Showing posts with label Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Obama. Show all posts

June 27, 2020

Trump Tells The Supremes Obamacare Must 'Fail'~} Millions Loose health Care During Pandemic}}Do U Think He Cares?




   



In a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Trump administration has reaffirmed its position that the Affordable Care Act in its entirety is illegal because Congress eliminated the individual tax penalty for failing to purchase medical insurance.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court, said in a brief that the other provisions of Obamacare are impossible to separate from the individual mandate and that "it necessarily follows that the rest of the ACA must also fall."

Shortly after the brief appeared on the court's docket late Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: "President Trump and the Republicans' campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty."

In a speech on the lawsuit Thursday, Vice President Pence said he was proud of the ACA and denounced the administration's position. "It's cruel, it's heartless, and it's callous," he said.

The case before the high court began with a lawsuit brought by 20 states, led by Texas, calling for the elimination of the ACA. It has been consolidated for argument with another case brought by 17 states, led by California, seeking to preserve the law. The court is likely to hear the case in the fall. 

"President Trump, in this cruel lawsuit, has shown us who he really is," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. He added that they intend to prevail "with the facts, the law and the American people on our side."

The lawsuit was first heard in Texas in 2018 by U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor, who struck down the entire ACA as unconstitutional. At the time, the Trump administration had not taken that all-or-nothing position but since then has come to support the lawsuit.

Eliminating the ACA would end medical insurance for more than 20 million Americans. It would also end widely popular provisions of the law, such as extending parents' coverage to children up to the age of 26 and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.

Trump and congressional Republicans have long said they want to "repeal and replace" Obamacare but have yet to offer legislation addressing what would take its place.

The cases before the Supreme Court are State of California, et al., v. State of Texas, et al. (19-840) and State of Texas, et al., v. State of California, et al. (19-1019).

May 11, 2020

Obama Finally Comes Out and Talks About Trump Chaotic Disaster of The Presidency







(Bloomberg) --

Former President Barack Obama delivered a blistering attack on Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “an absolute chaotic disaster” as well as “anemic.”

Obama’s remarks, first reported by Yahoo News, came in a leaked call as the former president exhorted members of his administration to rally behind presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The comments were perhaps the most scathing criticism Obama has yet delivered of his successor in the White House.

Critics have said the U.S. government wasted precious time in February by failing to ramp up testing and stockpile supplies as the coronavirus spread in Europe. The U.S. now leads the world in confirmed Covid-19 infections, with nearly 1.3 million as of Saturday. More than 78,000 have died in the U.S. from the virus.

However, Trump has defended his handling of the pandemic, repeatedly highlighting his Jan. 31 decision to impose travel restrictions barring most non-U.S. citizens from entering the U.S. after recent visits to China.

“President Trump’s coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement on Saturday.

“While Democrats were pursuing a sham witch hunt against President Trump, President Trump was shutting down travel from China. While Democrats encouraged mass gatherings, President Trump was deploying PPE, ventilators, and testing across the country.”

Swine Flu

Trump didn’t respond directly to the comments but in a tweet Sunday morning used the same word -- “disaster” -- to describe the response by Obama and Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, to the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu outbreak.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 12,469 Americans died from the H1N1 pandemic, from about 61 million cases.

Obama, in Friday’s remarks, cast the U.S. response to the virus as an outgrowth of tribalism as he sought to emphasize the urgency of the November election.

“What we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided and seeing others as an enemy -- that has become a stronger impulse in American life” as well as internationally, Obama said.

‘To Heck With Everybody’

“And it’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty,” he said.

While coronavirus “would have been bad even with the best of governments,” Obama said, “it has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset -- of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ -- when that mindset is operationalized in our government.”

Obama said that’s why he will be “spending as much time as necessary” and campaigning as hard as he can for Biden.

Although Obama endorsed Biden in April and promised to hit the campaign trail in support, he’s generally shied from delivering sharp attacks against Trump. However, that tone may change as Obama becomes a more visible cheerleader and surrogate for Biden.

  Bloomberg L.P.

