"inside story". >> this is aljazeera america, live from new york city, i'm tony harris. in iran custody, the pentagon says two navy boats and ten u.s. sailors are being held by teheran. a foreign policy test for president obama before his final state of the union address. and we begin in the arabian
gulf, where ten american sailors aboard two american vessels were captured by teheran. as they were moving from bahrain to kuwait, iran said that they would release them shortly >> reporter: this started around noon or 1 p.m. eastern on tuesday, when when the boots left kuwait and were headed to ba hain and that's when the iranian authorities took them into custody, and they said that the sailors are prisoners, but the u.s. said that they're simply in custody, and they hope that teheran returns them as promptly as possible. u.s. secretary of state, john kerry, has been in contact with the iranian officials, but however, it's not clear how quickly these ten sailors can beer returned to u.s. custody
as the obama administration wants. of course this is happening a couple of weeks after another incident involving iranian and military forces in the gulf. the hss hairy s. truman was sailing through the straits of hor muthe when it came near iranian gunships, and they fired off rockets away from them and the u.s. he fleet. but the u.s. is very concerned about the provocation, in what it says are international waters. but however, one be official is cautioning that it does not mean that there's a growing amount of tension between the two countries, and they still consider iran a state sponsor of terror, and there's no anticipation of trying to normalize relations with them any time soon, although a deal
has been truck. >> in the state of the union address, particularly since the white house has said that optimism would be the theme of the president's speech. mike viqueira is on capitol hill for us, and mike, what is the white house saying about what has happened here? >> reporter: tony, i think that you hit the nail on the head. it is going to be followedder for the president's enemies. for those against the iran nuclear deal to begin with, the white house has insisted all along that there's a coupling between iran's behavior and a nuclear deal, and that's going to be lost on the president's opponent. but i happened to be at the white house, in a background briefing on another subject with ben rose, and he was asked about the incident as it was unfolding. he said, "we're aware of it,
and hope to resolve the issue." and since then, we have seen various officials in telephone appearances that this will not come up in the speech. and these sailors are going to be released promptly. so the white house is playing this down, but it's something that's not only a concern for the sailors, but for a politicaller matter here in washington tonight. >> how odd, mike. we understand that the president wants to sound a tone of optimism in his speech tonight, but it's difficult at best to bring up foreign polls. for example, you mentioned the iran nuclear deal with sen american sailors in iranian custody. >> make no mistake that the president is going to count that as a success, and i don't think that they're going to back away from that at all. and as far as the white house view, you'll hear about the president talking about the
historic opening to cuba, and the landmark environmental accord struck in paris, you'll hear him accentuate the positive, tony. that's what the speeches are all about. when it comes to isil, having lost 25% of the estimatedder territory. and they recently lost ramadi. so i think that you'll hear the president put the best face possible on foreign policy, and one other thing, tony, a year ago in the same venue, the president said the combat roll for u.s. troops was over, and they're bringing the troops home. and obviously the president has had to change his plans dramatically, and they're in a far different role than the president envisioned. he has had to change plans and slow down the withdrawal of the troops and leave some beyond his time in the white house. >> the obvious thing, the
president's party controls neither the senate or the house, the supreme court, and some wonder what it is that the president has to be optimistic about. >> well, the economy. you're going to hear him take completes credit for the economy. he has not been shy about reminding us of it when he took office in 2009. the auto industry has been risen from the dead and the price of a gallon of gas may go down to a dollar in some parts of the country this year x. wages have grown, but obviously, there are dark spots on the economy, and the president will point out the difference in wages. he's going to have education as a major retraining, and adapting to the world of technology. but this is a legacy speech. the president is very concerned with his legacy. this is his last state of the
