Barack Obama Uses Final State Of The Union To Mock Climate Change Deniers, Dismember Donald Trump

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NEW YORK -- Barack Obama used his final State of the Union address on Tuesday to mock Americans that still deny climate change, while railing against the xenophobia peddled by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“If anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change… you’ll be pretty lonely,” Obama told the joint session of Congress in Washington.

Looking towards the Republicans in the chamber, the president said climate change deniers are “debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it."

state of the union

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud President Obama during the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016

Talking about innovation, the president invoked the Cold War space race to highlight the opportunities for building a clean energy future. "Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there," he said. "We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon."

During his hour-long speech, Obama also repudiated those accusing his administration of being soft on terrorism. Using another term for the members of the Islamic State group, he warned: “ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America's commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden."

"Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell," he added. "When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit."

The address was made against the backdrop of the 2016 election race, and the spectre of Donald Trump’s populist campaign. In a rebuke to the nativism preached by the New York property mogul, who in December called for Muslims to be banned from the US, Obama said voters must "reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion."

"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalised, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer,” he added. “That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."

“As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do or share the same background," Obama continued. "We can’t afford to go down that path.”

Trump responded to the speech with his standard dismissal:

More surprising was the Republican Party's immediate response to the address, which this year was delivered by South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley, widely tipped as a potential vice-presidential candidate.

Amid the standard rebukes of the president's message, Haley also gave an unsubtle admonishment to Trump. “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” said the governor, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants. “We must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country."

For context, that's the Republican Party using their response to the president's address to lambast their own party's presidential frontrunner. Trump supporters responded swiftly and with bluster:

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HuffPost's Igor Bobic reports:

Republican presidential hopefuls responded to President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday with objections to just about everything: from his policy proposals at home and abroad to his record in office and even the length of time the president spoke.

But most of all, the men and woman who hope to succeed him in the White House in 2017 were grateful he would soon be vacating it.

Read more here.

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HuffPost's Jessica Schulberg reports:

WASHINGTON -- In his first joint address to Congress in 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to responsibly end the Iraq War. Seven years later, the president finds himself on the verge of passing another war in Iraq to his successor as his critics accuse him of overseeing a decline in American leadership in the Middle East that could lead to global instability.

In his final State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama sought to appropriately convey the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Read more here.

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Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) delivered a Spanish-language Republican response to the State of the Union address, and referenced a population others left out: undocumented immigrants.

Diaz-Balart's remarks were largely similar to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's rebuttal -- including calls for inclusion of immigrants and other minorities. Haley talked about being the daughter of Indian immigrants; Diaz-Balart noted he is the son of Cuban exiles. Both said their stories are similar to those of many others who sought the American dream.

Both also said the U.S. needs to fix its immigration system. But Diaz-Balart, unlike Haley, specifically mentioned undocumented immigrants. He said the U.S. must find a humane way to address them, along with other immigration reform efforts. Diaz-Balart is a longtime supporter of immigration reform, including allowing certain undocumented immigrants who are already in the U.S. to stay.

"“Es imprescindible que encontremos una solución legislativa para proteger a nuestra nación, defender nuestras fronteras, ofrecer una solución permanente y humana a los que viven en las sombras, respetar el Estado de Derecho, modernizar el sistema de visas, e impulsar la economía," he said.

Haley didn't talk about undocumented immigrants at all.

“We must fix our broken immigration system," she said. "That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries."

Check out Diaz-Balart's full remarks in Spanish here.

-- Elise Foley

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Even though he's the leader of the free world, President Barack Obama isn't above a bit of nostalgia.

Just before he exited the House chamber after delivering his address, he paused one final time, turned to face the House floor and said that he wanted to take the scene in.

"Let me look at this thing one last time, I always like to take it in," he said. "It's kinda cool."

-- Sam Levine

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Americans had some questions for Google as President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address:

And they wanted to know about the men sitting behind Obama too:

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President Barack Obama highlighted the ability of the U.S. to stop malaria and HIV/AIDS, but left out tuberculosis, less than a month after proposing an ambitious White House plan to combat the world's top infectious killer.

The president on Tuesday promised to help African countries to "stop the next pandemic before it reaches our shores," but failed to mention tuberculosis at all in his speech.

-- Lauren Weber

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, before the arrival of President Barack Obama for the State of the Union at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 12, 2016. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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President Barack Obama said Tuesday he was determined to find ways of working with Republicans. And while he acknowledged that common ground has been hard to find during his presidency, he did pinpoint one area with genuine potential for bipartisanship.

Ironically, it would involve a Republican that many consider Obama’s ideological antithesis: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The idea is to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, an anti-poverty program that dates back to the 1970s. It basically adds as a wage booster, giving extra money to people who work and file tax returns. ​The value of the tax credit falls as income rises, eventually phasing out altogether.​ The idea is to help people in very low-income jobs -- think parking lot attendants, food servers, custodians and warehouse workers -- make enough money to cover basic expenses.

It’s a “refundable” credit, which means that people get the value of the tax credit even if it’s greater than how much they pay in income taxes -- or if they pay no income taxes at all.

