Council will make the official announcement at a White House briefing Thursday. The network also reported that Obama will stop in Cuba on his way to Argentina.

Obama’s critics were quick to condemn the visit.

“If true, it is absolutely shameful that Obama is rewarding the Castros with a visit to Cuba by a sitting American president since their reign of terror began,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami. “A visit by President Obama more than one year after his unilateral concessions to the regime will only legitimize the Castros’ repressive behavior.”

More here.

January 13, 2016

Fact-checking Obama's 2016 State of the Union

President Barack Obama went after his doubters in his final State of the Union address, dismissing their warnings about the country’s economy and military preparedness under his watch as "political hot air."

"Let me tell you something: The United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. Period. It's not even close. It's not even close," Obama said.

Yet even as he defended his seven years as commander in chief, Obama acknowledged he didn’t deliver on his campaign promise to bring a more civil tone to a sharply divided Capitol Hill.

"It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency  —  that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," Obama said. "There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office."

PolitiFact is fact-checking several statements from Obama’s speech, as well as the Republican response from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Keep reading here.

January 12, 2016

In GOP State of the Union responses, different messages in English and Spanish on immigration

@PatriciaMazzei

The Republican Party's immigration split was reflected Tuesday in the two responses hand-picked party members gave -- one in English, one in Spanish -- to President Obama's final State of the Union address. The Spanish version, offered by a Cuban-American congressman from Miami, was decidedly softer.

Here's what South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said in English:

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies.

Here's what Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said in Spanish (translation is ours):

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love the United States should ever feel unwelcome in this country. It's not who we are.

At the same time, it's obvious that our immigration system needs to be reformed. The current system puts our national security at risk and is an obstacle for our economy.

It's essential that we find a legislative solution to protect our nation, defend our borders, offer a permanent and human solution to those who live in the shadows, respect the rule of law, modernize the visa system and push the economy forward.

I have no doubt that if we work together, we can achieve this and continue to be faithful to the noblest legacies of the United States.

There were other differences in the speeches as well. Haley and Diaz-Balart each briefly mentioned their personal backgrounds, which are obviously not the same. Haley spoke about the Charleston shooting and removal of the Confederate flag (which she referred to only as a "symbol that was being used to divide us") while Diaz-Balart spoke more generally about "tragedies" in South Carolina and California. Diaz-Balart didn't make veiled references to presidential front-runner Donald Trump, while Haley warned against the "noise" in politics.

And Diaz-Balart mentioned Cuba and Venezuela:

Unfortunately, there are still countries where basic liberties are not respected and were governments don't represent their people. Mullahs in Iran, devoted to radical Islam and with nuclear ambitions, prohibit dissidence and jail independent journalists as 'spies.' In North Korea, the people remain isolated from the rest of the world without Internet access or mass media. And here, in our own hemisphere, the Cuban people have not had a free election in more than 57 years, and political detentions and oppression keep increasing. And the Venezuelan people suffers the existence of political prisoners and corruption in the most important democratic institutions.

Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union

@PatriciaMazzei

Here's what Florida politicians had to say about President Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday:

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat:

It’s frustrating when partisanship prevents the Congress from getting things done. And it’s pretty clear that Americans are fed up with our inability to enact common-sense reforms. While we were able to get a few things passed back in December, there’s still a lot that we need to accomplish. And I will continue to do everything that I can to try to bring people together in a bipartisan way to get things done.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

President Obama's final State of the Union Address will be remembered not for what he said, but for what he didn’t say.

The President has failed yet again to use this opportunity to lay out a comprehensive plan to Congress and the American people on how best to defeat ISIS, and instead has opted to try to lull us into a false sense of security that is belied by the facts on the ground here in the U.S. and across the globe.

It's much the same situation with Iran: the President touted his nuclear deal with Tehran, yet what the President didn't say is that, since the deal, we have seen an increasingly bellicose regime flouting the international community, daring us to take action against its illicit behavior and then threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal if we do respond.

 

Continue reading "Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union" »

President Obama to Congress: Lift Cuban embargo

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama dedicated a (short) paragraph in his final State of the Union address Tuesday to U.S.-Cuba policy. A year ago, he had only just announced his administration's plans to normalize diplomatic relations with the island.

"Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy. It set us back in Latin America," Obama said. "That's why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo."

Previewing Obama's last State of the Union

On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address. The White House has advertised it as a "big picture" address that skips the usual legislative wish list.

In a video previewing his speech, Obama called himself "optimistic," saying he intends to talk about "what we all need to do together in the years to come, the big things that will guarantee an even stronger, better, more prosperous America for our kids." The White House website devoted to the speech previews the topics of the economy, climate change, foreign policy, health care and "social progress."

We’ll be fact-checking and annotating the speech Tuesday night. Here are some of the topics from our archives that we think Obama might mention.

Closing Guantanamo Bay

We’re tracking Obama’s 2008 campaign promises on our Obameter, a database of more than 500 campaign pledges. We’ve rated his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center as Stalled. Obama clearly wants to close the facility, but Congress continues to block that move. (We rate outcomes, not intentions on our Obameter.) In November, Obama signed an overall bill to fund defense that included limitations on closing Guantanamo.

Keep reading PolitiFact's preview.

January 11, 2016

Obama's broken promise on path to citizenship

President Barack Obama's promise to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants has faced a major roadblock due to resistance in Congress.

He took steps on his own to give temporary status to certain illegal immigrants, but he has not gone as far as providing a path to citizenship.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama promised to support support "a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."

In 2012, Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives temporary status for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children. Almost 700,000 have been approved for DACA and about 443,000 have renewed their two-year deferral. But this program does not provide permanent lawful status to applicants.

Keep reading about Obama's promise from PolitiFact's Obameter.

January 08, 2016

Miami congressman picked to deliver GOP State of the Union response in Spanish

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@PatriciaMazzei

For the third consecutive year, the Republican Party's Spanish-language response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday will come from a Miami member of Congress.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart will give the speech, the House Republicans announced Friday. Last year, it was Rep. Carlos Curbelo. The year before, it was Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

In a statement, Diaz-Balart thanked Speaker Paul Ryan for tapping him.

"The United States and the American people face grave challenges, all of which can be overcome with leadership in Washington D.C. that understands the greatness of our country," Diaz-Balart said. "We need a president who will unify, not divide; a president who will stand with our allies and stand up to enemies of freedom. House Republicans are committed to putting our country back on a path to prosperity, creating solutions that will bolster the economy, cultivate job growth, and provide for a robust national defense. The American people deserve nothing less."

The speech gives a national platform to Diaz-Balart in an election year, though he's in a safe Republican seat. Like his brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart is known to be a fiery speaker, though his appearance Tuesday will likely call for a more subdued demeanor.

This year's English-language GOP response has been assigned to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, considered a potential vice-presidential pick for the party's eventual nominee. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, now a presidential candidate himself, gave the English-language response -- in which he famously took a sip of water on live TV -- in 2013.

Curbelo broke from tradition in 2015. Instead of giving a straight translation of the GOP response in English, the freshman made his own edits. No word on which route Diaz-Balart will take.

Photo credit: Jose A. Iglesias, el Nuevo Herald