Full Text Obama Presidency February 10, 2014: President Barack Obama and France’s President Francois Hollande’s Remarks After Touring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama and President Hollande Visit Monticello

Source: WH, 2-10-14

President Barack Obama and President François Hollande of France tour Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Va.President Barack Obama and President François Hollande of France tour Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Va., with Leslie Bowman, President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Feb. 10, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, President Obama and French President François Hollande visited Monticello, the home of former President Thomas Jefferson, just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was a noted Francophile, and served as the U.S. Minister to France from 1785 to 1789….READ MORE

Remarks by President Obama and President Hollande of France After Touring Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Source: WH, 2-10-14

Watch the Video

President Obama and President Hollande Visit Monticello
February 10, 2014 9:26 PM

President Obama and President Hollande Visit Monticello

Monticello
Charlottesville, Virginia

5:32 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, this has been a wonderful visit.  And I want to thank François for joining us here today.  I thought this was an appropriate way to start the state visit because what it signifies is the incredible history between the United States and France.

As one of our Founding Fathers, the person who drafted our Declaration of Independence, somebody who not only was an extraordinary political leader but also one of our great scientific and cultural leaders, Thomas Jefferson represents what’s best in America.  But as we see as we travel through his home, what he also represents is the incredible bond and the incredible gifts that France gave to the United States, because he was a Francophile through and through.

He drew inspiration from the Enlightenment ideas that had been developed in France and throughout Europe, but he also drew from the arts, from the architecture, from the writings, from the culture and from the cuisine of France.  And so, in this sense, this home represents the bonds that helped lead to the American Revolution, helped to influence the French Revolution, figures like Lafayette, who played such a central role in our own independence — all this is signified here at Monticello.

And our hope in starting our visit this way is that, just as we can extend back through generations to see the links between the United States and France, tomorrow we’ll have an opportunity to talk about not only our current bonds and alliance but also ways that we can strengthen our cooperation in the future.

And of course, this house also represents the complicated history of the United States.  We just visited downstairs where we know the slaves helped to build this magnificent structure, and the complex relations that Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence, had to slavery.  And it’s a reminder for both of us that we are going to continue to fight on behalf of the rights of all peoples — something that I know France has always been committed to, and we are committed to as well.

And I’m looking forward to talking about issues of human dignity and human rights not just in our own countries, but around the world as well.

So, Mr. President, welcome to Monticello, and we look forward to continuing our conversation tomorrow.

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  (As interpreted.)  I would like to thank especially President Obama for having invited me to this house.  This is Thomas Jefferson’s house, which means that this was a man who understood — met the secretary of Enlightenment, and he wanted to represent this life throughout this house.  You can see life everywhere.  You can see it the objects, in the refinement of the objects, and its architecture.

Why is this house a symbol?  Because here Lafayette was welcomed.  Together, Lafayette and Jefferson imagined something that seemed impossible — mainly American independence and the rights of — human rights and the rights of the citizen.  Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, and Lafayette was also involved in drafting the Rights of the Citizen, and they met together in this house.

There is something quite unique about Jefferson in the fact that he been ambassador of the United States to France before becoming U.S. President.  I do believe that is the only American President that had that experience.  And he was U.S. ambassador to France at the time of the French Revolution, and he departed from France in August of 1789, which means after the 14th of July with the taking of the Bastille.  He thought he had seen enough and that he could go back home.  And then of course, he was involved in the governance of the United States before becoming President.  And then Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon. And today we are not demanding anything.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  It was a good bargain, though.  (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT HOLLANDE:  (As interpreted.)  I also wish to confirm that this bond that unites us with Jefferson, that these bonds are sustained over time, because he represents values and principles.  Freedom, human dignity, rights — these are the values to which we are continuing to fight around the world, the United States and France.  We were allies in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette.  We are still allies today.  We were friends in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette, and we will remain friends forever.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much.

END
5:41 P.M. EST

Political Musings February 5, 2014: Obama announces leaving major XL Keystone Pipeline decision making to Kerry

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama announces leaving major XL Keystone Pipeline decision making to Kerry

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The major news of the second part of the Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama Super Bowl interview that aired on Monday evening, Feb. 3, 2014 during the regularly scheduled The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News…READ MORE

Political Musings February 3, 2014: Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama vs Bill O’Reilly tie in tough pre-Super Bowl interview match-up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The 10-minute pre-Super Bowl interview between FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama on Sunday evening, Feb. 2, 2014 during a special edition of The O’Reilly Factor was even more bruising than…READ MORE

Political Musings January 29, 2014: Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

While the core President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 focused on the President’s economic opportunity program and domestic policy in general taking up nearly an hour of…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Transcript

Source: USA Today, 1-28-14

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press – President Barack Obama takes the podium to give his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio are behind the president.

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.

An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.

An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.

A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son. And in tight-knit communities across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after twelve long years, is finally coming to an end.

Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: it is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.

Here are the results of your efforts: The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.

That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress. For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government. It’s an important debate – one that dates back to our very founding. But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.

As President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. I believe most of you are, too. Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way. But the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.

In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together. Let’s make this a year of action. That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.

Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.

Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.

As usual, our First Lady sets a good example. Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, and local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in thirty years – an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades to come. The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses. Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit where already, 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education – and help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they get to campus. Across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.