Many experts consider the EITC a model program. Studies have shown it encourages people to work, because it makes work more rewarding. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the EITC lifted 6.2 million people out of poverty in 2013. More than half of them were children.

But the EITC has a major gap. It provides little benefit to childless workers -- and no benefits at all to workers under 25 -- even though members of both groups frequently need the help.

Obama has proposed changing that, by allowing younger workers to claim the credit, and changing the formula so it’s more generous for childless workers.

Ryan has also proposed changing the EITC, in almost the exact same way.

Like any such initiative, the sticking point would probably be financing. Giving money to low-income workers means taking money out of the federal Treasury. That money has to come from somewhere.

But as with any such proposal, it could be scaled up or down. And if there’s one area in which the two parties sometimes find agreement these days, it’s on tax breaks.

-- Jonathan Cohn

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President Barack Obama said once again that he'd work to shut down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, calling it expensive and unnecessary and saying it "only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies."

The number of detainees left in Guantanamo will likely drop to below 100 before the end of the month. Military officials were reportedly planning on transferring 10 detainees this week.

The Obama administration is set to present an overdue plan to Congress on how to shut down the detention facility. Last month, the president wouldn't rule out taking executive action to close it.

-- Ryan J. Reilly

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Obama rebutted critics who might doubt his commitment to punishing terrorists.

"ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them," Obama said, using another name for the Islamic State. "If you doubt America's commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit."

Obama has bragged about killing bin Laden before in similar terms. "Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement," he said at a press conference in December 2011.


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-- Nick Baumann

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state of the union

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, first lady Michelle Obama, Naveed Shah of Springfield, VA., and wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, give applause as President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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President Barack Obama reiterated his long-standing assertion that the U.S. is safer when it applies military force in a targeted and limited way rather than using the American military as the world’s policeman.

Listing the threats posed by the Islamic State, ethnic conflict, famine and the refugee crisis, Obama said, “The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians” -- likely a reference to GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), who has repeatedly promised to “carpet-bomb [ISIS] into oblivion.”

In the last Republican presidential debate, Cruz stumbled to explain how he would carpet-bomb areas occupied by the Islamic State without killing civilians. “The object isn’t to level a city,” he said last month, ignoring the commonly accepted definition of carpet-bombing. “The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.”

“That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage,” continued Obama, who maintained that his current strategy to defeat the Islamic State -- working in coordination with an international coalition to launch daily airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria, combined with support for local ground forces -- is the right approach.

“It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight,” Obama said.

-- Jessica Schulberg

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The chances of Congress voting on a new war authorization this year are slim, but when you're the president and it's your last State of the Union address, you might as well give it a push.

"If this Congress is serious about winning this war and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL," Obama said. "Take a vote."

It's been nearly a year since Obama sent Congress a draft authorization for the use of military force, an effort to get the ball rolling on lawmakers putting parameters on the fight against the self-described Islamic State. The president has been using a 2001 AUMF as his authority for taking military action without Congress, and nobody is particularly happy about that.

But lawmakers don't really want to get involved. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that he wants to wait until someone else is in the White House before deciding how to rein in the military campaign. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been more open to taking action, organizing GOP listening sessions to try to find a way forward.

Ryan wasn't among those clapping Tuesday, though, when Obama raised the issue again.

--Jennifer Bendery

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HuffPost's Chris McGonigal and Paige Lavender report:

Barack Obama has definitely aged since he first addressed a joint session of Congress as president in 2009.

While that speech wasn't officially a State of the Union address, here's a look at Obama then and now, ahead of his final SOTU address as president.

See more here.

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As he touted the job growth of recent years, the president noted an encouraging rebound in the manufacturing sector.

"Our auto industry just had its best year ever," Obama said. "Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years."

Obama can rightfully take credit for much of the auto rescue, but the numbers he trotted out aren't as good as they sound. As Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing noted on Twitter, 900,000 positions represents less than 40 percent of the manufacturing jobs lost during the Great Recession. In other words, the manufacturing sector still lags far behind where it was a decade ago.

The president has fallen far short of his own goal for manufacturing during his second term. When he sought re-election, Obama said he aimed to add 1 million new manufacturing jobs over the course of four years. With just one year left in his term, the U.S. has added only 380,000 manufacturing jobs during that time.

-- Dave Jamieson

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People on food stamps aren't ruining America, President Obama said in his final State of the Union address Tuesday.

"Food stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis -- recklessness on Wall Street did," Obama said.

Enrollment in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program surged in Obama's first term after the economy soured, and Republicans sometimes use SNAP recipients as a political punching bag.

Former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich nicknamed Obama "the food stamp president" during the 2012 campaign.

-- Arthur Delaney

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The president advocated the continuing necessity of a strong social safety net, saying Social Security and Medicare are "more important than ever" and need to be strengthened, not weakened.

And he reminded lawmakers that if they don't think so, they should recognize their privilege.

"It's not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber," Obama said, receiving cheers and audible "Oooos" from the audience.

"For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher," he added. "Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and retrain. But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build."

-- Amanda Terkel

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Obama started things off by promising this speech would be shorter than previous ones.

