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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

President Obama Talks Economy, Education, Vets Issues with S. Valley Families; Stops at Barelas Coffee House with Diane Denish for Huevos Rancheros


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President Barack Obama arrived to visit with the Cavalier family in the Los Padillas neighborhood in Albuquerque's South Valley just after 10:00 AM this morning. Los Padillas is a semi-rural area of Albuquerque in the South Valley and a number of horses and cattle eyed the President's motorcade as it arrived. More than one rooster was heard crowing, along with a few muffled nickers and moos. Drying red chile ristras provided the color.

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The parking lot for the media and guests was a grassy meadow used for pasture. Yes, there were even a few genuine cow patties. No flashy set ups -- just the Valley as so many of us have come to know and love it, even if our families haven't been here for a few hundred years -- and even more so if they have.

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Saying he likes to get out of the Washington "bubble" and have a chance to talk to folks, listen to them, answer questions and get suggestions and advice about what’s happening in the country, the President spoke for about 10 minutes to a crowd of 35 in Andy and Etta's backyard. He then answered their questions for another half hour. Mary Ellen was on the scene representing DFNM and was excited to be a witness to such a small and intimate event. The White House team has always been great about access to bloggers, and this was no exception. Up close and personal.

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The President, in a friendly and jovial mood -- and remarking about the great New Mexico weather -- made the rounds before and after the event, shaking every hand and talking personally to each person in the crowd. Obama also greeted and joked with Gov. Bill Richardson, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and Congressman Martin Heinrich, who were in attendance and sharing a bench. The rule for the rest of the crowd was BYOLC (Bring Your Own Lawn Chair).

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Referring to the elected officials present, Obama said, "Everybody knows your governor, Bill Richardson, and we are grateful to him. Your lieutenant governor, Diane Denish, who is I believe going to be also the next governor of the great state of New Mexico. We’ve got Congressman Martin Heinrich, and I will say that Martin told me that if I was going to come to Albuquerque that I better visit the South Valley the next time I come.  So he gets some credit for bringing me here today."

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The President's remarks were more serious, and focused on the continuing economic problems we're experiencing, the need for a long-term plan to fix them and the importance of taking steps to improve education -- even in these challenging times.

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(Click for a transcript of the President's remarks and the Q and A speedily produced and distributed by the White House Media Office).

Both Short- and Long-Term Plans Needed to Bolster Economy: On the economy, the president said, in part:

We have gone through obviously the toughest economic situation since the Great Depression, and no state has been untouched, no group of people has been untouched by the devastation.  We lost 8 million jobs.  The financial sector almost completely melted down.  We almost slipped into a Great Depression.  And so we acted very quickly to try to stop the bleeding. 

And we’ve had some success.  An economy that was shrinking, was contracting by 6 percent when I was sworn in, is now growing again.  We were losing 750,000 jobs a month when I was sworn in.  We’ve had eight consecutive months of private sector job growth.

So we’re making progress and we’re moving in the right direction, but in addition to the immediate crisis that we were dealing with, one of the challenges that I think everybody around the country when I talk to them recognizes is we’ve got to have a long-term plan for how we make sure America remains the number one economy in the world and how we make sure that we still have opportunities for middle-class Americans to prosper and to expand, to be able to support their families and send their kids to college and retire with dignity and respect; and how do we provide ladders for people who aren’t yet in the middle class to be able to get into the middle class; how do we help small businesses grow; how do we help make sure that our large businesses are the innovators that are designing the new products that we’re able to sell overseas.

Most Important: Education and Training: After explaining how our current economic stall has been in the making for many years, Obama pointed to a strengthened education and training system as the most important element in helping us regain our competitive edge:

So part of the reason I decided to run for President was because we had all these problems that we hadn’t been dealing with for a long time, even before the crisis hit, that we had to deal with -- if we want to stay competitive for the 21st century.  And the number one issue in terms of us succeeding as an economy is going to be how well we educate and how well we train our kids.  Nothing else comes close.

