January 06, 2017

Big Miami names spotted en route to DC -- headed to Obamas' White House farewell bash?



When at least four big Miami political donors to President Barack Obama show up to the same flight from Miami to Washington D.C., it's usually not a coincidence.

Friday morning, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and Tracy and Alonzo Mourning, boarded a plan to the nation's capital. Planned for Friday evening? A farewell party hosted by the president and first lady at the White House.

The White House usually remains tight-lipped about the first couple's private bashes, so a guest list confirming the two South Florida couples' attendance is unlikely to be forthcoming. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that "close friends and major donors" -- and celebrities -- are expected at the goodbye soiree.

Both the Mournings and Estefans have hosted fundraisers for the president and the Democratic Party throughout Obama's eight years in office. Alonzo Mourning, a former Miami Heat star, has golfed with Obama; in 2015, Obama honored the Estefans, both musicians, with the National Medal of Freedom.

The Obamas told People Magazine last month that they planned a final "grown-up party" before President-elect Donald Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration. The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday that Obama might visit Jacksonville for what appears to be a private function Saturday night, a day after the White House event.

Obama Vacation_2

Photo credit: Top photo, Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS; bottom photo, Steven Senne, Associated Press

January 04, 2017

Flanked by Miami congressman, Obama brings healthcare fight to Capitol

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON - Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson was at President Obama's side Wednesday morning as he arrived on Capitol Hill to strategize with Democrats how to protect the Affordable Care Act.

More Floridians have enrolled in Obamacare than any other state and South Florida is a big driver of that.

But that hasn't stopped criticism of the cost and Donald Trump won the state in November, vowing to "repeal and replace" the law. Gov. Rick Scott has said he wants to play a role in the dismantling, serving as a bridge between Washington and the states.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence was also on the Hill Wednesday to talk with Republicans, who Democrats are counting on struggling to produce an alternative health care delivery system.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 18, 2016

Approaching Trump presidency mutes White House celebration of Obama Cuba policy

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@PatriciaMazzei @ngameztorres

It could have been a celebration of one of President Barack Obama’s most significant foreign-policy legacies. Instead, on Thursday, almost two years to the day when Obama single-handedly overturned U.S. policy toward Cuba, the White House assembled Cuban Americans, Cuban government officials and business partners in Washington to offer the best reassurances they could come up with that their efforts had not been in vain.

President Obama himself has spoken to President-elect Donald Trump about the importance of holding the course on Cuba. And once out of office, Obama intends to remain involved in Cuba matters as a private citizen, several meeting attendees told the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

“He absolutely will,” said Ric Herrero, one of more than 20 Cuban Americans who met with Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

Obama did not attend the private meetings, held across the street from the White House at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on a bitterly cold Washington day, though he sent each person a letter encouraging them “to carry forward the work of strengthening our partnership in the years ahead.” Over an informal lunch, attendees noshed on medianoche sandwiches, lechón and empanadas.

The White House did not specifically respond to a request for comment on the president’s Cuba plans or conversation with Trump. It’s unclear when the two men discussed Cuba, though they recently spoke by phone the day after Cuba announced Fidel Castro’s death.

More here.

Photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald

December 12, 2016

Obameter: A broken promise by Obama to close Gitmo

Guantanamo Detainees AP


President Barack Obama is running out of time to deliver on his promise to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.

On Jan. 22, 2009, Obama issued an executive order calling for the closure of the prison facility at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba within one year. But Congress didn't agree with Obama's goal and banned the transfer of detainees to facilities within the United States.

Obama has, however, significantly reduced the number of detainees by 76 percent.

As of Dec. 10, 2016, the facility had 59 captives, including 21 approved for transfer or repatriation to their homelands, according to the Miami Herald, which has tracked prisoners and spending since the facility opened under President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Keep reading here about Obama's promise to close Gitmo and check out Obama's progress on more than 500 promises on PolitiFact's Obameter.

(Associated Press photo by Brennan Linsey of a detainee in 2008)

November 22, 2016

Eduardo Padron gets high honor from Obama

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President Barack Obama on Tuesday awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron and other luminaries from education, sports, entertainment, architecture and culture.

Obama hung the medals around each recipients neck in the ornate East Room of the White House with long gold-embroidered curtains, a giant chandelier and oil portraits of former first ladies.

Recounting Padron's childhood journey from Cuba, Obama said his career as an educator has helped countless young people follow in his footsteps of arriving an immigrant and realizing the American Dream.

"Eduardo made his choice to create more stories just like his," Obama said. "Dr. Padron has built a dream factory for one of nation's most diverse student bodies."

Among other recipients were singer Diana Ross, basketball legends Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, actors Robert Redford, Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Jordan received the loudest applause, while Los Angeles Dodgers radio announcer Vin Scully got the most sustained ovation.

Joining Obama and the recipients for the ceremony were Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other dignitaries.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, El Nuevo Herald



November 06, 2016

Obama's Orlando visit marks his 46th trip as president


via @learyreports

KISSIMMEE - President Obama is about to land in Florida, making his 46th visit to the state since he made history as the first African-American president.

Obama will appear at a rally here along with Stevie Wonder. It's a "two-fer" of sorts, designed to motivate black voters and also Florida's growing Hispanic vote.

Obama has visited Florida, and Ohio, more than just about every other state except New York, according to figures compiled by Mark Knoller of CBS News.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Photo credit: Associated Press

November 04, 2016

Obama records robocall for Garcia


That voice in automated calls dropping Friday in Florida's 26th congressional district? President Barack Obama.

Obama recorded a robocall for Democrat Joe Garcia, who is trying to unseat Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

"His, this is Barack Obama, calling on behalf of my friend Joe Garcia," the president says on the call.

Obama endorsed Garcia last week, and Garcia got to speak Thursday at Florida International University -- which is in the 26th district -- before the president's rally for Hillary Clinton.

In the call, Obama urges voters to vote in person early or on Election Day -- or to return their mail ballot.

The president has also recorded calls for several state legislative candidates.

November 03, 2016

Obama tries to summon last-minute political magic for Clinton in Miami

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@PatriciaMazzei @AmySherman1

Banging his fist and pounding his lectern, President Barack Obama tried Thursday in Miami to conjure a little last-minute political magic for Hillary Clinton, the sort of excitement that twice elected a president of hope who was nevertheless unable to prevent a 2016 presidential race of gloom.

“It’s about what can be achieved by us, the people, together, through the heart, soul and, yes, sometimes frustrating work of self-governing,” he said. “That’s not what Donald Trump stands for, but it is what Hillary stands for: The idea that in this big, diverse country of ours, we don’t demonize each other. We reach out and try to work together.”

Casting Trump as a vapid entertainer, Obama seemed intent on jolting disenchanted voters who, ballot returns show, have lagged in voting early and by mail and as a result left Florida once again in pure toss-up territory ahead of Tuesday’s election.

“This isn’t a joke. This isn’t ‘Survivor.’ This isn’t ‘The Bachelorette.’ This counts,” Obama said. “All of you are uniquely qualified to make sure that this uniquely unqualified person does not become president.”

More here.

November 02, 2016

In private Miami Beach gathering, President Obama looks to life after White House

Campaign 2016 Obama

For one night in Miami Beach, President Barack Obama wasn't campaigning for Hillary Clinton or raising money for the Democratic Party. He was an outgoing president thanking friends and planning for life outside the White House.

Obama assembled some 35 people Wednesday evening at the Star Island home of former U.S. Amb. Paul Cejas, two sources told the Miami Herald. According to the White House, the president was "seeing some friends and supporters to continue his conversations regarding future plans for his Foundation."

Air Force One landed at Miami International Airport shortly before 7:30 p.m. A tieless Obama was met by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. Levine hopped on the presidential motorcade and attended the private gathering hosted by Cejas. Another attendee: music producer Emilio Estefan, one of Cejas' Star Island neighbors.

Obama will campaign for Clinton Thursday at Florida International University and in Jacksonville.

Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Associated Press

October 31, 2016

Obama praises Miami-Dade state Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in new TV ad



The Democratic challenger seeking to unseat Miami Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores unveiled a new TV ad on Monday featuring President Barack Obama in voice-over.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Pinecrest resident in her first bid for public office, was one of 13 legislative candidates in Florida that Obama endorsed this month.

She and Flores are in a competitive race for the newly redrawn District 39 seat that spans western and southern Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, including the Florida Keys. It leans Democratic and Hispanic.

"I know Debbie will fight to defend the progress we've made over the past eight years," Obama says in the ad.

The president also cut a similar endorsement ad for District 37 state Senate candidate and current Miami Democratic state Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

Image credit: Mucarsel-Powell campaign / YouTube