"I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa," Obama said, to laughter and applause. "I've been there. I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips."

Obama defeated John Edwards and Hillary Clinton to win the all important first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses in 2008.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were the only presidential candidates in Washington for the speech.

-- Arthur Delaney

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President Barack Obama took aim at nativism in his final State of the Union address, a not-so-veiled jab at politicians, like GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who have called for keeping out Muslims and have denigrated other minorities.

Obama said the U.S. needs "to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion," not as "a matter of political correctness," but to maintain the country's values.

"When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country."

The president quoted Pope Francis, who addressed Congress last year and said, "to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place."

Obama also rejected the idea that immigrants should be blamed for economic ills, another argument common among many Republicans.

"Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns," Obama said.

-- Elise Foley

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Hillary Clinton's campaign released an ad Tuesday night that highlights the Democratic presidential candidate's proposals for reducing gun violence.

The campaign bought digital ad space during President Barack Obama's speech, according to the campaign. The ad will also run on national cable and in Iowa and New Hampshire starting Wednesday.

"It's time to pick a side," Clinton says in the 30-second spot. "Either we stand with the gun lobby or we join the president and stand up to them. I’m with him."

In recent days, the Clinton campaign has aggressively gone after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), her rival for the Democratic nomination, for his record on guns, continuing to criticize him for his votes to give gun suppliers legal immunity.

The campaign has also highlighted a recent op-ed by Obama, in which he wrote that he would not endorse any candidate who disagreed with him on gun reform, such as repealing the immunity law.

-- Amanda Terkel

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President Barack Obama speaks during the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 12, 2016. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:

President Barack Obama's (basically nonexistent) comments on immigration during his final State of the Union address left out at least one big item: controversial deportation raids on families that are inflaming tensions between the White House and Democrats.

State of the Union speeches tend to be broad by design, so it's not surprising that a specific immigration enforcement policy didn't come up -- especially one that may have escaped the attention of many Americans.

Still, the omission was notable, given the timing. Only hours before the speech, the White House dispatched counsel Neil Eggleston to the Capitol to assuage the concerns of House Democrats about removal efforts against undocumented women and children who came to the U.S. after May 1, 2014, and have been ordered deported.

Read more here.

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Americans who think the country is going in the right direction: 25 percent

Americans who say the country is on the wrong track: 66 percent

President Barack Obama's overall approval rating: 44 percent

Obama's approval rating on the economy: 44 percent

Obama's approval rating on foreign policy: 34 percent

Obama's approval rating on health care: 42 percent

-- Ariel Edwards-Levy

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'Last Time We'll Do This'
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As Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) were reunited on the rostrum behind President Barack Obama during Tuesday's address, it's worth remembering there was a time the two men faced off as vice presidential rivals during the 2012 presidential campaign.

joe biden paul ryan

The two met on Oct. 11, 2012, in Danville, Kentucky, for the vice presidential debate. Biden gave an energetic performance during the debate, which helped give momentum back to President Barack Obama after he performed poorly in his first debate.

-- Sam Levine

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Read Obama's Speech

You can read the full text of Obama's remarks as prepared for delivery here.

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Biden Makes His Way In

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Vice President Joe Biden makes his way to his seat behind the president ahead of Obama's last State of the Union address.
Photo: Tyler Tynes/HuffPost

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HuffPost's Igor Bobic reports:

In the Republican response to President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday evening, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) will seek to undo some of the damage done to the GOP brand by the wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric popularized by real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Haley, a daughter of Indian immigrants, plans to caution against demonizing people who yearn to enter the U.S. in hopes of attaining a better life, even amid a wave of anxiety over national security following terror attacks at home and abroad.

Read more here.

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Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has been named the designated survivor for the 2016 State of the Union.

Johnson will watch President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address from afar, just in case there is an attack or other catastrophe during the event. The White House chooses one member of the president's Cabinet for the role each year.

Word came out Tuesday that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was serving as Congress' designated survivor this year.

-- Sam Levine

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Biden's Last Stop

Last stop before I head to the Capitol: Speaking with the young folks who inspire the work we do every day. #SOTU

A photo posted by Vice President Joe Biden (@vp) on

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People tuning into the State of the Union early on the White House website were in for something unexpected: pre-show live performances from rapper Wale and the rock duo EL VY, hosted by TV personality Terrence J.

Also featured: some of President Barack Obama's guests to the State of the Union address. But first, EL VY's Matt Berninger (of The National) and Brent Knopf, ending their tour at the White House.

elvy

You can watch the performances here. Just scroll back on the YouTube video.

-- Elise Foley

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Spotted: Kim Davis
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HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery reports:

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) issued a scathing statement Tuesday night in response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address -- two hours before the president gave his speech.

Murphy's press shop emailed a statement just after 7 p.m. with the subject line, "Congressman Murphy Responds to 2016 State of the Union Address." In it, the Republican lawmaker said Obama's speech -- slated to begin at 9 p.m. -- sounded different from past speeches.

"Another year, another State of the Union address by the President, but tonight stands out in stark contrast to years past," Murphy said.

Read more here.

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