TIME State of the Union 2015

Here’s the One State of the Union Talking Point Republicans Liked

A debate over the next round of global trade deals is heating up in Congress this year

About a half-hour into President Obama’s State of the Union a strange thing happened: most of the Republicans jumped up and cheered while most Democrats stayed seated and silent. It was the only time it happened Tuesday night, and the topic was trade.

“China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region,” said Obama. “That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why should we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field.”

“I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense,” added Obama, who earned a brief cheer from democratic socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders before continuing. “But 95% of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”

There are few areas of agreement between Obama and the new Republican Congress, but trade promotion authority, or TPA, which would ease the passage of the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, potentially the largest free trade agreement ever, is one of them. For years the Administration has been negotiating TPP—affecting about 40% of the world’s GDP and about a third of the world’s trade—but so far Obama has yet to prove to Republicans that he is willing to spend the time, effort and political capital to get it done. But on Tuesday night, the Republicans’ response to his message was ecstatic.

The Republican Senate and House whips, Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, said that the trade talk was “probably one of the brightest spots” and “the most promising part” of the speech. Other top Republicans who criticize Obama around the clock, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they hoped the President would now push the issue. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, the most senior member, said Obama’s remarks were “welcome but long overdue.”

In 1993, President Bill Clinton led an all-out push to get the massive North America trade deal through Congress. There were face-to-face White House meetings with Congressmen, White House envoys roaming the Hill, and 37 Commerce Department reports targeting industries “from computers to autos,” according to a Christian Science Monitor report, that helped show Congressmen how NAFTA would help their constituents. In October of that year, former CEO of the Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca, stood on the White House South Lawn with hundreds of products (and businessmen) touting what the Administration believed would thrive under NAFTA. Under the white tents, Clinton joked to a pro-trade union man that he would wear the man’s company hat if he gave a speech. A month later, the House passed the bill in a squeaker and the Senate did shortly thereafter.

This time around, Republicans are hoping for another all-out Administration effort on TPP and the “fast-track” bill, which would allow limited congressional debate, no amendments, and an up-or-down vote. The Administration says such a bill is vital to pass TPP, as countries would be less willing to negotiate if they knew Congress could make large changes to the deal. But liberals are livid with Obama’s trade talk; they set up a press conference Wednesday to air out their concerns.

“The typical business plan in this country because of trade and tax policies: You shut down production in Cleveland and you move it to Beijing and sell the products back to the United States,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown after the State of the Union. “That makes no sense. And he’s wrong on that as his predecessors were.”

“If you think that previous trade agreements. . . have done well, you should support the TPP,” said Sanders. “But if you believe, as I do, that they have been disastrous, that they have cost us millions of decent paying jobs, then it make no sense to go forward in a failed policy and it should be defeated. . . . At the end of the day, among many other concerns, American workers are going to be forced to compete against people in Vietnam who make a minimum wage of 56 cents an hour.”

Still pro-trade lawmakers like Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill believe that Obama can bring “enough” Democrats to pass a “fast-track” trade bill. Democratic Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, who supported the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 but opposed the more recent trade agreement bills with South Korea, Panama and Columbia, said Obama “probably” has the votes now to pass a TPA bill through Congress, although it’s easier in the Senate than House, where some conservatives have also raised an uproar about giving more power to the President.

The White House has recently increased its outreach efforts, tasking every Cabinet member to divvy up and target 80 House Democrats, according to the Hill newspaper. In an email Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told TIME that the trade agenda is a “top priority” for the Administration. “We are taking an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to getting this done,” she said. “We are all out talking not only to members of Congress but to business leaders and workers around the country, telling the story of why trade and exports matter.”

The United State Trade Representative office touts that over nearly five years it has held over 1,600 congressional briefings on TPP. United States Trade Ambassador Michael Froman rebutted liberals’ concerns in a press conference on Wednesday, saying that manufacturing jobs are coming back from overseas and that export-related jobs pay 13 to 18 percent more than other jobs. “It gives us the opportunity to protect workers, protect the environment and level the playing field,” said Froman of TPP.

Still, Obama has a ways to go in getting broad support for both TPA and TPP. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of the Democratic leadership and Finance Committee, says “many of us wouldn’t support” TPA unless it addressed some China-related concerns. And the top Democrat on the influential Ways and Means Committee, Michigan Rep. Sandy Levin, says the Administration, Congress and outside groups need to immediately “tear apart” other outstanding issues, including those related to the environment and currency manipulation.

“I think it’s a mistake essentially to say let’s fast-track a package when there isn’t a real understanding of the issues and their resolution,” he said. “So that should be the focus right now and that will be the strong basis for getting bipartisan support. If we don’t do that, I don’t think there’s a chance that there will be bipartisan support.”