The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.

Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.

We know where to start: the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year. And over half of big manufacturers say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.

So let’s make that decision easier for more companies. Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad. Let’s flip that equation. Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home.

Moreover, we can take the money we save with this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes – because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. We’ll need Congress to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. But I will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.

We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs. My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh and Youngstown, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help America lead the world in advanced technologies. Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year. Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create. So get those bills to my desk and put more Americans back to work.

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other. And when ninety-eight percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs. We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.” China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines. Neither should we.

We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation.

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.

One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.

It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air. The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.

Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.

The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs. But in this rapidly-changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.

The good news is, we know how to do it. Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce. So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center – places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.

What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer – and every job seeker. So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now. That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life. It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.

I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.

Let me tell you why.

Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day. “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote. “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.”

Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game. That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families; this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real. Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same – because we are stronger when America fields a full team.

Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce. We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.

Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine. But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates – through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors – from their high school to the post office, where they mailed off their college applications. And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.

Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids. We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before. Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance. Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math. Some of this change is hard. It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.

The problem is we’re still not reaching enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time. That has to change.

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education. Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every four year-old. As a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, thirty states have raised pre-k funding on their own. They know we can’t wait. So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year, we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a race to the top for our youngest children. And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need.

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.

We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career. We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information, and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education. We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to ten percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt. And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.

The bottom line is, Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us. But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete – and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise – unless we do more to make sure our economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.

Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode. This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs – but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages. Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.

In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs. Many businesses have done it on their own. Nick Chute is here tonight with his boss, John Soranno. John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough. Only now he makes more of it: John just gave his employees a raise, to ten bucks an hour – a decision that eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour – because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress needs to get on board. Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here. Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10. This will help families. It will give businesses customers with more money to spend. It doesn’t involve any new bureaucratic program. So join the rest of the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.

There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit. Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point. But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids. So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead.

Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don’t have a pension. A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401ks. That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little to nothing for middle-class Americans. Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can. And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans.

One last point on financial security. For decades, few things exposed hard-working families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system. And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.

A pre-existing condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a physician assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance. But on January 1st, she got covered. On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain. On January 6th, she had emergency surgery. Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would’ve meant bankruptcy.

That’s what health insurance reform is all about – the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.

Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.

More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice – tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda. The first forty were plenty. We got it. We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.

And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight. Kentucky’s not the most liberal part of the country, but he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families. “They are our friends and neighbors,” he said. “They are people we shop and go to church with…farmers out on the tractors…grocery clerks…they are people who go to work every morning praying they don’t get sick. No one deserves to live that way.”

Steve’s right. That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st. Moms, get on your kids to sign up. Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.

After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward. It’s the spirit of citizenship – the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.

Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened. But conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it; and the bipartisan commission I appointed last year has offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote. Let’s support these efforts. It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy.

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.

Citizenship demands a sense of common cause; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve to our communities. And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.

Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure. When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan. With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role. Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.

After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda. For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.

The fact is, that danger remains. While we have put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks. In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks. Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks. And as we reform our defense budget, we have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.

We have to remain vigilant. But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone. As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office. But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.

So, even as we aggressively pursue terrorist networks – through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners – America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence. That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated. And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.

You see, in a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy. American diplomacy has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on Cold War stockpiles. American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear. As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.

And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade. As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb. And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away. But these negotiations do not rely on trust; any long-term deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb. If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed. If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.

Finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe – to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want. And no one is better positioned to take advantage of those opportunities than America.

Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known. From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy. In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future. Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty. In the Americas, we are building new ties of commerce, but we’re also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people. And we will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster – as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and were greeted with words like, “We will never forget your kindness” and “God bless America!”

We do these things because they help promote our long-term security. And we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment – when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium – and brings home the gold.

My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do. On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might – but because of the ideals we stand for, and the burdens we bear to advance them.

No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform. As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life. We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care – including the mental health care – that they need. We’ll keep working to help all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home. And we all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.

Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.

I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program – a strong, impressive young man, with an easy manner, sharp as a tack. We joked around, and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan. His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.

For months, he lay in a coma. The next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak; he could barely move. Over the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, and hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye. He still struggles on his left side. But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger. Day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again – and he’s working toward the day when he can serve his country again.

“My recovery has not been easy,” he says. “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”

Cory is here tonight. And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.

My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen. The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy. But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach.

Believe it.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

 

Political Musings January 21, 2014 Obama to finally have an audience with Pope Francis, Vatican trip set for March

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama to finally have an audience with Pope Francis, Vatican trip set for March

By Bonnie K. Goodman

It is a slow news day in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 as a snowstorm cancelled all of President Barack Obama’s plans for the day, making the big news the President’s upcoming trip to…READ MORE

Political Musings December 22, 2013: Obama in denial and on the offensive in 2013 year-end press conference

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

After a difficult year that held little accomplishments to boast about, with more “missteps” than any president would be willing to acknowledge, President Barack Obama held his year-end press conference on Friday afternoon, Dec. 20, 2013 at….READ MORE

Political Musings December 11, 2013: Obama and world leaders honor Nelson Mandela at memorial service

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

On a rainy Tuesday in Johannesburg, South Africa over 60,000 thousand people, including over 90 world leaders came to honor a man that bridged the racial divide and ended apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela. The former South African…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 10, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela

Source: WH, 12-10-13

ABC News

First National Bank Stadium
Johannesburg, South Africa

1:31 P.M. SAST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests — it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other.  To the people of South Africa — (applause) — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life.  And your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man — to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person — their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start had little prospect for success.  Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would — like Abraham Lincoln — hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  And like America’s Founding Fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations — a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power after only one term.

Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s tempting I think to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait.  (Applause.)  Instead, Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection — because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried — that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood — a son and a husband, a father and a friend.  And that’s why we learned so much from him, and that’s why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith.  He tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.  And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people,” he said.

But like other early giants of the ANC — the Sisulus and Tambos — Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up for their God-given dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.  I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and [with] equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”  (Applause.)

Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate.  He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his.  (Applause.)

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough.  No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of unconditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — (applause) — a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift:  his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small — introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS — that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.  He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection.  With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask:  How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?  It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.

We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation.  As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day.  Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle.  (Applause.)  But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.  For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease.  We still see run-down schools.  We still see young people without prospects for the future.  Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.  That is happening today.  (Applause.)

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  (Applause.)  And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today — how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war — these things do not have easy answers.  But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I.  Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.  South Africa shows that is true.  South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.  We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world — you, too, can make his life’s work your own.  Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man.  (Applause.)  He speaks to what’s best inside us.

After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search for his strength.  Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell:  “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

What a magnificent soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.  (Applause.)

END
1:50 P.M. SAST

Political Musings December 8, 2013: Obama, former Presidents, world leaders honor Nelson Mandela will attend funeral

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, former Presidents, world leaders honor Nelson Mandela will attend funeral

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the world’s nations and their leaders mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 after a lengthy illness late Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 flags all over the world were ordered to fly at half…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 7, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in a Conversation with the Saban Forum

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in a Conversation with the Saban Forum

Source: WH, 12-7-13

Willard Hotel
Washington, D.C.

1:13 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello!  (Applause.)

MR. SABAN:  How are you doing?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m good.  Hello, everybody.

MR. SABAN:  One of your staffers said you are in a great mood this afternoon, so –

THE PRESIDENT:  I am.

MR. SABAN:  — we’re doubly blessed here.  So that’s terrific.

I’d like to thank you very much for being here today, Mr. President.  The Forum, and I personally, are honored to have you join us in this conversation.  And I am personally honored that you insisted that I have this conversation with you, even though I never set foot for any conversation for 10 years.  (Laughter.) So thank you.  I’m very honored.

Shall we start with Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  We should.

MR. SABAN:  Okay, good.  (Laughter.)  Mr. President, polls indicate that 77 percent of Israelis don’t believe this first nuclear deal will preclude Iran from having nuclear weapons, and they perceive this fact as an existential matter for them.  What can you say to the Israeli people to address their concern?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first, before I answer the question, let me say to you, Haim, thank you so much for the great work that you’ve done.  I think the Saban Forum and the Saban Center has done outstanding work, and it provides us a mechanism where we don’t just scratch the surface of these issues.  Obviously the challenges in the Middle East are enormous, and the work that’s being done here is terrific.

So I want to also thank Strobe for hosting us here today, and all of you who are here, including some outstanding members of the Israeli government and some friends that I haven’t seen in a while.  So thanks for having me.

Let me start with the basic premise that I’ve said repeatedly.  It is in America’s national security interests, not just Israel’s national interests or the region’s national security interests, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

And let’s remember where we were when I first came into office.  Iran had gone from having less than 200 centrifuges to having thousands of centrifuges, in some cases more advanced centrifuges.  There was a program that had advanced to the point where their breakout capacity had accelerated in ways that we had been concerned about for quite some time and, as a consequence, what I said to my team and what I said to our international partners was that we are going to have to be much more serious about how we change the cost-benefit analysis for Iran.

We put in place an unprecedented regime of sanctions that has crippled Iran’s economy, cut their oil revenues by more than half, have put enormous pressure on their currency — their economy contracted by more than 5 percent last year.  And it is precisely because of the international sanctions and the coalition that we were able to build internationally that the Iranian people responded by saying, we need a new direction in how we interact with the international community and how we deal with this sanctions regime.  And that’s what brought President Rouhani to power.  He was not necessarily the first choice of the hardliners inside of Iran.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we should trust him or anybody else inside of Iran.  This is a regime that came to power swearing opposition to the United States, to Israel, and to many of the values that we hold dear.  But what I’ve consistently said is even as I don’t take any options off the table, what we do have to test is the possibility that we can resolve this issue diplomatically.  And that is the deal that, at the first stages, we have been able to get done in Geneva, thanks to some extraordinary work by John Kerry and his counterparts in the P5-plus-1.

So let’s look at exactly what we’ve done.  For the first time in over a decade, we have halted advances in the Iranian nuclear program.  We have not only made sure that in Fordor and Natanz that they have to stop adding additional centrifuges, we’ve also said that they’ve got to roll back their 20 percent advanced enrichment.  So we’re –

MR. SABAN:  To how much?

THE PRESIDENT:  Down to zero.  So you remember when Prime Minister Netanyahu made his presentation before the United Nations last year –

MR. SABAN:  The cartoon with the red line?

THE PRESIDENT:  The picture of a bomb — he was referring to 20 percent enrichment, which the concern was if you get too much of that, you now have sufficient capacity to go ahead and create a nuclear weapon.  We’re taking that down to zero.  We are stopping the advancement of the Arak facility, which would provide an additional pathway, a plutonium pathway for the development of nuclear weapons.

We are going to have daily inspectors in Fordor and Natanz. We’re going to have additional inspections in Arak.  And as a consequence, during this six-month period, Iran cannot and will not advance its program or add additional stockpiles of advanced uranium — enriched uranium.

Now, what we’ve done in exchange is kept all these sanctions in place — the architecture remains with respect to oil, with respect to finance, with respect to banking.  What we’ve done is we’ve turned the spigot slightly and we’ve said, here’s maximum $7 billion out of the over $100 billion of revenue of theirs that is frozen as a consequence of our sanctions, to give us the time and the space to test whether they can move in a direction, a comprehensive, permanent agreement that would give us all assurances that they’re not producing nuclear weapons.

MR. SABAN:  I understand.  A quick question as it relates to the $7 billion, if I may.

THE PRESIDENT:  Please.

MR. SABAN:  How do we prevent those who work with us in Geneva, who have already descended on Tehran looking for deals, to cause the seven to become 70?  Because we can control what we do, but what is the extent that we can control the others?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Haim, this is precisely why the timing of this was right.  One of the things we were always concerned about was that if we did not show good faith in trying to resolve this issue diplomatically, then the sanctions regime would begin to fray.

Keep in mind that this was two years of extraordinary diplomatic work on behalf of our team to actually get the sanctions in place.  They’re not just the unilateral sanctions that are created by the United States.  These are sanctions that are also participated in by Russia, by China, and some allies of ours like South Korea and Japan that find these sanctions very costly.  But that’s precisely why they’ve become so effective.

And so what we’ve said is that we do not loosen any of the core sanctions; we provide a small window through which they can access some revenue, but we can control it and it is reversible. And during the course of these six months, if and when Iran shows itself not to be abiding by this agreement, not to be negotiating in good faith, we can reverse them and tighten them even further.

But here is the bottom line.  Ultimately, my goal as President of the United States — something that I’ve said publicly and privately and shared everywhere I’ve gone — is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  But what I’ve also said is the best way for us to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons is for a comprehensive, verifiable, diplomatic resolution, without taking any other options off the table if we fail to achieve that.

It is important for us to test that proposition during the next six months, understanding that while we’re talking, they’re not secretly improving their position or changing circumstances on the ground inside of Iran.  And if at the end of six months it turns out that we can’t make a deal, we’re no worse off, and in fact we have greater leverage with the international community to continue to apply sanctions and even strengthen them.

If, on the other hand, we’re able to get this deal done, then what we can achieve through a diplomatic resolution of this situation is, frankly, greater than what we could achieve with the other options that are available to us.

MR. SABAN:  Let’s all hope we get there.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

MR. SABAN:  You have hosted Passover dinners at the White House.

THE PRESIDENT:  I have.

MR. SABAN:  And you know this famous saying, “Why is this night different than any other night?”  In that context, I would like to ask you a question.

THE PRESIDENT:  Please.

MR. SABAN:  With the best intentions and all efforts, President Reagan vowed that Pakistan would not go nuclear.  Didn’t happen. With the best intentions and all efforts, President Clinton vowed that North Korea won’t go nuclear.  Why is this nuclear deal different than any other nuclear deal?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we don’t know yet.  No, we don’t know yet.  I think it’s important for everybody to understand this is hard.   Because the technology of the nuclear cycle, you can get off the Internet; the knowledge of creating a nuclear weapons is already out there.  And Iran is a large country and it is a relatively wealthy country, and so we have to take seriously the possibility that they are going to try to get a nuclear weapon.  That’s what this whole exercise is about.

Having said that, if you look at the history, by the time we got an agreement with North Korea, they essentially already had a nuclear weapon.  With respect to Pakistan, there was never the kinds of inspection regimes and international sanctions and U.N. resolutions that were in place.  We have been able to craft an international effort and verification mechanism around the Iran nuclear program that is unprecedented and unique.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy.  And that’s why we have to take it seriously.

But I think one of the things that I’ve repeatedly said when people ask, why should we try to negotiate with them, we can’t trust them, we’re being naïve, what I try to describe to them is not the choice between this deal and the ideal, but the choice between this deal and other alternatives.

If I had an option, if we could create an option in which Iran eliminated every single nut and bolt of their nuclear program, and foreswore the possibility of ever having a nuclear program, and, for that matter, got rid of all its military capabilities, I would take it.  But –

MR. SABAN:  Next question –

THE PRESIDENT:  Sorry, Haim, I want to make sure everybody understands it — that particular option is not available.  And so as a consequence, what we have to do is to make a decision as to, given the options available, what is the best way for us to assure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.

And the best way for us to assure it is to test this diplomatic path, understanding that it’s not based on trust; it’s based on what we can verify.  And it also, by the way, does not negate the fact that Iran is engaging in a whole bunch of other behavior in the Middle East and around the world that is detrimental to the United States and detrimental to Israel.

