Obama unveils ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ opens up about his dad, drugs and race

Obama unveils ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ opens up about his dad, drugs and race

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(CNN) – The President has a message for young minority men who grew up like he did.

“No excuses. Government, and private sector, and philanthropy, and all the faith communities, we all have a responsibility to help provide you the tools you need. We’ve got to help you knock down some of the barriers that you experience,” he said.

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“But you’ve got responsibilities too. And I know you can meet the challenge, many of you already are, if you make the effort.”

President Barack Obama spoke Thursday at the White House, where he announced “My Brother’s Keeper” – a new initiative to help young men and boys of color succeed.

He described the program as one that “goes to the very heart of why I ran for President” and dove into his own life to explain why such an initiative is needed, speaking candidly about his father, drugs and race.

A White House official said Obama improvised a good portion of his remarks and was more emotional than many planners of the event had anticipated.

Read the initiative

Mimi Walters Responds to the State of the Union Address by President Obama

January 28, 2014
Contact: Dave Gilliard
(916) 626-6804

“It is clear to me that this President fails to understand that the greatness of America does not come from the federal government or any other institution of government; it comes from the people and the freedoms we enjoy to take risks, innovate, grow and succeed on our own.

“By asserting that he will impose many of his policies without the consent of Congress, it is also apparent that President Obama does not believe in our nation’s system of checks and balances that protects us from any single branch becoming too powerful, a system that has served us well for over two centuries and that is the model for the world.”

“As a member of the next Congress, I will be willing to work with the President to find solutions to our nation’s problems. I will not ever agree to stand silently by while this or any President attempts to use his powers to bypass Congress or the people.”


Polls: Cell phone users prefer Obama, landline users like Romney

By Holly Bailey

ters have been under pressure to make sure their samples include Americans who rely solely on cell phones—and the latest NBC News/Marist polls ofFlorida,Ohio andVirginia exhibit why.

As NBC’s First Read flags, Romney narrowly pulls ahead inFlorida among voters who were polled over landlines—48 percent to 45 percent. But among cell phone respondents only, Obama has a major lead: 57 percent to 34 percent.

InVirginia, the results are similar: Romney leads by 1 point among voters polled over landlines: 47 percent to 46 percent. Meanwhile, Obama has the advantage with cell phone respondents: 54 percent to 36 percent.

InOhio, Obama does better among both landline respondents–44 percent to Romney’s 41 percent–and cell phone users–47 percent to Romney’s 37 percent.

According to the poll, 28 percent of its respondents inOhioandFloridawere cell phone users, compared to 27 percent inVirginia.


Mitt Romney says he’s ‘haunted’ by past verbal gaffes


Romney on his campaign plane (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney admits he’s “haunted” by the verbal gaffes he’s made during his second run for president but says he’s the victim of a media environment that encourages “spontaneous” actions, yet pounces on mistakes.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, Romney acknowledges that he’s forced himself to “be a little more careful in what I say” after mistakes that “make me want to kick myself in the pants.”

Among his gaffes, Romney cites his comment at a New Hampshire luncheon in January when he said, “I’d like to be able to fire people.” He said he meant health care companies that provide inadequate services, but the remark has been used against him in Democratic attacks ever since without that kind of context.

In the current media environment, Romney says, “you will be taken out of context, you’ll be clipped, and you’ll be battered with things you said.”

“I have to think not only about what I say in a full sentence but what I say in a phrase,” Romney tells Noonan. “The media always says, ‘Gosh, we just want you to be spontaneous,’ but at the same time if you say anything in the wrong order, you’re gonna be sorry!”

The presumptive Republican nominee insists he’s enjoying his time on the campaign trail, but concedes he has off days. Asked if he wakes up in a “good mood,” Romney admits that doesn’t always happen.

“The only time I’m unhappy is if I’ve done something that hurt the prospects for the success of our effort,” Romney says, though he adds he doesn’t remember the last time he woke up unhappy. “Sometimes you’re disappointed, but it’s mostly disappointment with myself that causes me to be most concerned. This for me is not my life, meaning I don’t have to win an election to feel good about myself.”

Asked if he loves the game of politics, Romney says he likes the “competition.”

“I think the game is like a sport for old guys. I mean, you know, I can’t compete in competitive sports very well, but I can compete in politics, and there’s the—what was the old ABC ‘Wide World of Sports’ slogan? ‘The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,'” Romney says. “The only difference is victory is still a thrill, but I don’t feel agony in loss.”