April 18, 2020

Michelle Obama Wants to Come Back To Politics But on Her Terms









On a recent Saturday night, tens of thousands of people joined a nine-hour virtual dance party on Instagram Live that was hosted by DJ D-Nice. Some familiar big names have been dropping into what he calls "Club Quarantine," like John Legend, Joe Biden and Mark Zuckerberg.
But it was the appearance of former first lady Michelle Obama that seemed to have a big impact.
"Oh my gosh. Michelle Obama's in here," D-Nice exclaimed as Obama's appearance brought the music to a brief stop. "Yo, I swear, I don't even know who to play right now. My mind's completely blown."
That moment, which reverberated across social media as millions of Americans are sheltering at home, was a reminder of the power and popularity of Michelle Obama, who is stepping back into politics as she promotes her own voting initiative.
Last week, Obama announced her support for greater access to voting by mail, early in-person voting and online voter registration, calling these options "critical steps for this moment."
"Americans should never have to choose between making their voices heard and keeping themselves and their families safe," she said in a statement released by When We All Vote, the group she launched in 2018.
Though the group is nonpartisan, the effort is Obama's most high-profile political activity since leaving the White House in early 2017. And her announcement comes with the issue elevated after the controversy over Wisconsin holding a vote this month under a statewide order for residents to stay home. President Trump is also expressing outspoken opposition to mail-in voting.
On Monday, Obama will kick off a virtual "couch party" for When We All Vote, encouraging participants to register to vote and learn how to cast their ballots in upcoming elections. During the group's first couch party, hosted by D-Nice, the group says it reached more than 400,000 eligible voters.
"I think that at this moment she's going to focus on When We All Vote," said Susan Sher, who has known Obama for decades and served as her chief of staff at the beginning of President Barack Obama's administration. "Particularly in light of the COVID-19 virus — and everyone saw those pictures of people in Wisconsin who were risking their own safety and health in order to vote — I think it's even more important, and she appreciates how important it is to the actual election." 
While Obama's current work is focused on voter turnout, she remains one of the most sought-after surrogates on the campaign trail, with sky-high approval ratings that cut across party lines.
"Michelle Obama is one of the most popular women in the country," said Christine Matthews, who is a Republican pollster. "Every first lady or former first lady has a partisan aspect to their popularity. But Michelle Obama is actually fairly popular among Republican women."
Michelle Obama reacts as Kaitlyn Saunders, 8, tells Obama that she is a competitive figure skater. Kaitlyn and her mother, Katrice Saunders, were buying signed copies of Obama's memoir, Becoming, last year at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
When and whether she will be a regular surrogate in 2020 on behalf of former Vice President Joe Biden remains unknown. Her husband, former President Barack Obama, endorsed Biden this week. While those close to her say that Michelle Obama "of course" supports Biden's campaign, she has not yet come off the sidelines, though an eventual endorsement is anticipated.
Sher said that she assumes Obama isn't "thinking about it like a politician" but that "it's clear she supports him and will support him."
"Whatever she does, she will be above the fray," said Sher. "That isn't to say that she isn't supporting Vice President Biden. She obviously is, but she will do it — and I know her — she will do it in a way that is positive."
Obama has spoken openly about her attempts to persuade her husband not to seek the presidency and was once reluctant to engage in partisan politics. But even in those early days, she forged a connection with voters.
Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic strategist who advised Michelle Obama, recalled the nickname that Barack Obama's aides had for her during his 2008 campaign: the closer.
"She was the real motivator for people to come out and caucus in Iowa for Barack Obama, and that's a key role that she plays in elections," Cutter said. "She knows how to inspire and motivate and relate with the people she's speaking with." 
John Brabender, a veteran Republican strategist, said that "suburban women in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Michigan" could be one of the defined audiences, along with black voters, that Obama could target in this election.
"We do know that the president's campaign is making a very aggressive effort to get a historic African American vote," Brabender said. "And there have been some positive signs for the president that he's overperforming among African Americans versus previous [GOP] presidential candidates. And so I think that's an audience that certainly the Democrats are going to want Michelle Obama to spend some time talking to."
During President Obama's time in office, Michelle Obama kept a limited political schedule, appearing at political events only when she believed her presence could have a big impact.
"Everything she did, she challenged us as her staff to say, 'Why is this a good use of my time?' " said Tina Tchen, the president of Time's Up Now, who previously served as Michelle Obama's chief of staff. "And it was always a challenge to make sure it was something she was personally, authentically passionate about. If it wasn't, she wouldn't say it. If it's not something she believed in, that's not something she would go out and say. And I think the American people responded to that — they know that about her."
Obama was a breakout star of the 2016 campaign and one of the most popular surrogates lending her credibility and reputation for authenticity to candidate Hillary Clinton's cause, though Obama has never had much affection for the campaign trail. Her explicitly political appearances have been limited in scope, to the dismay of some Democrats.
Michelle Obama Tells NPR She 'Never Ever' Would Have Chosen Politics For Herself

