June 14, 2016

President Obama will visit Orlando Thursday

President Barack Obama will visit Orlando Thursday to pay his respect to victims' families and stand in solidarity with the community, his spokesman said.

No further details about his trip have been released yet.

Gov. Rick Scott hasn't spoken directly with Obama and has no additional details about his trip.

"The only president who has reached out is George W Bush," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. "Last night he spoke with Valerie Jarrett in the White House." 
Jarrett is a senior adviser to Obama. The president said at the White House Sunday that he had spoken to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Fifty people were killed and 53 injured in a shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub Saturday night.

June 13, 2016

Orlando shooting: Gov. Rick Scott requests federal emergency declaration


Following Sunday's deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida Gov. Rick Scott this morning requested that President Barack Obama issue an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act "so that the full resources of the federal government can be made available for all those impacted by this horrific massacre."

"Yesterday’s terror attack was an attack on our state and entire nation," Scott said in a statement.

"I have remained in constant communication with federal, state and local law enforcement. I have spoken with our hospitals who are caring for those who are wounded and recovering. I have also been in contact with some of the victims’ families to let them know we are grieving with them and will be there for them every step of the way," Scott said. "Our state is mourning, but the Orlando community is strong. We are all coming together, and we will get through this together. I ask every American to continue to pray for our state and nation and all those affected by this terror attack."

Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera added: "We are devastated, angry and disgusted by the horrifying act of domestic terrorism that took place here in our state. I have been on the ground in Orlando, and the sense of community and love we see here is proof that we are a resilient people. We as Americans have shown and will continue to show that we cannot and will not be intimidated into changing our way of life by evil. The State of Florida has offered all resources available, and will continue to be in constant contact with all agencies involved. Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror, and we will be doing everything possible to support."

In a two-page letter to the White House and FEMA, Scott specifically requested emergency assistance in the form of "provision of health and safety measures" and "management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety."

Read the request here.

June 12, 2016

President Barack Obama's comments on the Orlando shooting

Here are President Barack Obama's comments about the Orlando shooting:

Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder -- a horrific massacre -- of dozens of innocent people.  We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts.  We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city.  Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate.  And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors.  The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement.  I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation. 

We are still learning all the facts.  This is an open investigation.  We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.  The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism.  And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what -- if any -- inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups.  What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.  Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people.  This could have been any one of our communities.  So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need -- they are going to get it.  As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way.  Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse.  It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends -- our fellow Americans -- who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live.  The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub -- it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. 

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American -- regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation -- is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.  And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history.  The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle.  This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.  And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.  And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy.  Their names.  Their faces.  Who they were.  The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world.  Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families -- that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable.  And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change.  We need to demonstrate that we are defined more -- as a country -- by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts -- friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives.  In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another.  We will not give in to fear or turn against each other.  Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.    

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning.  May He comfort their families.  May God continue to watch over this country that we love.  Thank you.

June 03, 2016

Obama to Democrats: 'I want us to run scared'

Obama (4)


President Barack Obama might have thought that, by this point, Democrats would have already settled on a nominee to try to follow him into the White House. That way, Obama would be free to traverse the country to defend his legacy and support his preferred successor.

Instead, it’s the first week of June, and Hillary Clinton is still fending off Bernie Sanders, at least until Tuesday, when she’s expected to reach the magic number of delegates to make her the party’s choice.

So when Obama traveled to Miami on Friday to raise money for Democrats, he couldn’t devote himself to bragging about a specific presidential candidate who will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

What he did instead was boast about his own record, particularly on the economy.

“If what you’re deeply concerned about is the state of the middle class and the ability of people to work hard and get ahead and pass on opportunities to your kids and your grand-kids — if that’s what you’re concerned about, then this election shouldn’t be close,” Obama said at a fundraiser held at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

Republicans, he continued, have not offered a “coherent economic theory” but rather rhetoric that “is feeding resentments.”

“So being able to say that it’s immigrants or it’s gays or it’s somebody that is taking something away from you — that’s the essence of the message that the Republican nominee is delivering, and frankly has been the message that’s been delivered by this Republican Congress for too long,” he said. “And it’s divisive, and it’s factually wrong.”

