Barack Obama – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Cory Booker records robocall for Rick Kriseman in St. Pete mayoral contest

He’s already been endorsed by Barack Obama and Joe Biden; now Cory Booker is putting his stature behind Rick Kriseman‘s re-election bid.

Friday afternoon, the New Jersey Democratic senator cut a robocall for the St. Petersburg mayor.

“Rick Kriseman is the clear choice for St. Pete mayor,” Booker said in a statement. “He is a progressive and a proven leader, and he wants to move St. Pete forward, not backwards. Mayor Kriseman led the way on important issues like banning the box, and his Second Chance program for kids and apprenticeship programs are having a real impact on reducing poverty. Under his leadership, St. Petersburg is a safer city with more opportunity for all.”

Booker is the third nationally known Democrat to endorse Kriseman in the past week, following in-person testimonials from former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castor and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. 

“I’m incredibly honored to have the support of Senator Booker,” Kriseman said, adding that registered voters should take advantage of the opportunities for early voting this weekend or return their vote-by-mail ballots if they haven’t already done so.

Kriseman himself voted Friday with his wife Kerry at the one early voting location, right across the street from City Hall on Fifth Street North.

The Booker endorsement is the latest example of how invested the national Democratic party is in seeing Kriseman re-elected, as he faces a serious challenge from former Mayor Rick Baker.

Although officially nonpartisan, the mayoral race has been anything but, with Kriseman touting his Democratic party credentials throughout the campaign and frequently associating Baker with Republican Party standard-bearer Donald Trump, who was easily defeated by Hillary Clinton in St. Pete during last year’s presidential election.

While Baker has repeatedly criticized Kriseman for nationalizing the election, Baker himself has received tens of thousands of dollars from Republican Party interests in his political action committee, including $25,000 from Rick Scott’s PAC.

Below is the full transcript of the robocall:

“This is U.S. Senator Cory Booker, and today I’m asking you to get out and vote for Rick Kriseman for mayor.

As a former mayor and the first African-American senator in New Jersey, the choice for me is clear: Rick Kriseman is a progressive and a proven leader, and he wants to move St. Pete forward, not backwards.

Rick Kriseman led the way on banning the box and his Second Chance program for kids and apprenticeship programs are having a real impact on reducing poverty.

Under his leadership, St. Pete is a safer city with more opportunity for all.

Please return your absentee ballot or vote on Election Day … Nov. 7, for Rick Kriseman.

I’m Cory Booker, and I strongly endorse Rick Kriseman for mayor.”

Martin O’Malley hits the phones for Rick Kriseman in St. Pete

Rick Kriseman‘s campaign received another high-profile boost as Martin O’Malley made a trip to campaign headquarters early Monday evening.

A visit by the former Maryland Governor and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate was yet another indication of how serious the Democratic National Committee and Florida Democratic Party are in seeing Kriseman get re-elected as St. Petersburg mayor next week.

O’Malley has been making campaign appearances across the country for Democrats, and he says that a year after the county chose Donald Trump to lead the nation, Democrats have never looked better to Americans.

“People are in a much more thoughtful and reflective mood than a year ago, and so I think that people have come to appreciate that we actually have to make our government work, and I think that’s going to work toward the benefit of Mayor Kriseman in this race,” O’Malley said to reporters.

O’Malley’s appearance comes three days after another Democratic Party star, former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro, made his own trek to campaign for Kriseman. And they both came after Barack Obama and Joe Biden offered rare endorsements to Kriseman in this local race.

“They’re supporting me for what I’ve been able to do in St. Petersburg and what I’ve been talking about for the future for St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said about the endorsements from the former president and vice president, specifically referring to helping launched Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in the city and his strong vocal support for the Affordable Care Act.

“I think that’s why you’re seeing those folks and the governor being here and speaking on my behalf because we share common beliefs and values in a direction that we want to see not only the city, the but the state and country go,” said the mayor.