TIME 2016 Election

Rubio Says His Family Is Behind a Presidential Run

Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on Dec. 17, 2014. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

The Florida Republican also speaks highly of Jeb Bush

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that his family is on board if he decides to run for president, but he has yet to make up his mind about whether to seek the White House.

Speaking at a breakfast for reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Rubio said he has spoken and emailed with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush since his onetime political mentor announced he would “actively explore” a presidential bid last month. Rubio declined to describe those conversations, but said Bush’s decision would not impact his.

“I think Jeb Bush is going to be a very credible candidate,” Rubio said, adding that he could “easily” raise more than $100 million to win the Republican nomination.

“From my perspective, the decision that I’m going to have to make is where is the best place for me to serve this country at this time in my life, at this time in my career,” he said. “And the choice before me is to continue in the Senate, especially now that we hope to hold an enduring majority, or do it from the presidency. And both of those avenues have their own set of opportunities that are alluring.”

Rubio reiterated his position that he would not stand for reelection should he decide to run for president. “If I run it will not be with the intention of looking for a Plan B if it doesn’t work out,” he said. “My intention if I run for president is to run for president.”

Rubio’s comments come as he is set to meet with donors in Florida this weekend before flying out to California to attend a gathering organized by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers.

MORE: How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

Rubio declined to directly criticize Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King’s comments Tuesday evening, in which King called a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama to the State of the Union a “deportable” because she was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child.

“I believe that that describes to some extent one of the issues that we confront when we debate these issues,” Rubio said, adding, “We have to always remind ourselves that we’re talking about human beings with hopes and dreams and families.”

Responding to arguments from many Republicans that the next president should be a governor to draw a contrast with President Barack Obama, Rubio quipped: “If I was a governor I’d make the same argument too.” But he argued that a grasp of national security issues is more important than executive experience.

MORE: Obama made history by using this word during the State of the Union

“I believe that the central obligation of the federal government… is providing for the national security,” he said. “The next President of the United States needs to be someone who has a clear vision of American’s role in the world.

“For governors that’s going to be a challenge at least initially,” Rubio added, “since they don’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis.”

TIME Parenting

Watch Elmo Interview Chelsea Clinton

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 1
Chelsea Clinton arrives on March 20, 2014. NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

"I'm so happy being a mom," Clinton says

Chelsea Clinton opens up about her baby Charlotte in a new interview with People that features Elmo and plenty of the former first daughter’s childrearing strategies.

“I have a beautiful baby daughter named Charlotte,” a beaming Clinton tells Elmo. Later, she says, “I try really hard to be a good mommy. I think it’s the most important job in the world.”

Watch the video at People


Morning Must Reads: January 21

The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

How 7 Ideas From the State of the Union Will Affect You

President Barack Obama threw out a lot of big ideas during his State of the Union address, but how will they affect you? Here’s a look at seven proposals and how they could affect your life

France to Hire 2,600 Officers to Monitor 3,000 Terror Suspects

France will hire 2,600 new counter-terrorism officers and spend $490 million in response to the Paris attacks, the prime minister announced Wednesday

Netflix Goes ‘Full HBO’ in 2015

Television and online video are colliding, and 2015 could be the year Netflix-original shows transform from a novelty to an expectation among subscribers

NBC to Stream Super Bowl Online

NBC announced on Tuesday that it will stream all Super Bowl content for free on Feb. 1, including pregame coverage, the game and the halftime show. The Seattle Seahawks go up against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., for football’s top prize

Palestinian Stabs Passengers on Bus in Israel

A Palestinian man stabbed nine people, wounding some of them seriously, on a bus in central Tel Aviv before he was chased down, shot and arrested, Israeli police said on Wednesday. The Islamist militant Hamas group praised the stabbing

Benedict Cumberbatch Inspires Clothing Line

L.A. fashion brand Poprageous, which specializes in pop-culture apparel, has launched a “Cumberbitch” collection ranging from crop tops to leggings. Prints of Cumberbatch’s face are tiled on the fabric ad infinitum, leaving the actor within close gaze of his ardent fans

France Issues First Charges Against 4 in Terrorist Attacks

Four men with ties to one of the gunmen responsible for three days of terror in the Paris region are the first to be charged in connection with the attacks that left 20 people dead. The attacks started with the Jan. 7 massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo

Movie Ticket Prices Hit All-Time High

The average price in 2014 was $8.17, an all-time yearly high, but only a slight increase from the 2013 average of $8.13, the National Association of Theater Owners said on Tuesday. That figure has steadily increased since the mid-1990s, when tickets were around $4

A Bad Childhood Can Literally Age You, Study Says

You’ve heard of people who go through trauma and get old before their time? Well, it can be literally true. Childhood adversity and certain psychiatric conditions may cause individuals to experience accelerated aging, according to research published last week

5 More Disney Workers Get Measles

More employees at Disneyland California have been diagnosed with measles, bringing the total number of cases up to 53. All staff who have come into contact with newly infected workers have been asked to show vaccination records or be tested

Pope Francis and Manila’s Vanishing Street Kids

Was the Philippine capital really purged of unsightly urchins for Pope Francis’ visit last week? In a word, yes, although only a small fraction of this was anything new. According to activists, street kids are constantly being rounded up across this sprawling city of 12 million

Lil Wayne Just Dropped His New Mixtape

After much anticipation, Lil Wayne has just released his new mixtape Sorry 4 the Wait 2. The new project is a sequel to his 2011 Sorry 4 the Wait, and features artists 2 Chainz, Drake, Christina Milian, iLoveMakonnen, Nicki Minaj, Mack Maine and more

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TIME State of the Union 2015

Barack Obama Warns Against Terrorist Fear Factor in State of the Union

Obama says he wants Americans to fight terrorists but not fear them

President Obama had a mixed message for Congress on terrorism in his State of the Union address Tuesday: don’t fear terrorists, but do authorize me to use military force against them.

Obama’s not the only one advancing that national security paradox. Leaders around the world face the same problem. Terrorists are scary—that’s their point. So how do you get support to fight them without freaking people out and handing them a win?

“We lead best,” Obama said in his speech, “When we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.” And he implicitly attacked his predecessor, George W. Bush, for failing at the task. “Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing?” Obama asked.

MORE How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

But Bush has been back in Texas for six years and Gallup reports that 40% of Americans are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism—a slightly higher percentage than when Obama became President in 2009. That’s particularly remarkable when you consider that an American is more likely to be struck by lightening than get hit by a terrorist.

Obama and Bush may not be entirely to blame. The public’s fear of terrorists and its expectations that government will aggressively defend against them are not necessarily the fault of political leaders, says Daniel Byman, co-author of a recent Brookings Institution analysis of the threat posed by foreign fighters returning to the West, “Be Afraid. Be a Little Afraid.”

“It’s very difficult for people to think rationally about low probability events that are high publicity,” Byman says. Furthermore, Byman says, “There are certain things we expect our government to do and one of them is to keep us safe, especially from foreign terrorists—it’s a core government function.”

MORE: Obama made history by using this word during the State of the Union

Which doesn’t make it any less costly to over-react to terrorist threats. Western fear is very specifically what the terrorists are after, as a recruiting tool, as a means of inspiring the troops they have, and as a way of getting opponents to make costly mistakes, Byman says. Some U.S. intelligence officials look at the long-term strategic challenges posed by China, Russia and European economic weakness and think ISIS and the chaos Middle East amounts at best to a diversion and at worst to a trap.

Obama suggested Tuesday that he wants to avoid such a trap. “Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” Yet his administration has sought broad powers from Congress to go after ISIS, including the authority to put troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, where the group is principally operating, and to pursue it in other countries as well.

Republicans have the terrorist threat on their mind, too, of course. In her response from the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing room, Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst said, “This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them,” Ernst said. “We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.”

In the end, one of the most effective tools against terrorists is domestic resilience, especially an acceptance that some level of violence from terrorists, while extremely undesirable, is probably inevitable. “You have to accept that this is a part of modern life,” says Byman. “We need to resource security services, but you don’t want to make it the focus of foreign policy.”


How a High Schooler Made it to the State of the Union

On Tuesday night, Michelle Obama was joined by a handful of people to watch the President’s State of the Union address in person. From astronaut Scott Kelly to Alan Gross, the foreign aid worker who was recently released after five years of imprisonment in Cuba, each of the White House’s guests personifies a story the President would like to tell about America.

In 2014, Estiven Rodriguez was the author of one of those stories. Then a high-school senior from New York City, Rodriguez was recognized by Obama in the State of the Union address for arriving in United States, the son of a Dominican factory worker, unable to speak a word of English and going on to become a first-generation college student.

“Imagine not being able to speak up for yourself, communicate and truly make the right choices,” Rodriguez wrote in an essay that helped him earn a spot at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. “I was that middle-schooler who easily could have fallen into the wrong path.”

In the video above, TIME followed Rodriguez on his journey to the State of the Union.

TIME State of the Union 2015

One State of the Union, Two Barack Obamas

For his sixth State of the Union, Barack Obama sent two Presidents to stand before the nation and its Congress, both wearing the same powder-blue tie and speaking with the same familiar voice.

One was victorious, the other knee-deep in the fight. One declared the economy recovered, while the other described the ongoing suffering of America’s workers. One promised an end to politics and partisanship, the other aimed to lay the groundwork for the destruction of his Republican foes.

The night progressed less as a monologue than a tag team between the two faces of a term-limited President working to cement his legacy. It had been “a breakthrough year for the economy,” he said in one breath, just moments before describing the plight of a couple who could not go on vacations because of their student loans, and whose child care cost more than their mortgage. “The shadow of crisis has passed,” he said, before adding that it would “take time” to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and close vulnerabilities exploited by North Korean hackers.

The President’s bet was that both visions could exist at the same time, and that the American people, hungry for good news and happy with recent economic progress, would forgive the contradictions. Obama is not ready to give up on the vision he first presented to the country in 2004, as the fresh-faced state senator who believed not in a blue or red America, but a United States of America. “I still think the cynics are wrong,” he said. “I still believe that we are one people.”

MORE: How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

But at the same time, he could not deny the knife fighter he had become as the President of a nation where so many viewed his ideas with hostility. “Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns,” said the optimist Obama about the partisanship around him, while the partisan Obama laid out a policy agenda, including steep increases in taxes for the wealthy, new regulations and new government benefits for poor workers that Republicans had already vowed to block.

“I have no more campaigns to run,” said the optimist, while the partisan taunted applauding Republicans — “I know because I won both of them” — with a gloating grin. “A better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine,” the first continued, while the other declared that the “verdict is clear” on the past five years of partisan fights over the economy and that Democrats had been right.

A few hours before his split-screen identity took over the nation’s televisions, a senior administration official scoffed at the notion that the speech had been written to influence the next presidential election in 2016. “Why would he be focused on an election that he’s not in?” the official said.

MORE: The full text of the State of the Union

In fact, the President was focused not only on 2016, but also 2018, 2020 and many elections beyond. “It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come,” he said. In politics, choose means vote. And Obama, like all politicians before him, wanted to keep winning.

Legacy matters because the White House knows a simple truth: last fall’s Republican sweep put an end to President Obama’s big-ticket domestic legislative agenda. His work, in other words, is all but done in Congress — no big tax reform, no entitlement fix or comprehensive immigration solution will come while he still has flying rights on Air Force One. What remains for the next two years is regulatory tinkering, budget fights, a long-shot chance of corporate-tax reform and high hopes for some new trade deals sure to upset his party’s base.

MORE: Obama made history by using this word during the State of the Union

But the State of the Union address, the most watched annual public-policy wish list in human history, has never been about new legislative proposals. It is about setting the terms of debate, and all the annual speeches to a joint session of Congress, Obama has only ever really had one thematic frame: the American middle class is struggling. I can help, if my political foes stop playing politics. So let’s do this, America.

The speeches have been good, as a rule, and Tuesday was no exception, but the words have still missed their mark as often as not, because the economic foundation they landed upon was in tatters. Now that it is firming up again, his luck might turn around. Though it is far from certain which Obama history will ultimately remember: The one calling the country to join hands, or the one telling voters to pick a side.

TIME state of the union

The State of the Union Brought Out the Troll in Everyone

Troll on, Twitter.

The State of the Union is becoming a huge night for social media. In 2014, 2.1 million tweets were sent out during the live telecast and in the hour before the 2015 address Twitter was already abuzz. And the trolls (and non-trolls masquerading as such) were out to play.

Check out some of the most trolly tweets of the night.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana takes a swipe at the President, but spoils it with a grammar mistake.

Former Congressman John Dingell shared his plans for his night away from the Capitol.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa took a dig at one of the First Lady’s guests

White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer brings back memories of Obama-suits-past. The Internet let out a collective shudder.

Sen. Rand Paul on Obama’s free community college proposal



TIME State of the Union 2015

Here’s Where Obama Went Off-Script to Troll Republicans

The State of the Union is carefully scripted, prepared and tweaked for months in advance to make sure the President uses the exact right words for every topic.

But tonight, President Obama couldn’t resist a quick off-book jab at the Republicans cheering on his exit from office.

“I have no more campaigns to run,” Obama says at one point, which prompted laughs and applause from the Republican lawmakers in the audience. Breaking into a sly smile, Obama then added, “I know because I won both of them.”

His unscripted joke elicited some of the loudest cheers of the evening and was the “most social moment” of the speech, according to statistics compiled by Facebook.

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