The presumptive Republican nominee tells Noonan that he’s keeping a personal diary of his 2012 bid on his iPad, which he updates every two or three days so that years from now he can “remember what it was like … the feelings, the ups, the downs, the people I meet and the sense I have about what’s going to happen.”

“It’s kind of fun to go back and read, as Ann and I do from time to time,” Romney says.


Obama’s high school pot-smoking detailed in Maraniss book

By Olivier Knox

Bill Clinton he was not. When it came to smoking pot, the teenage Barack Obama had rules. You had to embrace “total absorption” or face a penalty. When you smoked in the car, “the windows had to be rolled up.” And he could horn his way in, calling out “Intercepted!” and grab the joint out of turn.

Best-selling author David Maraniss’ “Barack Obama: The Story” describes the future president’s teenage antics, notably his copious marijuana smoking, details of which were published early Friday by Buzzfeed. While the book won’t be released until June 19, vast sections of it were already available Friday on Google Books.

[Related: Obama ex-girlfriend recalls his ‘sexual warmth’]

Starting on page 293, the reader begins to get the dope on high school-age Obama’s group of basketball- and fun-loving buds, who dubbed themselves the “Choom Gang,” from a verb meaning “to smoke marijuana.”

“As a member of the Choom Gang, Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking  trends. The first was called ‘TA,’ short for ‘total absorption.’ To place this in the physical and political context of another young man who would grow up to be president, TA was the antithesis of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” writes Maraniss, author of a biography of the 42nd president.

“When you were with Barry and his pals, if you exhaled precious pakalolo (Hawaiian slang from marijuana, meaning “numbing tobacco”) instead of absorbing it fully into your lungs, you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around. “‘Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated,’ explained one member of the Choom Gang, Tom Topolinski, the Chinese-looking kid with a Polish name who answered to Topo.”

[Related: Aides gave filmmakers bin Laden raid info]

Obama also made popular a pot-smoking practice that the future president and his pals called “roof hits.” When they smoked in the car, they rolled up the windows, and “when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling,” Maraniss writes.

Obama “also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted’ and took an extra hit. No one seemed to mind,” according to the text.

Maraniss details how the Choom Gang relaxed at a spot they called “Pumping Stations” partway up Mount Tantalus on Oahu.

“They parked single file on the grassy edge, turned up their stereos playing Aerosmith, Blue Öyster Cult, and Stevie Wonder, lit up some ‘sweet-sticky Hawaiian buds,’ and washed it down with ‘green bottled beer’ (the Choom Gang preferred Heineken, Beck’s, and St. Pauli Girl),” according to Maraniss.

“No shouting, no violence, no fights; they even cleaned up their beer bottles. This was their haven, in the darkness high above the city and the pressures of Punahou,” he writes.

They also operated by consensus (NATO-style!), with any member able to “veto” a suggestion. “Whenever an idea was broached, someone could hold up his hand in the V sign (a backward peace sign of that era) and indicate that the motion was not approved. They later shortened the process so that you could just shout ‘V’ to get the point across,” says Maraniss.

Sure, they drove around in a VW bus nicknamed the “Choomwagon.” And their dealer was a “freakin’ scary” guy named Ray who met a grisly end. “Many years later they learned that he had been killed with a ball-peen hammer by a scorned gay lover.” (On his yearbook page, Obama says “Thanks Tut, Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray for all the good times.”)

But Maraniss also suggests that Obama, like, oh, everyone in the world, embellished his mischief.

“Later in life, looking back on those days, Obama made it sound as though he were hanging out with a group of misbegotten ne’er-do-wells, what he called the ‘club of disaffection.’ In fact, most members of the Choom Gang were decent students and athletes who went on to successful and productive lives as lawyers, writers, and businessmen,” the author says.

Obama was a solid student, and adept at what some readers might know as “osmotic learning.”

“He seemed nonchalant, yet performed well. How did he do it? He told his Choom Gang mates that the trick was if you put the textbook under your pillow the night before you would perform better on an exam. ‘It never worked for me,’ said Topolinski.”

Obama: Fighting Romney on economy ‘is what this campaign is going to be about’

By Olivier Knox 

In the spotlight of the world stage, President Barack Obama on Monday unapologetically defended his campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at the private equity firm Bain Capital and vowed to keep up the onslaught all the way to November.

“This issue is not a distraction,” Obama defiantly declared at a press conference wrapping up a NATO summit in his hometown of Chicago. “This is what this campaign is going to be about.”

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” the president said, evidently relishing the opportunity to knock Romney.

“It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Obama’s campaign has drawn fire, including from Democrats, for ads focused on the fate of GST, a Kansas City steel mill Bain bought in 1993 and put into bankruptcy in 2001. Romney left Bain in 1999, but maintained an interest in the firm.