O’Malley was the third wheel to the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders battle for the Democratic presidential nomination last year before dropping out of the race after a disappointing finish in the Iowa caucus. He had been considered a leading progressive star after serving eight years as Maryland governor and the eight previous years (1999-2007) as mayor of Baltimore.

“When I served on city council I traveled to Baltimore to see some of the innovative things that this man was doing for his community and try to learn from them to bring those back here to St. Pete,” Kriseman told the room full of supporters taking a break from phone banking to listen to the mayor and O’Malley.

As mayor, O’Malley introduced data-driven government reporting and management programs such as CitiStat and StateStat. Kriseman said that he’s tried to take the things that he learned from O’Malley and implement some of them in St. Petersburg.

Mayoral opponent Rick Baker and the editorial page of the Tampa Bay Times criticized Kriseman for nationalizing the local, officially nonpartisan race, but O’Malley would have none of it.

“Mayor Kriseman believes climate change is real and he’s certainly not a supporter of Donald Trump,” he said. “Those are pretty good distinguishing features between him and his opponent here.”

Meanwhile, as the mayor was hobnobbing with a former presidential candidate, Baker quietly informed the press via a photo emailed to reporters he has been endorsed in next week’s election by all five living former mayors of St. Petersburg: Don Jones, Bob Ulrich, Dave Fischer and Bill Foster.

“I am excited and pleased that Rick Baker is offering his experience and service to again lead our city. St. Petersburg has been an important part of my life for over 60 years and Rick Baker’s years as mayor were exceptional,” said Jones, who served as mayor from 1967-1969.

“The mayors who have helped build the great city we enjoy today care deeply about our future.  Having their support means the world to me” said Baker.

Five living former mayors of St. Petersburg: Don Jones, Bob Ulrich, Dave Fischer and Bill Foster … and mayoral candidate Rick Baker.
Mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman and former presidential candidate Martin O’Malley (via: Kim DeFalco).

 

(O’Malley photo: Kim DeFalco).

Vern Buchanan still wants ‘heads to roll’ in IRS targeting scandal

Vern Buchanan still wants heads to roll at the Internal Revenue Service.

Nearly two months after Donald Trump‘s Justice Department announced plans to charge former IRS official Lois Lerner over her role in the Tea Party targeting scandal, the Sarasota Republican congressman said the DOJ should reevaluate that position, following the news that the IRS officials admitted to the intentional targeting of American citizens based on political leanings.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last Thursday that the DOJ settled two lawsuits with conservative groups that claimed the IRS had unfairly scrutinized them during applications for tax-exempt status.

Those settlements ended two legal battles that began after a 2013 treasury inspector general’s audit found groups with names containing “Tea Party” or “Patriot” received more scrutiny over their applications for tax-exempt status.

Ultimately, the revelations led to the ouster of Steven T. Miller, who was acting IRS commissioner at the time.

Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt groups; Tea Party groups began calling for her ouster after those reports first surfaced. In 2014, the Ways and Means Committee voted to refer Lerner to the DOJ for possible criminal prosecution.

However, Obama’s Justice Department announced in 2015 that no one at the agency would be prosecuted for those actions.

Lerner and her attorney have long maintained she did nothing wrong.

“Lerner betrayed the nation’s trust yet managed to avoid prosecution,” Buchanan said in a statement Monday. “Heads should roll, and people should be held accountable for this gross abuse of power.”

As part of the legal settlement announced last week, the IRS offered its “sincere apology” and agreed to pay a fine.

Buchanan says that won’t cut it.

“An apology five years after the fact is not good enough,” said Buchanan, chair of the congressional committee that oversees the IRS. “The American people need to know they can be critical of their government without fear of retribution.”

Julián Castro

Julian Castro offers a ’21st-century blueprint’ at Democratic summit

Julian Castro is among three dozen or so Democrats considering running for president in 2020.