But she has been in the public eye, on her own terms. She packed arenas with throngs of fans as she promoted her memoir, Becoming, which was released in 2018, and has made a number of high-profile speeches and appearances.
"The kind of surrogacy that Michelle Obama brings is unprecedented. People don't see her as a political figure — they see her as a beloved former first lady who they completely relate with," said Cutter.
Obama is also a larger-than-life presence on social media, with more than 37 million followers on Instagram, which could make her a potentially desirable — and effective — surrogate as campaigning and advocacy work have largely moved online.
"She has been a huge presence, and I laugh about that because I can remember being in the White House where we weren't sure Twitter was something the first lady of the United States ought to be on, back in the beginning of the platform, " said Tchen, who is now on the board of When We All Vote.
Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, an organization dedicated to mobilizing women of color, said that Obama's "encouragement of high voter turnout" is more valuable than any one endorsement.
"She's so, so important and such a respected, trusted voice for Democrats across the whole spectrum," Allison said, adding that voter mobilization could be critical for Democrats looking to close the gap in key battleground states.

December 15, 2018

President Obama Looks Like He is The Cat That Swallow The Bird!






 
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama frequently dined at restaurants in Washington, including Boundary Road in 2012.CreditLuke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Imagine being the couple on the left. They came to this dive because it has a good reputation for down to earth good food. As they glanced at their menus a black couple  sits next to them on the following empty chairs. They look at each other and whisper "they really look them" but then they see what appears to be the secret service!
Then Michelle give them that smile of hers and introduces herself and her huband " Michelle and Obama" Now you can see these couple's smile. It could not be wider or more original.

But then you see the President Obama's smile and he looks like he is the cat that sswallow the bird. lol!

Roll to 2018 and see on which table would you rather be?





September 6, 2017

Trumps DACA Decision is "Self Defeating and Cruel" President Obama







Barack Obama responded to President Trump's DACA decision with a lengthy statement Tuesday, calling it a "self-defeating" and "cruel" move made for political, not legal, reasons. Key excerpts:

"These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."

"Today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target, these young people are wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel."

"And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it's up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I'm heartened by those who've suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel."
Full statement

Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that's not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they're undocumented until they apply for a job, or college or a driver's license.

Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you've been here a certain number of years, and if you're willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you'll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.

That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so base on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.

But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target, these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid's science teacher or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country, she doesn't know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

Let's be clear: the action taken today isn't required legally. It's a political decision and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn't threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid's softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won't lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone's taxes, or raise anybody's wages.

It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leader, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it's up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I'm heartened by those who've suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.

Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we'd want our own kids to be treated. It's about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.

What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That's how America has traveled this far. That's how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.

Axios


January 19, 2017

What President Obama Accomplished for LGBT Worldwide



 2016 Obama’s trip to China (adamfoxie)



President Barack Obama's two terms in office saw a great deal of change for LGBT rights abroad.

The global campaign for LGBT rights started December 6, 2011 with a simultaneous presidential memorandum and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic speech in Geneva, Switzerland where she declared, "Gay rights are human rights."

The memorandum directed United States agencies working in foreign policy to promote LGBT rights abroad in decisions about aid, combating criminalization, and protecting vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

Since that day LGBT people around the world had an ally in Obama and two secretaries of state, Clinton and John Kerry, and a safe harbor at U.S. embassies for Pride festivities and other LGBT events. Obama appointed six gay ambassadors: Dan Baer, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna, John Berry in Australia, James "Wally" Brewster in the Dominican Republic, James Costos in Spain and Andorra, Rufus Gifford in Denmark, and Ted Osius in Vietnam.

In 2015 the State Department added Randy Berry as its first-ever special U.S. envoy to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad.

At the United Nations, Obama's two ambassadors, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, both advocated for recognition of LGBT rights globally. Power, along with U.N. Ambassador Cristian Barros Melet of Chile, led the Arria, an informal meeting of the 15-member Security Council to hear testimony from Syrian and Iraqi LGBTs.

2011 also saw the establishment of the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership supporting global LGBT advocacy, overseen by the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development. It has given out more than $33 million in funding.

