Perhaps in an another attempt to clear the air, President Obama agreed to appear on a Cuban comedy show, and it is painful to watch. In a running bit, Cuban comedian Luis Silva has a character called Pánfilo, who always tries to call the U.S. President, and finds himself rebuffed. But this time, in the sketch that wouldn't end, Obama actually answers and it is wildly uncomfortable. Maybe it's so bad, it's actually good? Well, probably not. Discuss
President Obama has begun talks with Supreme Court Justice candidates to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Among those who are being considered are Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Judge Sri Srinivasan, of the same court; Judge Paul Watford, of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco; Judge Jane Kelly, of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals based in St. Louis; and U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves in Washington, D.C. NPR reports that Garland, Srinivasan and Watford are on the short list for the vacancy.
The president is moving ahead with the nomination process despite Republican senators' statements that they will not consider—or even meet with—an Obama appointee. They want the next president to make the nomination. Discuss
President Obama unveiled his plan to fulfill his campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay. The plan suggests moving 35 of the 91 remaining prisoners to other countries and the rest to facilities on U.S. soil. The proposal comes seven years after the president, then insurgent candidate, first promised to close the facility. The president cheekily recalled this history, remarking that President Bush and his then rival for office, Senator John McCain, supported closing the prison before the facility became “ a partisan issue.” During his speech, the president outlined his reasons for closing the prison:
For many years, it has been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security. This is not just my opinion. This is the opinion of experts and the opinion of many in our military. As Americans, we pride ourselves as being a beacon to other nations—a model of the rule of law. But 15 years after the worst terrorist attacks in American history, we are still having to defend the existence of a facility and a process when not a single verdict has been reached in those attacks.
Two administration officials who spoke with reporters gave details to how they plan to save money by closing the facility and explained that this new plan was drafted to work with Congress, where closing the facility has been met with great opposition. “We hope that this will be the beginning of a more sustained conversation in which we articulate some of the thinking behind it,” one of the officials said. “We’re not entirely clear on how that conversation will play out, but we’re committed to moving it forward.” Discuss
President Obama is planning a trip to Cuba March 21, which will make him the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the country for more than 80 years. This news comes 15 months after Obama's pledge with Raul Castro to reopen diplomatic channels between the U.S. and Cuba after exchanging prisoners. Since the humanitarian release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross in December 2014, the U.S. and Cuba have been through a series of diplomatic talks resulting in the reopening of embassies and a recent commercial airline deal. Calvin Coolidge was the last sitting president to visit Cuba, back in 1928. ABC News reports that the National Security Council will make an official announcement in a White House briefing sometime today. Discuss
President Obama has threatened to veto a bill that would strengthen screening for Syrian refugees entering the country. The White House released a statement defending the current screening process and criticizing the new bill for its potential to cause "significant delays and obstacles" for the current vetting process, saying: "Given the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis ... [Obama] would veto the bill."
The bill, which sets high standards for admission, requires the FBI director to certify a background check for each refugee and sign-offs by top security officials that certify the refugee is not a threat. Republican House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul called for a "pause" in refugee admittance, but President Obama seems to have no intention of doing so. He tweeted Wednesday: "Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That's not who we are. And it's not what we're going to do." House Speaker Paul Ryan stressed that though the new screening process would be rigorous, the refugees would not be subjected to religious tests. The chamber will vote on the bill later this week. Discuss