Maybe that’s why his 24-minute keynote address Saturday at the Florida Democratic Party’s statewide conference sounded like a stump speech, one ready-made for a national road trip.

The charismatic former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary under Barack Obama spoke to hundreds of Democratic delegates gathered at Disney’s Coronado Springs. He mixed humor and passion, while talking about a background that could make him the leading Latino figure in the Democratic Party.

The 43-year-old native Texan began with light-hearted remarks comparing his home state to Florida, noting how both are controlled by Republican governors and legislatures that “need to get the heck out of the way and let Democrats come back and show Texas and Florida how to run a state.”

Castro then spent several minutes blasting President Donald Trump, calling him”quite a piece of work.”

“Just the other day he had spoken with the President of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Castro deadpanned to guffaws from the crowd. “Which was all good, except he’s the President of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

“He doesn’t know anything about policy,” he continued. “He doesn’t know anything about history. He doesn’t know how the government works, and he’s too busy golfing, or tweeting or insulting people to LEARN how to be a good president,” he said.

That sentence was typical of Castro’s vocal style, choosing a keyword or phrase to punch up and excite the audience.

“Whether he’s doing it on purpose or just totally incompetent, the fact is this administration has UTTERLY failed fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to get back on their feet,” he said to applaus).

Castro then segued into saying how he missed President Obama (a sure-fire crowd pleaser at a Democratic event), discussing how his life was transformed when Obama called in 2014 and asked him to succeed Shaun Donovan as HUD secretary.

And he talked about the pride his family felt when he and his twin brother (U.S. Represenative Joaquin Castro) were both accepted to Stanford University in 1992, only to face the immediate challenge of a formidable $28,000 annual tuition price tag. Castro noted he was able to pay for his education through a Perkins Loan and Pell Grants and other aid.

“I’m convinced that our country has been greatest when it expects hard work from individuals and from their families,” he said. “But then when it matches that hard work with MEANINGFUL opportunity in life, no matter the skin color or how much money someone makes or their resume or their religion or who they love, that has been the greatest success of our country.”

It ultimately led to his outline of a “21st-century blueprint.”

For Castro, that means investing in “brain power,” which is translated into more pay for teachers, universal Pre-K, investing in good universities and job training programs.

As for jobs that will continue to be lost due to automation, Castor said: “We don’t have a single person to WASTE in this country. We need everybody’s talent. We need to make sure that EVERYONE counts in our country, not just some people!”

Now teaching at the University of Texas, Castro will be making many more appearances for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. It could only help further build up a national following if Castro does choose a presidential run in 2020.

 

Julian Castro visits St. Pete, praises Southside CRA program

Julian Castro came to St. Petersburg Friday, where he took a tour of the flagship offices of the Pinellas Ex-offender Re-entry Coalition (PERC).

During his visit, the former Housing and Urban Development Secretary praised the work of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in helping give ex-felons opportunities for a second chance, as well as (politely) take issue with proposed federal cuts to city programs that have proposed by Donald Trump‘s administration.

From 2009-2014, Castro served as San Antonio Mayor before Barack Obama named him to serve as his HUD Secretary in the final two years of his administration. Castro was glad to appear on behalf of Kriseman, highlighting the mayor’s work on the city’s Southside.

“I’m happy to see this kind of great work that is going to provide greater opportunity for folks who have paid their debt to society, folks who are willing to work hard for a second chance in life,”  Castro said Friday morning.

PERC is the lead agency of the CRA Workforce Development Council, working to increase employment within the South St. Pete CRA.

As an ex-offender outreach program, PERC provides a variety of re-entry services to those released from prison or with criminal backgrounds. Services include resume writing assistance, anger management and life-skill classes, an outpatient substance abuse group and job placement assistance.

Castro and Kriseman took a tour of the David T. Welch Center for Progress and Community Development building on 16th Street South, hosted by Michael Jalazo, PERC’s CEO and executive director.