union, and it all ties into the elections. three weeks from yesterday the first votes will be cast in the iowa caucuses. and the goal of the president is to live on and needs a democrat to succeed him in the white house. >> mike viqueira, thank you. keeping a close eye on the presidential address is aljazeera's libby casey, and she joins us from capitol hill. before we talk state of the union here, i wonder if there's a congressional reaction to the iran situation. >> tony, it's certainly a growing reaction, and we're seeing the likes of marco rubio, presidential candidate saying that this is iran testing the boundaries of the u.s., and the u.s. has been weakened by the obama administration in the last year. and i also talked to senator jeff blake of arizona, someone very cognizant of foreign affairs, and he said that he
wants the president to talk about this in tonight's state of the union. not just from the commander in chief, but he wants to hear that there's a firm agreement to release these sailors, and other republicans are also coming out and saying that this is not a good moment to be giving a state of the union address with the backdrop of this happening. now, the democrats are taking it apart, and saying yes, this is under control. and the president is and his team are certainly working on this issue, and they're trying to give context to it. and they want the president to go ahead and go forth and give his address tonight. the democrats are saying that we are getting briefs, and will get more and we'll get the information that we need and tonight's address won't stop that process. >> to counter the president's laundry list of accomplishments, and we know that's to come, but what's the message from the republicans in what is being billed as an
optimistic speech? >> you'll hear from deny hill, giving the true rebuttal after the speech. and the governor needs to both be critical of what president obama has done, as she criticizes his response to terrorism. but needs to strike a note of optimism, and talk about what republicans would offer instead as an alternative. and that's what we're hearing from the new house speaker, paul ryan. speaker ryan wants to have an emphasis on what the republicans are going to do. if you elect a republican to the white house in 2016, here's how things will change. the republicans talking about their agenda. and we look at the optics of this evening, and you will see speaker ryan sitting behind speaker obama, and it's the first time that we'll see such a young house speaker with president obama. and paul ryan was tweeting earlier today that it may be hard for him to hide his
emotions and his face, his poker face, because he may be reacting to what the president has to say. >> yeah, to that point, speaker ryan said that the republican party can't just be a party of opposition, but a party of prop decision, and we'll see what happens. libby casey, thank you. foreign policy is expected to be a big part of the president's address, and it comes after a bold attack in turkey. killed ten foreigners, and nine of them journalists. [ sirens ] >> the square in the heart of istanbul. millions of tourists flock here to wonder at the blue mosque and museum, but one turned to horror on tuesday. this was the square an hour after the suicide bomber struck. >> it was a suicide bomb, yes. i went back to see it, and it
was chaos and everyone was running around. the police didn't see this coming. they were upset, and at the same time, they were trying to evacuate the area because they said that a second bomb could go off. >> reporter: ten people are confirmed killed. eight of them german tourists, and people of various on nationalities are wounded. somereporting that he was syrian, and others that he was saudi born. the turkish deputy prime minister visited the wounded in the hospital. and the prime minister promised to unmask it. >> the perpetrators of this attack will be unveiled and get the punishment that they deserve. i call on all humanity in solidarity, standing shoulder to shoulder, like we did in the attacks in paris. >> reporter: some in turkey have been be expecting attacks on turkish soil since the armed
forces launched their offensive against isil fighters. [ explosion ] >> in octobers, 202 people were killed in a double on suicide blast in a peace rally, and the latest wob regarded as a soft target. and by targeting foreign tourists, it was an attack designed to draw international attention. >> today it was istanbul. we have seen attacks in paris, koppening hagan, tunisia and other places. it's different terrorists, but the goal is always the same, our free life in our free society. terrorists are the enemy of all free people. yes, the enemies of all mankind, whether in syria, turkey, germany, france. >> in berlin, they coordinated a response to the bombing, the full-scale of which, the
overwhelming response is shock. >> so last year's state of the union, the president talked about the u.s. military's role in stopping the advance of isil, and now the republicans say that they want to hear his plan for defeating the group. in am an, jordan, good to see you. president obama said this morning in the u.s. that this country, the u.s. faces no eggsstetial threat. and we can assume that he doesn't consider isis a threat to the u.s. homeland. but in your report, four years in the region, how can the isil, isis threat be perceived there? >> it's perceived as an ex existential threat in iraq and syria, but it doesn't just mean armored reeks and taking over