In January, the Reuters news agency published a long analysis of Romney and Bain’s record with GST, along with his record in private equity overall. (Of note: The plant’s owners approached Bain Capital “because it had earned a sterling reputation for turning companies around.”)

The Romney campaign has hit back by portraying Obama’s criticisms of Bain as an attack on capitalism, and wasted no time in turning Democratic Newark Mayor Corey Booker’s description of the attacks as “nauseating” into an ad.

“President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system,” Romney said in a statement after the embattled incumbent’s remarks.”What this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty,” Romney said. “President Obama refuses to accept moral responsibility for his failed policies. My campaign is offering a positive agenda to help America get back to work.”

[Related slideshow: Protesters swarm final day of NATO summit]

Obama had been asked about the ads, Booker’s criticism, and for his views on private equity as a whole.

The president praised Booker as “an outstanding mayor” who is “doing great work” and “helping to turn that city around.”And then he gave a lengthy, combative reply in which he repeatedly targeted Romney’s signature argument to voters on the economy, Obama’s greatest political vulnerability.

“My view of private equity is that it is set up to maximize profits,” he said. “And that’s a healthy part of the free market. But that’s not always going to be good for communities or business or workers.”

“The reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience,” Obama said. “He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts, he’s saying ‘I’m a business guy, I know how to fix it,’ and this is his business.”

“And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits,” he said. “Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”

“Mister Romney is responsible for the proposals he’s putting forward for how he says he’s going to fix the economy,” Obama said. “And if the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private equity firm then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining.”


Biden campaigns in Ohio, hits ‘Romney Economics’

By Olivier Knox |


Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday launches a two-day campaign swing through the critical battleground state of Ohio. He will unleash a blistering attack on “Romney Economics,” charging that the presumptive Republican nominee’s business background shows he would favor wealthy investors over working-class Americans if he wins the White House.

“Nobody knows better than the people of the Valley the consequences of that kind of philosophy,” Biden planned to say in a noontime speech at an advanced automotive manufacturing facility in Youngstown. “You’ve been through hell and back.”

The blunt-speaking vice president’s remarks, excerpts of which were made public by the Obama campaign, focused on Romney’s time as head of the Bain Capital private equity firm. They echo an Obama campaign ad released earlier this week focused on a steel plant that went bankrupt eight years after Bain bought it in an attempt to turn the struggling business around.

“He thinks that because he spent his career as a ‘businessman,’ he has the experience to run the economy,” Biden planned to say . “He’s raised it.  So let’s take a real hard look at it.”

The vice president highlighted the story of GST Steel, which was already struggling by the time Bain Capital bought in in 1993. The plant went bankrupt in 2001, 750 workers lost their jobs. Romney had left Bain in 1999, but retained a financial stake in that company.

“Romney made sure the guys on top got to play by a separate set of rules, he ran massive debts, and the middle class lost. And folks, he thinks this experience will help our economy?” Biden was to say. “Where I come from, past is prologue. So what do you think he’ll do as President?”

(In January, the Reuters news agency published a long analysis of Romney and Bain’s record with GST, along with his record in private equity overall. Of note: The plant’s owners approached Bain Capital “because it had earned a sterling reputation for turning companies around.”)

“We welcome the Vice President’s attempt to pivot back to jobs and discuss the Obama Administration’s record of exploding deficits and high unemployment,” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei. “With 23 million Americans struggling to find jobs, voters understand that it’s time to elect a successful businessman like Mitt Romney who can put people back to work and address the serious economic challenges facing our country.”

Biden’s campaign swing highlights what sort of political weapon he could be for the Obama reelection effort–harnessing his effusive, folksy charm to win over traditional working-class Democrats who didn’t really swoon for the president in 2008 and resist his appeals for help in 2012.

“Folks,” Biden was to say (they’re really leaving nothing to chance over at Obama HQ — even the “folks” is in the script). “This election is going to create a stark and fundamental choice between two different economic philosophies.””There’s Obama Economics, which values the role of workers in the success of a business, and values the middle class in the success of the economy.  A philosophy that believes everyone deserves a fair shot and a fair shake, and everybody should play by the same rules,” Biden said in the excerpts.

“And then there’s Romney Economics, which says as long as the government helps the guys at the very top do well, workers and small businesses and communities can be left to fend for themselves,” the vice president said.

“But folks, as you’ve begun to see in the Valley, things really are starting to come back. There are signs of hope in the heartland. Jobs are starting to come back,” Biden said.


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