Taking questions from reporters after the tour, Castro was circumspect about his successor, Dr. Ben Carson, whose appointment by Trump was criticized because he came without previous government and never managed anything close to the size of HUD, an agency with a $47 billion budget to help 5 million low-income families.

Castro hopes Carson would “pushback” on Trump’s proposed 2018 budget that seeks to cut $6 billion in HUD spending.

Programs eliminated in Trump’s budget plan would include HOME Investment Partnerships, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and the National Housing Trust.

Jalazo wasn’t so shy in criticizing the cuts, saying those who dismiss that news doesn’t realize that those cuts directly affect cities.

“You’re talking about some of the community development block grants, you’re talking about the different kind of financial institutions that go into communities like this,” he said. “We’re really concerned on the local level.”

“It’s easy in Washington D.C. to talk about ‘slashing a budget,’ but we feel the effects at the local level and amongst the most vulnerable communities,” Castro added.

During a candidate forum earlier this month, former two-term Mayor Rick Baker said he would absolutely fight CDBG cuts impacting St. Petersburg.

Kriseman thanked Castro for helping to intervene in the Commerce Park-area of South St. Pete. In 2014, Kriseman realized the city was facing the loss of several million dollars from HUD, money used to generate jobs “that hadn’t been created under the last two administrations.”

“The secretary was kind enough to give us time to do things differently,” Kriseman said, adding the city used those funds — that it did not have to pay back — to purchase the Tangerine Plaza site in the Southside.  Currently, the site sits empty after War-Mart departed earlier this year.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

New FDP ad morphs ‘Changed Man’ Rick Baker into Donald Trump

With just 11 days left in the St. Petersburg mayoral contest, the Florida Democratic Party is airing a new ad bashing Rick Baker.

The 30-second ad begins with footage of an angry Baker speaking after receiving Aug. 29 primary results. His face then morphs into Donald Trump‘s visage, while the narrator criticizes him for failing to call out Trump after he made remarks in August that neo-Nazi’s and KKK members in Charlottesville “very fine people.”

Then, the ad cites local media organizations who called out Baker last week for his radio ad that criticized Kriseman for failing to appear at an NAACP event, which was not true.

“The new Rick Baker: angry, deceptive and backwards,” the narrator intones.

Florida Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Amir Avin says: “Rick Baker is taking a page from Donald Trump’s playbook. He’s willing to say or do anything to win an election — anything besides challenge Donald Trump. Even when Trump embraced white supremacists, Baker was silent.”

“Now that his campaign is flailing,” Avin continues, “he’s willing to lie if it means getting his old job back. Baker seems to have traded his dignity for $25,000 from the RNC.”

Nevertheless, as Florida Politics reported in August, Baker did say something about Charlottesville.

On Twitter, Baker wrote: “Every American, including every public official at every level, has the moral obligation to reject and condemn the White Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis and all others who promote racism. These groups trade in hatred and are responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, period.”

“Rick Kriseman is trying to hide from the voters because he doesn’t want to talk about the fact that he hired and empowered a man over education police who was arrested and charged in 2001 with “lewd and lascivious” behavior toward two students while he was a substitute teacher,” said Nick Hansen, campaign director for Rick Baker.

The FDP has put considerable resources into Rick Kriseman‘s campaign, as did the Democratic National Committee.

On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden cut a robocall for Kriseman; former President Barack Obama endorsed Kriseman just days before the late August primary.

 

 

Rick Baker not yet finished with Kevin King, ad blasts Rick Kriseman ‘tolerance’

Rick Baker is not quite finished with Kevin King.

In a new radio ad released Friday morning, the former two-term mayor is once again blasting incumbent St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for a “lack of judgment” in hiring King as his longtime chief of staff.

Throughout the week, Baker’s campaign continually hammered his opponent on the issue of King’s now 16-year-old arrest. While the incident had been reported several times in the past, it only re-emerged as a campaign issue in the St. Pete mayoral race this week.