cities, but all it takes is a suicide bomb here and there to destabilize he countries and cities. in iraq, the u.s. forces in the form of airstrikes mostly have managed with iraqi forces to take back a lot of territory from isil. that doesn't mean that they're defeated. and though president obama has pled to degrade and destroy isis, increasingly military leaders are talking about containment and a decade-long fight at that. the partners they're working w. iraqi force, very complicated, iran-backed militias, and sunnis not quite onboard. and it's a difficult balancing act here. >> i wonder from where you are, how much criticism does the president get for his approach to fighting isis? the idea of not putting boots on the ground and drawing a red line with syria, and not
following up in the aftermath of the gas attacks, and seemingly to vet the opposition and fighting the assad regime. many call that vetting process paralysis, the kind of paralysis that has led to this. >> the perception of the u.s. and it's action or inaction is an interesting point. president obama actually came into office pledging to end the war in iraq and bring all of the troops home. and here he is putting more troops into iraq and trying to figure out what to do about syria, now, the problem is that he has taken iraq in what he and many people say as the failure of the u.s. effort in iraq, a cautionary tale in terms of not doing anything at all in syria, but one of the interesting things, in iraq, all of those people have said that the u.s. should get out of iraq, they didn't want them
there, and didn't want sold,, and now they're saying that this is a different case. the u.s. is no longer an occupying force, and they want the help. but it's not as simple as that, as you know. the government is very reluctant to get u.s. boots on the ground as much as they are to send them. >> thank you. not only is the president dealing with isil, but also the ongoing civil war in syria. a senior u.s. official described it as horrific. doctors say hundreds of people are severely malnourished. food is beginning to arrive for people trapped there since july. and in the hour, i'll be joined by my aljazeera colleague, ray suarez, about the in-depth conversation. the politics of the state of the union. and the candidates hoping to become the next president of the united states. plus, court marshal,
>> sergeant bowe bergdahl appeared before an army judge today for a pretrial hearing on desertion charges, and aljazeera reporter, robert ray is following this for us. in fort bragg, north carolina, this appears to have been a day of housekeeping for the legal teams, and what are they trying to iron out here? >> hey, tony, housekeeping
indeed as the judgele called it today. this was a different hearing with a lot of back and forth and different principles and protocols being discussed. one of the big things that the defense lawyers to know before the judge, can bowe bergdahl wear a purple heart patch? they think that he should be able to. by him not doing that, it's an admission of guilt. and he has had no plea yet of guilt or not guilty. it's the second hearing, and the first one was back on december 22nd, the arraignment. and also, the officials talked about 300 pages of classified documents that everyone would like access to and transparency that would be both sides here. also, the defense asked for another few thousand -- access to another few thousand documents that they have not seen that the department of defense is holding on to, and they said to make sure that the court marshal goes well, they
need to see everything, the interviews that have taken place between the military, and sergeant bowe bergdahl when he got back from the five years of captivity on the pakistani border. if he's charged -- convicted, rather, of these diversion charges, and giving secrets or notices to the enemy, he could serve life in prison, tony. the next hearing, we're told it could be within the next couple of months. not sure, because the lawyers are filing their debriefs as we speak. but tony, this likely will go into trial in august, but you know, this is the military, and when you come to a situation like this, you just don't know what's going to happen in the court of law here. it's not the open transparency or speak between media and the attorneys that you get in public sort. this is a military court. >> all right, robert ray for
us. thank you. and whatever president obama says in his address tonight is bound to affect the campaign for the white house. and the first big test for all of the candidates, the iowa caucuses take place in a little less than three weeks. and aljazeera's political correspondent in de moines, iowa, and good to see you bundled up, good man, and what do we hear from republicans tonight? >> reporter: well, as you can imagine, tony, the republicans are going to be listening to the president and disagreeing with him. they're going to be hearing the president likely laying out a legacy, one that they have taken issue with on every turn of the campaign, talking about undoing some of his executive actions, not to mention some of the things that have been held up in the court, obamacare, in iowa and around the country. and one of the first things that they would do is put forth an effort to repeal all or parts of obamacare.
>> and you know, michael, we're what, a couple of weeks away from the iowa caucuses, and that really being kicks off the voting for this election cycle. is anything that the president is likely to say tonight likely to impact what we hear on the campaign trail in. >> well, it's a good question, tony. of course they're running against the obama record. and running against his former secretary of state. so as they're criss-crossing the state, we spent time here with candidates, ted cruz last week, and they're using what he's saying as an example of that they're running against. and that's going to continue after tonight. again, this is not going to be a typical speech that the president gives, where he's going to lay out a plan, a to do list, a laundry list, and the president said we're going to do this nuclear arms deal with iran and we want to get it done. ted cruz is saying that the
first thing that he would do is undo that. >> the president has a pen, and his pen has an eraser, he says, and that's the kind of reaction that you're going to get. >> yeah, there were a number of nations on that deal as well. but what were the big issues to listen for in the president's address that republicans are likely to latch onto? >> well, i think that republicans are going to -- first of all, i'm going to say global warming, right? because global warming, where i'm standing right now, in this spot right now on earth does not exist. but they're going to be talking about that a lot. and the president is going to bring it up, the president is going to talk about guns, and he will probably bring up that deal. and of course like you said, it involves not just the united states but other nations as well. and they are going to say, if the president is going to talk about that, we're going to run against it. even as americans have not going to talk about that now, a lot of people in iowa, the
incident cassies of the deal, that's something that the republican candidates are going to go after. >> the white house said a lot of the negativity in the discourse, the presidential candidates hight, and what are we hearing from that? >> reporter: the republican candidates, running against the president, that's one thing. but and donald trump, the negativity, and that kind of rhetoric is what he's going to say, but the white house would say they're the ones spreading the negative rhetoric. and that's not going to change, it won't change tonight with one state state or with one election either. >> i'm not much for the horse race, and there are place that's deal pretty heavily in that area.
but it's interesting what's happening with the democrats there in iowa. what's happening with the democrats in iowa? >> they are the framework for the horse race, and there's an election going on here. so we have to pay a lilling attention to that. what's happening here in iowa now with the democrats is fascinating. a lot of people saw bernie sanders doing well against hilliary clinton in new hampshire, and in neighboring states, of vermont. and no neighboring state has ever lost the new hampshire primary, but in iowa, you saw hilliary clinton ahead, ahead, ahead, and bernie sanders catching up a little and going back down, but today, he's within 5 points in the poll. and now he's on top of hilliary clinton. that's something that they hadn't expect to manage in this state at this time. but again, three weeks is a
long time in iowa politics, and the clinton people, they are very well organized and i'm sure that they will be very responsive in handling the numbers. >> and i'm engaging in the horse race as soon as i see some votes cast. michael shure in iowa, thank you. south carolina governor, nikki haley, will deliver the republican response to the state of the union address. and up next, the growing threat of isil. and the president's foreign policy challenges in the middle east and beyond.
>> the united states is expecting the safe return of all of the sailors in iranian custody. the crew of ten were aboard two separate boats taken into custody by iran, and they were en route from a bahrain to kuwait. the iranian officials talked to john kerry today, ensuring him of their expected release. from syria, ten people were killed near the historic blue mosque in istanbul. all of them were foreigners, and most of them from germany. the attacker was not on turkey's watch list. >> the incident is in
solidarity, and we need to stand as one as a nation against terror attacks. >> meanwhile, the turkish police have detained 60 people accused of having ties to isil. let's talk foreign policy here. manny assad, and ray suarez, the host of "inside story". gentlemen, good to have you on the program, and this president, first to you and then to ray, this president, the taliban insurgency is what it is in afghanistan, and for many, the debate on the obama foreign policy seems to come down to the question of whether he will or should put american boots on the ground, in any number of conflict zones, and i promise that i'm winding up to a question here. the suggestion seems to be that libya would be better today, and syria, if only this
president would put on the ground. manny, what is your critique of this president's approach to foreign policy, and then the same question to you, ray. >> tony, boots on the ground, it would be madness for president obama to end his presidency sending on the ground to syria. and the next president that considers doing that needs his head examined. there's a reach that no presidential candidate is considering doing that either. he is ending in a bad way on some of the conflicts, still fighting the taliban in afghanistan. and still fighting isil. and drones in pakistan and yemen have seemed to bolster al qaeda instead of irradicating al qaeda. mouth terrorism and on the
middle eastern front. over the last period of his presidency, look at the state of the union he gave a year ago. he called for a comprehensive agreement with iran on its nuclear program. and he got it in july, and called for a new relationship with cuba, and the u.s. embaxy opened in havana in august, and a new trade deal and climate deal. the u.s. joined 200 other countries in december. so it's unfair to say that he has been a complete failure on terrorism. yes, syria is a mess, but it hasn't been all bad. >> ray, what are your thoughts on that? what is your critique? >> well, barack obama came to his presidency and then to the white house trying to talk to americans about a different kind of world that was coming in the 21st century where america wouldn't be the country to control events all around the world.
and i guess his harshest opponents went on to say that he then went on to prove that point. but it's true, america is still the single largest factor in world politics, and world military affairs, but it's not the only factor, and it civil can't dictate events around the world. and we also make the big mistake of sheering away all context when we talk about these things. so now, several years later, republicans may be critical of the president for his initial approach to syria, but they forget that when syria began to unravel in the wake of the arab spring, america was just cing off of th the two big wars that had brought the country down in morale and spent gobs of money and made the country a little gun shy. and the united states was not prepared to go into syria when it would have made the biggest
difference, and now after the fact, the president section blamed for that. >> manny, is it up to americans? it feels like it's up to americans to completely squash the taliban insurgency, right? it is russia's return to the middle east with airstrikes in syria, and is that an existential threat to america? what were the limits of american power when you want to get out of the nation building business, and when you want a lighter footprint, particularly in the arab world? you know, diplomacy in a 24-hour news cycle, it looks pretty tibial, doesn't it? >> i think that ray -- >> manny, then ray. >> i was going to say that ray is right to point out the series of events, and tony, you're right to point out the limits of american power. i don't buy the argument that he's an interventionist and
lily livered wimp. he has done ten times as many drone strikes as george bush did did, and top osama bin laden and like every american president is, he chooses not to be hawkish in syria in terms of military intervention on the ground, which is what most military experts agree with. you have to take a step back and say, when you look at obama in the round, what do you leave with? what impression do you leave with? and that's very of the formed by the media. you think that obama wants to be leaving office, talking about isis and terrorism? he would much rather be talking about the american economy. and the number-one issue is isil, 7% say gun violence, and people in the country are obsessed with being attacked by terrorists, and you're way more likely to be killed in a car
crash. >> ray, jump. there's the perfect example. when new jersey governor, chris christie called the president of the united states a feckless weakling, and the crowd went into thundering applause, and this was over his handling of syria and specifically the islamic state. the united states is pounding the hell out of is territories in syria and iraq, over 8 how strikes in recent months, and at the same time, he's being called a feckless weakling? that getting huge applause. the critics are saying that is is a huge threat to the united states, and the president says that it's not, and then shooters saying that they were inspired by the islamic state shoot up a community center in san bernardino, california, and suddenly you look like you're the one, you, the president of the united states, looking like you're the one who is not
taking the islamic state seriously enough. >> hey, let me switch gears here, before i lose you, and ray, you'll love this. voting rights, i have a quote here, there's no legal problem, no southern problem, no northern problem, only an american problem. cut to today, there's no negro problem, no muslin problem, no latino problem, only an american problem? ray first, and then to manny, what's your critique of race relations under president obama, and this idea of post-racial america? >> wow, tony, i mean, do we have an hour? this is one of those he moments, where in advance of something really big happening in the country, and a
reconception of the country's sense of itself, that the old -- are going to fight like crazy to hold onto their old perks, their old benefits and old status. the old america, america 1.5 is being changed by demographics, by globalization, and what 100 years of immigration have done to the country, and people used to having it their way don't want to hear that. that's why we get a resurgent donald trump with hyper nationalism in his stump speeches, and that's why we hear the way that immigrants are changing the character of the country that you could have been reading the newspapers in 1890 or 1900 seeing the same things being said about jewish immigrants from the czarist empire, from the people of southern italy pouring into
ellis island and baltimore. right now, we're seeing the uncomfortable wrestling match that always advances big changes in the country. >> manny, over to you now. >> i think to be fair to obama, he told the journalist, jorge ramos about the post-residential america, and he said clearly we don't live in a post-racial america and we don't expect this presidency to usher in a post-racial america. it's hard to usher it in with the police killings after brown and rice and it's difficult to say that we live in a post-racial america, and i don't think that anyone can say that. >> but the issue that obama has, on a black president's watch, we have seen race relations in the criminal justice go backwards. the young black american male is still 20 times more likely to be killed by the police than
a white male. and we have seen the wealth gap go up on his watch. and we have seen the youth unemployment rate of african-americans double that. and that has to stop at the door of the black president, and that's what historians will look back and ask, what difference will the eight years make? the real question is, if it's hilliary clinton or god help us, donald trump, is going to do less in the field than obama has done. >> benny hasad, and ray suarez, host of "inside story". i enjoyed that, gentlemen, thank you very much. reforming the criminal justice system is one of the president's top priorities before leaving office, and he said that the country needs to break the cycle of poverty and incarceration and give people a second chance. johjonathan is live with more.
>> reporter: louisiana is often called the prison capital because it's home to the nation's highest incarceration. the president, making criminal justice reform a priority, and many are doing the same. >> one in 85 adults louisiana is in prison, and in this tough on crime state, many low level drug offenders are serving lengthy sentences. >> we're talking about cripples who are not possessing with had intent to distribute, but only having small amounts of drugs for their own consumption. >> bernard be noble, a man whose case has drawn national attention. noble is serving a 13-year sentence for what amed to two marijuana cigarettes, because of two other sentences, one 13 years prior, he was given the maximum sentencing. >> given bernard's family
history. and his work history, the 13--year sentence is completely unacceptable as applies to him. >> reporter: it's a key failure of america's criminal justice system. >> it has not proven true that the threat of jail is a particularly good deterrent for people addicted to crime, or for low level offenses like marijuana, and we don't have the levels necessary, but instead, we cycle people through jail. >> reporter: in the past year, the president has made criminal justice reform a key initiative, releasing 6,000 federal prisoners in november, it's part of an effort to reduce over crowding. most were inmates who received harsh sentences in drug cases. and that same month, the president announced new job education and housing grants to help inmates reenter societies.
lighter sentences for non-viability drug offenders. >> i believe that we should screen out applicants before we look at their qualifications. we can't dismiss people out of hand because of a mistake that they made in the past. >> reporter: following a national trend of reducing drug offenses, last year louisiana made marijuana possession a misdemeanor inside of a nfl. there's increasing political will on the state level to follow suit. >> it will be partly over issues of justice, but mostly over issues of saving lives. >> and tony, the state legislature here louisiana created a special task force that will be meeting for the first time in march. and they're going to go over some of the sentencing laws and the prison issues in the state
and hopefully bringing about reform that lawmakers are hoping for for 2017. >> john bell edwards took office on monday. and has he laid out any plans for justice reform? >> reporter: well, he hasn't said a lot of specifics, hasn't talked a lot of specifics, tony, but he has said that he wants comprehensive criminal justice reform her here louisia, and against, it's one of the nation's highest by about 5,000 inmates, and one of the things that he wants to do is increase some of the pretrial programs, and reduce the sentencing laws, following a national trend. something that the president will likely talk about tonight. >> all right, jonathan martin for us, and appreciate it. jonathan is in new orleans, and stay with us as we have special coverage leading up to the president's state of the union
confederate flag at a church. not everyone is thriving under governor haley, but she's enjoying success. >> hard to believe, until now, charleston has had the same mayor for 40 years, and so it's a new era. six months after a deadly mass shooting at the historic downtown black church. charleston became a lace with race, 20%, nearly twice the national average. the new era brings with it promises to move forward and focusing on continuing to grow the economy. governor nikki haley, who will deliver the state of the union response, because of economic
numbers, the year-over-year employment grew 2.6% here, compared to the national average of 1.9%. and it's a good story. [ audio difficulties ] >> she's a local legend. >> how many customers are you serving in a week or day? >> i have 50 at one time. >> today, it's a chance for her and others to make a living. >> about ten businesses are open on the street. on this street right here. >> what kyp of businesses? >> it's food. >> food? >> are they black businesses? >> no, they're not black. >> a wave of black residences are slowly being placed out of the city as competition for houses intensifies. fueled li higher learning, moving to the state to fuel
highly skilled jobs. along the picture-perfect charleston waterfront are multimillion-dollar historic mansions, but over a quarter of the families here bring home less than $25,000 a year, and a significant number of them are black. in fact, african-americans in south carolina are almost three times more likely than whites to live in poverty. frank is in charleston. his research shows many segments of the cities and states with the lowest skill workforce are not benefiting from politicians, and blacks on average are suffering more. african-americans in the state are at least twice as likely to be less employed. so we inherit a lot of institutional features and one of them is minority groups did not receive the educational benefits, and they have not been able to partake in economic development.
>> it's not clear, [ audio difficulties ] >> if we don't put a halt to that which makes us unique, which is the culture, will be lost. and we'll be like every other city usa. >> the heart and soul of charleston, he says, will disappear. >> a professor emertus at the wharten school of the university of pennsylvania, the former assistant secretary during the clinton presidency, and he joins me, professor anderson, good to have you on the program. so president obama never made promises about what he would do specifically for the black community. for you particularly, given your years of service in this area, was that a disappointment, given that your work continues to address the
economic status of blacks in the country? >> well, i think most african-americans recognize during the campaign that for political reasons, the president could not make direct appeals to the black community on what he would do to improve their social and economic condition. the only speech he made during the campaign that addressed the race issue at all was the speech he made in philadelphia, in response to the controversy over reverend germ maya wright. but african-americans were very much taken with his candidacy, and in fact, most african-americans supported hilliary clinton until barack obama won the south carolina primary. after that, the shift took place within the black community to support barack obama, including myself. i was supporting him since he announced. i was an obama delicate, representing the second
congressional district. but the situation is this: i am deeply disappointed that during barack obama's presidency, he never found his voice, summoned his courage, used his political capital to address racial inequality in american economic life. i think that's a short coming of his administration and it need not have been. he did not do nearly as much to address the race issue during his administration as linden johnson did in the 1960s. >> i want to get to the why part next. but let me start here. van jones, who worked for the president for a while in the first term said, and i quote here, i understand the tightrope from the beginning, and maybe this is the answer to the question, but let me address it. i understand the tightrope from the beginning. he's the president of all people, but sometimes i feel like he was the president of
everyone except black people. given the amount of opposition obama faced and the fact that there's this paradoxal nature, a black president can't be all about black people, is that an acceptable excuse for why he hasn't done more than? >> no no, it's not an acceptable excuse, because given the opposition that the president faced, we must understand that there are ways he could have used his administrative influence to address the high black unemployment rate, the job growth, the income situation and all of this. let me give you an example. >> okay. >> when the congress prop yates money for job training, they don't talk about how to spend that money. the president could have had his administration direct for
spending and training in ways that would have a disproportionately favorable impact on the black community. he did not do that. >> in contrast to the 1990s, when bill clinton had a different strategy. i'm proud to have been in the bill clinton administration. the rate of unemployment for black youth fell to the lowest level since world war ii. so i think that barack obama's administration was derelict in not pursuing policies and the implementation of policies in a way that would have had a disproportionate impact on african-americans. >> before i lose you, i are remembering that ther affordable care act passed and
the medicare exing expansion. >> yes, these were great accomplishments against great odds, but i still say that the african-american community has not benefited at all economically from his administration. the rate of unemployment is still twice that of whites. black wealth is $7,000 compared to over $100,000 for white families. >> and professor, let me leave you there because i'm flat out of time. but i promise that we'll have you back. bernard anderson, professor at the university of pennsylvania. thanks for watch, and john seigenthaler is next with special coverage of the state of the union. and he will take you up to live coverage of the address at 9 p.m. eastern and 6:00 pacific. >> we do these things because ultimately they will make us safer. >> president trying to figure out just which course to take.