Political Musings May 27, 2014: Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Full Text Obama Presidency May 11, 2014: Weekly Address: First Lady Michelle Obama Marks Mother’s Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The First Lady Marks Mother’s Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria

Source: WH, 5-10-14

The White House

In this week’s address, First Lady Michelle Obama honored all mothers on this upcoming Mother’s Day and offered her thoughts, prayers and support in the wake of the unconscionable terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.

Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama

Weekly Address

May 10, 2014

Hello everyone, I’m Michelle Obama, and on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to take a moment to honor all the mothers out there and wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

I also want to speak to you about an issue of great significance to me as a First Lady, and more importantly, as the mother of two young daughters.

Like millions of people across the globe, my husband and I are outraged and heartbroken over the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.

This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.

And I want you to know that Barack has directed our government to do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to find these girls and bring them home.

In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.

Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way.

But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed.

The girls themselves also knew full well the dangers they might encounter.

Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats…but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams.

They were so determined to move to the next level of their education…so determined to one day build careers of their own and make their families and communities proud.

And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident…it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.

It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan.

Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community…and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.

But fortunately Malala survived…and when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission.

As Malala said in her address to the United Nations, she said “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action.

Because right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school.

Yet, we know that girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives, and have healthier families.

And when more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country’s entire economy.

So education is truly a girl’s best chance for a bright future, not just for herself, but for her family and her nation.

And that’s true right here in the U.S. as well…so I hope the story of these Nigerian girls will serve as an inspiration for every girl – and boy – in this country.

I hope that any young people in America who take school for granted – any young people who are slacking off or thinking of dropping out – I hope they will learn the story of these girls and recommit themselves to their education.

These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world…and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul.

We are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential.

So today, let us all pray for their safe return… let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time…and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.  Thank you.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2014: President Obama and Republic of Korea President Park’s Remarks before Bilateral Meeting

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and President Park of the Republic of Korea before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 4-25-14 

Blue House
Seoul, Republic of Korea

4:21 P.M. KST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I would like to thank President Park for welcoming me here today.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity to come back to the Republic of Korea.  But I am very mindful that my visit comes at a time of deep mourning for the people of this nation and I know that President Park and the South Korean government are focused on responding to the tragedy of the ferry Sewol.

In our press conference later, President Park and I will have the opportunity to address a range of issues that we’ll be discussing here today.  But for now, I just wanted to express on behalf of the American people our deepest sympathies for the incredible and tragic loss that’s taken place.  As allies but also as friends, we join you in mourning the lost and the missing, and especially so many young people, students who represented the vitality and the future of this nation.

So, President Park, I thought that it would be appropriate and fitting for us to begin today by honoring the lost and the missing.  And our delegation, out of respect, would appreciate the opportunity to join together in a moment of silence.

(Moment of silence.)

PRESIDENT PARK:  (As interpreted.)  Mr. President, thank you so much for making this proposal to hold a moment of silence for the victims of the ferry Sewol.  Right after the tragic accident, you personally expressed your condolences and your sympathies, and you were unsparing in providing active U.S. assistance, including the dispatch of salvage vessels.  The Korean people draw great strength and courage from your kindness.

Just as the American people were able to rally together in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and were able to prevail over difficult times, so, too, I am sure that Korean people will, in fact, pull through this moment of crisis and be able to achieve the renewal of the Republic of Korea.

Mr. President, my sincere welcome to you once again on your visit to Korea, and may our summit meeting today kick off the next 60 years and produce very meaningful results that allow us to do so.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, thank you, President Park.  The Republic of Korea is one of our strongest allies in the world.  I’m looking forward to our discussion and to reaffirming America’s unshakeable commitment to South Korea and its security.

One last point I wanted to make — I have with me this American flag that I believe our protocol people have.  In the United States, we have a tradition — after the loss of our servicemembers and veterans, we present a flag in their honor to their loved ones.  This flag was flown over the White House the same day as the sinking of the Sewol.  And in that spirit, I’m presenting this American flag to you and the people of the Republic of Korea on behalf of the American people.  It reflects our deep condolences, but also our solidarity with you during this difficult time, and our great pride in calling you an ally and a friend.

PRESIDENT PARK:  (As interpreted.)  Mr. President, thank you so much again for sharing in our sorrow, the sorrow of the Korean people as well as the bereaved families, and for your gracious gesture.

END
4:30 P.M. KST

Full Text Obama Presidency April 25, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Naturalization Ceremony for Servicemembers

Remarks by President Obama at Naturalization Ceremony for Servicemembers

Source: WH, 4-25-14

The War Memorial of Korea
Seoul, Republic of Korea

1:28 P.M. KST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, good afternoon.  Annyeonghaseyo.  It is an honor to be here at the War Memorial of Korea.  In a few moments, I’ll lay a wreath to pay tribute to our servicemembers who’ve given their lives in defense of our freedom.  And tomorrow, I’ll address our troops and civilians at Yongsan Garrison.

I have said before, I have no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.  And today, I can think of no higher privilege than being here with all of you and your families for this special moment — becoming the newest citizens of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.

I know that each of you have traveled your own path to this moment.  You come from 14 different countries.  Some of you have called Seoul home.  But a day came when each one of you did something extraordinary:  Thirteen of you made the profound decision to put on the uniform of a country that was not yet fully your own.  Seven of you married an American soldier -– and as a military spouse, that means you’ve been serving our country, too.

If there’s anything that this should teach us, it’s that America is strengthened by our immigrants.  I had a chance to talk to our Ambassador and our Commander here, and I said to them that there’s no greater strength, no greater essence of America than the fact that we attract people from all around the world who want to be part of our democracy.  We are a nation of immigrants — people from every corner, every walk of life, who picked up tools to help build our country, who started up businesses to advance our country, who took up arms to defend our country.

What makes us Americans is something more than just the circumstances of birth, what we look like, what God we worship, but rather it is a joyful spirit of citizenship.  Citizenship demands participation and responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.  And few embody that more than our men and women in uniform.

If we want to keep attracting the best and the brightest, the smartest and the most selfless the world has to offer, then we have to keep this in mind:  the value of our immigrants to our way of life.  It is central to who we are; it’s in our DNA.  It’s part of our creed.  And that means moving forward we’ve got to fix our broken immigration system and pass common-sense immigration reform.

This is a huge advantage to us — the talent that we attract.  We don’t want to make it harder; we want to make it more sensible, more efficient.  That’s why I’m going to keep on pushing to get this done this year, so that others like the young men and women here have the opportunity to join our American family and serve our great nation.

Today, I’m thrilled that, in a few moments, I’ll get to call each of you my fellow Americans.  I am so proud to be sharing this stage with you today.  Congratulations.  But I don’t want to talk too long because I’m not the main event.  Thank you very much for your service.  (Applause.)

END
1:32 P.M. KST

Full Text Obama Presidency April 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech to Miraikan Science and Youth Expo in Japan

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama to Miraikan Science and Youth Expo

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks at the Miraikan Science Expo

President Obama Speaks at the Miraikan Science Expo

Source: WH,  4-24-14

Miraikan Museum Tokyo, Japan

3:27 P.M. JST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Konnichiwa.  Please sit down.  Thank you so much.  Well, I want to thank Dr. Mohri and everyone at The Miraikan for welcoming me here today.  And it is wonderful to see all of these outstanding students.  Dr. Mohri is a veteran of two space shuttle missions, embodies the spirit that brings us here together —- the incredible cooperation in science and technology between Japan and the United States.

I want to thank all the students that I had a chance to meet with as we went around the various exhibits.  We heard a message from the international space station.  We saw some truly amazing robots — although I have to say the robots were a little scary. They were too lifelike.  They were amazing.  And these students showed me some of their experiments, including some soccer-playing robots that we just saw.  And all of the exhibits I think showed the incredible breakthroughs in technology and science that are happening every single day.

And historically, Japan and the United States have been at the cutting-edge of innovation.  From some of the first modern calculators decades ago to the devices that we hold in our hands today — the smartphones that I’m sure every young person here uses — Japan and the United States have often led the way in the innovations that change our lives and improve our lives.

And that’s why I’m so pleased that the United States and Japan are renewing the 10-year agreement that makes so much of our science and technology cooperation possible.  Both of our societies celebrate innovation, celebrate science, celebrate technology.  We’re close partners in the industries of tomorrow. And it reminds us why it’s so important for us to continue to invest in science, technology, math, engineering.  These are the schools — these are the skills that students like all of you are going to need for the global economy, and that includes our talented young women.

Historically, sometimes young women have been less represented in the sciences, and one of the things that I’ve really been pushing for is to make sure that young women, just like young men, are getting trained in these fields, because we need all the talent and brainpower to solve some of the challenges that we’re going to face in the future.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Abe and I announced a new initiative to increase student exchanges, including bringing more Japanese students to the United States.  So I hope you’ll come.  Welcome.  And it’s part of our effort to double students exchanges in the coming years.  As we saw today, young people like you have at your fingertips more technology and more power than even the greatest innovators in previous generations. So there’s no limit to what you can achieve, and the United States of America wants to be your partner.

So I’m very proud to have been here today.  I was so excited by what I saw.  The young people here were incredibly impressive.  And as one of our outstanding astronauts described, as we just are a few days after Earth Day, it’s important when we look at this globe and we think about how technology has allowed us to understand the planet that we share, and to understand not only the great possibilities but also the challenges and dangers from things like climate change — that your generation is going to help us to find answers to some of the questions that we have to answer.  Whether it’s:  How do we feed more people in an environment in which it’s getting warmer? How do we make sure that we’re coming up with new energy sources that are less polluting and can save our environment?  How do we find new medicines that can cure diseases that take so many lives around the globe?  To the robots that we saw that can save people’s lives after a disaster because they can go into places like Fukushima that it may be very dangerous for live human beings to enter into.  These are all applications, but it starts with the imaginations and the vision of young people like you.

So I’m very proud of all of you and glad to see that you’re doing such great work.  You have counterparts in the United States who share your excitement about technology and science.  I hope you get a chance to meet them.  I hope you get a chance to visit the United States.  As far as I know, we don’t have one of those cool globes, but we have some other pretty neat things in the United States as well.  And I hope we can share those with you if and when you come.

Thank you very much.  And I just want you to know in closing that I really believe that each of you can make a difference.  Gambatte kudasai.  You can do this thing if you apply yourselves.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END 3:33 P.M. JST

Full Text Obama Presidency April 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Toast at the State Dinner Held in his Honor at Japan’s Imperial Palace

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Toast Remarks by President Obama at State Dinner

Source: WH, 4-24-14 

Imperial Palace
Tokyo, Japan

7:48 P.M. JST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening.  Konbanwa.  Your Majesties, I thank you for the extraordinary welcome that you have given to me and my delegation today, and I thank you for your gracious hospitality tonight.

Prime Minister Abe and Mrs. Abe, distinguished guests and friends:  It has been nearly 50 years since my mother first brought me to Japan, but I have never forgotten the kindness that the Japanese people showed me as a six-year-old boy far away from home.  I remain grateful for the welcome that Your Majesties gave me when I returned here as President, on the 20th anniversary of your ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

And I am deeply honored to be with you as a Guest of State tonight — which is a reflection of the great friendship between our two peoples.

It’s also very humbling.  I stand here as the 44th President of the United States. Your Majesty is the 125th Emperor of Japan. And your family has embodied the spirit of the Japanese people across more than two millennia.  And we feel that spirit here tonight — in His Majesty’s commitment to achieving peace and the resilience of the Japanese people, who despite difficult decades, despite the tragedies of three years ago, continue to inspire the world with your strength and discipline and dignity — your hinkaku.

And I saw that spirit today.  In the glory of the Meiji Shrine, I experienced the beauty of a religious ceremony rooted in Japan’s ancient past.  In my work with Prime Minister Abe, we have strengthened our alliance for today — an alliance that will never be broken.  And in the eager students that I met, and the remarkable technologies that I saw, I glimpsed the future our nations can forge together.

Through all of this, although we are separated by vast oceans, our peoples come together every day in every realm.  We create and build together, sparking new innovations for a changing world.  We study and research together, unlocking new discoveries to cure disease and save lives.  We go to the far corners of the Earth together — to keep the peace and feed the hungry.  And we go to space together to understand the mysteries of the universe.  We stand together in moments of joy — as when Japanese baseball players help propel America’s teams to victory. And we stand together in moments of difficulty and pain, as we did three years ago.

Your Majesty, we will never forget how, in those trying days, you spoke from this palace directly to the people of this nation. And I would like to conclude by recalling the spirit of your message then, because it also remains our wish tonight, for the friendship and alliance between our two peoples.

May we never give up hope.  May we always take care of each other.  And may we continue to live strong for tomorrow.

END
7:53 P.M. JST

Full Text Obama Presidency April 23, 2014: President Obama and Japan Prime Minister Abe’s Remarks Before Bilateral Meeting

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Abe of Japan Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 4-23-14 

Akasaka Palace
Tokyo, Japan

10:33 A.M. JST

PRIME MINISTER ABE:  (As interpreted.)  On behalf of the government and the people of Japan, I would like to sincerely welcome President Obama as our state guest.

At the outset, I would like to once again express my heartfelt gratitude for the assistance from the United States in the aftermath of the great East Japan earthquake.  More than 20,000 servicemembers of the U.S. forces participated in Operation Tomodachi.  And as a matter of fact, Japanese people were greatly encouraged and helped by the assistance extended from the government and the people of the United States.  And I am truly grateful for that.

Japan has been walking on the path of peace based on its peaceful orientation in a consistent manner for the past 70 years after the Second World War.  Japan and the United States share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights, and also we share strategic interests.  And the alliance between these two nations is indispensable and irreplaceable as the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific region.

Your visit to Asia this time is a testament to the U.S. revised policy which attaches importance to this region.  This greatly contributes to regional peace and prosperity, and Japan strongly supports and also certainly welcomes this.

My administration intends to contribute to regional peace and prosperity more practically than ever, in line with the policy of what I call practical contribution to peace based on the principle on international cooperation.  And together with the United States, Japan would like to realize our leading role of the alliance in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous Asia Pacific.

Today, at this meeting, I look forward to having exchanges with you on how the alliance should look like in the future, based on the cooperation we have had so far.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, let me begin by thanking you, Mr. Prime Minister, and your delegation, as well as the Japanese people for the incredibly gracious hospitality that you’ve provided us so far during this visit.

As you indicated, the U.S.-Japan alliance is the foundation for not only our security in the Asia Pacific region but also for the region as a whole.  And we have continued to strengthen it. We are looking at a whole range of issues that are challenging at this time, including the threats posed by North Korea and the nuclearization that’s been taking place in that country.  But because of the strong cooperation between our countries I am confident that we will continue to make progress in the future.

Of course, the bonds between our countries are not restricted to a military alliance.  We represent two of the three largest economies in the world, and we have the opportunity by working together to help shape an open and innovative and dynamic economy throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Our shared democratic values means that we have to work together in multilateral settings to deal with regional hotspots around the globe but also to try to make sure that we are creating a strong set of rules that govern the international order.  And the strong people-to-people bonds that we have and the educational and scientific and cultural exchanges that we have means that our friendship and alliance I’m confident will continue for generations to come.

So I look forward to very productive meetings today.  And I want to once again thank you for your hospitality.  As you said, my visit here I think once again represents my deep belief that a strong U.S.-Japan relationship is not only good for our countries but good for the world.

END
10:44 A.M. JST

Obama Presidency April 22-29, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Asia Trip Spring 2014 Schedule

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Asia Trip Spring 2014

The President’s Trip to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines

April 22 to April 29

President Obama’s fifth trip to Asia during his time in office will underscore a continued focus on the Asia-Pacific region and commitment to his vision of rebalancing to the world’s largest emerging region. The President’s visit to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines will focus on our major priorities in the region: modernizing our alliances; supporting democratic development; advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and commercial ties; investing in regional institutions; and deepening cultural and people-to-people ties.

April 24, 2014

On Board with President Obama in Japan

In Tokyo, the President was received at the Imperial Palace by the Emperor and Empress of Japan, held a press conference with Prime Minister Abe, visited students and robots at Miraikan Science and Youth Expo, and saw Meiji shrine.

April 21, 2014

Previewing the President’s Trip to Asia, Spring 2014

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes previews the President’s trip to Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines during.


President Obama’s April 2014 Asia Trip Schedule

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

  • In the morning, President Obama departs for Tokyo, Japan

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

  • In the afternoon, President Obama arrives in Tokyo, Japan
  • Later, the President joins Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for a private dinner

Thursday, April 24, 2014

  • In the morning, President Obama meets with Emperor Akihito of Japan at the Imperial Palace
  • The President meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Akasaka Palace
  • In the afternoon, the President participates in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe
  • Later, President Obama delivers remarks at a youth and science event with students at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
  • The President visits Meiji Shrine
  • President Obama attends the Japan State Dinner and delivers remarks

Friday, April 25, 2014

  • In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Japan
  • Later that morning, the President bids farewell to the Emperor Akihito of Japan
  • In the afternoon, President Obama travels to Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • The President visits the National War Memorial and participates in a wreath-laying ceremony
  • Later, the President visits Gyengbok Palace
  • President Obama meets with President Park at the Blue House

Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • In the morning, President Obama participates in a roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss trade policy
  • Later, the President participates in a Combined Forces Command Briefing at Yongsan Garrison and delivers remarks
  • In the afternoon, the President travels to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • President Obama participates in an arrival ceremony in Parliament Square
  • Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner and delivers remarks at Istana Negara

Sunday, April 27, 2014

  • In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia
  • Later, the President visits the National Mosque of Malaysia
  • President Obama meets with Prime Minister Najib Razak at Perdana Putra
  • In the afternoon, President Obama attends a working lunch with Prime Minister Najib Razak
  • The President delivers remarks at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center
  • Later, the President participates in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall at the University of Malaysia

Monday, April 28, 2014

  • The President travels to Manila, Philippines, and participates in an arrival ceremony at Malacanang Palace
  • Later that afternoon, President Obama meets with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines
  • President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Aquino
  • The President greets members of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines
  • Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner with President Aquino at Malacanang Palace

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio
  • Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery
  • The President travels back to Washington, D.C.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference on Reaching 8 Million Obamacare Enrollees and the Crisis in Ukraine

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President, 4/17/14

Source: WH, 4-17-14

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT PRESS CONFERENCE

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

**Please see below for a correction marked with asterisks.

3:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Before I begin I just want to express on behalf of the American people our deepest condolences to the Republic of Korea and the families of all those who’ve seen their loved ones lost when a ferry sank within the last couple of days.

Obviously, information is still coming in.  We know that many of the victims of this terrible tragedy were students.  And American Navy personnel and Marines have already been on the scene helping the search and rescue.  As one of our closest allies, our commitment to South Korea is unwavering in good times and in bad, and that’s something I’ll underscore during my visit to Seoul next week.

Before I take questions I’d also like to say a few words about how the Affordable Care Act is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted just a few months ago.

The first open enrollment period under this law ended a little over two weeks ago.  And as more data comes in, we now know that the number of Americans who’ve signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces has grown to 8 million people — 8 million people.  Thirty-five percent of people who enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35.  All told, independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year — with millions more to come next year and the year after.

We’ve also seen signs that the Affordable Care Act is bringing economic security to more Americans.  Before this law added new transparency and competition to the individual market, folks who bought insurance on their own regularly saw double-digit increases in their premiums.  That was the norm.  And while we suspect that premiums will keep rising, as they have for decades, we also know that since the law took effect health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years.

In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, employer-based insurance rose almost 8 percent a year.  Last year, it grew at half that rate.  Under this law, real Medicare costs per person have nearly stopped growing.  The life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 10 years.  And the independent Congressional Budget Office now expects premiums for plans on the marketplace to be 15 percent lower than originally predicted.

So those savings add up to more money that families can spend at businesses, more money that businesses can spend hiring new workers.  And the CBO now says that the Affordable Care Act will be cheaper than recently projected.  Lower costs from  coverage provisions will shrink our deficits by an extra $100 billion.

So the bottom line is, under the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans with insurance is up, the growth of health care costs is down.  Hundreds of millions of Americans who already have insurance now have new benefits and protections from free preventive care to freedom from lifetime caps on your care.  No American with a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer can be denied coverage.  No woman can be charged more just for being a woman.  Those days are over.  And this thing is working.

I’ve said before, this law won’t solve all the problems in our health care system.  We know we’ve got more work to do.  But we now know for a fact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans, and take insurance away from millions more — which is why, as I’ve said before, I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been.

They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working.  They said nobody would sign up; they were wrong about that.  They said it would be unaffordable for the country; they were wrong about that.  They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who would be denied coverage again, or every woman who would be charged more for just being a woman again.

I know every American isn’t going to agree with this law.  But I think we can agree that it’s well past time to move on as a country and refocus our energy on the issues that the American people are most concerned about — and that continues to be the economy.  Because these endless, fruitless repeal efforts come at a cost.  The 50 or so votes Republicans have taken to repeal this law could have been 50 votes to create jobs by investing in things like infrastructure or innovation.  Or 50 votes to make it easier for middle-class families to send their kids to college.  Or 50 votes to raise the minimum wage, or restore unemployment insurance that they let expire for folks working hard to find a new job.

The point is the repeal debate is and should be over.  The Affordable Care Act is working.  And I know the American people don’t want us spending the next two and a half years refighting the settled political battles of the last five years.  They sent us here to repair our economy, to rebuild our middle class, and to restore our founding promise of opportunity — not just for a few, but for all.  And as President, that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing as long as I’m in this office.

With that, I’ll take some questions.  Let’s see who we got.  Kathleen Hennessey of the LA Times.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  It sounds like there’s been some development in the Ukraine talks in Geneva.  I’m just wondering if you could describe your level of confidence in what this agreement is and how you can be sure that Russia will follow through, given some of the remarks from President Putin this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point.  I think there is the possibility, the prospect that diplomacy may deescalate the situation and we may be able to move towards what has always been our goal, which is let the Ukrainians make their own decisions about their own lives.

There was a meeting in Geneva — representatives of the Ukrainian government, the Russian government, the EU, as well as the United States.  It was a lengthy, vigorous conversation.  My understanding is, is that the Ukrainian Prime Foreign** Minister gave a detailed and thorough presentation about the reforms that they intend to introduce, including reforms that provide assurances for Ukrainians who live in eastern and southern Ukraine that they will be fully represented, that their rights will be protected, that Russian speakers and Russian natives in Ukraine will have the full protection of the law.  And my understanding, based on what I’ve heard, is that there was an acknowledgement within the meeting that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv had gone out of its way to address a range of the concerns that may have existed in southern and eastern Ukraine.

There was a promising public statement that indicated the need to disarm all irregular forces and militias and groups that have been occupying buildings.  There was an offer of amnesty to those who would willingly lay down their arms, evacuate those buildings, so that law and order could be restored in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The Russians signed on to that statement.  And the question now becomes will, in fact, they use the influence that they’ve exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralization reforms that they’ve proposed, stabilize their economy, and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy and that their sovereignty will be respected.

We’re not going to know whether, in fact, there’s follow-through on these statements for several days.  And so today I spoke with Chancellor Merkel; later on in the day I’m going to be speaking to David Cameron.  We’re going to be consulting with our European allies.  Over the last week, we have put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual improvement of the situation on the ground.  And we are coordinating now with our European allies.

My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days.  But I don’t think given past performance that we can count on that, and we have to be prepared to potentially respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

If, in fact, we do see improvements, then that will obviously be a positive.  In the meantime, we’re going to make sure that we continue to help the Ukrainian government — working with the IMF, the Europeans and others — to stabilize their economy and to start reforming it.  We’re going to continue to work with our NATO allies to make sure that they are assured that we’re going to meet our Article 5 obligations and that they are secure.

And as I’ve said before — I think I had an interview with Major yesterday in which I mentioned this whole exercise by the Russians is not good for Russia either.  There are, I think, a number of articles today indicating the degree to which an economy that was already stuck in the mud is further deteriorating because of these actions.

And in my conversations with President Putin, I’ve emphasized the same thing, that we have no desire to see further deterioration of the Russian economy.  On the other hand, we are going to continue to uphold the basic principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity for all countries; and that there’s a way for Ukraine to be independent, to be sovereign, and to have positive relationships with both the West and the East, with both its European neighbors and its Russian neighbors.  And that’s our primary concern.

Maria Peña, La Opinión.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ve got a hot spot for you here in the U.S.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said — or claimed that you haven’t learned how to work with them.  And he’s angry that you’re attacking the GOP on the lack of movement on immigration reform.  So I was wondering how you respond to that.

And the second part to that, right now you have hunger strikers across the street demanding relief for undocumented immigrants.  And I was wondering if you can dispel the rumors or if there’s a leak from the White House that you will make some sort of announcement in the coming weeks to expand that relief for the undocumented.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I actually had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Cantor yesterday.

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  I did.  (Laughter.)  You’re always kind of surprised by the mismatch between press releases and the conversation.  I wished him happy Passover.  And what I said to him privately is something that I would share with him — that I’ve said publicly, which is there is bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform.  It would strengthen our economy, it would help with our security, and it would provide relief to families who — many of whom have lived here for years and who have children and family members who are U.S. citizens; and that Congress should act; and that right now what’s holding us back is House Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward.

So it was a pretty friendly conversation.  I think in his press release, I gather he was referring to the observation that we’d made a day earlier that it had now been a year since the Senate had passed a strong bipartisan bill, and that although we had heard a lot of talk about the House Republicans being interested in doing something, nothing had happened yet, and suggesting that we need some urgency here.  I still feel the same way.

I know there are Republicans in the House, as there are Republicans in the Senate, who know this is the right thing to do.  I also know it’s hard politics for Republicans because there are some in their base that are very opposed to this.  But what I also know is that there are families all across the country who are experiencing great hardship and pain because this is not getting resolved.  I also know that there are businesses around the country that could be growing even faster, that our deficits could be coming down faster, that we would have more customers in our shops, if we get this thing resolved.

We know what the right thing to do is.  It’s a matter of political will.  It’s not any longer a matter of policy.  And I’m going to continue to encourage them to get this done.

As far as our actions, Jeh Johnson, our new head of the  Department of Homeland Security, has been talking to everybody  — law enforcement, immigrant rights groups — to do a thorough-going review of our approach towards enforcement.  And we’re doing that in consultation with Democrats and Republicans and with any interested party.

I do think that the system we have right now is broken.  I’m not alone in that opinion.  The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action.  We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could.  We’re going to review it one more time to see if there’s more that we can do to make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with I think the attitudes of the American people, which is we shouldn’t be in the business necessarily of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding.

And so let me –

Q    Do you have a time?

THE PRESIDENT:  I won’t get into timing right now because Mr. Johnson is going to go ahead and do that review.

Tamara Keith.

Q    So you — regarding the Affordable Care Act, I think you –

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, let’s talk about that.  (Laughter.)

Q    Since you brought it up.  (Laughter.)  I think everyone agrees that it has flaws.  But Democrats have been sort of reluctant in Congress to reopen the conversation, and Republicans have been more than happy to reopen the conversation but in a different way.  Now that, as you say, it’s here to stay, there are so many people that signed up, in this environment is it possible to do the kind of corrections that the business community and many others would like to see — sort of small, technical corrections?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is absolutely possible, but it will require a change in attitude on the part of the Republicans.

I have always said from the outset that on any large piece of legislation like this, there are going to be things that need to be improved, need to be tweaked.  I said that I think the day I signed the bill.  And I don’t think there’s been any hesitation on our part to consider ideas that would actually improve the legislation.  The challenge we have is, is that if you have certain members in the Republican Party whose view is making it work better is a concession to me, then it’s hard in that environment to actually get it done.

And I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief — anger and denial and all that stuff — and we’re not at acceptance yet.  But at some point, my assumption is, is that there will be an interest to figure out how do we make this work in the best way possible.

We have 8 million people signed up through the exchanges.  That doesn’t include the 3 million young people who are able to stay on their parents’ plan.  It doesn’t include the 3 million people who benefited from expansions to Medicaid.  So if my math is correct, that’s 14 million right there.  You’ve got another 5 million people who signed up outside of the marketplaces but are part of the same insurance pool.  So we’ve got a sizable part of the U.S. population now in the first — for the first time in many cases, in a position to enjoy the financial security of health insurance.

And I’m meeting them as I’m on the road.  I saw a woman yesterday — young woman, maybe 34, with her mom and her dad, and she’s got two small kids and self-employed husband, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And this isn’t an abstraction to her.  She is saving her home.  She is saving her business.  She is saving her parents’ home, potentially, because she’s got health insurance, which she just could not afford.

And the question now becomes if, in fact, this is working for a lot of people but there are still improvements to make, why are we still having a conversation about repealing the whole thing, and why are we having folks say that any efforts to improve it are somehow handing Obama a victory?  This isn’t about me.  And my hope is, is that we start moving beyond that.  My suspicion is that probably will not happen until after November because it seems as if this is the primary agenda item in the Republican political platform.

But here’s what I know:  The American people would much rather see us talk about jobs, would much rather see us talk about high college costs, would much rather see us discussing how we can rebuild our roads and our bridges and our infrastructure and put people back to work.  They’d much rather see us talk about how we’d boost wages and boost incomes and improve their individual family bottom lines.

And if the Republicans want to spend the entire next six months or year talking about repealing a bill that provides millions of people health insurance without providing any meaningful alternative, instead of wanting to talk about jobs and the economic situation of families all across the country, that’s their prerogative.  At some point I think they’ll make the transition.  That’s my hope, anyway.  If not, we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing, which is making it work for people all across the country.

I’m sorry, I’m going to say one last thing about this, just because this does frustrate me:  States that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite.  You’ve got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons.  They have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.  That’s wrong.  It should stop.  Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else.

Isaac, from Politico.  Where are you, Isaac?  There you are.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Given all that you were just saying about the Affordable Care Act, do you think it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits of Obamacare?  Will you lead that charge?

And on Ukraine, you’ve said in other situations — Iran, for example — that the military option remains on the table even as talks go on.  Is the military option on the table with Russia?  And if so, would that be through NATO forces, through lethal aid to Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, keep in mind I think I’ve been very clear that military options are not on the table in Ukraine because this is not a situation that would be amenable to a clear military solution.  What we have to do is to create an environment in which irregular forces disarm, that the seizing of buildings cease, that a national dialogue by Ukrainians — not by Russians, not by Americans or anybody else, but by Ukrainians — takes place.  They move forward with reforms that meet the interests of the various groups within Ukraine, they move forward with elections, and they start getting their economic house in order.  That’s what’s going to solve the problem.

And so obviously, Russia right now still has its forces amassed along the Ukrainian-Russian border as a gesture of intimidation.  And it is our belief — and not ours alone — but I think broad portions of the international community believe that Russia’s hand is in the disruptions and chaos that we’ve been seeing in southern and eastern Ukraine.  But there is an opportunity for Russia to take a different approach.  We are encouraging them to do so.

In the meantime, we’re going to prepare additional responses should Russia fail to take a different course.  We’ve already had an impact on their economy that is well documented.  It could get significantly worse.  But we don’t have an interest in hurting ordinary Russians just for the sake of it.  Our strong preference would be for Mr. Putin to follow through on what is a glimmer of hope coming out of these Geneva talks.  But we’re not going to count on it until we see it.  And in the meantime, we’re going to prepare what our other options are.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act, my point is that we’ve been having a political fight about this for five years.  We need to move on to something else.  That’s what the American people are interested in.  I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people like the woman I just described who I saw in Pennsylvania yesterday we’re helping because of something we did.  I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it.  I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.

I think what the other side is doing and what the other side is offering would strip away protections from those families and from hundreds of millions of people who already had health insurance before the law passed, but never knew if the insurance company could drop them when they actually needed it, or women who were getting charged more just because they were a woman.  I’m still puzzled why they’ve made this their sole agenda item when it comes to our politics.  It’s curious.

But what I intend to talk about is what the American people are interested in hearing:  Our plans for putting people back to work; our plans for making sure our economy continues to innovate; our plans to make sure that, as I discussed yesterday, we’re training people for the jobs that are out there right now and making better use of our community colleges and linking them up with businesses; and how we’re going to continue to bring manufacturing back the way we have over the last several years; and how we’re going to put more money in the pockets of ordinary people.

So if they want to — if Republicans want to spend all their time talking about repealing a law that’s working, that’s their business.  I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive, but we need to move on and focus on other things that are really important to the American people right now.

David Jackson.

Q    Yes, sir.  Thank you.  One reason the Republicans talk about it is there are people who object to the law who said they’ve had problems with the law, and there are a significant number of opponents of the law.  I guess my question is, what makes you think a significant majority of the American people, of voters, will accept this law?  Or are we destined to see health care as a 50/50, red state/blue state argument for years to come?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think you’re mixing up two things here, David.  You said there are people who have seen problems with the law.  That’s not 50 percent of the American people.  There may have been folks who have been affected in ways that they weren’t happy about — by the law.  That is a far smaller number than the millions of people who’ve been signed up.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about it.  That’s an area where, as I said to Tamara, we should be open to other ways that we can make it even better.  So that’s objective facts and real problems out there.

The other side of it is just polling, right, what’s the general opinion of the law — which is attached to general opinions about me or about Democrats and partisanship in the country generally.

My view is that the longer we see the law benefiting millions of people, the more we see accusations that the law is hurting millions of people being completely debunked — as some of you in the press have done — and the more the average American who already has health insurance sees that it’s actually not affecting them in an adverse way, then it becomes less of a political football — which is where I want it to be.  This shouldn’t be a political football.  This should be something that we take for granted, that in this country you should be able to get affordable health care regardless of how wealthy you are.

Now, the larger issue about whether we can move past the polarization and sort of the bitter political debates between Democrats and Republicans, of which Obamacare is just one small part, that’s going to take more time.  But it’s not for lack of trying on my part.  And I think that I speak for all Democrats in saying we would much prefer a constructive conversation with the Republicans about how do we get some stuff done, and let’s focus on some areas that the American people really care about.

On jobs, we know that infrastructure would put people back to work right now and it would improve our economy for the long term.  It didn’t used to be a partisan issue.  Why aren’t we coming up with a way to make sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges, and improving our air traffic control system?  There’s no reason that has to be political.  There really isn’t any ideological disagreement on that.  And I guarantee you after this winter, if you look at the potholes that are the size of canyons all across big chunks of the United States, that people would like to see an infrastructure bill.  Let’s get it done.

Q    How long before health care ceases to become a political football, do you think?  Are we talking years?  Months?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s hard to say.  It’s interesting, I spoke at the LBJ Library the other day, and most of us weren’t around to pay real close attention to those debates, or they’re pretty distant now in the past.  Apparently it took several years before people realized, hey, Medicare actually works and it’s lifting a lot of seniors out of despair and poverty.

So we’ve been through this cycle before.  It happens each and every time we make some strides in terms of strengthening our commitments to each other and we expand some of these social insurance programs.

There’s a lot of fear-mongering and a lot of political argument and debate, and a lot of accusations are flung back and forth about socialized medicine and the end of freedom.  And then it turns out that, you know what, it’s working for a lot of folks, and we still live in a free-market society and the Constitution is intact.  And then we move on.  And I don’t know how long it’s going to take.  But in the meantime, how about us focusing on some things that the American people really care about?

Thank you, everybody.

END
4:13 P.M. EDT

 

Political Musings April 7, 2014: George W. Bush exhibits his portraits of world leaders at presidential library

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

George W. Bush exhibits his portraits of world leaders at presidential library

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Former President George W. Bush unveiled on Friday, April 4, 2014 a new exhibition entitled “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy” at his presidential library and center, the George W. Bush Presidential Center…READ MORE

RELATED LINKS

Full Text Political Transcripts March 8, 2014: Sarah Palin’s Speech at CPAC 2014 Dr. Seus & Criticizes Obama’s Ukraine Policy — Excerpts

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Sarah Palin’s CPAC 2014 Speech

Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

“How do you convey to Putin the threat that sounds like ‘Vladimir don’t mess around or you’re going to feel my flexibility because I’ve got a phone and I’ve got a pen and I can dial really fast and poke you with my pen — pinkie promise.’”

“I’m probably being too hard on the president. After all, who could’ve seen this coming?”

“Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

“Hey Democrats! It’s your leaders who are demeaning women. Liberals seem to think the women of America are cheap dates.”

“I do believe that the eyes of America are open. Unfortunately though, some would want you to hit the snooze button and roll back over. Like ‘Hush America, go back to sleep little lambs,’ Some of these folks are in the GOP establishment.”

“Thank you, Texas because liberty needs a Congress on Cruz control. The awakening began, and Sen. Ted Cruz helped keep them awake. His filibuster, it worked in waking people up to the folly of a government takeover.”

“He told his colleagues it was time, time to stand up, time to use the tools of the Constitution, the power of the purse and to fulfill their campaign promises and to stop Obamacare. But our army balked. We hoped that they were just reloading, but instead they retreated, and worse, worse, they joined the lapdogs in the lamestream to trash the foot soldiers who had fought for America.”

“I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his healthcare scam. I do not like these dirty crooks or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress stills. I do not like their crony deals. I do not like the spying man. I do not like ‘Oh yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree. We’re smart we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope. And we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope. Hat tip the Internet.”

“Run, Sarah, Run!”

“I should, I didn’t get to run this morning. I was so busy. Did some hot yoga and didn’t get to run.”

Political Musings March 7, 2014: Obama, Congress takes action with Russia sanctions and Ukraine aid

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, Congress takes action with Russia sanctions and Ukraine aid

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In less than a week after President Barack Obama warned Russia that there would be “costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” on Thursday, March 6, 2014 the president followed through on his warning slapping unilateral travel and…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement Discusses Efforts to Address the Ongoing Crisis in Ukraine, Russia Sanctions

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Discusses Efforts to Address the Ongoing Crisis in Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-6-14
President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White HousePresident Barack Obama delivers a statement on Ukraine in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivered a statement on efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine from the Brady Press Briefing Room….READ MORE

Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-6-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Before Jay takes some of your questions, I wanted to provide a brief update on our efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Since the Russian intervention, we’ve been mobilizing the international community to condemn this violation of international law and to support the people and government of Ukraine.

This morning I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.

According to my guidance, the State Department has also put in place restrictions on the travel of certain individuals and officials.  These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea.  And they also give us the flexibility to adjust our response going forward based on Russia’s actions.

We took these steps in close coordination with our European allies.  I’ve spoken to several of our closest friends around the world, and I’m pleased that our international unity is on display at this important moment.  Already, we’ve moved together to announced substantial assistance for the government in Kyiv, and today in Brussels, our allies took similar steps to impose costs on Russia.  I am confident that we are moving forward together, united in our determination to oppose actions that violate international law and to support the government and people of Ukraine.

And that includes standing up for the principle of state sovereignty.  The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukrainian constitution and violate international law.  Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine.  In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.

While we take these steps, I want to be clear that there is also a way to resolve this crisis that respects the interests of the Russian Federation, as well as the Ukrainian people.  Let international monitors into all of Ukraine, including Crimea, to ensure the rights of all Ukrainians are being respected, including ethnic Russians.  Begin consultations between the government of Russia and Ukraine, with the participation of the international community.  Russia would maintain its basing rights in Crimea, provided that it abides by its agreements and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  And the world should support the people of Ukraine as they move to elections in May.

That’s the path of de-escalation, and Secretary Kerry is engaged in discussions with all of the relevant parties, including Russia and Ukraine to pursue that path.  But if this violation of international law continues, the resolve of the United States, and our allies and the international community will remain firm.  Meanwhile, we’ve taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to the security and democracy of our allies in Eastern Europe and to support the people of Ukraine.

One last point — there’s been a lot of talk in Congress about these issues.  Today, once again, I’m calling on Congress to follow up on these words with action, specifically to support the IMF’s capacity to lend resources to Ukraine and to provide American assistance for the Ukrainian government so that they can weather this storm and stabilize their economy, make needed reforms, deliver for their people, all of which will provide a smoother pathway for the elections that have already been scheduled in May.

Today the world can see that the United States is united with our allies and partners in upholding international law and pursuing a just outcome that advances global security and the future that the Ukrainian people deserve.  That’s what we’re going to continue to do in the days to come until we have seen a resolution to this crisis.

Thanks very much.  And Jay and Ben and others will be happy to take your questions.

END
1:10 P.M. EST

Statement by the Press Secretary on Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-6-14

Watch the Video

President Obama Speaks on Ukraine
March 06, 2014 7:06 PM

President Obama Speaks on Ukraine

As President Obama has made clear, the United States is pursuing and reviewing a wide range of options in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – actions that constitute a threat to peace and security and a breach of international law, including Russia’s obligations under the UN Charter and of its 1997 military basing agreement with Ukraine, and that are inconsistent with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and the Helsinki Final Act.

Pursuant to the President’s guidance, today the State Department is putting in place visa restrictions on a number of officials and individuals, reflecting a policy decision to deny visas to those responsible for or complicit in threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  This new step stands in addition to the policy already implemented to deny visas to those involved in human rights abuses related to political oppression in Ukraine.

In addition, the President has signed an Executive Order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine; threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; contributing to the misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine; or purporting to assert governmental authority over any part of Ukraine without authorization from the Ukrainian government in Kyiv.  This E.O. is a flexible tool that will allow us to sanction those who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine, including the military intervention in Crimea, and does not preclude further steps should the situation deteriorate.

These actions build upon the previous actions the United States has taken, including suspending bilateral discussions with Russia on trade and investment; suspending other bilateral meetings on a case-by-case basis; putting on hold U.S.-Russia military-to-military engagement, including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits, and planning conferences; and our agreement with G-7 nations to suspend for the time being our participation in activities associated with the preparation of the scheduled G-8 Summit in Sochi in June.  Depending on how the situation develops, the United States is prepared to consider additional steps and sanctions as necessary.

At the same time, as the President has said, we seek to work with all parties to achieve a diplomatic solution that de-escalates the situation and restores Ukraine’s sovereignty.  We call on Russia to take the opportunity before it to resolve this crisis through direct and immediate dialogue with the Government of Ukraine, the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces to their bases, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and support for the urgent deployment of international observers and human rights monitors who can assure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians, and who can support the Ukrainian government’s efforts to hold a free and fair election on May 25.

As we follow developments in Ukraine closely, the United States reaffirms its unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty.  We will continue to pursue measures that reinforce those commitments, to include the provision of additional support to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission and our aviation detachment in Poland.

###

Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Russia President Vladimir Putin’s Military Action in the Ukraine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Russia President Vladimir Putin’s Military Action in the Ukraine

Source: WH, 3-4-14

Q    Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, Mike.

Q    Do you have response to President Putin’s press conference this morning?  Is Chancellor Merkel right that he’s lost touch with reality?  And have you spoken with him again personally?

THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t spoken to him since I spoke to him this past weekend.  But obviously, me and my national security team have been watching events unfolding in Ukraine very closely.  I met with them again today.  As many of you know, John Kerry is in Kyiv as we speak, at my direction.  He’s expressing our full support for the Ukrainian people.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been working with our partners and with the IMF to build international support for a package that helps to stabilize Ukraine’s economy.  And today we announced a significant package of our own to support Ukraine’s economy, and also to provide them with the technical assistance that they need.  So it includes a planned loan guarantee package of $1 billion.  It provides immediate technical expertise to Ukraine to repair its economy.  And, importantly, it provides for assistance to help Ukraine plan for elections that are going to be coming up very soon.

As I said yesterday, it is important that Congress stand with us.  I don’t doubt the bipartisan concern that’s been expressed by the situation in Ukraine.  There is something immediately Congress can do to help us, and that is to help finance the economic package that can stabilize the economy in Ukraine, help to make sure that fair and free elections take place very soon, and as a consequence, helps to deescalate the crisis.

In the meantime, we’re consulting with our international allies across the board.  Together, the international community has condemned Russia’s violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.  We’ve condemned their intervention in Crimea.  And we are calling for a de-escalation of the situation, and international monitors that can go into the country right away.

And, above all, we believe that the Ukrainian people should be able to decide their own future, which is why the world should be focused on helping them stabilize the situation economically and move towards the fair and free elections that are currently scheduled to take place in May.

There have been some reports that President Putin is pausing for a moment and reflecting on what’s happened.  I think that we’ve all seen that — from the perspective of the European Union, the United States, allies like Canada and Japan, and allies and friends and partners around the world — there is a strong belief that Russia’s action is violating international law.  I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don’t think that’s fooling anybody.

I think everybody recognizes that although Russia has legitimate interests in what happens in a neighboring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside of that state.  We have said that if, in fact, there is any evidence out there that Russian speakers or Russian natives or Russian nationals are in any way being threatened, there are ways of dealing with that through international mechanisms.  And we’re prepared to make sure that the rights of all Ukrainians are upheld.  And, in fact, in conversations that we’ve had with the government in Kyiv, they have been more than willing to work with the international community and with Russia to provide such assurances.

So the fact that we are still seeing soldiers out of their barracks in Crimea is an indication to which what’s happening there is not based on actual concern for Russian nationals or Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, but is based on Russia seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country.  That is not how international law is supposed to operate.

I would also note just the way that some of this has been reported, that there’s a suggestion somehow that the Russian actions have been clever strategically.  I actually think that this has not been a sign of strength but rather is a reflection that countries near Russia have deep concerns and suspicions about this kind of meddling, and if anything, it will push many countries further away from Russia.

There is the ability for Ukraine to be a friend of the West’s and a friend of Russia’s as long as none of us are inside of Ukraine trying to meddle and intervene, certainly not militarily, with decisions that properly belong to the Ukrainian people.  And that’s the principle that John Kerry is going to be speaking to during his visit.  I’ll be making additional calls today to some of our key foreign partners, and I suspect I’ll be doing that all week and in through the weekend.

But as I indicated yesterday, the course of history is for people to want to be free to make their own decisions about their own futures.  And the international community I think is unified in believing that it is not the role of an outside force — where there’s been no evidence of serious violence, where there’s been no rationale under international law — to intervene in people trying to determine their own destiny.

So we stand on the side of history that I think more and more people around the world deeply believe in — the principle that a sovereign people, an independent people are able to make their own decisions about their own lives.  And Mr. Putin can throw a lot of words out there, but the facts on the ground indicate that right now he’s not abiding by that principle.  There is still the opportunity for Russia to do so, working with the international community to help stabilize the situation.

And we’ve sent a clear message that we are prepared to work with anybody if their genuine interest is making sure that Ukraine is able to govern itself.  And as I indicated before, and something that I think has not been emphasized enough, they are currently scheduled to have elections in May.  And everybody in the international community should be invested in making sure that the economic deterioration that’s happened in Ukraine stops, but also that these elections proceed in a fair and free way in which all Ukrainians, including Russian speakers inside of Ukraine, are able to express their choice of who should lead them.

And if we have a strong, robust, legitimate election, then there shouldn’t be any question as to whether the Ukrainian people govern themselves without the kinds of outside interference that we see Russia exerting.

All right, thank you very much, everybody.

Full Text Obama Presidency February 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement Warning Russia Against Military Intervention in the Ukraine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source:  WH, 2-28-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody.

Over the last several days, the United States has been responding to events as they unfold in Ukraine.  Throughout this crisis, we have been very clear about one fundamental principle: The Ukrainian people deserve the opportunity to determine their own future.  Together with our European allies, we have urged an end to the violence and encouraged Ukrainians to pursue a course in which they stabilize their country, forge a broad-based government and move to elections this spring.

I also spoke several days ago with President Putin, and my administration has been in daily communication with Russian officials, and we’ve made clear that they can be part of an international community’s effort to support the stability and success of a united Ukraine going forward, which is not only in the interest of The people of Ukraine and the international community, but also in Russia’s interest.

However, we are now deeply concerned by reports of military movements taken by the Russian Federation inside of Ukraine.  Russia has a historic relationship with Ukraine, including cultural and economic ties, and a military facility in Crimea, but any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be deeply destabilizing, which is not in the interest of Ukraine, Russia, or Europe.

It would represent a profound interference in matters that must be determined by the Ukrainian people.  It would be a clear violation of Russia’s commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty and borders of Ukraine, and of international laws.  And just days after the world came to Russia for the Olympic Games, it would invite the condemnation of nations around the world.  And indeed, the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

The events of the past several months remind us of how difficult democracy can be in a country with deep divisions.  But the Ukrainian people have also reminded us that human beings have a universal right to determine their own future.

Right now, the situation remains very fluid.  Vice President Biden just spoke with Prime Minister — the Prime Minister of Ukraine to assure him that in this difficult moment the United States supports his government’s efforts and stands for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and democratic future of Ukraine.  I also commend the Ukrainian government’s restraint and its commitment to uphold its international obligations.

We will continue to coordinate closely with our European allies.  We will continue to communicate directly with the Russian government.  And we will continue to keep all of you in the press corps and the American people informed as events develop.

Thanks very much.

END
5:09 P.M. EST

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