The President cited his adminstration's efforts with the "Race to the Top" in education funding, as well as expanding early childhood education, increasing Pell Grants for higher education and having the government directly fund college loans as achievements so far. "And if you go into public service, if you’re like Etta and you go into teaching, for example, after 10 years, whatever is remaining on your debt will be forgiven," Obama said.

Latino and African-American Students: The President said that we need to focus more on the needs of minority students, who often lag behind in math and science because of poor schools or other factors:

I’ll be honest with you, African American students, Latino students, we’re doing worse in science and math than the overall average.  So America is the 21st and 25th, but if you actually looked at performance of Latino and African American students, it would be even lower.  And that’s inexcusable because that’s fastest growing portion of our population.  That’s our future.  That’s our future workforce. And so we’ve got to have the most skilled, most highly trained workers in the world.  And this is what we’re going to be focusing on over the next couple of years.

Choice is Clear in Coming Election: The President then spoke about the upcoming election, and it's vital importance:

This election coming up in November is going to offer a choice on a whole range of different issues.  And this issue of education gives you a sense of the choice that I think Democrats are trying to make and the choice that the Republicans are trying to make.  The Republicans recently put out what they call their Pledge to America.  And it basically outlined what their priorities are.     

Their number one economic priority is retaining $700 billion tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of the country -- millionaires and billionaires mostly.  We’d have to borrow the $700 billion because we don’t have it.  We’ve got these deficits and debt. So we’d have to borrow the $700 billion from China or the Saudis or whoever is buying our debt, and then we’d pass off on average a $100,000 check to people who are making a million dollars up to more than a billion dollars.      

That’s their main economic plan.  And when you ask them, well, how would you pay for some of this stuff, they don’t really have good answers.  But one way they would pay for it is to cut back our education spending by 20 percent and eliminate about 200,000 Head Start programs and reduce student aid to go to college for about 8 million students.

That’s one of their answers.  And I just have to say, look, China -- that’s not the decision they’re making about their education system and their kids.  South Korea, that’s not the decision that they’re making about their kids.

Obama was asked questions from the small and intimate crowd about his thoughts on immigration reform, why he is a Christian, abortion, government-sponsored small business loans and tax cuts, among other things. Again, check the transcript for the full Q and A.

Discussing Veterans' Care: One moving exchange featured Andy Cavalier's son, Andrew, who spoke about his dad's military service as a Marine and his experience with the VA as a disabled vet over the years, including 17 different surgeries. Getting very emotional and to the point of tears, the son said to the President:

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The reason I get emotional is because -- Well, unfortunately at the VA sometimes he doesn’t get the care and the service that he should. I mean he sacrificed his body -- I mean, over 17 surgeries that he’s had -- But, you know, I see -- he put his blood, his sweat and his tears into this country and doesn’t always get the type of care that he deserves because -- I just want to ask, I mean, do you have any plan for that?  There’s obviously lots of veterans out there -- who feel the same way, not getting the treatments that they deserve.  It’s not just the medications, you know, it’s really being treated like a human.

President Obama gave a long answer that touched on how he and the Democrats have pushed for increased funding for veterans' services, and that his administration is going to have "zero tolerance" for homeless veterans. Acknowledging that much more needs to be done, Obama said, in part:

Now, here’s the good news.  First of all, I’ve got what I think is one of the finest, if not the finest, Secretaries of Veterans Affairs ever, General Ric Shinseki, who himself is a disabled veteran.  And this guy just thinks day and night about how are we going to make sure that veterans services are provided in a timely, effective, respectful fashion, all right?  So that’s point number one.

Point number two.  We are actually -- even in the midst of this very difficult budget situation that we’re in, we have increased over the last two years funding for veterans more than any time in the last 30 years.  More than any time in the last 30 years.

And the reason we did it was because a lot of VA facilities had gotten outdated. The backlog in terms of folks trying to get medical services or getting their claims processed had just gotten ridiculous.  You had over a million young people who had served in Iraq and now Afghanistan who had come back and they’ve got new problems like -- well, they’re not new problems but now we’re much more effective at diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury -- they weren’t getting services.  We’ve got women who are now serving in a much more dangerous situation in a lot of these theaters, and yet a lot of VA facilities still did not have special services for women and their special needs as they return.