More here.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

In Miami, Obama praises Wasserman Schultz


President Barack Obama gave a shout-out in Miami on Friday to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, who faces a contested primary election.

Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, which hosted Obama for a fundraiser at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein. Her opponent, Tim Canova, has been endorsed by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Obama described Wasserman Schultz as "somebody who I don't know how she does it, because she's everywhere all the time, non-stop, and she's a mom and a wife and has been just incredibly supportive of my agenda."

"She's taken tough votes when they're the right thing to do, and she's somebody who I have counted on consistently," Obama said. "She's had my back. I want to make sure we have her back."

The about 90 donors gathered at the dinner gave her a standing ovation.

Obama also gave shout-outs to several other attendees, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now running for Congress in St. Petersbur ("a great friend," Obama said). And he praised a candidate who wasn't there: U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. Earlier Friday, Obama attended a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser for Murphy on Miami Beach.

"I think he's going to be outstanding in the United States Senate," Obama said.

Photo credit: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Republicans pounce on President Obama's Miami fundraisers for DNC, Patrick Murphy


National and state Republicans are casting President Barack Obama's political events in Miami today as the Democratic Party's figurehead intervening in a critical toss-up state.

Obama is in South Florida this evening for a couple Democratic fundraisers: one for U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- the arm of the Democratic Party that's tasked with electing candidates to the U.S. Senate -- and another for the Democratic National Committee. (The DNC event was being billed as potentially Obama's last visit to Miami as president.)

Wadi Gaitan, spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement that Obama was attempting "to calm the rising tide of Democratic disunity through speeches and fundraisers."

"Floridians continue to distrust the failed policies that the president and Hillary Clinton are promoting. Voters are ready for a new leader who will turn the page on the last eight years of this broken administration by fighting for real solutions for all Americans," Gaitan said -- without naming the GOP's presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee -- the GOP version of the DSCC -- said Obama was trying "to bail out Patrick Murphy" by fundraising for him in person.

Murphy is seen as a front-runner in the competitive race to replace Marco Rubio -- a contest that could determine which party has control of the Senate next year. But Murphy had a rocky month in May, largely in part because of reports by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times that highlighted inconsistencies in the Democratic candidate's résumé.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Murphy in March -- an achievement Murphy proudly touts -- and since then, Biden has campaigned and fund-raised for Murphy twice, first in Miami and then in Orlando last month.

So it wasn't out of the realm of possibility that Obama might campaign for him, too, at some point.

The NRSC said Murphy "is not only watching the bottom fall out of his campaign, but is struggling to gain oxygen in a brutal primary fight against liberal hero Alan Grayson." (Murphy, Grayson and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith are competing in the Aug. 30 primary.)

"With Murphy in a tailspin, it’s hardly a surprise that D.C. Democrats are pulling out all the stops to bail out their chosen candidate," the NRSC said in a statement this morning.

Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp told the Herald/Times that "Republicans keep cheer-leading for ethically challenged hedge fund manager Alan Grayson to win the Democratic primary." 

"Meanwhile, Patrick is proud to be endorsed and supported by President Obama, Vice President Biden, and over a hundred other Democratic leaders. That tells Florida Democrats all they need to know," Karp said in a campaign statement.

Some Republicans have, indeed, expressed a desire for Grayson to win the primary -- but that's because it would give their GOP candidate a stronger chance to win the general election (and hold on to the seat for Republicans). Polls of the U.S. Senate race so far have, in general, shown both Murphy and Grayson leading over the five Republican contenders, but with Grayson doing so by a slimmer margin than Murphy.

The five Republicans running in that party primary are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and Manatee County home-builder Carlos Beruff.

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m.

Lopez-Cantera's campaign also chimed in about Obama's event for Murphy with a statement this morning, saying in part: "Murphy is bringing in America's most divisive president to fundraise for him today to further try to prop up his flailing Senate bid while he continues to stumble."