Produced by Seamless Florida, Baker’s political committee, the “Tolerance” radio spot cites several Tampa Bay Times articles between 2001 through 2013 “outlining the order of events that led Kriseman to hire and promote” King, a former Pinellas County substitute teacher arrested in 2001 for sending emails and internet messages to two female students, ages 14 and 15, asking them to skip school and drink beer with him.

Police also accused King of asking the 14-year-old to perform a sex act.

“Rick Kriseman knew this,” the female narrator says in the ad. “But chose to hire this guy anyway … Then put him in charge of education policy.”

The ad does not mention King by name.

“I’ll never forgive Rick Kriseman for this,” the woman continues. “It’s sickening.”

Unlike a previous TV ad from Seamless, Baker himself appears in the spot, with a voice-over saying he has “zero tolerance for putting our children at risk.”

The minute-long ad also has Baker criticizing Kriseman for his “previous tolerance of hate speech” – looking the other way when mayoral candidate Paul Congemi told Uhuru supporters to “go back to Africa” during a candidate forum earlier this year.

“This is got to stop,” Baker concludes.

Police arrested King at the time, booking him on three charges: one count of computer solicitation to commit a lewd and lascivious act, and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The Pinellas County school district fired him soon afterward.

King was never convicted, and court records were sealed and expunged.

“Rick Kriseman’s poor judgment and the tolerance that he has shown for hate speech and lewd and lascivious behavior in our own city, against our own residents and children is unconscionable,” said Baker campaign manager Nick Hansen in a statement.

The ad can be heard below:

‘Bidenator’ on the line: Joe Biden cuts robocall for Rick Kriseman

The news hasn’t been great lately for Rick Kriseman, but at least Joe Biden has his back.

The former vice president has recorded a robocall in support of the Democratic incumbent and come out with a formal endorsement in the St. Petersburg mayoral contest, twelve days before voters go to the polls (though plenty already are voting through mail-in ballots, with early voting scheduled to begin Saturday).

“I have a straight forward message to the St. Pete voters. If you voted for Barack (Obama) and me when we were on the ballot, then we need you to get out there and vote for Rick Kriseman,” Biden said Thursday. “Rick has a great track record on important issues to St. Petersburg: like reducing poverty, reducing crime, preparing for climate change, and creating jobs where you can support a middle class family. So please, get out there and re-elect Rick Kriseman.”

The endorsement again shows how much the Florida Democratic Party has invested in Kriseman winning reelection. Polls have shown the race between him and former Mayor Rick Baker to be extremely close, and with a dearth of elected Democrats in the Legislature, maintaining mayoral offices is critical for the FDP.

“No one has fought harder for working class families than Vice President Joe Biden and I’m honored to have his endorsement,” Kriseman said Thursday. “St. Petersburg has come so far these past four years, and I’m committed to continuing that progress. Every day until the polls close, we’re going to talk to voters about what’s at stake in this election. Crime and poverty are on the decline, job growth is on the rise, and our city is finally preparing for a changing climate. We can’t afford to go backward.”

The Kriseman camp said the robocall will begin transmitting late Thursday afternoon.

Before the August 29 primary election, former President Obama issued his own endorsement of Kriseman, a Democrat in what is officially billed as a nonpartisan race.

The endorsement comes at a crucial time in the race, with Kriseman needing to change the narrative building over the past 72 hours that he needs to act in the case of his besieged chief of staff, Kevin King.

The 38-year-old King, who is a controversial figure in the media for his sometimes heavy-handed tactics in defending his boss, has now become the storyline after the Baker campaign produced a television ad mentioning King’s 2001 arrest for propositioning a teenage girl for sex.

The Tampa Bay Times’ editorial page is now calling for Kriseman to unseal the court records against King in the case, so that voters “fully evaluate the situation and reach their own conclusions.”

The Times recommended Baker over Kriseman before the Aug. 29 primary election, and has done so again now.