So we are in the process of investing more in the VA and reforming how business is done at the VA than at any time in the last 30 years.

A Stop in Barelas with Diane Denish: The Obama motorcade left at 11:35 AM and headed to the corner of Avenida Cesar Chavez and 4th Street to make a food stop at the Barelas Cafe -- THE place for talking politics (with your mouth full) in Albuquerque, with Democratic governor candidate, Diane Denish. As Diane puts it:

We were hungry, so I invited the President to lunch -- New Mexico-style. We went to one of my favorite places, Barelas Coffee House. Barelas is a local small business -- family-owned -- and serves some of the best posole around. It was a chance to show the President one of those little places that makes New Mexico special.

It was also a chance to talk to him one-on-one about our state and the tough times we face. The President gets it. He understands that the key to our recovery is rooted in support of our small businesses.

Accompanied by Denish, the President warmly greeted the staff and customers. "I hear you guys have the best huervos rancheros," he said. The owner, who has operated the restaurant for 32 years, came to the front to greet the president and Denish. Obama said, pointing to Denish, "Here's a steady customer. She's gonna be a great governor." The four ladies behind the counter started screaming and clapping, and the crowd yelled "Obama!" and "Denish!" as they started touring the cafe.

Obama weaved around the restaurant shaking hands and obliging cell phone pictures. "Everyone know your lieutenant governor? Soon to be ..." "Our governor!" a man finished the sentence. "Tell everyone to get out and vote for Diane -- everyone working hard for Diane I hope!" Obama said.

Obama told customers that their food looked "terrific." He said he was happy to be in a "beautiful community" with "wonderful people." The President also gathered the entire staff of the cafe for a group photo before insisting he pay for his meal, joking that the press would catch him if he left without paying -- and then write about it. President Obama left some money on the counter and took off with a to-go order of huevos rancheros with green chile and chicharrones (according to sources). 

One lunch patron, Benny Sedillo, 78, who met Obama at the restaurant, said after the encounter, "We need that kind of president. I told him thank you for what you've been doing."

Afterwards, the motorcade passed through the Barelas neighborhood and over the train yards heading for the freeway, and then headed to the airport. Many people stood outside on the streets to take photos and video of the motorcade, including an entire school at 4th Street and Stover. Air Force One left with the President onboard at about 12:45 PM.

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Post includes input from Mary Ellen Broderick's report, Barbara Wold's thoughts, press pool reports, White House transcript.

Click on photos for larger versions. All photos by Mary Ellen Broderick.

September 28, 2010 at 06:04 PM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Governor's Race, Diane Denish, Economy, Populism, Education, Gov. Bill Richardson, Hispanic Issues, NM-01 Congressional Race 2010, Obama Administration, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Veterans | Permalink

Comments

Why can't other reporters give this kind of coverage? They write 2 paragraphs and that's it. Thank you for your hard work and caring. I really enjoyed reading what the president had to say.

Posted by: Jerome | Sep 28, 2010 7:18:50 PM

OK. The backyard thing was underwhelming for me (is this the way to get people motivated???), but going to the Barelas Coffee House is totally great. That is almost worth the effort to have a crowd.

IMHO.

Posted by: bg | Sep 28, 2010 7:36:47 PM

It sure seemed to mean a lot to the people there, though. This is the first time ever a president ever set foot in the South Valley. I would like a rally too and felt somewhat like you do until I saw what happened. I've heard he may come back next month. Wish I could have been at the Madison WI rally today though!

Posted by: barb | Sep 28, 2010 8:55:11 PM

Hey, Obama said to vote for DeeNeesh, so I'm voting for DeeNeesh.

I can tell he's really plugged into NM.

Posted by: BGar | Sep 28, 2010 9:25:45 PM

Why is it that right wingers are always so shallow, juvenile and petty now? The president talked about very serious issues today, where real people are suffering. All you can do is mock BGar. You and Martinez are like emotional twins. Go read the part about the son talking about his disabled vet father suffering because of underfunding by Republicans. Obama and the Democratic Congress passed the biggest increase in veterans benefits ever. Republicans voted no.

Posted by: Old Dem | Sep 28, 2010 9:31:21 PM

The guy talking about his dad got me very emotional. We can only hope and pray that the Democrats hold on so we can keep making things better for vets and all. Hope, pray, volunteer and then it is in God's hands.

Posted by: Sam | Sep 28, 2010 11:12:11 PM

Nice setup, I'm sure the Los Pa home always has "drying Red chile ristras" hanging on the back porch. Nice attempt by the Silly dems to make this man seem so "folksy" and down to earth. He is a manufactured version of what people thought they wanted in the White House, but he has fallen far short of the Hopes and Dreams that he promised a few years ago. Anyone but Obama in 2012.

Posted by: LEROY LLAMAS | Sep 29, 2010 8:08:48 AM

What Jerome said!

Thanks, Mary Ellen for such a complete report. I'm glad to be plugged in here.

Posted by: Caroline | Sep 29, 2010 8:12:50 AM

It is easy to see "Leroy Llamas" has never been in the south valley and maybe anywhere in NM. In the fall there are chile ristras everywhere. I see he has nothing to say about the words the President. Republicans say anything to be mean because they have nothing useful to say about solving problems they made in this great country of ours.

Posted by: Jose | Sep 29, 2010 8:36:14 AM

Oh gosh, Diane Diane Diane...

Trying to get votes and support at a Obama event? How cheesy!

I like how she stayed so close to him on the news.

Diane, he won't save you.
Deeneesh? Yea, he supports you, too.

Posted by: Northern Dem | Sep 29, 2010 10:21:45 AM

"Northern Dem" is the same as "Leroy Llamas"-both silly Republicans who don't care about people. They write like children act in kindergarden. I wonder what goes on in their heads and hearts to make them so cold and mean. If you want this state to fall apart with no help from anyone vote for Martinez. She is owned by Texans and Karl Rove's friends who give her hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Both Arizona and Texas are heavily polluted states where the water and land have been poisoned because Republicans let corporations do what they want. If you want NM to look like that vote for Susana.

Posted by: Martinez is Poison | Sep 29, 2010 11:31:02 AM

I was rorn and raised in the South Valley actually.

Republicans, Democrats, what's the difference? The two-party structure doesn't work anymore.

Facts (not mean or uncaring), just facts:

- National Debt at Record high - (bailouts of corporations didn't work)
- Unemployment at Staggering rate (so much for creating jobs)
- Health Care Reform - fixes nothing but creates bigger bureaucracy, which is inherently more expensive
- Fannie and Freddie now own our mortgage loans, more bureacracy
- Spending your way out of a Recession does not work, but someone keeps telling him that it does and he believes them.

I too was wooed by his "words" and promises, but he just doesn't have the right people around him telling him what to do.

The facts don't lie.

Posted by: LEROY LLAMAS | Sep 29, 2010 2:09:37 PM

"born and raised" sorry for the typo, too worked-up by the sheep.

Posted by: LEROY LLAMAS | Sep 29, 2010 2:10:48 PM

The problems you mention were caused by Republicans who vote down everything from raises for the troops to unemployment comp extensions. Wake up Leroy you are being used by the rich. Why do you think Martinez takes all that money from rich people and oil and gas? She is bought off. Look at Congress all the Republicans are owned by corporations.

You get a huge debt when you start two wars and don't pay for them in fact you cut taxes and on rich people too. Bush and friends cut all regulation of financial institutions and banks and so everything went haywire. Now Martinez says she wants to throw off all regulations here. Republicans made it so BP ruined the Gulf.

All the best econs say the stimulus wasn't big enough-Republicans demanded more tax cuts and less spending. See what happened?

Health care reform does NOT create a bigger bureaucracy in fact it leaves the insurers in charge thanks to right wingers.

Republicans created a mess and vote against every fix of it so you blame Obama and Democrats? Pretty crazy.

Posted by: Robt. Gallegos | Sep 29, 2010 2:49:59 PM