Photo credit: President Barack Obama arrives at Cecil Airport on Air Force One with Rep. Patrick Murphy, left, and Rep. Corrine Brown, Feb. 26, 2016, in Jacksonville. Rick Wilson / AP

June 01, 2016

While in Miami, President Obama will also fundraise for Patrick Murphy


Vice President Joe Biden came to Florida twice this spring to help Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign. Now President Barack Obama will be here to help out Murphy, too.

Obama will be in Miami on Friday to help raise money for the Democratic National Committee, and during that visit, he'll also attend a separate event to fund-raise for Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign.

No further details are available about the Murphy event. TCPalm.com first reported on the fundraiser on Tuesday.

The website also said that Obama will travel to the Treasure Coast (in Murphy's congressional district) on Friday evening for a weekend of golf.

Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, is the Democratic establishment's favored candidate for the Aug. 30 party primary. Murphy faces fellow U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando and Miami labor attorney Pam Keith. (Five contenders are running in the GOP primary that same day.)

Obama and Biden endorsed Murphy in March, and since then, Biden has campaigned and fund-raised for him twice, first in Miami and then in Orlando last month.

Obama's and Biden's involvement in Florida's U.S. Senate race is a reflection of the significance the seat holds for Democrats. The seat, being vacated by Marco Rubio, is among a handful that could switch parties in November and possibly give Democrats a majority in the Senate again.

May 18, 2016

Florida lawmaker wants AG opinion on feds’ transgender bathroom rules; Pam Bondi declines


An outgoing conservative lawmaker in Florida who is running for Nassau County schools superintendent wants state Attorney General Pam Bondi to issue an official opinion on what she believes to be the "constitutional encroach" of the Obama administration's new guidance to public schools over transgender students' bathroom access.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, called the president's new policy a "clear violation" of states' rights under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"It is clear that the Obama administration is once again circumventing the Congress and even its own federal rule-making process to impose new federal rules and laws on Florida’s public schools," Adkins said in a statement this morning.

MORE: Read Rep. Adkins' letter to Bondi

But Bondi’s office isn’t wading into the issue. Deputy Attorney General Kent J. Perez wrote in a response to Adkins on Wednesday afternoon: “We do not issue legal opinions on federal law.”

On Friday, the U.S. departments of Education and Justice sent letters of guidance to all public schools nationwide informing them that they must treat students in ways that match their gender identities -- or risk losing federal money under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in educational programs based on sex.

Republican leaders in Florida have been reluctant to comment so far on the new guidelines. But Adkins, the outgoing chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Subcommittee, wants a swifter response: For the state to challenge the Obama administration's directive.

Read the full story here.

Published 10:49 a.m.; Updated 4:30 p.m.

May 17, 2016

Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist

via @adamsmithtimes

So Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff called called President Barack Obama an animal the other day. As in: “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call president, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

The Ocala Star-Banner reports that Beruff said his comments were taken out of context:  "...I use strong language and it was meant in the context of the (current) dismantling of the military. I could have called him a bird, plane, anything,” Beruff said.

This, of course, makes complete sense:  “Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this PLANE we call president, because he’s aPLANE, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country and dismantled the military under not one, not two, but three secretary of defenses.” 

Anyhoo, his critics continue to seize on it.

Continue reading "Carlos Beruff says comment calling Obama 'animal' was taken out of context, not racist" »

President Obama is coming to Miami to raise money for Democrats


President Barack Obama will be in Miami next month to ask wealthy Democratic donors to open their checkbooks to the political party ahead of the November election that will determine Obama's successor.

To lure donors to the June 3 dinner, the Democratic National Committee is billing the event as perhaps Obama's final Miami fundraiser as president.

"This may be the last time President Obama visits Miami as a sitting President, making it a truly special event," reads an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The fundraiser was first reported by Saint PetersBlog.

"This is a great opportunity to support the DNC and ultimately stop Donald Trump from reaching the White House in 2016," the invitation says.

 Though it doesn't say so on the invite, the dinner will take place at the Coconut Grove home of attorney Robert Rubenstein.

To attend and get a photo with the president, donors must contribute $10,000 per person. To "co-host" the event -- which usually comes with more access to the president -- they must contribute $33,400 per couple.

Obama headlined a similar fundraiser for the DNC a year ago in Coconut Grove, unofficially kicking off Democrats' presidential fundraising season.