TODAY

– March 3, 2015

On jobs trip, Obama tries to leave problems behind

(AP) — President Barack Obama tried on Friday to leave behind the political battles that have overshadowed his second-term agenda, saying lawmakers should work on creating more middle-class jobs in the slowly growing economy. "Our work is not done, and our focus cannot drift," Obama said.

Obama's jobs tour took him to Baltimore after riding through one eruption after the other during the past few weeks, from new questions over his administration's handling of last year's deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, to revelations of political targeting at the Internal Revenue Service and a secret probe of The Associated Press and its confidential sources.

"Others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by, but the middle class will always be my No. 1 focus," Obama said at Ellicott Dredges, maker of equipment for digging and pumping projects including mining.

The company, which helped build equipment that dug the Panama Canal, has been adding jobs through international sales in spite of a sluggish economy. Obama took a tour of the plant and got a close-up look at the assembly process, including excavation equipment being made for a customer in Bangladesh.

In his speech to several hundred workers and guests, Obama cited growth in the economy, a drop in unemployment nationwide and improvements in the housing and auto industries. But he said Washington still needs to do more to build a "rising, thriving middle class."

"We're now poised for progress, but our work is not done and our focus cannot drift," he said. "We've got to stay focused on our economy and putting people back to work and raising wages and bringing manufacturing back to the United States of America."

Obama added, "That has to be what we're thinking about every single day."

His comments seemed almost like a plea to his political opponents, and even some supporters, to shift from all the questions that have been dogging the president. The partisan fighting followed Obama even as he traveled north of the beltway, with Republicans criticizing the trip as stagecraft.

Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland's only Republican congressman, said Obama should have stayed in Washington to focus on job-creation efforts like the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast and create jobs.

"That would boost jobs at Ellicott Dredges, but other than that, it's just going to be another photo op on a campaign-style tour when the president should be in Washington tending to the nation's business and to address the huge scandals that are popping up on a daily basis in Washington," Harris said in a conference call with other Maryland Republicans.

The administration has not yet taken a position on the Keystone project, which is opposed by environmentalists but supported by the president of Ellicott Dredges, Peter Bowe, in testimony before Congress just a day earlier. Bowe said in an interview that he didn't discuss it with the president.

"I'm not afraid of talking about it, but it didn't come up," Bowe said. Instead, he said, he told Obama about how the federal government is helping its export business.

Obama touted his effort to more quickly create construction jobs and repair roads, bridges and railways. He cited as an example the recently approved replacement of the aging Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River in the suburbs just north of New York City. The White House said such large projects can take as many as four years to complete the permitting process, but multiple federal and state agencies coordinated simultaneous reviews to cut the time to a year and a half. Obama signed a memorandum Friday directing his agency heads to follow the practice and speed approval for other projects.

Obama also highlighted his proposal to provide preschool for all low-income families by visiting an early childhood program at Baltimore's Moravia Park Elementary School. He sat at a table in the library with 4- and 5-year-olds learning to draw and write about their favorite zoo animals. "I've got to say, my tiger was not very good," Obama joked later. "The kids were unimpressed."

And he visited the Center for Urban Families, a nonprofit that promotes responsible fatherhood and provides job training to parents. One dad, Marcus Dixon, talked about how the center helped him after he got out of jail so he can help provide for his sons, ages 2 and 10. "It's restored my dignity," Dixon said of the program.

Obama told Dixon he is setting a powerful example for his sons and noted that he himself grew up without his father.

"I always tell people that, as great and heroic a job as moms do, particularly for boys, that's a hard situation," Obama said.

 

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Written on 03/03/2015, 12:18 pm by 
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Written on 03/03/2015, 11:56 am by Business Journal staff
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Written on 03/03/2015, 11:38 am by Business Journal Staff
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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:46 am by The Associated Press
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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:41 am by TOM KRISHER, 
DEE-ANN DURBIN, AP Auto Writers
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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:38 am by JONATHAN FAHEY, AP Energy Writer
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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:36 am by The Associated Press
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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:35 am by DAVID McHUGH, 
GREG KELLER, Associated Press
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Written on 03/03/2015, 9:34 am by 
KEN THOMAS, Associated Press
(AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton used a personal email account during her time as secretary of state, rather than a government-issued email address, potentially hampering efforts to archive official government documents required by law. Clinton's office said nothing was illegal or improper about her use of the non-government account and that she believed her business emails to State Department and other .gov accounts would be archived in accordance with government rules. "Like secretaries of state before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any department officials," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said. "For government business, she emailed them on their department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained. When the department asked former secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said 'yes.'" "Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved," he said. For Clinton, the new developments, first reported by The New York Times, place a spotlight on her tenure in the Obama administration as she prepares to launch a widely expected 2016 presidential campaign that Republicans have already started to deride as a third Obama term. They also come after recent examinations of the fundraising practices by the charitable foundation started by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Republicans quickly pounced on Clinton's use of the personal email account, arguing that she failed to comply with the law while serving in the State Department. Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is considering a 2016 presidential campaign, said Clinton "should release her emails. Hopefully she hasn't already destroyed them. Governor Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing." She noted that Bush recently released personal emails from his two terms as governor. Former technology executive Carly Fiorina, another potential GOP presidential candidate, said the report "once again raises serious questions as to Hillary Clinton's definition of leadership. Does she believe that leadership means acting outside the law? Does she believe that leadership can exist without transparency?" Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the agency asked former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Clinton last year for records that should be preserved. In response to that request, Clinton provided emails from the personal account that she used during her time as the nation's top diplomat in President Barack Obama's first term from 2009 to 2013. However, she also said that the department has "long had access to a wide array" of Clinton's records, including emails sent between her and officials with an official state.gov email address. Harf says Clinton's successor, John Kerry, is the first secretary of state to primarily use an official state.gov email account and that the department is now updating its records preservation policies to bring them in line with current regulations. That includes regularly archiving all of Kerry's emails. Among the messages Clinton provided were 300 that met the criteria for a request for relevant emails from the House Select Committee investigating the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomat mission in Benghazi, Libya, Harf said. Those emails have been turned over to the committee, she added.

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