The Times also published a damaging story Thursday regarding the Kriseman administration’s lack of transparency regarding a sewage spill that occurred thanks to Hurricane Irma last month.

Kriseman will get the backing of more star power on Friday when former U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro makes a campaign appearance on his behalf in St. Pete.

Here is the full transcript of the Biden robocall:

“This is Vice President Joe Biden. I have a straight forward message to the St. Pete voters.

If you voted for Barack and me when we were on the ballot, then we need you to get out there and vote for Rick Kriseman.

We need you to return your absentee ballot or vote on election day November the 7.

Rick has a great track record on important issues to St. Petersburg: like reducing poverty, reducing crime, preparing for climate change, and creating jobs where you can support a middle class family.

So please, get out there and re-elect Rick Kriseman. Thank you and don’t forget—Election Day is on November the 7.”

How to counter Donald Trump? Democrats still searching

Nine months into the Donald Trump era, Democrats are still searching for a standard-bearer and a crisp message to corral widespread opposition to an unpopular president and a Republican-led Congress.

The minority party has put that struggle on vivid display this week in Nevada, site of Democrats’ first national party gathering since a contentious chairman’s election in February. The party’s congressional leaders and potential presidential candidates mostly stayed away, with the exception of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose name has surfaced among possible 2020 hopefuls.

The activists and party leaders who did attend expressed optimism over their rebuilding efforts, but also lingering resentments from the 2016 presidential primary, confirming that the battle between liberals and establishment Democrats continues long after Hillary Clinton dispatched Bernie Sanders but lost to Trump.

The months since the election have brought plenty of frank public assessments about how far the Democratic National Committee has to go to catch up to Republicans on fundraising and technology — twin pillars of how a national party helps its candidates win elections across the country.

The lingering debate was enough for party Chairman Tom Perez, still putting his stamp on the party, to warn that the discord distracts from laying the groundwork for the 2018 midterm elections and 2020 presidential contest.

“This is a Rome-is-burning moment,” he said Friday, his summation of Trump’s presidency so far. “We may be playing different instruments, but we are all in the same orchestra. We need more people in that orchestra.”

Democrats need to flip at least 24 GOP-held seats next November to reclaim the House. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate advantage, but Democrats must defend 10 incumbents in states Trump won. In statehouses, Democrats have just 15 governors, and Republicans control about two-thirds of legislatures.

Democrats hope to hold the Virginia governorship and pick up New Jersey’s next month. The party is tantalized by an Alabama Senate race pitting the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, against former jurist Roy Moore, a controversial figure who wasn’t the GOP establishment’s first choice.

Perez is selling confidence. “We’ve got game,” he roared to an exuberant audience at one reception.

Behind that hope, there are plenty of reasons for caution, mostly rooted in an uncomfortable reality: No Democrat has emerged as a leader and top rival to Trump in 2020, with a line-up of previous candidates like Joe Biden and Sanders and little-known House and Senate lawmakers.

Rep. Keith Ellison, Perez’s deputy who hails from the party’s left flank, pushed back against any notion that the Democrats don’t have a clear leader.

“We are not a leaderless party. We are a leader-full party. We have Tom Perez. We have Keith Ellison. We have Leader Pelosi. We have Leader Schumer,” he said.

Still, that reliance on Capitol Hill means the party is touting a leadership core much older than the electorate. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is 77. Sanders is 76. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is 66. Other national figures, Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, are in the same generation.

“You will see a new generation out there — good messengers with the right message,” said Henry Munoz, the party’s finance chairman, though he declined to speculate about individual names.

A prominent DNC member who backed Clinton in 2016 tried to convince Democrats on Friday to call on Sanders to join the party. “The first word in DNC is ’Democratic,’” quipped Bob Mulholland. But the party’s Resolution Committee, led by Sanders backer James Zobgy, jettisoned the idea. Zogby said taking a shot at Sanders would “feed a Twitter debate that will not be helpful in bringing together” voters on the left.

Trump’s approval ratings are mired in the 30s, levels that history says should spell scores of lost Republican House seats next year. Yet Trump has never had consistent majority public support. Democrats also face an uphill path because Republican state lawmakers drew a majority of congressional districts to the GOP’s advantage.

Trump’s election has sparked an outpouring of volunteer energy and cash on the political left, but the money hasn’t flowed to the national party. Munoz, who helped former President Barack Obama haul in record-setting sums, says the DNC has taken in $51.5 million this year, compared with $93.3 million for Republicans.

Party treasurer Bill Derrough acknowledged that he’s found frustrated Democratic boosters asking about “a damaged brand, what are we doing, what do we stand for.”

The party’s “Better Deal” rollout earlier this year — a package of proposals intended to serve as the economic message to counter Trump’s populist nationalism — hasn’t been an obvious feature at Democrats’ national meeting at all.

Perez is seeking to inject younger blood into the party leadership structure with his 75 at-large appointments to the DNC. But his appointments meant ousting some older DNC members, including Babs Siperstein. The New York at-large member whom Perez did not reappoint warned her fellow Democrats not to underestimate the fellow New Yorker in the White House — Trump.

“He may be weird. He may be narcissistic. But he’s not stupid,” Siperstein said. “He’s smart enough to get elected. He’s smart enough to get away with everything. … So we have to stay united.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Former presidents call for unity at hurricane aid concert

The five living former presidents put aside politics and appeared together for the first time since 2013 at a concert on Saturday to raise money for victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush gathered in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, to try to unite the country after the storms.

Texas A&M is home to the presidential library of the elder Bush. At 93, he has a form of Parkinson’s disease and appeared in a wheelchair at the event. His wife, Barbara, and George W. Bush’s wife, Laura, were in the audience.

Grammy award winner Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance at the concert that also featured country music band Alabama, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer ‘Soul Man’ Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams and Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.

The appeal backed by the ex-presidents has raised $31 million since it began on Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush.

President Donald Trump offered a video greeting that avoided his past criticism of the former presidents and called them “some of America’s finest public servants.”

“This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and devotion to one another,” Trump said in the greeting, played during the concert.

Four of the five former presidents — Obama, George W. Bush, Carter and Clinton — made brief remarks that did not mention Trump. The elder Bush did not speak but smiled and waved to the crowd. They appealed for national unity to help those hurt by the hurricanes.

“The heart of America, without regard to race or religion or political party, is greater than our problems,” said Clinton.

The last time the five were together was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, at the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.

There is precedent for former presidents joining forces for post-disaster fundraising. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised money together after the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina the next year. Clinton and George W. Bush combined to seek donations after Haiti’s 2011 earthquake.

“It’s certainly a triple, if not a home run, every time,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Presidents have the most powerful and prolific fundraising base of any politician in the world. When they send out a call for help, especially on something that’s not political, they can rake in big money.”

Amid criticism that his administration was initially slow to aid ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump accused island leaders of “poor leadership,” and later tweeted that, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes” while saying that Federal Emergency Management Agency, first-responders and military personnel wouldn’t be able to stay there forever.

But Rottinghaus said ex-presidents are seen as less polarizing than the current president.

“They can’t get away from the politics of the moment,” he said of current White House occupants. “Ex-presidents are able to step back and be seen as the nation’s grandfather.”

Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, unleashing historic flooding in Houston and killing more than 80 people. Shortly thereafter, all five ex-presidents appeared in a commercial for a fundraising effort known as “One America Appeal.” In it, George W. Bush says, “People are hurting down here.” His father, George H.W. Bush, then replies, “We love you, Texas.”

Hurricane Irma subsequently hit Florida and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, while both devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A website accepting donations, OneAmericaAppeal.org, was created with 100 percent of proceeds pledged to hurricane relief.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons