Barack Obama

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reporter's Notebook: All Eyes on the President

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 11:29 AM

President Barack Obama giving a shout-out to Boise Mayor Dave Bieter - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • President Barack Obama giving a shout-out to Boise Mayor Dave Bieter
Tickets to see President Barack Obama speak at the Caven-Williams Sports Complex at Boise State University January 21 were printed on handsome card stock, and attendees clutched them in gloved hands as they walked past the line and demonstrators, muttering about whether, with a line this long, there was any chance they'd be allowed inside the complex. On their way, they walked past a security checkpoint where unauthorized belongings like coffee cups and plastic bags had begun to form a small butte of trash. 

"No one thought to put a damn trash can out there?" wondered Twitter user Alex Hecht when he saw a picture of it on the social media platform.

One of the President's political detractors, Twitter user Tickle Me Larry, wrote, "If you want to shows [sic] pics of garbage why don't you just put up a pick of a liberal[?]"

Detractors like Tickle Me Larry mostly stayed at home Jan. 21, however; instead, there were hundreds of activists vying for the attention of the people in line, from those advocating Presidential action on behalf of Saeed Abedini, the Boise-based pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran since 2012; to protesters against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Others were pushing for the President to make the Boulder-White Clouds in eastern Idaho a national monument.

A growing pile of unauthorized items at a security checkpoint - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • A growing pile of unauthorized items at a security checkpoint
Julie Joefnagels was one of two people holding up a sign calling on the President to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline. She said she'd long been passionate about environmental issues, but became particularly interested in the pipeline through her book club.

"I'm trying to protect Idaho and the country's environment any way I can," she said.

Deborah Sturgeon held up a sign that read "#SaveSaeed" in front of Albertsons (nee Bronco) Stadium. Her sign and shirt were a shade of green you could see from space. 

"We're making a statement about a person who should have been brought home a long time ago," she said. 

The people waiting in the line itself were a mix of parents with small children, and Boise State students, and their hopes for what the President would say were equally mixed. Boise State student Henry Murphy was looking forward to Obama touching on his career prospects in America's changing economy.

"I hope he talks about jobs after we graduate," he said. 

Larry Kish, who'd come with his daughter and her infant child, told Boise Weekly, "It'd be interesting to see if he has anything to say about the Boulder-White Cloud Monument."

Security for the public consisted of a basic search of bags, pat-downs and metal detectors. The line moved quickly despite the process of being admitted to the complex being billed as "airport security" in pre-event materials. In all, Idaho State Police and other law enforcement personnel admitted more than 6,000 people into the complex.

  • Harrison Berry
Inside, the cavernous space was divided into sections for VIP guests like the Boise State Bronco Marching Band and local politicians, the public, and the media. The wait was long, and the playlist blaring over loudspeakers was limited. Some of the volunteers who'd been charged with erecting barricades and various stages had been there since the early morning, and they bustled about with white plastic chairs, pouring water for guests from orange jugs and helping people in the VIP section to their seats. 

Television media had also been in the complex since the early morning running their cameras and sound equipment through security checks. They erected equipment on tall platform, and huge power cables wound haphazardly across the floor to TV news vans in the parking lot. Photojournalists with improbably long telephoto lenses patrolled the barricades between the media and attendees searching for shots of the audience, and print journalists plugged their laptops into power strips taped to folding card tables arranged in rows near the back of the complex. 

From the inside, the crowd looked very different from the line: What had been an even but eclectic mess of parents, children, students and the elderly now seemed to be mostly students armed with cell phones, with which they snapped selfies and pictures of the podium where the President would speak. There were a few middle-aged people in the audience who'd come to rally for Obama. They included sisters Kathy Clifford, Pat Casey and Tawnia Santos, who bore little physical resemblance except for their clear, blue eyes.

"We're super supporters of the President," Clifford said. 

The VIP section was to the left of the main stage and filled slowly from an entrance behind the stage behind a heavy blue curtain. Through that portal came Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who'd just disembarked from Air Force One; astronaut and educator Barbara Morgan; former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus; and a handful of state legislators. The Idaho Legislature had taken a brief recess for the event, though few members of the Republican-controlled legislature were in attendance.

Rep. Mark Nye (D-Pocatello) - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Rep. Mark Nye (D-Pocatello)
"The Legislature and the people of Idaho have tremendous respect for the President," said Rep. Mark Nye (D-Pocatello).
There was standing room only in the crowd, and many began to fidget and chant over the music: It was evident that people were anxious for Obama to take the stage. During his State of the Union speech to Congress and the public the night before had taken sharp aim at income inequality and job growth—issues that were near and dear to many in attendance at Boise State. Members of the local and national media murmured about whether he'd roll out a platform he hadn't addressed during the SOTU. Boise State student Tess Gregg Worstell sang the National Anthem—"It's absolutely incredible" to be able to sing for the President, she said. Every break in the music seemed like a sign that Obama was coming.

Finally, Boise State engineering student Camille Eddy took the stage and welcomed President Obama to the stage to thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. 

He wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbow and a blue tie, and his hair was salt and pepper. His limbs are leaner and more muscular than they look like on television. Eight years of living in the White House have taken a toll on the man who took a similar stage at Millennium Park in Chicago in 2008 to tell Americans he'd be their new President, but his voice was strong and his movements were measured. He gave a shout-out to Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and talked about his tour of the Boise State campus and Hackfort—Treefort Music Fest's coding app design component—before launching into discussions of raising wages and educating students for a new economy. 

"Let's do more to restore the playing field," he told the crowd. "We want everybody to contribute to America's success."

He drew a sharp contrast between the 20th and 21st centuries: In the years following World War II, America spent billions on infrastructure and education. In the mid-20th century, a student could pay his or her way through college on earnings from a part-time job. But the cost of education has risen dramatically in the 21st century, and America's infrastructure has begun to age. Pres. Obama said that "we were on the cutting edge then—we need to be on the cutting edge now." It was largely a rehash and elaboration upon his SOTU remarks.

For more on his speech, click here.

His comments concluded, Obama toured the picket lines shaking hands and exchanging fist bumps. Photographers edged in on choice spots from which to catch him interacting with the public while TV news crews interviewed VIP guests as the public filed out the complex's doors. 

The glow of the experience began to fade in the January cold of the Albertsons Stadium parking lot. While the public went home, the President re-boarded Air Force One on his way to Lawrence, Kansas, where he'd deliver a similar speech. 
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The New York Times and Washington Post Weigh In On Obama's Boise Trip

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 8:57 AM

President Barack Obama greets onlookers during his arrival at the Boise Airport on Jan. 21. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • President Barack Obama greets onlookers during his arrival at the Boise Airport on Jan. 21.
The nation's top newspapers turned their focus toward Idaho, and particularly Boise State University, in their Jan. 22 morning editions. "Obama Takes His 'One America' Tour to Idaho," wrote The New York Times. "Obama Bounds Into Republican Boise," wrote The Washington Post (though Boise's voting record would probably waylay that notion).

"President Obama's presence here [Boise] Wednesday [Jan. 21] said as much as his words, which, after all, mostly reiterated the 'middle class economics' agenda laid out in State of the Union address the night before," wrote The Times' Jackie Calmes. "For the White House, the choice of the Boise [State] campus for Mr. Obama's State of the Union encore was no accident. His advisers still recall his rapturous reception here in February 2008."

Calmes wrote that Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett argues that Obama "should make a point of going to Republican strongholds and not let political geography constrain him."

The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote that Obama was "grayer and battered by Washington's unrelenting partisan snarking," compared to the fresh-faced candidate who filled Boise State's Taco Bell Arena in 2008. 

"Obama’s speech Wednesday was delivered in a city planted at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills," wrote Roig-Franzia. "The training facility where the event was held is on a street named for a liberal icon, the Latino labor organizer Cesar Chavez. In the audience, a man yelled 'Sí, se puede'—'Yes, we can' in Spanish."

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Reporter's Notebook: Barack Obama, Bullet-Proof Limos and Mayor Bieter Hitches an Impressive Ride

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 8:05 AM

  • Jessica Murri

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning on Jan. 21, thinking about my camera lens. It's a cheap telephoto lens I bought online a few years ago, and it doesn't have an autofocus feature. I laid in bed for an hour, worrying about messing up that iconic picture of President Barack Obama stepping out of Air Force One at the Boise airport and giving a wave. 

I'm young and new at this, relatively speaking. I've worked at the Boise Weekly about a year now, but Wednesday would certainly be my first time covering a presidential visit. When my editor assigned me to cover Air Force One's landing a few days ago, I called my mom for advice.

I called her because in 1996, she was doing the same exact thing. At the time, her name was Tiffany Murri, and she was a young reporter for Boise State Public Radio. After major flooding in North Idaho, President Bill Clinton flew into Boise—Gowen Field—on a cold Valentine's Day evening. My mom spent four of five hours waiting for his plane to land. I was five years old.

"I remember being cold to the bone," she told me. "I was wearing a dress and dress shoes and it was absolutely freezing. A photographer actually took off his coat for me and let me borrow it."

  • Jessica Murri
Of course, almost 20 years later, I made the same mistake. I put on tights, a dress, and some little leather shoes. Even in my peacoat, I was absolutely freezing. But it was fun, and it was exciting. Dozens of Boise police and military personnel swarmed Gowen Field while a bomb dog sniffed my camera bag and I pinned on a "White House Press Pool" paper media badge. 

A colonel escorted me and a few other reporters onto the tarmac, where half a dozen television cameras and live trucks were already set up. We waited for an hour and a half for Air Force One to arrive, and when it did, I started taking pictures. I couldn't feel my feet and I wondered if my shivering would make my photos blur. I didn't bring a tripod—I don't even have one.

The plane sat for a long time with the door open, but no president. I took photo after photo of the presidential seal next to the door, making sure it was in sharp focus, so that as soon as Obama stepped out, I'd get that shot. I would not let my fear from earlier in the morning come true.

After several minutes, he did step out, but I was so excited and nervous that I twisted my lens to zoom in and completely ruined the focus. He waved—a blurry mess. I frantically twisted the lens back and forth to bring him into focus and about half way down the staircase, I captured him and Mayor Dave Bieter in sharp clarity. 

  • Jessica Murri

By the end of the staircase, Obama was shaking hands with Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Col. Sherrie McCandless, commander of the 124th Fighter Wing. My view was obscured by one of the president's limos.
  • Jessica Murri

Obama walked across the tarmac towards a crowd of 100 or so, friends and family of deployed soldiers, followed by an entourage of national press and Secret Service staff. He didn't even glance over at the local press, which made my cold toes feel a little silly. 

  • Jessica Murri
Then, minutes later, he turned and was led into his bullet-proof limo, complete with Washington D.C. license plates. The motorcade of 30—including four vans of press corps, several Idaho State troopers, some mysterious-looking Secret Servicemen and an ambulance—drove away. 

All the hours of waiting for just a glimpse at the president of the United States. My mom remembered her experience the same way.

"After all that time of waiting, [Clinton] stepped out on the stairway, waved, walked down the stairs, straight into a meeting in a building, and I spent half the night in the basement of the capitol building, editing stories for the next morning's news," she said. 

  • Jessica Murri

When  I saw President Obama—for about five minutes—he was nearly 100 yards away. It was a big deal, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, sure. But it was also a little anticlimactic. 

By 4:30 p.m., it was wheels-up for Air Force One as Obama winged his way to Lawrence, Kansas to give a similar speech to the one he delivered at Boise State University. The last press club pool email I got said, "Motorcade uneventful back to the airport. Smaller crowds. ... Obama back on Air Force One at 4:17. Boarded alone. Paused at top of stairs to wave."
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

President Obama in Boise: "Don't Just Say 'No.' I Want A 'Yes.'"

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 4:23 PM

President Barack Obama and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter disembarking from Air Force One at the Boise Airport. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • President Barack Obama and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter disembarking from Air Force One at the Boise Airport.
President Barack Obama told an approving crowd at Boise State University’s Caven-Williams Sports Complex Wednesday afternoon that he would admit the clock was indeed ticking on his presidency, but he had no desire to be sitting on the bench.

“I may be in the fourth quarter,” said Obama, "but here at the home of the team with the most famous Statue of Liberty play in [college football] history, I don’t have to remind you that things happen late in the fourth quarter.”

In a densely packed afternoon stop in Boise, the first leg of his post-State of the Union message, Obama spent some time with students and instructors at Boise State’s New Product Development Lab at the university’s Micron Engineering Building.

“This is fascinating,” Obama told the engineering students . “If I was allowed to invest, I would want to invest in you guys.”

Minutes later, Obama was sharing his enthusiasm with the crowd - nearly 6,000 strong - at the Caven-Wiliams complex, which had the feel of a campaign rally. Obama reminded the gathering that the last time he was on campus, he was a first-time candidate for the White House. While he won two terms, Obama was soundly defeated by Idaho voters.

“I got whupped. I got whupped twice,” Obama said. “That’s OK. That’s why I came back.”

Obama said he was anxious to get his GOP detractors to “stop saying no” to many of his programs, especially in his final two years as chief executive.

“Don’t just say ‘No,’” said Obama. “I want a ‘Yes.’ We may disagree with politics, but we don’t have to be divided as people. Whoever we are, Republican, Democrat, Independent, young, old, gay, straight—we share a common goal. I want to show the rest of the world that we are not a collection of red states and blue states, and that we’re still the United States of America.”

President Barack Obama leaving the Caven-Williams Sports Complex. - ZACH HAGADONE
  • Zach Hagadone
  • President Barack Obama leaving the Caven-Williams Sports Complex.

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Boise Weekly's Coverage Of POTUS in Boise Via Storify

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 11:41 AM

Boise Weekly followed President Barack Obama's entourage Wednesday, January 21st.

From touchdown to takeoff, these were the images and voices that witnessed Obama's historic visit to Boise State University.

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Obama's Boise Timeline

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 9:46 AM

Security is out in force today as local, state and federal law enforcement help manage President Barack Obama's visit to Boise State University.

Crews from the Ada County Highway District and Boise Police closed off a number of on-street parking spaces around the campus in anticipation of Obama's visit. Motorists are also being cautioned that they can expect delays Wednesday after on Broadway Avenue and possible delays on Capitol Boulevard.

A stretch of the Greenbelt on the south side of the Boise River, from Theater Lane to Broadway Bridge, will be closed to all traffic Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. until the end of Obama's speech. 

Read more here:

Air Force One is slated to touch down at approximately 1:20 Wednesday afternoon at the Boise Airport.

The wife of a Boise pastor being held by Iranian authorities has confirmed that she'll get some face time with the President where she'll talk about her husband, Saeed Abedini, who has been held in an Iranian prison since September 2012. Additionally, she said supporters of her husband's cause will be outside the Caven-Williams Sports Complex, the scene of Obama's 3 p.m. speech, wearing yellow T-shirts that read "Save Saeed."

At approximately 1:45 p.m., the President is expected to spend some time with students at the New Product Development Lab at Boise State University's Micron Engineering Center. And then, he'll be whisked off to the Cave-Williams complex for his post-State of the Union message. 

Attendees are being reminded that they'll be entering the complex through airport-like metal detectors. The speech is set to begin at 3 p.m., and Air Force One is scheduled for a wheels-up departure from Boise Airport at approximately 4:15 p.m., when he'll be travelling to Lawrence, Kansas for a rally on the campus of the University of Kansas.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tickets to Obama's Boise Appearance Being Hawked on Craigslist

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 11:27 AM

The news spread fast: President Barack Obama would make an appearance at Boise State University Wednesday, Jan. 21, beginning at 2:45 p.m.—just a day after his annual State of the Union address to Congress. 

Tickets to the event were free, and a line began forming at the Albertson Stadium ticket office in the wee hours of Jan. 19. Boise State students got first dibs on the free tickets, followed by staff and administrators. At 4 p.m. Jan. 19, the few tickets that remained were given away to the general public. They went fast—and almost as quickly, became available on Craigslist, sometimes for staggering sums of money. 

"An opportunity to see the most powerful man in the world.... Don't pass it up! ***$150 OBO***," wrote one Craigslist user. 

"Selling a ticket to see obama [sic]!! $350 stood in line for hours. Please email if interested," wrote another.

Many others took to the site to search or trade for tickets. One user offered a ticket to the event for a ticket to the Jan. 21 String Cheese Incident performance at the Knitting Factory.

Several users balked at the idea of paying for tickets to an event to which tickets could be obtained for free. 

"Paying for it seems odd. I'll buy you a cocktail or lunch but realistically, I'm not buying a free ticket," wrote one user. "Had I waited for a pile of time and couldn't go, I would give away my ticket."
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Here Are the Details on Obama's Trip to Boise (Including How to Get a Ticket)

Posted By on Sun, Jan 18, 2015 at 9:10 AM

Details are beginning to emerge regarding President Barack Obama's visit to Boise, scheduled for this coming Wednesday, Jan. 21, his first trip to Idaho since February 2008 when then-candidate Obama was waging his first run for the White House.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. The tickets will be limited to one ticket per person. The tickets will be distributed beginning Monday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. and will continue until 7 p.m. (or until they run out) at the Albertsons (Bronco) Stadium ticket office at Boise State.

The public will be able to enter the Caven-Williams Sports Complex (next to the stadium), beginning at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 21. No bags, signs or banners will be permitted. All attendees will walk through airport-like security. No overnight camping will be allowed on the premises leading up to the event. 

The event is slated to begin at 2:45 PM.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Obama Will Return to Boise for Post-State of the Union Event

Posted By on Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 8:45 AM

President Barack Obama has never visited Idaho. But candidate Barack Obama sure did—filling Boise State University's Taco Bell Arena to the rafters in February 2008 when he was in the midst of a bruising primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Soon after Democratic organizers announced that there would be "a special guest" coming to Boise, word spread throughout the region, attracting the curious from hundreds of miles away to line up in the pre-dawn hours of a chilly Saturday morning. Obama's Idaho visit gained national attention and re-energized a campaign that some pundits said had been on the ropes.

Seven years and two national elections later—in which Obama was trounced in Idaho by GOP hopefuls John McCain and Mitt Romney—Obama returns to the campus of Boise State this coming Wednesday, Jan. 21, as part of a multi-state tour following his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

The news was confirmed by the Idaho Democratic Party late Friday night, and advance teams will be busy in the next few days preparing for Obama's visit, which is expected to include preparations for Air Force One; separate transportation for the traveling press corps; a caravan of vehicles; and the Secret Service's infamous chase car, aka "war wagon," housing its communication devices and weapons.

Details are expected to trickle out in the next couple of days regarding the venue and public's opportunity to attend Obama's speech on Wednesday.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Labrador on Morning Joe: Voting 'No' on Senate Immigration Bill and 'No' On Budget Bill

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Idaho GOP Congressman Raul Labrador weighed in immigration reform and a $1.1 trillion U.S. government spending bill this  morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

When asked about President Barack Obama's recent executive orders on Immigration, Labrador chastised the president, saying, "He's no constitutional scholar." Labrador added that he didn't think a U.S. Senate-backed measure for comprehensive immigration reform would pass through the U.S. House.

"I don't think the Senate bill would pass for one simple thing: the [2014] Senate bill did something that the Reagan amnesty did—it grants amnesty today with promises of enforcement in the future. We know what the result of that was. When we granted amnesty under Reagan, there were 3,000,000 illegals in the United States. Now, we have 11,000,000 to 12,000,000 illegals," said Labrador. "I don't think anybody in the House of Representatives on the Republican side wants to see that again, to grow the number of illegals in the United States exponentially."

Labrador added that he would be voting against a $1.1 Trillion spending bill to avert a U.S. government shut down.

"There was no debate and that's one of the reasons I'm against this bill," said the Idaho congressman. "You have a 2,500-page bill that was posted [Tuesday] night at 11 p.m. and we're supposed to vote on it by [Thursday]," said Labrador. "I think that's outrageous. It was bad when the Democrats were doing it and it's definitely bad when my own party is doing it."

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