Obama consistently spoke out about LGBT rights and took actions. He regularly acknowledged LGBT people of courage, such as Jamaica's Angeline Jackson, founder and executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica. He ignored warnings and naysayers urging him not to speak about LGBT rights during his trips to Africa. He spoke out against anti-LGBT laws at a news conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal in 2013. Two years later, Obama raised LGBT rights again during a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Obama took action when Uganda passed the so-called jail the gays bill by slapping sanctions on the country in 2014.

The Washington Blade reported that Kerry advocated for the release of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim from his five-year sentence for alleged sodomy during a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2015.

Also in 2015, USAID formally banned discrimination among its contractors based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the law doesn't extend to employees of organizations overseas that receive U.S. funding or USAID grantees.

Tillerson shrugs off LGBT rights during confirmation hearing

Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson faced many questions from Democrats and Republicans during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee January 11-12.

The nine-hour hearing focused on many issues, such as labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal because of the Russian military's involvement in the Syrian civil war and the targeting of civilians that have killed many, reported National Public Radio.

His response to Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), who asked the question, was that he wanted more information before reaching a conclusion.

"Those are very, very serious charges to make and I'd want to have much more information before reaching that conclusion," Tillerson, 64, responded.

Tillerson also said that he would want more information about Putin, with whom he is friendly, regarding allegations that the Kremlin is behind human rights violations, such as killing journalists.

Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) posed a question on LGBT rights.

Tillerson responded, "American values don't accommodate violence or discrimination against anyone."

Coons followed up asking whether Tillerson believed the promotion of gay rights is "a piece of our human rights advocacy and agenda around the world."

"That's part of that American values that we protect," responded Tillerson, reported the Washington Blade.

Tillerson's noncommittal response to how LGBT rights will be handled in his potential State Department is what continues to cause LGBT rights advocates concern.

President-elect Donald Trump's adviser Tony Perkins, who is president of the Family Research Council, has called for the firing of all current LGBT employees at the State Department. Last month, Trump's team requested a list of all State Department positions related to advancing gender equality. Insiders expressed concern that a request for a list of LGBT programs will be next. New, Now, Next reported that the current State Department administration rejected the request.

Then there's Tillerson's record as head of Exxon Mobil. The company resisted implementing policies protecting its LGBT employees in the U.S. and around the world up until 2015. In 1999, when Exxon acquired Mobil, domestic partner benefits and company policies protecting LGBT workers were eliminated by the merger, according to human rights organizations. Exxon Mobil became the only company to score a negative 25 on HRC's Corporate Equality Index in 2012 and 2013.

The oil company's score only rose due to protections implemented by federal laws and policies and Obama's executive orders that forced the company to protect its queer employees, according to experts. Last year, following the U.S. Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling, LGBT Exxon Mobil employees in the U.S. finally received full protections.

Exxon Mobil received an 85 percent rating on HRC's 2017 Corporate Equality Index. The New York Times reported that the multibillion-dollar company was docked points due to its philanthropic arm's guidelines allowing donations to non-religious organizations that discriminate against LGBT people and because its anti-discrimination policy only covers U.S. LGBT employees.

However, Tillerson has taken smaller pro-LGBT stances in recent years with the Boy Scouts of America. His role as president of the Boy Scouts from 2010 to 2012 was "instrumental" in ending the Scouts' ban on gay youth, his colleague John Hamre told the Dallas Morning News. The Boy Scouts lifted its ban against gay youth in 2013. In 2015 it lifted the ban against adult participants, but troops chartered by religious organizations are permitted to exclude gay people as den leaders, scoutmasters, or camp counselors.

 

January 14, 2017

The Obama Presidency by the Numbers



The Obamas embracing and smilingU.S. First Family (2011, L-R): Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Barack Obama, and Sasha Obama.


December 22, 2016

Thanks to Obama The law Protects Religious Freedom but Also Non Believers







When President Barack Obama signed an update to U.S. law protecting religious freedom late last week, one provision drew special attention: U.S. law now recognizes non-believers as, in essence, a religious group.

Obama's signing of amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act on Friday wasn't widely noticed — except among the community of atheists, agnostics and others who categorize themselves as "humanists."

For the first time, the law — which was originally passed in 1998 — specifies that "the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs and the right not to profess or practice any religion."

Among other things, the main amendments to the law promoting religious liberty around the world:

Allow the United States to target “ ntities of particular concern" (that is, groups that aren't sovereign countries, like ISIS and Boko Haram).

Set up a way to track religious prisoners overseas.
Require that all foreign service officers undergo training in religious liberty.
 
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, walk back to the White House after attending St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington in October 2009. AP
The addition of protections for non-theistic or even non-existent beliefs wasn't even mentioned in many news reports. But for Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the nonprofit American Humanist Association, the change is a historic cause for celebration.

"That non-theists are now recognized as a protected class is a significant step toward full acceptance and inclusion for non-religious individuals, who are still far too often stigmatized and persecuted around the world," Speckhardt said.

"Legislators are finally recognizing the human dignity of humanists and granting the non-theistic community the same protections and respect that have been given to religious communities," he said.

In its 2016 annual report (PDF), the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal panel that was created under the original 1998 law, highlights numerous instances of persecution of atheists and other non-believers.

The report plays no favorites, singling out important U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, where the poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death last year for "apostasy" — specifically, for spreading atheism. The sentence was reduced in February 2016 to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.

Regulations enacted in 2014 by the Saudi Interior Ministry, in fact, classify "calling for atheist thought in any form" as terrorism.

The report also harshly criticizes Egypt, which convicted Mustafa Abdel-Nabi, an online activist, to prison in absentia in February for "blasphemy" after he published posts about atheism on his Facebook page. A year earlier, another Facebook user, Sherif Gaber, was sentenced to prison for discussing his atheist views online.

"Religious freedom for all people, theists and non-theists, is an American value we must protect," said Matthew Bulger, legislative director of the American Humanist Association.


But it's not just humanist groups that are applauding the revision.

"Protecting non-theistic beliefs and requiring increased religious freedom training for our foreign service officers emphasizes our shared value of religious liberty for all people across the globe," said J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Freedom, a coalition of more than a dozen Baptist denominations.

“We are pleased that religious liberty still finds broad bipartisan support," Walker, an ordained minister, said in a statement to The Baptist Standard, a publication devoted to the Baptist faith.

ALEX JOHNSON

October 29, 2016

Pres.Obama Has Been Quietly Exporting LGBT Rights Overseas







While the world was watching America's gay rights transformation, the Obama administration was pursuing a quieter mission to export the same freedoms overseas to places like sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and eastern Europe.  The U.S. has deployed its diplomats and spent tens of millions of dollars to try to block anti-gay laws, punish countries that enacted them, and tie financial assistance to respect for LGBTQ rights. It was a mission animated in part by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's declaration that "gay rights are human rights." 
Yet the U.S. encountered occasional backlash, including from some rights groups that said public pressure by the West made things worse. 
"I walked into a very backward environment in 2009," said Susan Rice, President Barack Obama's national security adviser and former U.N. ambassador. In an Associated Press interview, Rice said both the U.N. and U.S. had avoided taking on the issue. 
She argued that despite a cascade of pressing global crises, the White House had tried to "deal with the urgent and deal with the important, and even if the important is, some might say, optional, it's important."  In its latest push to use dollars as leverage, the Obama administration announced Wednesday it is enacting a rule prohibiting U.S. Agency for International Development contracts from going to groups that discriminate in delivery of services. That means a clinic, food program or shelter can't refuse services to a gay or transgender person. 
Yet even in countries where legal protections have improved, like Brazil and Argentina, it's difficult to draw a straight line between U.S. advocacy and progress, and in Latin America, those changes have been accompanied by increasing violence against LGBTQ people. In Uganda, a court eventually invalidated an anti-gay law the U.S. had emphatically opposed. But in Gambia, anti-gay rhetoric has escalated despite a U.S. decision to revoke the country's preferential trade status following an LGBTQ crackdown. 
The growing focus on gay rights in diplomacy mirrored the shift in attitudes in the U.S. toward LGBTQ people, illustrated by seismic changes like gay marriage and gays serving openly in the military. As with its domestic efforts, the Obama administration faced objections from social conservatives and some religious groups at home and abroad who called it an inappropriate use of government to infringe on others' cultural beliefs. 
 A 2011 memorandum signed by Obama directed the government for the first time to use diplomacy and foreign aid to "promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons." U.S. embassies started taking part in pride celebrations, with outposts in socially liberal capitals like Tel Aviv and London raising rainbow flags. 

 

           _*_                                                                         

                                                                            A speech by Clinton to the U.N. in Geneva that year thrust the issue to the forefront, at least for a moment, when she said that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," in an echo of her famous 1995 speech in Beijing equating women's rights and human rights. Mira Patel, a former State Department adviser now working on Clinton's presidential campaign, said she was shocked when the secretary first used the line publicly at a pride reception for U.S. diplomats. 
"I never expected these issues could be elevated so fast and at such a high level," Patel said. 
The U.S. in 2010 started issuing passports to transgender people that reflected their current gender identity, and the White House started sending openly gay athletes as part of its delegation to Olympics ceremonies — including the 2014 Winter Games in Russia. At the United Nations, Rice and other diplomats secured language in several resolutions opposing discrimination or condemning extrajudicial killings of LGBTQ people. 
For Obama, who only came around to fully embracing gay rights while in office, the campaign came to a head last year in Nairobi, Kenya. Warned in no uncertain terms ahead of his visits to keep quiet about gay rights, Obama called for equal legal treatment for gays while standing next to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who brushed it off and insisted it was "not really an issue."  
Bisi Alimi, a Nigerian gay rights activist, said that advocacy was critical to helping dissolve what for many Africans has been a persuasive argument against gay rights: that the U.S. and other rich nations are engaging in paternalism and cultural colonialism. 
"We should not forget that Obama's father is Kenyan," Alimi said by phone from London, where he fled after being physically attacked in Nigeria. "There was no better place for him to say that than in a place where his nationality wouldn't be questioned, where he wouldn't be seen as a Westerner telling us how to live our lives." 
Yet not infrequently, LGBTQ activists in other countries have urged the U.S. to pull back — or at least to stop making the case publicly. 
In Uganda, the U.S. in 2014 cut off visas for senior Ugandan officials, canceled aid and nixed a joint military exercise to punish Uganda for legislation that became known as the "Kill the Gays" bill. But activists said heavy-handed U.S. advocacy had given gay rights opponents the evidence they needed to argue that a native rights movement was being orchestrated by Washington.  Two years earlier, stolen diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed Ugandan activists had insisted to U.S. diplomats that "they preferred quiet diplomacy — not public statements." 
"What we've seen in the last eight years has been 99 percent great and 1 percent horrible backlash," said Jay Michaelson, an American author and LGBTQ activist who's written extensively on the subject. 
Rice said the key was to tailor efforts to each country's circumstances, limiting advocacy to behind-the-scenes meetings when a public push might cause more harm. 
“What we don't want to do to the extent we can avoid it is expose individuals who aren't wanting to be exposed and to put individuals at risk," Rice said.

AP

September 4, 2016

President Arrived at a Changed Sour China for Summit


 The problems began as soon as President Obama landed in China.
There were no stairs waiting for him to disembark from his usual door at the top of Air Force One.
On the tarmac, as Obama’s staff scrambled to get lower-level stairs in place for him to disembark, White House press photographers traveling with him tried to get in their usual position to mark his arrival in a foreign country, only to find a member of the Chinese welcoming delegation screaming at them.
He told the White House press corps they needed to leave.
A White House official tried to intervene, saying this is our president and our plane and the media isn’t moving. 
 Obama is greeted at Chinese Airport

The man yelled in response, “This is our country!”
The man then yelled more and entered into a testy exchange with Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, and her deputy, Ben Rhodes, while trying to block them from moving toward the front of the plane. 
On what is probably his last visit to China, there were flare-ups and simmering tensions during Obama’s meetings with Chinese officials — a fitting reflection of how the relationship between these two world powers has become frayed and fraught with frustration. Over the past seven years, that turbulence with China has colored and come to define Obama’s foreign policy at-large in Asia.
On Saturday, several White House protocol officers and other staff arriving at a diplomatic compound ahead of Obama’s meetings were stopped from entering and had heated arguments with Chinese officials in order to get in.
“The president is arriving here in an hour,” one White House staffer was overheard saying in exasperation.
A fistfight nearly broke out between a Chinese official trying to help the U.S. diplomats and a Chinese security official trying to keep them out. “Calm down please. Calm down,” another White House official pleaded.
Twenty minutes before the arrival of Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the two sides were still arguing in the room where the two leaders would soon be meeting to talk about cooperation. The Chinese insisted there was not enough space for the 12 American journalists traveling with Obama. U.S. officials, pointing to a spacious area sectioned off for the media, insisted there was.
High hopes turn to pivot
When Obama became president in 2009, he began with high hopes of improving U.S.-China relations. He tried reaching out to Chinese leaders with offers of increased engagement and decided not to meet with the Dalai Lama to avoid angering Beijing, to the disappointment of human rights advocates.
 Obama became the first U.S. president to visit China during his first year in office. But his administration was taken aback by how completely the Chinese controlled all aspects that visit. “He wasn’t allowed to say much at all,” said Orville Schell, a longtime China scholar who was in China during the visit. “The Chinese kept him from meeting certain people, from taking questions or even radio broadcasts. He didn’t know quite how to respond. He didn’t want to be impolite. It took the U.S. a while to understand that this was the direction China and the relationship was headed.”
Some have blamed Obama for adopting such an overly optimistic and open stance during those early years. For all his outreach, current and former top U.S. diplomats say, Obama has gotten little in return, except the feeling of being burned by Beijing.
But that result could be equally attributed to the simple fact that China itself was undergoing a seismic shift during those early years of Obama’s presidency.
When the global recession plunged the world into financial crisis in the late 2000s, China escaped unscathed. Its leaders looked around and realized for the first time just how much power China had attained in becoming the world’s second largest economy. And shortly after, they began eagerly throwing that weight around.
No longer were they willing to make concessions or bide their time, from big things, such as territorial claims, down to the nitty-gritty of negotiations over who sits where and says what in diplomatic exchanges.
Obama’s response to this newfound Chinese assertiveness was largely a response to reality. “In a textbook, it would be great to have a strategic vision for how you see things being eight years now,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, Obama’s top Asia adviser during those early years. “But in this case, I think the word ‘reaction’ is right. You had a China that was changing in capacity and leadership.”
If the carrot of engagement didn’t work, the Obama administration decided, they would try the stick. And they gave this tougher policy a name: the “Pivot to Asia.”
The pivot policy boiled down to the idea of turning the resources and attention of the United States away from perpetual problem areas in the short term, such as the Middle East, to Asia — an area that would have clear long-term strategic importance in coming years. 
Those overseeing the pivot strategy, senior U.S. officials said at the time, studied other examples in history, where one power was rising while others were declining: Germany’s rise in Europe after World War I; Athens and Sparta; the rise of the United States, itself, in the past century.
The pivot strategy was developed out of a belief that China would respond best to a position of strength. To find that leverage, the United States planned to forge stronger ties with its traditional allies in Asia and pick up new allies among neighbors alienated by China’s new aggression — including Vietnam, Burma and India.
Using that multilateral approach, the thinking went, the United States could offset China’s rising military power and assertiveness.
Doubts in Asia and among allies
The main problem with the Asia pivot was one of perception and substance.
European and Middle East leaders expressed concern with the idea of U.S. attention and priorities suddenly shifting from their regions to another. Chinese leaders saw the pivot as a U.S. conspiracy to interfere with China’s goals and to slow its rise.
Meanwhile, the very Asian allies the pivot was meant to reassure had their doubts, as well. Many wondered how much of the U.S. pivot was empty rhetoric and how much of it would be backed by economic and military substance.
In recent months, those doubts have resurfaced because the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal Obama cobbled together as a way to reach out to Asian allies, may die for lack of support among Congress and presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, in the years since the pivot strategy began, the U.S.-China relationship has soured to its current fraught state.
Both countries today are trying to avoid open hostility but are increasingly wary, hedging and frustrated with each other. Other countries in the region continue to fear China’s rise but at the same time are not fully convinced that the United States will be a sufficient counterweight.
The U.S.-China relationship may be the biggest problem Obama’s successor will face in Asia. How he or she deals with it — the exact proportion of carrots and sticks chosen and the Chinese response — will probably define the region in the decade to come. 
If this visit by Obama is any indication, the situation is not likely to get better anytime soon.
On Saturday, even as the two presidents finished their talk and prepared for a final nighttime stroll toward Obama’s motorcade. Chinese officials suddenly cut the number of U.S. journalists who could cover them from six to three, and finally to one.
“That is our arrangement,” a Chinese official flatly told a White House staffer, looking away.
“But your arrangement keeps changing,” the White House staffer responded.
In the end, after lengthy and infuriating negotiations, they settled on having just two journalists witness the leader’s walk.

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