And we will continue to contest their efforts where they’re engaging in terrorism, where they’re being disruptive to our friends and our allies.  We will not abide by any threats to our friends and allies in the region, and we’ve made that perfectly clear.  And our commitment to Israel’s security is sacrosanct, and they understand that.  They don’t have any doubt about that.
But if we can negotiate on the nuclear program in the same way that Ronald Reagan was able to negotiate with the Soviet Union even as we were still contesting them around the world, that removes one more threat — and a critical, existential threat — takes it out of their arsenal.  And it allows us then to ultimately I think win them — defeat some of their agenda throughout the region without worrying that somehow it’s going to escalate or trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile part of the world.

MR. SABAN:  Unfortunately, you’re right — it would.  Tom Friedman had an interesting perspective in one of his columns.  He said, “Never negotiate with Iran without some leverage and some crazy on your side.  We have to out-crazy the crazies.”  Do you think he has a point?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Tom is a very smart observer.  And I know that my friend, Bibi, is going to be speaking later, and if Tom wants to characterize Bibi the way you just described, that’s his –

MR. SABAN:  I didn’t say that.

THE PRESIDENT:  — that’s his prerogative, that’s not my view.  (Laughter.)

Prime Minister Netanyahu and I have had constant consultations on these issues throughout the last five years.  And something that I think bears repeating:  The United States military cooperation with Israel has never been stronger.  Our intelligence cooperation with Israel has never been stronger.  Our support of Israel’s security has never been stronger.  Whether you’re talking about Iron Dome, whether you’re talking about trying to manage the situation in Gaza a little over a year ago, across the board, our coordination on the concrete issues facing Israel’s security has never been stronger.  And that’s not just my opinion; I think that’s something that can be verified.

There are times where I, as President of the United States, am going to have different tactical perspectives than the Prime Minister of Israel — and that is understandable, because Israel cannot contract out its security.  In light of the history that the people of Israel understand all too well, they have to make sure that they are making their own assessments about what they need to do to protect themselves.  And we respect that.  And I have said that consistently to the Prime Minister.

But ultimately, it is my view, from a tactical perspective, that we have to test out this proposition.  It will make us stronger internationally, and it may possibly lead to a deal that we’ll have to show to the world, in fact, assures us that Iran is not getting a nuclear weapon.

It’s not as if there’s going to be a lot of capacity to hide the ball here.  We’re going to be able to make an assessment, because this will be subject to the P5-plus-1 and the international community looking at the details of every aspect of a potential final deal, and we’re consulting with all our friends, including Israel, in terms of what would that end state look like.  And if we can’t get there, then no deal is better than a bad deal.  But presuming that it’s going to be a bad deal and, as a consequence, not even trying for a deal I think would be a dire mistake.

MR. SABAN:  Well, personally, I find a lot of comfort in the fact that even though the United States and Israel may have red lines in different places, we are on the same place as far as the bottom line goes –

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

MR. SABAN:  — and Iran will not have nuclear weapons.  Fair to say?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  That is more than fair.

MR. SABAN:  Good.  Thank you.  Should we move to these Israeli-Palestinians –

THE PRESIDENT:  We should.

MR. SABAN:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Very obedient President I have here today.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  This is the Saban Forum, so you’re in charge.  (Laughter.)

MR. SABAN:  I wish.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Or Cheryl is in charge.

MR. SABAN:  You’re more on now, Mr. President.  It is Cheryl who is in charge.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s exactly right.

MR. SABAN:  Anyway.  (Laughter.)  First of all, before I ask the first question, I would be remiss if I didn’t, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your continuous effort to achieve peace in the Middle East.  Thank you so very much.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I appreciate it.  Thank you.

MR. SABAN:  So people talk about an imposed American solution.  We’ve heard these rumors rumbling around for a while. The U.S. has always said it doesn’t want to impose.  What would you propose?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this is a challenge that we’ve been wrestling with for 60 years.  And what I’ve consistently said is that the only way this is going to be resolved is if the people of Israel and the Palestinian people make a determination that their futures and the futures of their children and grandchildren will be better off with peace than with conflict.  The United States can be an effective facilitator of that negotiation and dialogue; we can help to bridge differences and bridge gaps.  But both sides have to want to get there.

And I have to commend Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas for the courageous efforts that have led to very serious conversations over the last several months.  They are not easy.  But they come down to what we all know are going to be the core issues:  territory; security; refugees; Jerusalem.

And there are not a lot of secrets or surprises at this point.  We know what the outlines of a potential agreement might look like.  And the question then becomes are both sides willing to take the very tough political risks involved if their bottom lines are met.

For the Palestinians, the bottom line is that they have a state of their own that is real and meaningful.  For the Israelis, the bottom line is, to a large extent, is the state of Israel as a Jewish state secure.  And those issues have been spoken about over the last several months in these negotiations in a very serious way.  And I know Tzipi Livni is here and been participating in that, and we’re very grateful for her efforts there.

And I think it is possible over the next several months to arrive at a framework that does not address every single detail but gets us to a point where everybody recognizes better to move forward than move backwards.  Sometimes when you’re climbing up a mountain, even when it’s scary, it’s actually easier to go up than it is to go down.  And I think that we’re now at a place where we can achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side-by-side in peace and security.  But it’s going to require some very tough decisions.

One thing I have to say, though, is we have spent a lot of time working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his entire team to understand from an Israeli perspective what is required for the security of Israel in such a scenario.  And we — going back to what I said earlier — we understand that we can’t dictate to Israel what it needs for its security.  But what we have done is to try to understand it and then see through a consultative process, are there ways that, through technology, through additional ideas, we can potentially provide for that.

And I assigned one of our top former generals, John Allen, who most recently headed up the entire coalition effort in Afghanistan — he’s retired now, but he was willing to take on this mission — and he’s been working to examine the entire set of challenges around security –

MR. SABAN:  Has he concluded anything?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, he’s come up to — he has arrived at the conclusion that it is possible to create a two-state solution that preserves Israel’s core security needs.

Now, that’s his conclusion, but ultimately he’s not the decision-maker here.  Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli military and intelligence folks have to make that determination. And ultimately, the Palestinians have to also recognize that there is going to be a transition period where the Israeli people cannot expect a replica of Gaza in the West Bank.  That is unacceptable.  And I think we believe that we can arrive at that point where Israel was confident about that, but we’re going to have to see whether the Israelis agree and whether President Abbas, then, is willing to understand that this transition period requires some restraint on the part of the Palestinians as well. They don’t get everything that they want on day one.  And that creates some political problems for President Abbas, as well.

MR. SABAN:  Yes.  Well, I’d say my next question of what was the reaction of the Prime Minister to General Allen for John Kerry.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, ask John Kerry, or ask the Prime Minister.

MR. SABAN:  Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t want to speak for him.  (Laughter.)
MR. SABAN:  They won’t tell me, but, okay.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s probably true.

MR. SABAN:  My last question:  The Palestinians are two people — one in the West Bank, led by President Abbas that is negotiating the deal; and one in Gaza, led by Hamas that wants to eradicate Israel from the face of the Earth.  President Abbas, as far as I know, says he won’t make a deal that doesn’t include Gaza, which he doesn’t control.  How do we get out from this labyrinth?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think this is going to have to happen in stages.  But here’s what I know from my visits to Israel, my visits to the West Bank:  There are people of goodwill on both sides that recognize the status quo is not sustainable over the long term, and as a consequence, it is in the interests of both the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve this issue.

There are young people, teenagers that I met both in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories that want to get out from under this history and seek a future that is fundamentally different for them.  And so if, in fact, we can create a pathway to peace, even if initially it’s restricted to the West Bank, if there is a model where young Palestinians in Gaza are looking and seeing that in the West Bank Palestinians are able to live in dignity, with self-determination, and suddenly their economy is booming and trade is taking place because they have created an environment in which Israel is confident about its security and a lot of the old barriers to commerce and educational exchange and all that has begun to break down, that’s something that the young people of Gaza are going to want.  And the pressure that will be placed for the residents of Gaza to experience that same future is something that is going to be I think overwhelmingly appealing.

But that is probably going to take place during the course of some sort of transition period.  And the security requirements that Israel requires will have to be met.  And I think that is able — that we can accomplish that, but ultimately it’s going to be something that requires everybody to stretch out of their comfort zones.

And the one thing I will say to the people of Israel is that you can be assured whoever is in the office I currently occupy, Democrat or Republican, that your security will be uppermost on our minds.  That will not change.  And that should not mean you let up on your vigilance in terms of wanting to look out for your own country.  It does — it should give you some comfort, though, that you have the most powerful nation on Earth as your closest friend and ally.  And that commitment is going to be undiminished.

Q    That was my last question.

THE PRESIDENT:  I promised — we worked something backstage where as long as Haim’s questions weren’t too long, I’d take a couple of questions from the audience.  And he was very disciplined — (laughter) — so let me take one or two.

This gentleman right here.  Why don’t you get a microphone so everybody can hear you?

Q    Mr. President, I used to be a general in the Israeli Air Force, in intelligence, and now running a think tank in Tel Aviv.  Looking into the future agreement with Iran — I put behind me the initial agreement, and what is really important is the final agreement.  Two questions.  What is the parameters that you see as a red line to ensure that Iran will be moving forward — moving backward, rolling back from the bomb as much as possible?  And what is your plan B if an agreement cannot be reached?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, with respect to the end state, I want to be very clear there’s nothing in this agreement or document that grants Iran a right to enrich.  We’ve been very clear that given its past behavior, and given existing U.N. resolutions and previous violations by Iran of its international obligations, that we don’t recognize such a right, and if, by the way, negotiations break down, there will be no additional international recognition that’s been obtained.  So this deal goes away and we’re back to where we were before the Geneva agreement, subject — and Iran will continue to be subject to all the sanctions that we put in place in the past and we may seek additional ones.

But I think what we have said is we can envision a comprehensive agreement that involves extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections, but that permits Iran to have a peaceful nuclear program.

Now, in terms of specifics, we know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordor in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.  They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.  They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.

And so the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made that would not justify — or could not be justified by simply wanting some modest, peaceful nuclear power, but, frankly, hint at a desire to have breakout capacity and go right to the edge of breakout capacity.  And if we can move that significantly back, then that is, I think, a net win.

Now, you’ll hear arguments, including potentially from the Prime Minister, that say we can’t accept any enrichment on Iranian soil.  Period.  Full stop.  End of conversation.  And this takes me back to the point I made earlier.  One can envision an ideal world in which Iran said, we’ll destroy every element and facility and you name it, it’s all gone.  I can envision a world in which Congress passed every one of my bills that I put forward.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there are a lot of things that I can envision that would be wonderful.  (Laughter.)  But precisely because we don’t trust the nature of the Iranian regime, I think that we have to be more realistic and ask ourselves, what puts us in a strong position to assure ourselves that Iran is not having a nuclear weapon and that we are protected?  What is required to accomplish that, and how does that compare to other options that we might take?

And it is my strong belief that we can envision a end state that gives us an assurance that even if they have some modest enrichment capability, it is so constrained and the inspections are so intrusive that they, as a practical matter, do not have breakout capacity.

Theoretically, they might still have some.  But, frankly, theoretically, they will always have some, because, as I said, the technology here is available to any good physics student at pretty much any university around the world.  And they have already gone through the cycle to the point where the knowledge, we’re not going to be able to eliminate.  But what we can do is eliminate the incentive for them to want to do this.

And with respect to what happens if this breaks down, I won’t go into details.  I will say that if we cannot get the kind of comprehensive end state that satisfies us and the world community and the P5-plus-1, then the pressure that we’ve been applying on them and the options that I’ve made clear I can avail myself of, including a military option, is one that we would consider and prepare for.  And we’ve always said that.  So that does not change.

But the last point I’ll make on this.  When I hear people who criticize the Geneva deal say it’s got to be all or nothing, I would just remind them if it’s nothing, if we did not even try for this next six months to do this, all the breakout capacity we’re concerned about would accelerate during that six months.  Arak would be further along.  The advanced centrifuges would have been put in place.  They’d be that much closer to breakout capacity six months from now.  And that’s why I think it’s important for us to try to test this proposition.

I’ll take a couple more.  Yes, sir.  Right over here.

Q    Mr. President, Israeli journalist from Isreal Hayom daily newspaper.  Mr. President, I covered the negotiations with Iran, nuclear negotiations — Geneva 2009, Istanbul 2010.  And I came back now from Geneva again, where you could see the big change was not only on Iran’s side, but also on the P5-plus-1 side, meaning they were very eager to reach an agreement.  Coming back from Geneva, we learned, and some of us had known before, the secret talks America had with Iran.  And we know the concern you have on the Israeli security — e’re very grateful.  But how does it coincide with your secret negotiations Washington had with Tehran?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  The truth is, is that, without going into the details, there weren’t a lot of secret negotiations.  Essentially what happened — and we were very clear and transparent about this — is that from the time I took office, I said we would reach out to Iran and we would let them know we’re prepared to open up a diplomatic channel.  After Rouhani was elected, there was some acceleration leading up to the U.N.  General Assembly.  You’ll recall that Rouhani was engaging in what was termed a charm offensive, right, and he was going around talking to folks.  And at that point, it made sense for us to see, all right, how serious are you potentially about having these conversations.

They did not get highly substantive in the first several meetings but were much more exploring how much room, in fact, did they have to get something done.  And then as soon as they began to get more technical, at that point, they converged with the P5-plus-1 discussions.

I will say this:  The fact of Rhouhani’s election — it’s been said that there’s no difference between him and Ahmadinejad except that he’s more charming.  I think that understates the shift in politics that took place in this election.  Obviously, Rouhani is part of the Iranian establishment and I think we have to assume that his ideology is one that is hostile to the United States and to Israel.  But what he also represents is the desire on the part of the Iranian people for a change of direction.  And we should not underestimate or entirely dismiss a shift in how the Iranian people want to interact with the world.

There’s a lot of change that’s going to be taking place in the Middle East over the next decade.  And wherever we see the impulses of a people to move away from conflict, violence, and towards diplomatic resolution of conflicts, we should be ready and prepared to engage them — understanding, though, that, ultimately it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.

And we have to be vigilant about maintaining our security postures, not be naïve about the dangers that an Iranian regime pose, fight them wherever they’re engaging in terrorism or actions that are hostile to us or our allies.  But we have to not constantly assume that it’s not possible for Iran, like any country, to change over time.  It may not be likely.  If you asked me what is the likelihood that we’re able to arrive at the end state that I was just describing earlier, I wouldn’t say that it’s more than 50/50.  But we have to try.

Last question.  And I think it’s — the young lady right there.

Q    Mr. President, I’m a reporter for Israeli Channel Two. I have been listening to your analysis of the Iranian deal, and I can only imagine a different — a slightly different analysis given by our Prime Minister Netanyahu.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think that’s probably a good bet.  That’s more than 50/50.  (Laughter.)

Q    Israelis are known for their understatement.  (Laughter.)  And I try to imagine a conversation between you two. And he would ask you, Mr. President, I see this deal as a historic mistake — which he has already stated — and I think it’s the worst deal the West could have gotten.  And you would have told him, Bibi, that’s where you go wrong.  What would you have told him?  That’s one thing.  And then, perhaps to understand the essence of your conversation, he would ask you, Mr. President, is there one set of circumstances under which you will order your B-52s to strike in Iran?  What would you tell him?  (Laughter.)  Is there any set of circumstances in which you will order your fighter pilots to strike in Iran?  What would you tell the Prime Minister?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me make a couple of points.  Number one, obviously, the conversations between me and the Prime Minister are for me and the Prime Minister, not for an audience like this. And I will say that Bibi and I have very candid conversations, and there are occasionally significant tactical disagreements, but there is a constancy in trying to reach the same goal.  And in this case, that goal is to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon.

As President of the United States, I don’t go around advertising the circumstances in which I order pilots to launch attacks.  That I think would be bad practice.  (Laughter.)  I also would say, though, that when the President of the United States says that he doesn’t take any options off the table, that should be taken seriously.  And I think I have a track record over the last five years that indicates that that should be taken seriously.

It’s interesting — in the region, there was this interesting interpretation of what happened with respect to Syria.  I said it’s a problem for Syria to have chemical weapons that it uses on its own citizens.  And when we had definitive proof that it had, I indicated my willingness potentially to take military action.  The fact that we ultimately did not take military action in some quarters was interpreted as, ah, you see, the President is not willing to take military action — despite the fact that I think Mr. Qaddafi would have a different view of that, or Mr. bin Laden.  Be that as it may, that was yesterday, what have you done for me lately?  (Laughter.)

But the point is that my preference was always to resolve the issue diplomatically.  And it turns out, lo and behold, that Syria now is actually removing its chemical weapons that a few months ago it denied it even possessed, and has provided a comprehensive list, and they have already begun taking these weapons out of Syria.  And although that does not solve the tragic situation inside of Syria, it turns out that removing those chemical weapons will make us safer and it will make Israel safer, and it will make the Syrian people safer, and it will make the region safer.

And so I do not see military action as an end unto itself.  Military action is one tool that we have in a tool kit that includes diplomacy in achieving our goals, which is ultimately our security.

And I think if you want to summarize the difference, in some ways, between myself and the Prime Minister on the Geneva issue, I think what this comes down to is the perception, potentially, that if we just kept on turning up the pressure — new sanctions, more sanctions, more military threats, et cetera — that eventually Iran would cave.  And what I’ve tried to explain is two points:  One is that the reason the sanctions have been so effective — because we set them up in a painstaking fashion — the reason they’ve been effective is because other countries had confidence that we were not imposing sanctions just for the sake of sanctions, but we were imposing sanctions for the sake of trying to actually get Iran to the table and resolve the issue.  And if the perception internationally was that we were not in good faith trying to resolve the issue diplomatically, that, more than anything, would actually begin to fray the edges of the sanctions regime.  Point number one.

And point number two — I’ve already said this before — you have to compare the approach that we’re taking now with the alternatives.  The idea that Iran, given everything we know about their history, would just continue to get more and more nervous about more sanctions and military threats, and ultimately just say, okay, we give in — I think does not reflect an honest understanding of the Iranian people or the Iranian regime.  And I say that — by the way, I’m not just talking about the hardliners inside of Iran.  I think even the so-called moderates or reformers inside of Iran would not be able to simply say, we will cave and do exactly what the U.S. and the Israelis say.

They are going to have to have a path in which they feel that there is a dignified resolution to this issue.  That’s a political requirement of theirs, and that, I suspect, runs across the political spectrum.  And so for us to present a door that serves our goals and our purposes but also gives them the opportunity to, in a dignified fashion, reenter the international community and change the approach that they’ve taken — at least on this narrow issue, but one that is of extraordinary importance to all of us — is an opportunity that we should grant them.

All right?

Well, thank you very much.  I enjoyed this.  (Applause.)

MR. SABAN:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, Mr. President.  You’ve been very generous.  (Applause.)

END
2:00 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Death of Nelson Mandela

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the Death of Nelson Mandela

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:25 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real.  He achieved more than could be expected of any man.  Today, he has gone home.  And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.  He no longer belongs to us — he belongs to the ages.

Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us.  His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better.  His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.  And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable.  As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life.  My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.  I studied his words and his writings.  The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.  And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.

To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us.  His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most.  And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real.  A free South Africa at peace with itself — that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.  May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.

END
5:30 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 21, 2013: House Resolution Proposed to ‘Protect’ Christmas

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Resolution Proposed to ‘Protect’ Christmas

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-13

On Thursday, Rep. Doug Lamborn, (R-Colo.) and 36 other Congress members proposed the two-page resolution in an effort to “strongly [disapprove] of attempts to ban references to Christmas.”…READ MORE

Political Musings November 25, 2013: Obama faces opposition to Iran nuclear weapons deal from Israel, GOP & Canada

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama faces opposition to Iran nuclear weapons deal from Israel, GOP & Canada

By Bonnie K. Goodman

US President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House Saturday November 23, 2013, in Washington about the nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran (photo credit: AP/Susan Walsh)

The P5+1 world superpowers came to an interim deal with Iran to freeze their nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions late Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 during the their third round of talks on the issue in Geneva…READ MORE

Political Headlines November 24, 2013: Iran, World Powers Reach Nuclear Deal

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Iran, World Powers Reach Nuclear Deal

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images(GENEVA) — Iran and six world powers reached a preliminary deal Sunday morning to freeze key parts of Tehran’s nuclear program in return for temporary relief on economic sanctions….READ MORE

%d bloggers like this: