Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr on Easing Student Loan Debt

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q&A with David Karp, CEO of Tumblr

Source: WH, 6-10-14

State Dining Room

4:15 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Hi.

THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t have to be so formal.  (Laughter.)  Sheesh.  Come on, now.

MR. KARP:  This is unusual.  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, and welcome to the White House.  Thank you for having us, Mr. President.  I’m David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, and it is my tremendous privilege to be here with President Obama today and joined by the Tumblr community.  Thank you for joining us, everyone.

Yesterday, the President signed an executive order intended to curb the pain of student debt.  Americans now hold more than a trillion dollars in student debt, one of the greatest expenses they’ll incur in their lifetime.  And the generation that’s just reaching college age is beginning to wonder if it’s even worth it.

One-third of Americans who have applied for an education loan this year also happen to use Tumblr, so last week we asked our audience if they had questions that they’d like to ask the President about the cost value and accessibility of higher education — turns out they had quite a few.  We’re not going to be able to get through all of them today, but the President has been kind enough to give us some time at his house to answer some of those questions.  (Laughter.)

So again, huge thank you for making yourself available today.  Anything you’d like to add before we start?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this is a rental house.  (Laughter.)  I just want to be clear.  My lease runs out in about two and a half years.

Second of all, I want to thank David and the whole Tumblr community for participating in this.  We’re constantly looking for new ways to reach audiences that are relevant to the things we’re talking about.  And, obviously, young people disproportionately use Tumblr.  A lot of Tumblr users are impacted by student debt.  So for you to be able to give us this forum to speak directly to folks is wonderful, and I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of good questions.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  Okay, so everybody is clear on how the questions work — so since we closed for questions at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, we brought together a team of influential Tumblr bloggers who helped us select some of the best questions.  There are — a few of them, anyway, are joining us in the audience in the State Dining Room here today.  Neither the White House nor the President have seen any of these questions in advance.

Should we get started?

THE PRESIDENT:  Let’s go.

MR. KARP:  All right.  So, first came in from Caitlin (ph).  I appreciate your willingness to work with legislators to attempt to retroactively diffuse the cost of some student’s loans by creating new repayment plans, but this seems to me like an attempt to put a band aid on a broken leg.  What are we doing to actually lower the cost of a college degree — excuse me — of college tuition so these loans will no longer be necessary?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question.  Let me give people some context for what’s happened over the last 20, 30 years.

I graduated from college in ’83; graduated from law school in 1990.  And although I went to a private school, through a combination of grants, loans and working I had a fairly low level of debt that I was able to pay in one year without getting an incredibly well-paying job.  I was able to keep my debt burden pretty low.  Folks who were 10 years younger than me, they probably paid even less.  And if you went to a state school at the time, typically people would come out with almost no debt whatsoever.

Today, the average debt burden, even for young people who are going to a public university, is about $30,000.  And that gives you some sense of how much the cost has escalated for the average young person.

Now, you mentioned earlier some people are wondering, is this a good investment.  It absolutely is.  The difference between a college grad and somebody with a high school diploma is about $28,000 a year in income.  So it continues to be a very smart investment for you to go to college.  But we have to find ways to do two things.

One is we have to lower the costs on the front end.  And then, if you do have to supplement whatever you can pay with borrowing, we’ve got to make sure that that is a manageable debt.  And about 12 months ago, maybe 16 months ago, I convened college and university presidents around the country to start working with them on how we could lower debt — or lower tuition, rather.

The main reason that tuition has gone up so much is that state legislatures stopped subsidizing public universities as much as they used to, in part because they started spending money on things like prisons and other activities that I think are less productive.  And so schools then made up for the declining state support by jacking up their tuition rates.

What’s also happened is, is that the costs of things like health care that a university community with a lot of personnel has to shoulder, those costs have gone up faster than wages and incomes.  The combination of those things has made college tuition skyrocket faster than health care costs have.

There are ways we can bring down those costs, and we know that because there are some colleges who have done a very good job in keeping tuition low.  We also have to do a better job of informing students about how to keep their debt down — because, frankly, universities don’t always counsel young people well when they first come in; they say, don’t worry about it, you can pay for it — not realizing that you’re paying for it through borrowing that you’re going to end up having to shoulder once you graduate.

MR. KARP:  What does that help, what does that support look like?  So Chelsea sent in a very similar question from Portland.  So she asks:  “Colleges help students get into debt.  They don’t often help offer financial planning services before school, after they graduate.”

Do you guys have a plan to help students make sound financial decisions?  I mean, these are teenagers who are making decisions sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars that are going to follow them through their entire lives.  Hopefully, they have parents who can help them navigate those decisions.  But if they don’t, are they on their own?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are already doing something we call Know What You Owe.  And the idea is to work with every college, university, community college out there so that when you come into school, ideally even before you accept admission from a school, you are given a sense of what your annual loans might be, what your financial package is going to translate into in terms of debt — assuming you go through a four-year degree on schedule, and what your monthly payments are likely to be afterwards.

And so just that one step alone — making sure that schools are obliged to counsel you on the front end when you come in, as opposed to just on the exit interview once you’ve already accumulated the debt — that in and of itself can make a big difference.

MR. KARP:  Understood.  We didn’t get first names for everybody.  So Haiku Moon asks — (laughter) –

THE PRESIDENT:  That might be the first name.  That’s a cool name.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  “It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized what I wanted to do with my life.  Now I have a degree that has very little to do with that goal and a mountain of debt.  I can’t help but wonder if I wasn’t pressured to go to college and was better prepared to make that decision, and if I was better prepared to make that decision, that I might be in a better place to pursue my dreams today.  How can we change the public education system to better prepare and support young people making this huge decision?”  I mean, again, teenagers deciding what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, one of the things that Haiku Moon is alluding to is that high school should be a time in which young people have greater exposure to actual careers as opposed to just classroom study.

And I went to a wonderful school in New York called P-TECH, went there for a visit.  What they’ve done is they have collapsed high school basically into a three-year program.  You can then extend for another two years and get an associate’s degree.  IBM is working with them so that if, in fact, they complete the curriculum that IBM helped to design, they know they’ve got a job at IBM on the back end.  And that’s just one example of what I’d like to see a lot more high schools do, which is give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training.

If you are somebody who is interested in graphic design, I’d rather have you work at a company doing graphic design your senior year or junior year to see if you actually like it, to get a sense of the training you need.  You may not need a four-year degree.  You might only need a two-year degree.  You might be able to work while getting that degree.  All that can save you money.  So that can make a really big difference for high school kids.

At the same time, one of the things that we initiated several years back is something called income-based repayments.  And that’s something I really want to focus on, IBR for short — income-based repayments.  What we did in 2011 was to say all student loans going forward, if you have a debt and you decide you want to go into a job that — like teaching or social work, that doesn’t necessarily pay a lot, you shouldn’t be hampered from making that choice just because you’ve got such a significant debt load.  So what we said was that we will cap your repayments of your loans at 10 percent of your income above $18,000.  And by doing that, that gives people flexibility.  It doesn’t eliminate your debt.  But what it does is it makes it manageable each month so that the career that you choose may not be constrained, and we then have additional programs so that if you go into one of the helping professions — public service, law enforcement, social work, teaching — then over time that debt could actually be forgiven.

Now, the problem with it was that we passed this law in 2011; it only applied going forward.  It didn’t apply retroactively.  So yesterday what I did was sign an executive action saying that the Department of Education is going to be developing rules so that going backwards anybody can avail themselves of this income-based repayments, because I get a lot of letters from people who took out loans in 2005 or 2000 — they are also in a situation where they’re making regular payments but it’s very hard for them to make ends meet.  And we want to ideally finish what’s called the rulemaking process — nothing is easy around here — hopefully by the time — say, the end of next year, the rules will be in place, that will be the law, and then everybody and not just folks who borrowed after 2011 can take advantage of that.

But there’s not a lot of knowledge of this, and I hope that the Tumblr community helps to spread the word that this is something already available for loans that you took out after 2011 and hopefully by next year it will be available for people even if you took out your loans before 2011.

MR. KARP:  Where do we find information about it?

THE PRESIDENT:  You should go to whitehouse.gov, the White House website.  It will then link you to ED.gov, which is the Education Department website.  But whitehouse.gov I figure is easier to remember.  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  Can you elaborate real quick on encouraging public service?  So Josh from Oak Park sent in a really good question about this:  “The U.S. has a long history of encouraging college-age men and women to give back to their larger communities through organizations like the Peace Corps, through organizations like Teach for America.  Couldn’t we make a larger commitment to that by creating tuition loan forgiveness programs for those students who agree to work in those fields or work in those geographic areas in need of skilled employees?”  So you can imagine family practice doctors, you can imagine public defenders.

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, right now we have some programs like this in place but they’re typically relatively small, relatively specialized.  So there are some loan-forgiveness programs for primary care physicians who are going out to rural communities or inner cities or underserved communities.  There are some programs that are available through the AmeriCorps program for people who are engaged in public service.  They are not as broad-based and widespread as I would like.  And we have tried to work with Congress — so far, unsuccessfully — to be able to get an expansion of these areas.

And let’s take health care as an example.  We know that the population is aging.  We know that we have a severe shortage of primary care physicians.  A lot of young doctors are going into specialized fields like dermatology or plastic surgery because you can make a relatively large profit, you don’t end up having a lot of liability, and that’s not really what we need more of.

And so my hope is, is that over time Congress recognizes that young people are our most precious asset.  There are some areas that we know we need people to get into the field, our best and brightest, and right now the financial burdens are precluding them from doing it.  And we could open up those fields to a huge influx of talent if we were a little smarter with it.

MR. KARP:  So you’ve touched on health care in public service and health care in general.  You talk a lot about STEM fields.  So how do we promote — this is one Orta (sp) asked:  “How can we promote growth in STEM fields without putting humanities on the back burner?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to say I was a humanities major.  (Laughter.)  I majored in political science and I minored in English.  And I was pretty good in math, but in high school — I actually loved math and science until I got into high school, and then I misspent those years.  (Laughter.)  And the thing about the humanities was you could kind of talk your way through classes, which you couldn’t do in math and science.  (Laughter.)

So a great liberal arts humanities education is still critically important, because in today’s global economy, one of the most important skills you have is your ability to work with people and communicate clearly and effectively.  Having said that, what is also true is that technology is going to continue to drive innovation.  And just to be a good citizen, you need some background in STEM, and we are not producing enough engineers, enough computer scientists, enough math teachers and science teachers, and enough researchers.

And so I’m putting a big emphasis on STEM in part because we have a shortage; not because I’m privileging one over the other, but because we don’t have as many people going into the STEM fields.  And it starts early.

Part of what we’re trying to do is work with public schools to take away some of the intimidation factor in math and science.  Part of what we’re trying to do is make sure that we are reaching to demographics that are very underrepresented — and, yes, I mean you, women.  Girls are still more likely to be discouraged from pursuing math, science, technology degrees.  You see that imbalance in Silicon Valley, you see it in a lot of high-tech firms.

And so we’re trying to lift up curriculums that are interesting for kids, work with schools in terms of best practices.  One of the things that we’re also discovering is that young people who have an interest in math and science, when they go to college, oftentimes they’re steered into finance because that’s been perceived as the more lucrative option.  And we’re trying to work with universities and departments of engineering, for example, to help mentor young people to understand that — if you look at the top 100 companies in the country, you’ve got a lot more engineers running companies than you do folks who have a finance background.

And so there are great opportunities.  And one of the things that every young person should be thinking about is, A, what’s their passion, what do they care about, but they should also be taking a look at where is there a demand.  And frankly, if you’ve got a science or engineering background, the likelihood of you being unemployed is very low, because there’s always going to be a need — and it doesn’t preclude you from writing a haiku at some point and figuring out some creative outlet.  But having that discipline and that skillset is still going to be invaluable.

MR. KARP:  Well, you just described it as really hard to navigate — again, a teenager making the decision between passion or an industry that’s going to have demand for them.  So great question:  “At this point, I’m stuck between majors.  I know the field I have a passion for has a limited number of jobs, all of which pay very little.  Assuming I get the job, the low income will make it difficult to pay the substantial debt I’ll most likely be in from that education.  There are other fields I know I could succeed in and receive the higher salary, but I’m afraid that one day I’ll realize I hate what I do.”

Question was, how did you decide on your career, and what advice do you have for somebody who is coming up trying to navigate that marketplace with demand or their passions?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well –

MR. KARP:  By the way, one vote for keeping kids out of finance.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Or the law, by the way, because — (laughter) — we have enough lawyers.  Although it’s a fine profession.  (Laughter.)  I can say that because I’m a lawyer.

I think everybody is different.  But I do think that, first of all, when I first got out of school I worked for a year in a job that I wasn’t interested in because I wanted to pay off my loans.

Now, I had the luxury, as I said, that my loan burden was only — was small enough that I could pay it off in a year.  But work is not always fun, and you can’t always follow your bliss right away.  And so I think that young people should be practical.  I know a lot of young people who work for five years in a field that they may not be interested, but it gives them the financial stability and the base from which then to do what they want.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The main advice I would give young people starting off, though, is ultimately you are going to do best at something you care deeply about.  And some people have probably heard this said before, but if you really enjoy what you do, then the line between work and play starts vanishing a little bit.  You still have to grind it out, but you can get into that mindset where the creativity or the effort and the sweat that you’re putting into what you do doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like an expression of what you care about.

And so I think your career is not going to be a straight line all the time.  I think there may be times where you got to take a detour and you got to do something practical to pay the bills.  There are going to be times where you see an opportunity, and you’re making a calculated risk that I’m going to start some wacky company called Tumblr.  (Laughter.)

And how you balance the practical with your highest aspirations is something that will be different for each person.  Everybody is going to have different circumstances.

MR. KARP:  What do you say to kids right now who ask you — they see their passion, they want to build big stuff for the Internet.  They want to build the next big app or the next big social network.  What do you tell them, when they say, hey, look, David, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, all these guys –

THE PRESIDENT:  Just dropped out of school.

MR. KARP:  — might not necessarily deserve to get a company up, but dropped out of school?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I mean you wouldn’t know it looking at you, but you’re like LeBron or Durant.  (Laughter.)  I mean, you guys don’t have the same physiques — (laughter) — but there are only going to be so many Zuckerbergs or Gates who are able to short-circuit the traditional path.

If you can, more power to you.  But let me put it this way: Had you not — let’s say Tumblr had been a bust, right?  Or Facebook had just ended up being some dating site that nobody was really interested in.

MR. KARP:  We’d be in a hard place.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but the truth is also you had the foundation where you could go back to school, right?  I mean, it wasn’t as if you were suddenly operating without a net.  I’m assuming that you would have been readmitted to whatever institution you were in.  And if not, then you would go to another school and you’d do fine.

So the issue is not whether you may not want to take a risk at some point.  The point is that for the average young person an investment in college is always going to be a smart investment.  Making sure you know what it is that you’re investing in is important.

One of the biggest areas where we see a problem is young people who are going, let’s say, to technical schools or community colleges or some of these for-profit universities, they’re promised a lot.  But they haven’t done the research to see, okay, does typically a graduate coming out of one of these schools get a job in the occupation?  Are they actually making money?  If you’re going to have $50,000 worth of debt, you better have factored in what are the employment prospects coming out.

And so I think it’s good for young people — not only good, it’s imperative for young people to be good consumers of education, and don’t just assume that there’s one way of doing things.

We tell our daughters — Malia is now — she’ll be 16 next month, and she’s going to be in the college process.  And we tell her, don’t assume that there are 10 schools that you have to go to, and if you didn’t go to those 10, that somehow things are going to be terrible.  There are a lot of schools out there.  There are a lot of options.  And you should do your research before you decide to exercise one of those options.

Having said that, the overwhelming evidence is that a college education is the surest, clearest path into the middle class for most Americans.

MR. KARP:  Is the White House right now offering any of those tools to be a good a consumer, to navigate all the choices out there?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, yes.  So if you go to whitehouse.gov, which will link you to the Department of Education, one of the things that we’re doing is to — we’re starting to develop a scorecard for colleges and universities so you have just a general sense of what’s the typical graduation rate, what’s the typical debt that you carry once you get out, what is the employment rate for graduates five years afterwards.  And over time, one of the things that we’re trying to do is develop a ranking system that is not exactly the same as the typical college-ranking systems that you see in U.S. News and World Report, for example.

Part of the problem with the traditional ranking systems of schools is that, for example, high cost is actually a bonus in the ranking system.  It indicates prestige, and so there may be some great schools that are expensive, but what you’re missing is a great school that may give you much better value, particularly in the field that you’re in.

Now, there’s some controversy, I want to confess, about — that a lot of colleges and universities say, you know, if you start ranking just based on cost and employability, et cetera, you’re missing the essence of higher education and so forth.  What we’re really trying to do is just identify here are some good bargains, here are some really bad deals.  Then there’s going to be a bunch of schools in the middle that there’s not going to be a huge amount of differentiation.  But what we are trying to do is make sure that students have enough information going into it that they don’t end up in a school that is pretty notorious for piling a lot of debt on their students but not really delivering a great education.

MR. KARP:  Back to the debt, which is top of mind for everybody here today — so Megan (ph) from Tulsa asked an interesting question:  “Of my $220,000 in student loans –

THE PRESIDENT:  Yikes.

MR. KARP:  — from college and law school” — there you go — “less than half is receiving the benefit of loan forgiveness.”  Why is there no discussion on the mounting private student loan debt?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there is a discussion.  The problem is we just end up having less leverage over that.  I mean, the truth is, is that both legislatively and administratively we have some impact on federal loans.  Private loans — if you take — if you go to a private company and you’re taking out a loan, we have the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that is trying to regulate this area and make sure that you have full information about what you’re getting yourself into.  It’s another version of Know Before You Owe.  But it’s harder for us to restructure some of that debt.

Now, one thing that I think is really important for everybody to know here — because this is actual action you can take, as opposed to just listening to me blather on.  This week, there will be a vote in the United States Senate on a bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, the Senator from Massachusetts.  And what this bill would do would allow students to refinance their existing loans at today’s rates.  The reason that’s important is because rates have been low, and typically there’s going to be a pretty big spread between the rates that a lot of students — the interest rates that a lot of students have on their debt right now, versus what they could do if they refinanced, the same way that a lot of people refinance their mortgages to take advantage of historically low rates.

And so this vote is coming up.  It will come up this week.  I think everybody on Tumblr should be contacting their senators and finding out where they stand on the issue, because — and, by the way, this is something that will not add to the deficit, because the way we pay for it is we say that we’re going to eliminate some loopholes right now that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay lower rates of taxes than secretaries and teachers.  And so it would pay for itself.  It’s a good piece of legislation.  It directly affects folks in their 20s and 30s, and in some cases, their 40s and 50s and 60s.  But particularly the young people who use Tumblr, this is something that you should pay a lot of attention to.  Make sure that you are pushing your senators around this issue.

MR. KARP:  Particularly important if you know you’re facing that debt already or you are already today facing that debt.  What’s the best way, though, for people who are — again, they’re thinking about higher education, they’re in school today, and a thoughtful question.  What is the best way for students to have a voice in their own education?  So much education today, I think really — I don’t know, I mean, so many teenagers who feel like education is happening to them.  They’re going through the motions.  They know that this is what they’re supposed to do, and so they follow along.  How do we make sure kids are driving?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, at some point it’s going to be up to the young person to drive that education.  It’s not inevitable that you just fasten your seatbelt and just go on a ride for four years or two years or whatever it is.  I mean, I have to say that in my own college experience, I think the first two years I was there thinking I’m just happy to be here and I’m having fun and I’ll just sort of go through the motions.  My last two years was when I really became much more serious about what I was doing and much more intentional about what I was doing.

Too many young people see — and I’m grossly generalizing now, so excuse me — but I use myself as an example as well.  I think too many of us see college as a box to check or a place to have fun and extend adolescence, as opposed to a opportunity for each of us to figure out what is it that we’re good at, what is it that we care about, what is it that we’re willing to invest a lot of time and effort and energy into, how do we hone some skills or interests or attributes that we already have.  And as a consequence, I think young people waste a lot of time in school.

Now, again, I’m generalizing, because there are a whole bunch of folks who are working while going to school, while helping out their parents — in some cases, they’re already parents themselves.  And so everything I just said does not apply to you.  It’s interesting — one of the reasons I think I did well in law school was because I had worked for three and a half years so that by the time I got to law school I actually knew why I was studying the law, and I knew exactly what I wanted to get out of it — not to mention the fact that the idea of just going to class for three hours a day and then reading didn’t seem particularly oppressive to me, whereas young people who had come straight out of college thought, this is horrible.  Try working for a while and then you realize that this is a pretty good deal.  (Laughter.)

But I think that part of what we as adults have to do goes back to what I said about high schools.  Education is not a passive thing.  You don’t tip your head and somebody pours it into your ear.  It is an active process of you figuring out the world and your place in it.  And the earlier we can help young people — not lock them in.  Look, nobody expects that somebody who is 16 automatically knows exactly what they want to do, and people may change their minds repeatedly.  But what we can do is expose young people to enough actual work and occupations that they start getting a feel for what they would be interested in.  And I really want to work with more school districts, and I’ve asked the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to work with more school districts, and we’re actually giving grants to school districts that are thinking creatively about how high school can be used more effectively.

I don’t want a young person who knows that they want to go into the trades to just waste four years of high school and then they’ve got to go through two years of apprenticeship and classwork before they become a contractor.  I’d rather have them doing contracting while also getting some other educational exposure so that they’re getting a jump on the things that they want to do.  And they can save a lot of money in the process.

MR. KARP:  So Beth asked a question close to that point.  Instead of pushing all students into college, shouldn’t we focus on the other side — increasing the minimum wage and making it viable, livable to enter the workforce straight out of high school?  Should we be doing both?

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, here is what I would say:  There are very few jobs now where you’re not going to need some advanced training.  One of the great things about being President is I get to visit companies and worksites and factories.  And if you go into the average auto company today, for example, first of all, it’s not at all what you’d imagine — it is spotless and it is quiet, and it is humming, because it is all mechanized and computerized at this point.  And even if you have a four-football-field-sized assembly line, most of the people there are working with machines and they’re working on computer keyboards.

So having some basic training in math, some familiarity with computers, some familiarity with programming and code — all that is a huge advantage if you are trying to get a job on an assembly line.  Now, if that’s true for assembly line work, that’s certainly going to be true for any other trade that you’re interested in.

We do have to do a better job of giving young people who are interested an effective vocational education.  And there are tons of opportunities out there for people — here’s an interesting statistic:  The average trade person in Wisconsin — and what I mean by that is an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a machine tool worker — the average age in Wisconsin is 59 years old.  Now, these jobs typically pay 25, 30 bucks an hour, potentially, with benefits.  You can make a really good living doing that, and there are a lot of folks who love doing it.  It’s really interesting work and highly skilled work.

So I don’t want somebody to find out about that when they’re 30, after they’ve already taken a bunch of classes and stuff that they ended up not using; now they’ve got a bunch of debt.  I’d rather, if they got that inclination, to figure that early and be able to go straight into something that helps them get that job.

MR. KARP:  So one question we heard a lot from our community that I wanted to make sure to mention today:  Recently — I think you’ve been following — the Department of Ed’s Office of Civil Rights and DOJ have extended Title IX protections to trans students.  What do you see as the next steps to ensure equal treatment of trans people in schools in America?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Title IX is a powerful tool.  It’s interesting — yesterday I had the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball teams here.  This is only the second time that the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the national championship in the same year.  The previous year was 2004, and it was UConn again.

But what was interesting about it is that the men were kind of a surprise.  It was nice.  The women were dominant.  I mean, the UConn Husky women’s program, they rule.  And they are incredible athletes.  And talking to these young women, they’re poised and they’re beautiful, and some of them are 6’6” and they’re wearing high heels, and supremely confident and competitive.  And that’s a huge shift from even 20 years ago or 30 years ago.  The reason for that was Title IX was applied vigorously in schools, and it gave opportunities — it’s not like women suddenly became athletes.  They were athletic before.  Michelle, when I work out with her, she puts me to shame.  (Laughter.)  But it had more to do with restrictions and opportunity.

So the point I’m making is, is that Title IX is a very powerful tool.  The fact that we are applying it to transgender students means that they are going to be in a position to assert their rights if and when they see that they are being discriminated on their college campuses.  And that could manifest itself in a whole variety of ways.

MR. KARP:  Brilliant.  This one was sent in a few days ago:  “Mr. President, my name is Nick Dineen, and I attend school at the University of California-Santa Barbara.  I was the RA for the floor that George Chen lived on last year as a first-year college student.  I knew him.  Elliot Rodger killed him and five more of my fellow students.  Today, another man has shot and killed at least one person and injured three others at a private Christian school in Seattle.  What are you going to do?  What can we all do?”  And of course, another mass shooting this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I have to say that people often ask me how has it been being President, and what am I proudest of and what are my biggest disappointments.  And I’ve got two and a half years left.  My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage.

We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens.  And it happens now once a week.  And it’s a one-day story.  There’s no place else like this.  A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting similar to Columbine or Newtown.  And Australia just said, well, that’s it — we’re not seeing that again.  And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws.  And they haven’t had a mass shooting since.

Our levels of gun violence are off the charts.  There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this.  Now, we have a different tradition.  We have a Second Amendment.  We have historically respected gun rights.  I respect gun rights.  But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon — it makes no sense.

And I don’t know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed at Santa Barbara.  And as a father myself, I just could not understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out — why aren’t we doing something about this?

And I will tell you, I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me.  The fact that 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.  And so the question then becomes what can we do about it.  The only thing that is going to change is public opinion.  If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.  I’ve initiated over 20 executive actions to try to tighten up some of the rules in the laws, but the bottom line is, is that we don’t have enough tools right now to really make as big of a dent as we need to.

And most members of Congress — and I have to say, to some degree, this is bipartisan — are terrified of the NRA.  The combination of the NRA and gun manufacturers are very well financed and have the capacity to move votes in local elections and congressional elections.  And so if you’re running for office right now, that’s where you feel the heat.  And people on the other side may be generally favorable towards things like background checks and other commonsense rules but they’re not as motivated.  So that’s not — that doesn’t end up being the issue that a lot of you vote on.

And until that changes, until there is a fundamental shift in public opinion in which people say, enough, this is not acceptable, this is not normal, this isn’t sort of the price we should be paying for our freedom, that we can have respect for the Second Amendment and responsible gun owners and sportsmen and hunters can have the ability to possess weapons but that we are going to put some commonsense rules in place that make a dent, at least, in what’s happening — until that is not just the majority of you — because that’s already the majority of you, even the majority of gun owners believe that.  But until that’s a view that people feel passionately about and are willing to go after folks who don’t vote reflecting those values, until that happens, sadly, not that much is going to change.

The last thing I’ll say:  A lot of people will say that, well, this is a mental health problem, it’s not a gun problem.  The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.  (Laughter.)  It’s not the only country that has psychosis.  And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else.  Well, what’s the difference?  The difference is, is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses and that’s sort of par for the course.

So the country has to do some soul searching about this.  This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.  And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions.  But right now, it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and we should be ashamed of that.

MR. KARP:  Thank you for taking the time to answer that one.  Obviously an incredibly difficult and disappointing conversation to have.

It looks like we have time for one more question, so let’s switch over to a lighter one.  There are plenty of young people out there today who are watching your career incredibly closely.  They’re thinking about their futures, their careers, their educations that they’re going off to pursue.  Astonishment asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t projected out 10 years.  I’m really focused on making sure that I make every day in the next two and a half years count, because it’s an incredible privilege to be in this office.  And even when I’m frustrated with Congress or I’m frustrated with the press and how it’s reporting things and Washington generally, I also know that there’s something I can do every single day that’s helping somebody and that sometimes without a lot of fanfare we’re making it easier for a business to get a loan, and we’re making it easier for a young person to get an education, and we’re making it easier for a family to get health care, and making sure that each day I come away with something that we’ve done to make it a little easier for folks to work their way into the middle class, to stay in the middle class, to save for retirement, to finance their kids’ college educations — that’s a good day for me.

I know what I’ll do right after the next President is inaugurated.  I’ll be on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut.  (Laughter.)  But that probably won’t last too long.

And one of the things that Michelle and I have talked about a lot is we’re really interested in developing young people and working with them and creating more institutions to promote young leadership.  I’m so impressed when I meet young people around the country.  They’re full of passion.  They’re full of ideas.  I think they’re much wiser and smarter than I was, part of it maybe is because of Tumblr — I don’t know.  (Laughter.)

And so there’s just huge potential.  And the challenge is they’re also fed a lot of cynicism.  You guys are fed a lot of cynicism every single day about how nothing works and big institutions stink and government is broken.  And so you channel a lot of your passion and energy into various private endeavors.

But this country has always been built both through an individual initiative, but also a sense of some common purpose.  And if there’s one message I want to deliver to young people like a Tumblr audience is, don’t get cynical.  Guard against cynicism.  I mean, the truth of the matter is that for all the challenges we face, all the problems that we have, if you had to be — if you had to choose any moment to be born in human history, not knowing what your position was going to be, who you were going to be, you’d choose this time.  The world is less violent than it has ever been.  It is healthier than it has ever been.  It is more tolerant than it has ever been.  It is better fed then it’s ever been.  It is more educated than it’s ever been.

Terrible things happen around the world every single day, but the trend lines of progress are unmistakable.  And the reason is, is because each successive generation tries to learn from previous mistakes and pushes the course of history in a better direction.  And the only thing that stops that is if people start thinking that they don’t make a difference and they can’t make changes.  And that’s fed in our culture all the time.

It’s fascinating to me — I don’t consume a lot of television, but generally, the culture right now is inherently in a cynical mood in part because we went through a big trauma back in 2007, 2008 with the financial crisis, and we went through a decade of wars that were really tough.  And that’s the era in which you were born.

But look out on the horizon, and there’s a lot of opportunity out there.  And that’s what I’d like to do after the presidency, is make sure that I help young people guard against cynicism and do the remarkable things they can do.

MR. KARP:  Beautiful.  Mr. President, thank you so much for taking time to answer our questions today, really.

THE PRESIDENT:  We had a great time.

MR. KARP:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it.  It was great.  Thank you.

MR. KARP:  Was that okay?  I’ve never talked to a President before.

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s a natural.  He could have gone into journalism.

MR. KARP:  I’ve never talked to a President before.  Thank you so much.  Hey, real quick, guys, before we go, I would really like to thank the President for having us over to his rental property today.  (Laughter.)  It really does mean a lot to our community to know that America’s leader is listening to us.  I hope we’ve all come away with a clear picture as to the issues that we’re facing.  Please make sure to follow WhiteHouse.tumblr.com.  And lastly, please wish — excuse me — Sasha a happy 13th birthday from us.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is Sasha’s birthday today.  (Applause.)

MR. KARP:  Now that’s she’s 13, guys — (applause) — now that she’s 13, according to our terms of service, she’s officially old enough to use Tumblr.  (Laughter.)  Let us know.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she wasn’t before then?  (Laughter.)

MR. KARP:  She wasn’t.  Sorry.  We can let this one slide.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to have to talk to somebody about that.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, guys.  Had a great time.  (Applause.)

END
5:10 P.M. EDT

Political Musings February 5, 2014: Obama vs O’Reilly part 2 sparing continued on Fox News fairness, big government

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 O’Reilly part 2 sparing continued on Fox News fairness, big government

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The second part of the confrontational pre-Super Bowl FOX News interview between Bill O’Reilly and President Barack Obama aired Monday evening, Feb. 3, 2014 during the regularly scheduled The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News. After…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 November 29, 2013: Post-Presidential life & legacy focus of Barbara Walters’ interview with Obamas

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Political Headlines August 7, 2013: President Obama’s Talks Housing & Mortgage Reform at Town Hall on Real Estate Site Zillow

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama ‘Would Save Some Money’ by Refinancing Chicago Home

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama personalized the promotion of his housing agenda Wednesday, saying he would save money by refinancing his family’s home in Chicago.

“I would probably benefit from refinancing right now. I would save some money,” the president said in an online forum hosted by real estate website Zillow….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency August 7, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Town Hall Interview with Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Q and A with Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow

Source:  WH, 8-7-13

Hilton Woodland Hills
Los Angeles, California

10:01 A.M. PDT

MR. RASCOFF:  Welcome, and thank you for joining us today.  Zillow is honored to host this unprecedented event and connect homeowners, renters and prospective buyers with President Obama, who’s ready to answer your housing questions.

The housing market has come a long way in the last year and we’re all very happy to see most local markets bouncing back after the housing recession, with many homeowners free from negative equity and sellers enjoying a competitive environment.  Still there are concerns about the future.  And we’ve received thousands of questions over the last couple of days via social media.  Today we’ll pose some of these questions — your questions — to the President.

I’m honored to welcome President Barack Obama.  Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great to see you.

MR. RASCOFF:  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.

MR. RASCOFF:  Mr. President, our first question comes from Andrew Houston in Gainesville, Florida.  Let’s watch his video.

Q    Good morning, Mr. President.  My name is Andrew Houston in Gainesville, Florida.  And I was wondering how you feel rising interest rates over the last three months are going to affect the housing recovery going forward.  I was actually fortunate enough to refinance at historically low rates earlier this year, but I am still well in excess of 30 percent negative on my mortgage, and I’m wondering how these interest rates are going to affect the future value of my home.  Thank you very much for your time.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s a great question, and obviously, particularly in states like Florida where, when the housing bubble burst, it was very painful.  A lot of people have been watching the interest rates and watching what are happening with home values.

Just a little bit of historic context.  What we saw in terms of the plunge in home prices in the midst of the great recession was something we hadn’t seen in a very long time.  And it hurt a lot of families.  Homeownership is the quintessential element of the American Dream.  It’s what all of us understand when we say we want to have some middle-class security.

And so what we did over the first three and a half, four years of my administration was throw everything that we could at helping homeowners who had seen their houses go underwater to slowly build back that equity.  With the help of the Federal Reserve, interest rates came down.  And as you said, Spencer, what we’ve seen is healing pretty much across the country when it comes to the housing market.

We’ve also seen a lot of refinancing activity, in part because we modified some administrative rules so that folks who had government guarantees could refinance even if they were underwater — and it saves people a lot of money, up to $3,000.  We’ve seen interest rates now tick up.  So far at least, though, the housing market has continued to be fairly robust.  And there’s been reporting just this week, some of the data has come in showing that you’re still seeing some good, steady growth.

But I think that all of us recognize that it is still a soft housing market, in part because it’s still a soft employment market — there are still a lot of folks who are out of work.  And the real economy is directly related to the housing market.  So what we’ve heard from the Fed Reserve Chairman is that he thinks it’s important for interest rates to remain relatively low so long as unemployment remains high.  That should continue to help the housing market.

But given that interest rates tick up a little bit as the economy improves, it is especially important for Congress to act on the proposal that we put forward which says let’s not just let a few people refinance; let’s allow everybody who is potentially eligible to go ahead and refinance.  It can end up being the equivalent of a $3,000 tax cut, basically, money in your pocket, or, alternatively, as Andrew was talking about, it gives homeowners an opportunity to start building back some of the equity in the home that they lost during the Great Recession.

MR. RASCOFF:  And you’re referring to HARP 3, which we have a lot of questions about, so we’re certainly going to discuss that.  To keep the long-term perspective, mortgage rates have ticked up about a point, but we’re still in the low fours, which, if you take the long view, is still an incredibly low rate for a mortgage.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, not to get too personal, but our home back in Chicago — not the White House, which as I said, that’s a rental — (laughter) — our home back in Chicago, my mortgage interest rate, I would probably benefit from refinancing right now.  (Laughter.)  I would save some money.  When you’re President, you have to be a little careful about these transactions, so we haven’t refinanced.  But there’s no doubt that somebody like Michelle and I, who bought our house several years ago, that if we went out to the market right now, we’d end up saving some money.

MR. RASCOFF:  Right, right.

This next question comes from Jill Fitzpatrick, from Louisiana, and she’s from a part of the country where home values have bounced 20 percent off the bottom.  Let’s watch Jill’s video.

Q    My name is Jill Fitzpatrick.  I was wondering what changes you think could be made to help second-time homeowners.  I refer specifically to young families who lost considerable equity in their first homes due to the housing bust — families faced with buying a second, larger house, now in a market like New Orleans, where I live, where prices have skyrocketed astronomically, pricing many of us out of what should have been a logical and economically feasible next move.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the point that was made there is really important.  Most of us, when we buy our first home, we buy a starter home.  When Michelle and I bought our first home, we bought a condo, and lived in it for about 10 years before we then moved into a full-fledged standalone home.  And the reason we were able to do it was because we built up some equity, as well as got some raises and eventually were able to get the down payment together for a larger house.  It’s tougher now for folks who have lost their equity.

I can’t say that there is a magic formula in a situation that was just described, in a place like New Orleans.  On the one hand, it’s great that housing values have bounced back; on the other hand, most folks haven’t gotten all their equity back if they purchased right in 2005 or 2004, right before the bubble popped.

What we do know is that if, number one, we keep interest rates low, that will help.  Number two, that keeping the overall economy moving in the right direction means that there is a stronger market for homes and the values of the existing starter home goes up.  The good news is, is that you’ve got a lot of potential families or families that put off buying a home during the midst of the recession, and so if you look at the numbers, the amount of new family formation is going to be increasing fairly rapidly.  There’s going to be pent-up demand.  And potentially, those smaller starter homes, they’re going to increase in value as well.

And one of the things that we’ve been looking at is, finally, how can we make sure that more people whose homes are still underwater can potentially benefit from the refinancing programs that we talked about.

MR. RASCOFF:  All right.  So that’s a perfect segue to the next question, which is in fact about HARP 3.  So this question comes from Colin Robertson.  And of course, HARP is the government program which lets homeowners who are underwater on their home refinance their mortgage, as long as they’re not more than 20 percent underwater and as long as their loans are backed by Fannie and Freddie.  About 10 percent of the questions submitted today were about HARP.

So Colin writes to us.  He says:  “What’s happening with MyRefi or HARP 3?  Is there any hope of such a program?”

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there should be hope.  Keep in mind that this is a program that not only I put forward and supported and talked about during the State of the Union, but this was an idea that was strongly supported by Mitt Romney’s chief economic advisor.  So there shouldn’t be an ideological barrier to getting this done.  This should be something that Democrats and Republics can come together and get done.

Now, Congress, I think all of us recognize, has been a little broken lately.  But the good news is, is that there are Republican and Democratic senators, at least, who have been in a conversation about how do we learn the lessons of the past and start building a firmer foundation for housing going forward.  And a lot of the concerns, a lot of the questions had to do with how do we get Fannie and Freddie reformed so that they are not in a situation in which taxpayers are essentially subsidizing huge risks that they’re taking.

As part of a package, you could see Fannie and Freddie reform that protects taxpayers, puts housing on a more stable footing, but in the interim also provides some immediate relief to homeowners, giving them a chance to refinance while interest rates are still low.

So this is something that I’m going to push again once Congress gets back in September, once they’re back in session.  As part of a broader package of housing reform, let’s see if we can potentially even get this done before the end of the year.

MR. RASCOFF:  And we’re going to talk about GSE reform, which was a very hot topic among the questions that were submitted as well.

This question is from Jason Boatman, from Phoenix.  Phoenix, of course, is one of the parts of the country that was hardest hit by the recession.  It’s where you delivered a very important housing address yesterday.  Let’s see what Jason has to say.

Jason writes:  “I live in the greater Phoenix area.  My neighborhood has been hit very hard by the foreclosure crisis.  Things are finally starting to look up, but we’re certainly not back to pre-recession levels.  How is the administration planning to help homeowners in areas like Phoenix regain our footing?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there were some areas like Phoenix, like Las Vegas, parts of Florida, that had been especially hard hit.  So in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, one of the things that we did was to get a special fund allocated to those states specifically to help some of these communities.  In some cases, it meant more hands-on help and counseling for homeowners in these areas.  In some cases, it was a question of states or local communities finding ways to get some of the foreclosed properties off the market, or at least stabilized so that they weren’t depressing adjoining properties.

And we are continuing to work with the Mayor of Phoenix, the Mayor of Las Vegas, those communities that had been especially hard hit.

In some areas, one of the questions is, are there so many foreclosures and abandoned properties that it actually pays off for us to either repair them and put them on the market as rental properties, or alternatively, in certain areas of the country where these are really rundown properties, go ahead and tear them down.

The advantage of putting these on the rental market is obviously if somebody is living in them, they’re more likely to maintain them, and it creates the kind of atmosphere in the neighborhood that allows property values to go back up.  And we’ve got a lot of creative programs like that.  What we want to do is make sure that there are enough resources coming out of Congress.  And the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development I know has a number of ideas about how we can have even more of an impact in revitalizing some of those communities that have been hardest hit.

MR. RASCOFF:  It’s been great to see in some of these communities institutional investors have been buying up tens of thousands of these properties and rehabbing them and then renting them — in some cases, renting them to the existing homeowners who are underwater on their own home.

THE PRESIDENT:  That makes a lot of sense, and it’s good business sense.  Look, we know that a basic principle of the free market is if you can buy low and sell high, you’re in a pretty good spot.  These institutional investors pulling together big chunks of property, going ahead and making them rental properties, which help to cover their costs immediately, but they’re also hoping to see appreciation in the long term — that can be good business sense for them.  But just as importantly or more importantly, for those middle-class families where they saw these property values drop, having that kind of stabilization can really make a difference.

And in a place like Phoenix, we’ve actually seen 20-25 percent increases in property values.  People are feeling much more optimistic about the future than they were before.  And we’re also seeing more housing construction going up, which tells you that there’s still pent-up demand out there.  We’ve just got to make sure that we get everybody firing on all cylinders to maximize it.

MR. RASCOFF:  This next question comes from Jacob.  Jacob is among the one in three Millennials who lives with his parents because he can’t find affordable housing.  So let’s watch Jacob’s video.

Q    Good morning, President Obama.  My name is Jacob and I live in LA.  I’m a recent college graduate with a full-time job, but I still live at home with my parents.  I’m wondering, with massive student loan debt, will I ever be able to move into a house of my own?  Not even looking to buy, just looking to rent.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Jacob asks a question that a lot of young people are asking right now.  And there are two components to it.  Number one, we need more affordable, quality rental housing.  And what I said in my speech yesterday, all of us, long term, have the aspiration of a home of our own.  But in a lot of markets, renting is a great option, especially if you’re still young.  And so as we look at the various housing proposals that I’ve put forward — making sure that people can refinance, making sure that we’re reforming these GSEs — one of the components is also making sure that we’ve got more resources to construct or get on the market more affordable housing.

And that is not something that people should shy away from, deciding that at this stage in their lives — Jacob looked like a pretty young guy — that renting is probably the best option, until you know that you can actually purchase safely, soundly and make your payments.  Part of what happened during the housing bubble was that people who probably should have been renting were encouraged to go into the housing market, and they got hurt and the economy as a whole got hurt.

But he also mentioned something else, which is the fact that a lot of young people, what for their parents would have been the down payment on a home right now is going to service their student loan debt.  So I know that Zillow is focused on housing and not college education, but I will say that some of the initiatives that I’m putting forward to drive down the cost of college and the debt burdens that young people have when they get out of school can make a huge difference in the housing market over the long term, because the $30,000 or $25,000 on average that young people from state universities are coming out with in terms of debt, that’s a down payment on a house.

And so we’ve got a whole range of ideas about how we can drive tuition down, work with universities to be more efficient, help young people graduate faster so that they’re not ending up spending more money, reducing the interest rates on student loans.  All that will have an impact on the housing market.

I should add, by the way, there’s another issue that doesn’t seem like it’s related to the housing market, but actually is related, and that’s immigration reform.  We know that if we get immigration reform done, suddenly you’ve got all kinds of families coming out of the shadows, paying taxes, paying penalties, but they’re also going to be really likely to buy homes, oftentimes in some of the neighborhoods where you have the most foreclosures, the most trouble.  They add value to a community, increase property values.

And over the long term, it’s one of the reasons why it’s estimated that immigration reform would actually add a trillion dollars to the overall economy, partly because they’d be buying houses.

MR. RASCOFF:  It’s what’s so interesting about the housing industry overall is it impacts all these disparate issues from immigration to student loans to the global economy.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, part of — and the reason is, is because this is where most Americans have their wealth.

MR. RASCOFF:  It’s where our wealth is.  Yes.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So if you’ve got trillions of dollars tied up in housing, if we get that right, then it makes a big different everywhere else.

MR. RASCOFF:  All right, so the big one, GSE reform.  This next question comes in from Steve from Bloomington, Minnesota.  And Steve writes:  “If Congress is successful” — and if you’re successful — “in scaling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac down, what model fills the gap?”

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we are fairly unique in the sense that most advanced developed countries don’t have such a large government presence in the housing market.  Traditionally, Fannie and Freddie were supposed to be subsidiary to the private marketplace.  And prior to the Great Recession, in fact, Fannie and Freddie’s portfolio was as a total a smaller percentage of the overall lending that was taking place in the housing market. Now it’s significantly higher, right?

And what we’ve tried to do is to make sure that we’re providing the support we need to help the housing market heal, but recognize you can’t have a situation in which the government is underwriting and guaranteeing all the mortgage lending that’s taking place around the country and big profits are being made by these quasi-private institutions, and then if things go wrong, suddenly taxpayers are on the hook.

So a couple of things that we’ve done administratively, we’ve been trying to reduce the portfolio each year by an incremental amount so –

MR. RASCOFF:  The loans owned by Fannie and Freddie.

THE PRESIDENT:  — loans owned by Fannie and Freddie — not too quickly, but allowing the market to catch up.

Our long-term goal is to say let’s have the private market get in there and provide those loans.  And what the government can do is to step in to make sure, for example, that there’s still a 30-year mortgage available; to make sure that homes that are not too upscale are available for young families, for veterans, for folks who may have some limited means, but have saved and scrapped and are ready to go out there and buy.

But, for example, we increased the maximum home value that could be financed in the midst of the recession because it helped to strengthen homes.  Now we’re starting to scale that back.  And we’re actually confident that the private market can step in, do a good job, and the government can be a backstop so that we still have affordability and 30-year mortgages, but it’s not the dominate player.

And in some ways, it’s a return to earlier models.  The way to think about it I think is that during both the housing bubble and its aftermath Fannie and Freddie just got too big, and that was anomalous — that was not sort of typical of what’s happened during the course of our history in the housing market.

So the good news is that you’ve got a bipartisan bill — Senators Warner of Virginia and Corker of Tennessee are working together.  The principles that they have announced are ones that are pretty consistent with me:  Let’s have the market get in there.  Let’s make sure you don’t have a “heads I win, tails you lose” formula for Fannie and Freddie, so that taxpayers aren’t left on the hook, but we’re still focusing on affordability; we still are focused on a 30-year mortgage.

And my expectation is, is that if a bill passes — and I think it’s the right thing to do for the economy over the long term — it’s still going to be phased in.  So the one thing we want to prevent is just at a time when the housing market is getting back on its feet that suddenly you have a big shock to the system.  This is something that would have to be phased in over a number of years and I’m confident could be done.

And, look, lenders can go in there and make some money doing it.  In fact, you could argue that part of the reason why a lot of first-time buyers or well-qualified buyers are having trouble right now is that a lot of lenders are worried that Fannie and Freddie and the government-backed loans may end up squeezing them if for some reason buyers aren’t making their payments.  And so they’re tightening up their status — and that the market might be willing to take more educated risks about the market if, in fact, you had the private sector back in there.

MR. RASCOFF:  So from Fannie and Freddie to loans not backed by Fannie and Freddie, this next question comes from Elias.  And about 30 percent of our questions actually touch on themes that Elias asks about.  Let’s watch his video.

Q    Mr. President, what help is available for homeowners who are looking to refinance, but don’t have their loan backed by Freddie or Fannie?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’ve already talked about that.  That’s the HARP 3 program.  And so this is something that can get done.

Keep in mind, by the way, this would be good for the entire economy, because some of the money would go back to building equity.  But some folks would decide they’re going to buy a new laptop for their kid who’s going off to college, or they’d end up using that to help finance a new car.  And, as a consequence, the entire economy would be more likely to pop, which in turn would help the housing market and help home values.

MR. RASCOFF:  So tell Elias to root for HARP 3.  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, don’t just root for it.  Everybody who’s on Zillow, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t contact your congressman and say, why aren’t we doing this?  This should be a no-brainer.

MR. RASCOFF:  All right.  Our last question comes from Jennifer in North Carolina.  Jennifer writes in, she says, “I’m a high school teacher in North Carolina.  I get paid so little that I can’t afford my own apartment.  The rent here goes up every year, but I haven’t had a raise in years.  A fixed mortgage would be more consistent than rising rents, but I don’t have the job stability.”  So what advice would you give to someone like Jennifer, and how can the government help?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the first thing I’d say is teachers need to get paid more.  And I mean that.  Look, one of the challenges that we’ve seen is, is that middle-class families — teachers, construction workers, firefighters — their wages and incomes have not gone up even if their jobs have held steady.  Some of them have lost jobs.

And one of the big challenges for our housing market is making sure that not only do we have a strong employment market, but people, if they’re working hard, they should be getting paid a decent wage.  And a lot of what I’m doing and will continue to do for the remainder of my presidency is focused on how are we improving middle-class security.  And teachers fall in that category.

Now, we already talked about the fact that renting can be a good option if we get more affordable rental housing on the market.  And there are a number of communities that have been doing creative stuff.  There are a number of properties that right now are sitting there not being rented — big chunks in certain cities.  In my hometown of Chicago, for example, we could be renovating, rehabbing and putting on the rental market thousands of units that would help to stabilize rental prices. Ideally for somebody like Jennifer, renting for a while at a affordable rate that allows you then to save a nest egg that lets you then put your down payment on a home — that’s traditionally how folks did it.

It’s nice if your parents can help you or your grandparents. But for folks like Michelle and I, who didn’t come from a fancy background — actually we lived in Michelle’s mom’s house for a couple of years.

MR. RASCOFF:  Just like Jacob.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Just like Jacob — before we were able to get the down payment together.  And that’s how we do things.

So just one closing comment, Spencer.  I think you guys have done a great job in helping to make consumers more empowered when they are buying a home, selling a home.  And it’s a wonderful service.  One of the things that we’re really proud of is the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that we’ve put together, headed up by Richard Cordray, a former attorney general in Ohio. And the CFPB, as we call it, its entire job is how do we help consumers so they get a fair deal.

One of their key focus areas has been on home finance and mortgages.  And we can expect that we’re going to try to simplify mortgage as soon as the fall, so that you don’t have a lot of fine print, you know exactly what you’re getting.  Somebody who’s involved in a transaction can operate with some complete transparency; they can know what they might owe once they get a mortgage potentially approved.

The more knowledge consumers have, the more empowered they’re going to be and the more likely they’re going to be to live out the American Dream that I think all of us want to see not just for ourselves, but for our kids and our grandkids.

MR. RASCOFF:  And we have been big fans of what the CFPB is trying to do with mortgages and we’ve actually been working with them and giving them comments on it.  So Zillow is all about transparency of information, empowering consumers.  And so, certainly if we can make it easier for people to understand the complexities of a mortgage, then that would be great for the country.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, you guys have done a great job.

MR. RASCOFF:  Thank you.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  And a big thank-you to the thousands of Americans who submitted questions.  I hope this conversation answered a lot of them.  And Zillow is honored to have hosted this event.  Thank you.

END
10:35 A.M. PDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 7, 2013: Jay Leno’s interview with President Barack Obama on “The Tonight Show” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Jay Leno’s interview with President Obama (transcript, video)

Source: Politico, 8-7-13

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

4:34 P.M. PDT

Q    Welcome the President of the United States — Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Welcome back, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  It’s good to be back.  (Applause.)

Q    Well, we’re thrilled to have you.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is good to be back.

Q    And a happy birthday.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

Q    Happy birthday to you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Q    So how did you celebrate Sunday?  What did you do?

THE PRESIDENT:  I had a bunch of friends come over who I don’t see that often from high school and college.  And we played a little golf, and then we tried to play a little basketball.  And it was a sad state of affairs.  (Laughter.)

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  A bunch of old guys.  Where’s the Ibuprofen and all that stuff.  (Laughter.)

Q    But you’re pretty competitive.

THE PRESIDENT:  I am pretty competitive.  But the day of my birthday — we do departure photos of people who are transitioning out of the White House.  And we let them bring their families and they take a picture in the Oval Office.  And this wonderful staff person came in and had a really cute, young son.  He looked like Harry Potter, a six-year-old guy.  (Laughter.)  He came in, he had an economic report for me.  He had graphs and everything.  (Laughter.)  And, he says, “My birthday is in August, too.”  I said, “Well, how old are you going to be?”  He said, “Seven.”  He said, “How old are you?”  I said, “Fifty-two.”  He said, “Whoa.”  (Laughter.)  Whoa.  Whoa.  (Laughter.)  He looked off in the distance.  He was trying to project.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes, you can’t even —

THE PRESIDENT:  You can’t go out that far.

Q    You can’t grasp that number, no.  (Laughter.)  Now, I’ve seen Michelle tease you about your gray hair.  You have a bit of silver in your hair.  Do you tease back?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  (Laughter and applause.)  That’s why we’re celebrating our 21st anniversary.  (Laughter.)

Q    As I’m married 33 years, I know exactly what you’re saying.  (Laughter.)  I’ve got to ask you about this.  Everyone is concerned about these embassy closings.  How significant is this threat?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it’s significant enough that we’re taking every precaution.  We had already done a lot to bolster embassy security around the world, but especially in the Middle East and North Africa, where the threats tend to be highest.  And whenever we see a threat stream that we think is specific enough that we can take some specific precautions within a certain timeframe, then we do so.

Now, it’s a reminder that for all the progress we’ve made — getting bin Laden, putting al Qaeda between Afghanistan and Pakistan back on its heels — that this radical, violent extremism is still out there.  And we’ve got to stay on top of it.  It’s also a reminder of how courageous our embassy personnel tend to be, because you can never have 100 percent security in some of these places.  The countries themselves sometimes are ill-equipped to provide the kind of security that you want.  Even if we reinforce it, there are still vulnerabilities.

And these diplomats, they go out there and they serve every day.  Oftentimes, they have their families with them.  They do an incredible job and sometimes don’t get enough credit.  So we’re grateful to them and we’ve got to do everything we can to protect them.  (Applause.)

Q    This global travel warning, this is for Americans all around the world?  Are we telling people don’t take that European vacation just yet?  What are we saying?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the general rule is just show some common sense and some caution.  So there are some countries where you’re less likely to experience a terrorist attack.  There are some where there are more dangers.  And if people are paying attention, checking with the State Department or embassy, going on the website before you travel, find out what kind of precautions you should be taking, then I think it still makes sense for people to take vacations.  They just have to make sure that they’re doing so in a prudent way.

Q    What do you say to those cynics who go, oh, this is an overreaction to Benghazi — how do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT:  One thing I’ve tried to do as President is not over react, but make sure that as much as possible the American people understand that there are genuine risks out there.  What’s great about what we’ve seen with America over the last several years is how resilient we are.  So after the Boston bombing, for example, the next day folks were out there, they’re going to ball games.  They are making sure that we’re not reacting in a way that somehow shuts us down.

And that’s the right reaction.  Terrorists depend on the idea that we’re going to be terrorized.  And we’re going to live our lives.  And the odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately.  But there are things that we can do to make sure that we’re keeping the pressure on these networks that would try to injure Americans.  And the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed is making sure that I’m doing everything I can to keep Americans safe.  (Applause.)

Q    It’s safe to say that we learned about these threats through the NSA intelligence program?  Is that a fair assessment?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this intelligence-gathering that we do is a critical component of counterterrorism.  And obviously, with Mr. Snowden and the disclosures of classified information, this raised a lot of questions for people.  But what I said as soon as it happened I continue to believe in, which is a lot of these programs were put in place before I came in.  I had some skepticism, and I think we should have a healthy skepticism about what government is doing.  I had the programs reviewed.  We put in some additional safeguards to make sure that there’s federal court oversight as well as congressional oversight, that there is no spying on Americans.

We don’t have a domestic spying program.  What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.  And that information is useful.  But what I’ve said before I want to make sure I repeat, and that is we should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy.  None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers, but they’re pretty significant powers.

And I’ve been talking to Congress and civil libertarians and others about are there additional ways that we can make sure that people know nobody is listening to your phone call, but we do want to make sure that after a Boston bombing, for example, we’ve got the phone numbers of those two brothers — we want to be able to make sure did they call anybody else?  Are there networks in New York, are there networks elsewhere that we have to roll up?  And if we can make sure that there’s confidence on the part of the American people that there’s oversight, then I think we can make sure that we’re properly balancing our liberty and our security.

Q    When we come back, I want to ask you about Russia and Snowden.  I hit on something in the monologue which just seems incredible to me, and I want to get your thoughts on that.

More with the President when we come back.  (Applause.)
* * *

Q    Welcome back to our discussion with President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Let me ask you about this — the NSA leaker Edward Snowden.  Some call him a whistleblower.  What do you call him?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we don’t know yet exactly what he did, other than what he’s said on the Internet, and it’s important for me not to prejudge something.

Q    Got you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hopefully, at some point he’ll go to trial and he will have a lawyer and due process, and we can make those decisions.

I can tell you that there are ways, if you think that the government is abusing a program, of coming forward.  In fact, I, through executive order, signed whistleblower protection for intelligence officers or people who are involved in the intelligence industry.  So you don’t have to break the law.  You don’t have to divulge information that could compromise American security.  You can come forward, come to the appropriate individuals and say, look, I’ve got a problem with what’s going on here, I’m not sure whether it’s being done properly.

If, in fact, the allegations are true, then he didn’t do that.  And that is a huge problem because a lot of what we do depends on terrorists networks not knowing that, in fact, we may be able to access their information.

Q    Let me add — now, he was a contracted employee.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    And it seems the government has a lot of these.  I remember when I was coming up my brother was in ROTC, and in those days, they would take college students, you go into the Army, the Army would train you.  This guy is being paid money by an outside firm, living in Hawaii, got the stripper girlfriend. All of a sudden you’re all upset with what the government is doing, and you go to another country.  I mean, in my era, Daniel Ellsberg stood in the town square and said, “I’ve got this,” got arrested, The New York Times — I mean, should we go back to not using so many — whether it’s Blackwater or any of these contract — these people who are Hessians, they get paid?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think you’re raising an important issue.  We’ve been trying to reduce the reliance on contractors. Some of the contractors do a great job, and they’re patriots and they’re trying to support our mission.  Sometimes they can do it more efficiently or effectively if they’ve got some specialized knowledge.  But one of the things that I’ve asked our team to look at is, when it comes to intelligence, should we, in fact, be farming that much stuff out.  And there are a lot of extraordinarily capable folks in our military and our government who can do this, and probably do it cheaper, and then benefit from the training that they get so that when they transfer — (applause) — they’re in a better position.

Q    Now, were you surprised that Russia granted Snowden asylum?

THE PRESIDENT:  I was disappointed because even though we don’t have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally we have tried to respect if there’s a law-breaker or an alleged law-breaker in their country, we evaluate it and we try to work with them.  They didn’t do that with us.  And in some ways it’s reflective of some underlying challenges that we’ve had with Russia lately.  A lot of what’s been going on hasn’t been major breaks in the relationship, and they still help us on supplying our troops in Afghanistan; they’re still helping us on counterterrorism work; they were helpful after the Boston bombing in that investigation.  And so there’s still a lot of business that we can do with them.

But there have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality.  And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.

Q    And Putin seems to me like one of those old-school KGB guys.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, he headed up the KGB.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.  Well, that’s what I mean.  Yes, that’s what I mean.  He has that mentality.  I mean, look at this picture here. You two don’t look pretty — (laughter) — you look like me and the NBC executives.  What is going on there?  (Laughter.)  That doesn’t look like a friendly picture.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the truth is, is that when we have meetings we can have some pretty blunt exchanges and animated exchanges.  But he’s got — that seems to be his preferred style during press conferences, is sitting back and not looking too excited.  (Laughter.)  Now, part of it is he’s not accustomed to having press conferences where you’ve got a bunch of reporters yelling questions at you.

Q    Now, the G20 summit is in St. Petersburg next —

THE PRESIDENT:  Coming up, right.

Q    Are you going to that and will you meet with Putin?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will be going to that.  I will be going to that because the G20 summit is the main forum where we talk about the economy, the world economy, with all the top economic powers in the world.  So it’s not something unique to Russia.  They’re hosting it this year, but it’s important for us, as the leading economy in the world, to make sure that we’re there — in part because creating jobs, improving our economy, building up our manufacturing base, increasing wages — all those things now depend on how we compete in this global economy.  And when you’ve got problems in Europe, or China is slowing down, that has an impact here in the United States.

And I’ve been saying for the entire tenure of my presidency that my number-one priority at all times is how do we create an economy where, if you work hard in this country, you can succeed. And there are a lot of things that we can do here in this country, but we’ve also got to pay attention to what’s going on outside it.

Q    Well, something that shocked me about Russia — and I’m surprised this is not a huge story — suddenly, homosexuality is against the law.  I mean, this seems like Germany:  Let’s round up the Jews, let’s round up the gays, let’s round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that.  You round up people who you don’t
— I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country.  And I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.

Now, what’s happening in Russia is not unique.  When I traveled to Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we’re working with and helping on development issues, but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians.  And it makes for some uncomfortable press conferences sometimes.  But one of the things that I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly, because that’s what we stand for. And I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America, that’s something that should apply everywhere.  (Applause.)

Q    Do you think it will affect the Olympics?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.  They’re athletes, they’re there to compete.  And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.  (Applause.)

Q    Good enough for me.

We’ll be right back.  We’ll talk about the economy when we come back.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    More with President Obama right after this.  (Applause.)

* * *

Q    Welcome back.  We’re talking with the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Hey, let’s talk about the economy.  Things seem to be getting better, seem to be improving.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the economy is growing.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  The unemployment rate has been ticking down, and housing is improving.  We’ve seen the deficit cut in half.  Health care costs are actually going up slower than they have in — any time in the last 50 years.  So there are a lot of good trends.

Q    Right.

THE PRESIDENT:  But I think what folks all across the country would tell you is we’ve got a lot more work to do.  Wages and salaries haven’t gone up.  Middle-class families are still struggling to make sure they can pay for their kids’ college education.  They’re still concerned about whether they can retire.

And what Washington should be thinking about every single day is how do we make sure we’ve got an economy where if folks work hard, they can find a good job that pays a decent wage;  they can send their kids to college; they’ve got health care they can count on; they can retire even if they don’t get rich — or even if they’re not rich; and that we’re creating these ladders of opportunities for people to get into the middle class.

    And what’s happened over the last 20 years is — actually longer than that, probably over the last 30 — is that the gap between those of us at the very top and the vast middle has been growing wider and wider.  And some of that is globalization.  Some of it is technology.  You go to a factory — you’re a car guy — if you go to an auto plant now, robots, and it’s clean as a whistle, and it doesn’t employ as many people as it used to.  So a lot of those middle-class jobs have gone away.

And what we have to do is make sure that we are investing in infrastructure, research; making sure our kids are educated properly; and an improved and more stable housing market instead of the kind of bubbles that we had before.  All those things can really make a difference.

     Q    You mentioned infrastructure.  Why is that a partisan issue?  I live in a town, the bridge is falling apart, it’s not safe.  How does that become Republican or Democrat?  How do you not just fix the bridge?  (Laughter and applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know.  As you know, for the last three years, I’ve said, let’s work together.  Let’s find a financing mechanism and let’s go ahead and fix our bridges, fix our roads, sewer systems, our ports.  The Panama is being widened so that these big supertankers can come in.  Now, that will be finished in 2015.  If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida — if we don’t do that, those ships are going to go someplace else.  And we’ll lose jobs.  Businesses won’t locate here.

So this is something that traditionally has been bipartisan. I mean, it used to be Republicans and Democrats, they love cutting those ribbons.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we’ve got a bunch of construction workers who aren’t working right now.  They’ve got the skills.  They want to get on the job.  It would have a huge impact on the economy not just now, but well into the future.  So I’m just going to keep on pushing Republicans to join with us, and let’s try to do it.

Part of it is — what they’ll say is, we like infrastructure, but we don’t want to pay for it.  And one of the things I’ve been trying to get across here is, is that we don’t need a huge government, but we need government doing some basic things, and we should all agree on a sensible mechanism to go ahead and pay for it — make sure we don’t waste money, make sure we’re cutting down on permitting times and delays, but let’s go ahead and get it done.

Q    Would it be possible to do a modern WPA, almost like a America Peace Corps where kids get paid a decent wage, you give them food, and they fix up Detroit, they fix up other cities —  whatever — they fix bridges?  I mean, when you travel this country, you see these great bridges and things that were built by — and they have the plaque, the guys that built it in 1932, in 1931.

THE PRESIDENT:  And it was incredibly important for not just the economy in the ‘30s, we use it still — Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam.  It opened up opportunity for everybody.  The Interstate Highway System — think of all the businesses that got created because we put that together.

So it’s possible.  The question is do we have the political will to do it.  And my argument to Congress has been, this is just like your house.  You can put off fixing the roof.  You can put off doing the tuckpointing.  You can put off replacing the old boiler.  But sooner or later, you’re going to have to fix it, and it’s going to be more expensive the longer you put it off.  When we’ve got unemployed folks right now, we should be putting them to work, and it would be good for the entire country.  (Applause.)

Q    And let me ask you about something I’m seeing.  Is it me, or do I see kind of bromance with you and John McCain?  (Laughter.)  I remember you two had that lovers’ quarrel for a while.  And, oh, now, you’re, oh — well, you’re best friends.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know that’s how —

Q    What happened?

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s how a classic romantic comedy goes, right?  (Laughter.)  Initially you’re not getting along, and then you keep on bumping into each other.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes, but what’s — I mean, what changed?  Who saw the light?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  John McCain and I have a number of philosophical differences, but he is a person of integrity.  He is willing to say things regardless of the politics.  The fact that he worked hard with a group of Democratic and Republican senators on immigration reform; they passed a bill in the Senate that will make sure that folks who are here illegally have to pay back-taxes and pay a penalty and get to the back of the line, but over time have a pathway to citizenship, and make sure that we’re strengthening our borders.  He went ahead and passed that even though there are some questions in his own party.  So I think that he deserves credit for being somebody who is willing to go against the grain of his own party sometimes.  It’s probably not good for me to compliment him on television.

Q    Yes, yes.  (Laughter.)  Get a big head.

THE PRESIDENT:  But I think that he’s an example of a number of Republicans in the Senate, in the House, who want to be for something, not just be against everything.  (Applause.)  And the more that they can try to move in that direction, I think the better off we’ll be.

Q    Now, we’re going to take a break.  I want to talk about Hillary because I know you had lunch with her.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    My question — my question when we come back, who asked who to lunch.  (Laughter.)  Don’t answer.  Don’t answer.  We’ll find out more with President Obama right after this.  (Applause.)

* * *

Q    (Applause.)  We are back with the President of the United States.

You and Hillary had lunch last — who invited who to lunch? I’m curious.

THE PRESIDENT:  I invited her.

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  And we had a great time.  She had that post-administration glow.  (Laughter.)  You know, when folks leave the White House — two weeks later, they look great.  (Laughter.)  But it was a wonderful conversation.  By the end of my first term, we had become genuinely close and I could not have more respect for her.  She was a great Secretary of State, and I’m  very, very proud of the work she did.  (Applause.)

Q    Did you notice her measuring the drapes or anything like that?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  Keep in mind, she’s been there before.
Q    Right, that’s true.  That’s true.

THE PRESIDENT:  So she doesn’t have to measure them.

Q    So what’s the latest in health care?  What’s new?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, on October 1st, people are going to be able to sign up if they don’t have health care.  If you’ve got health care, you don’t have to do anything.  The only thing that’s happened for people who have health care right now is, is that you’ve been able to benefit from the fact that we put in place a law so that insurance companies have to spend 80 percent of your premiums on health care, and if they spend it on administrative costs and high CEO salaries, they’ve got to send you a rebate.  And that’s been affecting people.  (Applause.)

If you’ve got a kid who has just graduated, doesn’t have a job with health care, they can stay on their parent’s plan.  That’s in place right now.  Free preventive care and free contraceptive care for young women and families — all that stuff is in place now.  No lifetime limits.  (Applause.)

So a lot of consumer protections got put in place.  But on October 1st, if you don’t have health care right now, you can join what are called these marketplaces and you’ll be able to get lower-cost health care.  Here in California, it’s estimated it will be 20, 30 percent cheaper than what you’re already getting. And we’ll give you subsidies — tax credits, essentially — if you still can’t afford it.

So you can go to healthcare.gov and right now you can pre-register essentially and start figuring out is this plan right for you.

Q    Well, I was able to get health care from — the guys who worked at my shop for me are all over 50.  They never had health care.  And I was able to get it now because you can’t be turned down.  So thank you for that.

THE PRESIDENT:  You can’t be turned down because of a preexisting condition.  That’s part of what we’re going to be doing.  (Applause.)

Q    Something I thought was — I thought you spoke very eloquently about the Trayvon Martin case and I could tell you were speaking from the heart.  And tell me about that.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think all of us were troubled by what happened.  And any of us who were parents can imagine the heart ache that those parents went through.  It doesn’t mean that Trayvon was a perfect kid — none of us were.  We were talking offstage — when you’re a teenager, especially a teenage boy, you’re going to mess up, and you won’t always have the best judgment.  But what I think all of us agree to is, is that we should have a criminal justice system that’s fair, that’s just.  And what I wanted to try to explain was why this was a particularly sensitive topic for African American families, because a lot of people who have sons know the experience they had of being followed or being viewed suspiciously.

We all know that young African American men disproportionately have involvement in criminal activities and violence — for a lot of reasons, a lot of it having to do with poverty, a lot of it having to do with disruptions in their neighborhoods and their communities, and failing schools and all those things.  And that’s no excuse, but what we also believe in is, is that people — everybody — should be treated fairly and the system should work for everyone.  (Applause.)  And so what I’m trying to do is just —

Q    I agree.

THE PRESIDENT:  — make sure that we have a conversation and that we’re all asking ourselves are there some things that we can do to foster better understanding, and to make sure that we don’t have laws in place that encourage the kind of violent encounter that we saw there that resulted in tragedy.

Q    Let me ask you something — you told a group of young people that broccoli was your favorite food.  (Laughter.)  Now, lying to voters is one thing; lying to children, that’s — (laughter and applause) — well, that is —

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me say this —

Q    Can you put your right hand on a Bible and say, “Broccoli” — (laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me say this — I have broccoli a lot.  (Laughter.)  I mean, no, you can ask my staff.

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is one of my staples.  Me and broccoli, I don’t know, we’ve got a thing going.  (Laughter.)

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  It goes especially well with burgers and fries.

Q    Right, right.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    And did Michelle make a broccoli cake with broccoli icing?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I won’t go that far.

Q    Now, did the kids believe you or did they go, “Oh, come on.”

THE PRESIDENT:  No, they did kind of — they looked at me.  (Laughter.)  They had their little pads and pencils, and they were all, “Really?”  (Laughter.)  “More than chips?”  (Laughter.)

But to Michelle’s credit, the Let’s Move initiative that she’s been involved with that has gotten so many folks all around the country doing stuff to help kids exercise and eat right.  For the first time in a long time, we’ve started to see some modest reduction in childhood obesity.  So I think it’s making a difference.  (Applause.)

Q    Well, that’s good.  Really proud of that.

Mr. President, it’s been an honor.  I know you have to go.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was nice to see you.

Q    Thank you so much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Before we go, well, Jay, I know you’re very proud of your car collection.

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there’s one piece that’s missing.

Q    Cool.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is the Beast.

Q    The Beast!

THE PRESIDENT:  The one I drive in.  (Applause.)

Q    Oh, look at that.  My friend, Ed Wellburn, designed that car.  Will you sign the roof?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will sign the roof.

Q    Oh, cool.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, the doors are heavy, so when you’re getting in you may need a little help.  (Laughter.)

Q    I assume the real car will be at my garage after the show.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go, Jay.

Q    Very good.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.

Q    Mr. President, a pleasure and an honor, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  I appreciate it.

Q    Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END                     5:16 P.M. PDT

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: President Barack Obama: Says NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’ in Charlie Rose Interview

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama: NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’

Source: ABC News Radio,6-18-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Video of the Interview on Charlie Rose

President Obama said in an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose on Sunday:

“It is transparent,” Obama said in the interview, broadcast Monday night. “What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, No. 1,” Obama said. “And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at – because, frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Transcripts June 11, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner’s Interview with George Stephanopoulos on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More on ABC News’ Good Morning America — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: Exclusive Interview With House Speaker John Boehner on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More

Source: ABC News, 6-11-13

RELATED: John Boehner Talks NSA Leaks, IRS Scandal and Immigration With George Stephanopoulos

PHOTO: George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013.

George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013. (ABC News)

House Speaker John Boehner sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” to discuss the NSA leak, immigration reform, the IRS scandal and much more.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker, thank you for doin’ this. Let’s talk first about these– revelations about the National Security Agency. Edward Snowden has come forward, said he brought the documents into the public eye. His supporters say he’s– a whistle-blowing patriot. His critics say he’s betrayed the country, broken the law. Where do you stand?

JOHN BOEHNER: He’s a traitor. The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools– to fight the terrorist threat th– that we face. The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place– to make sure that– there’s– there’s no– snooping, if you will– on Americans– here at home. But– the disclosure of this information– puts Americans at risk. It shows– our adversaries what our capabilities are. And– it’s a giant violation of the law….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines March 17, 2013: Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Interview on ABC News’ This Week with Martha Raddatz Transcript

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Boehner: The ‘Talk About Raising Revenue Is Over’

Source: ABC New Radio, 3-17-13

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz during an exclusive interview for This Week that talk of including revenue as part of an effort to strike a so-called “grand bargain” to address the $16 trillion debt of the United States was “over,” leaving Democrats and Republicans where they have been for months – at loggerheads….READ MORE

This Week’ Transcript: Speaker of the House John Boehner

Source: ABC News, 3-17-13

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Good to be with you, Martha.

MARTHA RADDATZ: It’s great to have you here. I call it the so-called charm offensive because you don’t seem particularly charmed. You wrote that outreach is always positive, but then you wrote you had heard it all before, saying it’s going to take more than dinner dates and phone calls from the president. So, were those dinners and meetings a good thing, or did it make no difference at all?

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Well, it’s always a good thing to– engage in more conversation– engage more members in the conversation that– have not been involved up to this point. But when you get down the– the– the bottom line, if the president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people, we’re not gonna get very far.

If the president– doesn’t believe that the goal oughta be to balance the budget over the next ten years– I don’t– not sure we’re gonna get very far. And this is the whole issue. We have a spending problem here in Washington and it’s time to solve the problem.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, when you talk about that he has to get beyond the Democratic dogma, but the Republicans have taken a very hard line as well.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: Hard line? The president– you got $650 billion worth of tax hikes on January the 1st. When are we gonna deal with the spending problem? It’s as simple as that….READ MORE — 1 | 2 | 3 4 5 6 Next Page

Full Text Obama Presidency March 14, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Interview with Yonit Levy on Israel’s Channel 2 Excerpts — White House Interview Ahead of Israel Visit

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Obama: Diplomatic fix with Iran would be ‘a more lasting solution’

Source: Times of Israel, 3-14-13

Channel 2 broadcasts White House interview with the president ahead of his visit next week

President describes ‘terrific, businesslike’ relationship with ‘Bibi’

US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News, Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)

US President Barack Obama is interviewed on Channel 2 News, Thursday, March 14 (photo credit: image capture Channel 2)

Ahead of his first visit to Israel as president next Wednesday, Barack Obama was interviewed Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2. The interview at the White House, with news anchor Yonit Levy, was screened on Thursday.

20:47

As president, you can’t just interact with people informally

“You can’t just slip out and interact with people without having a bunch of guys with machine-guns” hanging out with you….

Ventures Levy: There must be some compensations?

Obama: Well, there’s “a nice plane.”

20:40

Jonathan Pollard committed a very serious crime

“I recognize the emotions involved in this… My first obligation is to observe the law.”…

20:37

Coming to ‘listen’ on the Palestinian issue…

20:33

‘Terrific, businesslike’ relationship with ‘Bibi’

Levy pushes on the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.

“The bottom line is that Israel’s security is going to be at the forefront.” It’s not a factor of who’s president or prime minister.

“Any time you read something where the president allegedly said something in as private meting, I think you should … take that with a pinch of salt.”…

20:30

Israel has right ‘to be secure as a homeland of the Jewish people’

Levy asks about some Israelis’ negative perceptions of him.

“Some of this is politics… There are conservative views both here in the United States and Israel that may not jive with mine.”… “I’ve run my last election…”

“The fundamental right of Israel to be secure as a homeland of the Jewish people, and its connection to the land.”

“Resolving the Palestinian issue is good” for Israel’s security. If it can be resolved, he stresses….

20:26

On Iran, my cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies

“My cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies.” Kerry and Hagel “share my fundamental view” on a nuclear Iran as a threat to US interest….

20:23

I’ve been crystal clear on Iran

“We think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close.”…

20:20

It’s a chance to connect with the Israeli people

What took you so long to come?

Well, we’ve had some crises in the United States…. It’s a chance to connect with the Israeli people. The bonds.. are so strong. Shared values. Shared families… Unshakeable commitment… and a shared vision… I’m really looking forward to it.

20:18

The Obama interview in full

20:15

‘I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out’

“I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out. Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise and wear a fake mustache” and wander into Tel Aviv, go to a university and speak to some students, “in a setting that wasn’t so formal.”…

20:06

Obama: It would take Iran over a year to build the bomb

We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close. So when I am consulting with Bibi… my message to him will be the same as before: If we can resolve it diplomatically, that’s a more lasting solution.

When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table….

19:59

Obama: No plan to release Pollard

Obama: We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon.

And: I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately….

19:58

Plenty of hype ahead of the broadcast

19:51

Channel 2 set to broadcast its Obama interview

Full Text Political Headlines March 13, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Interview with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America Excerpts

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: Gap Between Parties ‘Too Wide’ for Grand Bargain on Budget

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-13-13

ABC News

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Obama spoke on a range of high-profile issues, including his outlook for the on-going budget negotiations, whether the Chinese government is behind the recent spate of cyber attacks against U.S. companies, North Korea’s nuclear threats, same-sex marriage, and the conclave to select the next pope….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 3, 2013: Mitt Romney in First Interview Since Election Says it ‘Kills’ Him Not to Be in Washington

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In First Interview, Romney Says it ‘Kills’ Him Not to Be in Washington

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-3-13

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A reflective Mitt Romney Sunday blamed his loss in the presidential election last November to his inability to connect with minorities, and the former Republican nominee admitted to Fox News’ Chris Wallace that it still “kills him” not to be in Washington….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Pre-Super Bowl Interview with CBS News: Talks Football, Gender Issues, Taxes

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Talks Football, Gender Issues, Taxes Before Super Bowl

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-4-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the nation geared up for the Super Bowl XLVII matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, President Obama said he stood by his recent comments that as a parent he’d hesitate allowing his children to play football and that he viewed the contact sport differently in light of recent heightened national awareness of its health dangers.

In a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS’ Scott Pelley, the president reiterated what he’d told the New Republic.

“It is a great sport, I am huge fan, but there is no doubt some of the concerns that we have learned about when it comes to concussions have to give parents pause,” he said.  “And as I said before.  I feel differently about the NFL, these are  grown men, they are well compensated, they know the risks that are involved.  But as we start thinking about the pipeline, Pop Warner, high school, college, I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make the sport safer.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Holds a Farewell Global Townterview — Townhall Interview Transcript

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secretary Clinton Holds a Global Townterview

Townhall

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Newseum
Washington, DC
January 29, 2013

MS. SALES: Hello. I’m Leigh Sales from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Welcome to this town hall-style event with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has her last day at the State Department this Friday. This is a town hall with a difference though because we have people all around the world ready to ask to questions from Britain to Beirut to Colombia.

Here’s how the event will run in front of our live audience here in the Newseum’s Knight Studio in Washington, D.C. I’ll start the ball rolling with five minutes of discussion with the Secretary, and then we’ll cross to locations around the globe to hear other questions, and we’ll also be taking submissions from social media. Now, of course, live TV is fraught with peril to begin with, but when you throw in six lives satellites around the world, it’s a bit of a high-wire act, so please bear with us if the technology doesn’t quite cooperate as we’d like.

So to start, and for her final town hall, please welcome the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, Leigh.

MS. SALES: Hi Secretary Clinton. Have a seat.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, everyone. Hello.

MS. SALES: Super warm welcome there. This is your 59th event like this, so there’s nothing new I can ask you, is there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’m sure there is. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: I’ve had a look at some of the transcripts of previous events like this and you’ve been asked some very funny things, from what was Chelsea’s first word, which was Mommy, for the record, to what you favorite film was. I bet they’re all quite memorable in their own way.

SECRETARY CLINTON: They really are because part of what I’ve tried to do in the last four years is to reach out to people across the world, particularly young people, and I’m so happy to see so many of them here in the Newseum. And for me it’s been a learning experience as well, because as I’ve traveled around doing these – this is the 59th, as you said – of these kinds of events, all over the globe I’ve heard what’s on people’s minds and what their questions were, and so it’s been a great two-way communication.

MS. SALES: I have seen some interesting statistics: You’ve had 1,700 meetings with world leaders, 755 meetings at the White House, 570 airplane meals – (laughter) – and three times caught dancing on camera.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, dear. Yes. (Laughter.) That’s supposed to be erased from the record, you know. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: Now, in a moment I’m going to throw to questions around the world, as I just explained. But first of all, I just want to us to set the scene a little bit by talking about some of the big foreign policy issues that are around in the news. So let’s start with North Africa, which has been very prominent lately. We’ve seen the Islamist extremists in Algeria, of course the ongoing problems in Libya, the crisis in Mali, in recent days violent protests in Egypt. How much of a global security threat is this region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Leigh, it is becoming a threat, first and foremost, to the people of the region. This is not what the Arab revolution was about, and there’s a great deal of concern across the region about people who choose to use violence to try to impose their extremist views rather than participate in politics. It does have the potential, however, of expanding beyond the region, which is why I think you’re seeing an international concern and coalition coming together to support the people of Mali, to stand by the Government of Algeria, to work with the Government of Libya, so that they themselves are given the tools they need to combat this extremist threat.

MS. SALES: Has there been an insufficient global focus on that part of the world to now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think historically there has been exactly that, that much of Africa – you can separate North Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa – have not had the kind of attention on a range of issues, whether it’s security or development. But that is changing, and it’s very exciting to me that I think seven of the fastest performing economies in the world now are in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also exciting to see people in North Africa, after so many decades of oppression, looking to find their own way forward democratically.

But transformations are never easy and they are never preordained. If North Africa and the fruits of the Arab revolution are to be democracy, prosperity, better opportunities particularly for the young people of the region, the people themselves will have to ensure that. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping to improve governance and create more opportunity has been one of my primary goals.

MS. SALES: The world saw your passionate response to a Senate committee last week about what happened in Benghazi. You said that you want the focus to be on making sure that something like that can’t happen again. But is it really possible to prevent things like that from happening?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we live in a dangerous world and it’s unpredictable and complex. I think we in government have to do everything we can to provide as secure conditions as possible for our diplomats, our development experts, in order that we don’t end up in bunkers, abdicating from regions that are important to us. But it’s also now an increasing threat, as we saw with the Algerian hostage taking, to businesses, to cultural institutions. We’ve seen the extremists destroying shrines and libraries that were holding priceless remnants and artifacts that were of great meaning to people. So yes, it’s something we have to deal with, but we have to also be realistic that we live in this dangerous world and we can’t retreat from it.

MS. SALES: When we were watching that hearing, we saw the Republican committee members go on the attack. Is Washington today more bitterly partisan than it was when you were first lady, or has it always been like this and we just have a recency bias?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It has been increasingly partisan. It was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, you can go back in history and see certain constituencies represented in our Congress and our politics certainly squaring off against each other. But it’s become more so, and it’s also resulted in less productivity. You can be partisan, you can have a strong sense of the rightness of your position, but democracy and certainly legislative bodies require compromise. And you can’t let compromise become a dirty word because then you veer toward fanaticism.

I mean, we were just talking about extremists who think it’s only their way, they are the ones who have the truth, none of the rest of us have any kind of claim on what is real in their views. And so it’s important in our democracies – like Australia, like the United States – that yes, be passionate, be intense about your feelings, but at the end of the day you’ve got to serve the people who sent you there, and that requires compromise.

MS. SALES: I think at these events you are always asked a question that involves the year 2016, and so I’m not going to ask it because I think somebody else around the world will. So let’s start our criss-cross discussions around the world with the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, which is based in Dubai. Presenter Muna AbuSulayman is standing by in Beirut.

Muna.

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Hello, hi. I just wanted to tell you thank you for inviting us to this global town hall. We are very happy to be a part of this. We have a lot of Arab students in the studio in Beirut to ask Madam Secretary a few questions. But I want to actually start the ball rolling and ask the first question myself: Madame Secretary, what is your biggest unfulfilled mission in leaving the Department of State?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Muna, it’s wonderful to see you in Beirut and to have the students there with you. Obviously, I want to see peace in the Middle East and I want to see prosperity that includes all people, and I want to see women and girls given their rights and opportunities. So those are three of the pieces of unfinished business.

Now, as a Secretary of State, a diplomat, I know that a lot of the work that I have done is, by its very nature, complicated and difficult. So it’s not a surprise that some of these big issues would be unfinished. But what’s important is that we continue the work and that we build bridges across our world, across cultures and societies, so that we engage in moving toward a better world that will certainly give more opportunity, peace, and prosperity to the young people in your studio.

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Well, thank you. We all know how much you’ve worked on linking women rights with human rights, so it is quite appreciated in our parts of the world, but I also have a few questions from the students. And the first question is from Haled.

QUESTION: Yes. Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. Haled Kaber from the Lebanese American University.

My question to you, Madam Secretary is: What is your opinion? The main obstacle these opposition-led demonstrations that are being held in the Arab world are facing, is it the lack of clear organization between its members and not having a unified, clear vision for the future of the country? Is it the involvement of international or regional actors, or maybe the actions that are practiced by the ruling regimes? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it probably is all three. I think you did an excellent summary of three factors that are involved, and let me quickly respond.

The Arab revolutions which have swept the region hold such great promise. But I don’t think that you go from a top-down society that often imposed oppressive regulations and punishments on people for expressing themselves to a democracy overnight. And so when you look at the trajectory, this will take some time, and there has to be a combination of persistence and patience, and I would hope that the opposition demonstrators are demonstrating because they want to participate in the political process, not to derail it. Part of our problem is that there are elements within the countries, certainly in North Africa, who don’t believe in democracy, who don’t believe in equal rights for women and men, who don’t believe that there can be cooperation among people who have different points of view. That has to be overcome.

Now, Lebanon, which has suffered for so many years, as you all know better than I, has this uneasy balance in your democracy, but so far it has sustained the stability of your country. So different countries will reach different conclusions about how to fashion and manage their democracy, but everyone should stand against those who wish to hijack it, whether they are internal or external, who believe that their extremist point of view should cancel out everyone else’s point of view, and really stand up and speak out and work toward what were the aspirations of the people, particularly the young people who stood up and said, “We want a better, different life.”

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Of course, extremism is something that we actually have to deal with a lot in the Middle East, and is something that needs to be negotiated quite delicately. And I think the second question from one of our students will lead to that.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Ahmadin Mohaissen, American University of Beirut. I would like to ask you: With the recent reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu, the chances of peace are almost negligible. Out of your experience, what’s needed to achieve to the most comprehensive and long-lasting peace in the Middle East? What about the role of the USA? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I actually think that this election opens doors, not nails them shut. I think the outcome of the election in which a significant percentage of the Israeli electorate chose to express themselves by saying, “We need a different path than the one we have been pursuing internally and with respect to the Middle East peace process.” So I know that President Obama, my successor, soon-to-be Secretary of State John Kerry, will pursue this, will look for every possible opening.

I have been involved in, one way or another, working toward peace for more than 20 years, first with my husband, then as a senator, now as Secretary of State. And what rests at the core of the problem is great mistrust, great concern on both sides, because I also speak frequently with our Palestinian counterparts. And somehow, we have to look for ways to give the Palestinian people the pathway to peace, prosperity, and statehood that they deserve and give the Israeli people the security and stability that they seek. I think that still is possible, and I can assure you the United States under President Obama will continue to do everything we can to move the parties toward some resolution.

MS. SALES: We’re going to leave Beirut there for now, Muna and the people there. Thank you so much. I mentioned before that maybe we would have some technical issues, and as you could see with the audio there, we did indeed. And also, please just bear with the delay that you have when you’re traveling enormous distances like this.

Let’s go across the other side of the world now to NHK in Tokyo, Japan’s national public broadcaster, where the director of the international news division, Kenji Kohno, is ready with a question.

MR. KOHNO: Good evening from Tokyo. Madam Secretary, thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you again. We have here a group of 10 Japanese college students, very good students, and let me turn this microphone to them. They have some questions. So who wants to ask the first question? Okay. Here you go.

QUESTION: Hello, Madam Secretary. I’m Yuki Kao coming from the University of Tokyo, so I would like to ask about the future of U.S.-Japan economic relationship. It is widely said that the U.S.-Japan relationship, especially in the field of economy, are becoming weaker and weaker. In my opinion, it is because a lot of Japanese companies are switching their focus onto the emerging markets in Asia.

So how can we reinforce or maintain the U.S.-Japan relationship? Could the Trans-Pacific Partnership be one of the solutions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that at the end of your question, because I certainly believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership holds great benefits for Japan’s economy. And it is true that the United States and Japan have both expanded economically on a broader scale, which of course is necessary because consumers in the middle class in many emerging democracies or emerging economies are now demanding more goods and services.

But I think the Japanese-U.S. relationship is a very secure one, and what we want is to look for new ways that we can work together on behalf of our common values and our hopes for the future. I highly appreciate the excellent working relationship that I’ve had over the last four years with my Japanese counterparts. But I think you’re right to point out that in today’s world, we have to be more creative, innovative, open and transparent about our economies, because Japan and the United States have comparative advantage. We’re high tech, we have highly educated workforces. In order to keep producing jobs and rising incomes, we have to be smart about how we use our economies. So I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one way that could really enhance our relationship.

MR. KOHNO: Madam Secretary, let me add my questions, which is on the possibly imminent nuclear test by North Korea. North Korea has still threatened to do this, but your spokesperson said that if they do, the U.S. would take very significant action. I wonder what this significant action means, and I wonder this – more – simply more sanctions would be enough to stop their provocations?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for that, because we, of course, share Japan’s concerns and the concerns of the entire region about what the new regime in North Korea is doing and threatening. And let me express my regret, because I think with a new young leader we all expected something different. We expected him to focus on improving the lives of the North Korean people, not just the elite, but everyone to have more education, more openness, more opportunity. And instead, he has engaged in very provocative rhetoric and behavior.

So we did go to the United Nations after the missile launch, and with very good work on behalf of our teams, we came up with additional and much tougher sanctions. But we’re going to have to work closely together to try to change the behavior of the North Korean regime. I’ve had long conversations with my Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Chinese counterparts, because this is a threat to all of us. And it is something that is so regrettable when young people the world over, including in North Korea, are getting better connected with the rest of the world, to remain as closed off and denied the opportunities they should have.

So it’s going to be a lengthy consultation. I don’t want to preview what the outcome might be in terms of actions that would have to be taken, because we still hope that there is a way to convince the North Korean regime not to pursue this path.

MR. KOHNO: Now, let me have a student to have the second question. Who wants to have the second question? Okay, you.

QUESTION: Good evening, Madam Secretary. I’m Yosuke Kawanebe from Tokyo University of Science. As mentioned, I think Japan and U.S. will need to have stronger relationships in the future. And I’m an entrepreneur, and I feel our generation is now taking over important positions in politics and businesses. So I want to ask your advice for younger people who want to become leaders, tomorrow’s leaders in the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m so happy you asked that question because I think that is something every young person should be considering, particularly in a democracy like Japan. There are many roads to leadership. You mentioned being interested in entrepreneurship. Those kinds of business investment opportunities are leadership ones – starting businesses, building businesses, creating employment. That has to go hand in hand with whatever the political leadership is able to do.

And I believe strongly that we need to open up all of our economies, knock down barriers to the participation of young people, of women. I think you can take any economy in the world, including mine and including yours, and see that there are still barriers to the dreams of young business leaders. And I hope that in the next few years, we will do more to open up our markets, open up credit, clear away the barriers so that a young man like yourself will have a chance to make a real contribution to your country’s economy.

MS. SALES: That’s where we’re going to leave Tokyo; wonderful to see that enthusiasm there with the hands. We might take a Facebook question that we received, Secretary Clinton. It was received in Farsi from Rasoul Ali Asgari.

It said: I’m glad she – meaning you – has regained her health. My only question is if you have issues with the Government of Iran, why destroy the people with the current sanctions in place? It’s very difficult to find medicine in Iran. Where is your sense of humanity?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say on the medicine and on food and other necessities, there are no sanctions. And what we have tried to do, and in fact, I have approved the sending of medicines to Iran for exactly the purpose that is pointed out. We do not want the people of Iran to suffer and certainly to be deprived of necessary medicines. But this is a dilemma for us, and for the entire world, because when I say “us,” I’m not talking only about the United States. But if you look at the United Nations sanctions, the European Union sanctions, across the globe, people are very worried about what the Iranian Government’s actions and intentions are.

We know that there is a lot of support for terrorism by the Iranian Government. We know they send out agents and proxies across the world to do bombings and assassinations. That’s deeply troubling. And we also know that their pursuit of a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous to Iran, to the region and the world.

So we have tried diplomatic outreach. President Obama came into office saying that he wanted to engage in diplomacy with Iran to see if there were a way to end their nuclear weapons program. And we hope that that will still be possible. And we think the people of Iran, in their upcoming election, have the opportunity to send a very clear message. Iranian people are educated, intelligent, historically significant; they deserve to have a government that integrates them into the world, not isolates from the world. So we hope that the Iranian people will speak out and make known their views to their own government.

MS. SALES: Secretary Clinton, let’s see if we can go now to Bogota, in Colombia, to journalist Andrea Bernal. She interviewed you in 2010 in Ecuador, and she’s at NTN24, which is a 24-hour news channel based in South America.

Andrea.

We’ll just wait for the audio to come up on that. Hopefully we can get it. No, we might just see if we can go somewhere else while we wait for that to come up. Let’s go for a Twitter question, Secretary Clinton. We have one here from @ManxNige, Nigel Walker to the State Department: “Can you tell me why the USA didn’t engage with the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, because we believe, and there’s unfortunately a lot of evidence to support this, that Hamas is not interested in democracy, not interested in political participation and pursuits, but instead is largely still a military resistance group. And we’ve made it very clear that if Hamas renounces violence, if they morph themselves into a political entity the way that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have, from the origins in the PLO. If they accept the previous commitments by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, there’s a place for them at the table. And it would be my great hope that they would do that.

MS. SALES: We’ve had an email question that’s come in from the Antarctic.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, the Antarctic. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: We’re going everywhere in this discussion –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my goodness.

MS. SALES: – all around the world. From Marcelo Leppe, a Chilean scientist, he wants to ask if your government has defined any position about the future of the mineral resources in Antarctica.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent question, and hello to everybody in Antarctica. It’s the one continent I haven’t been to so I’m very jealous that you’re down there. (Laughter.) We are working on that. We want the same kind of international agreements and enforcement that has preserved the Antarctic as an international treasure and resource for research and scientific experimentation. I think it’s an important question to raise. I thank you for doing so. I hope that we’ll make progress in order to protect the treasure of the Antarctic that belongs to all of us.

MS. SALES: Let’s have one more Twitter question. It’s from @OliverSB022: “Which former Secretary of State does Hillary Clinton most admire and why?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, if I say any of my recent successors, I will lose friends, which I don’t want to do. (Laughter.) But I will say that one of the people who I especially admire and am identifying with is Secretary Seward, who was President Lincoln’s Secretary of State. And he was from New York. He was a very successful politician from New York when he became Secretary of State. He had run against President Lincoln – (laughter) – so there’s a little bit of parallel here in the whole team-of-rivals concept. And if anyone has seen the Steven Spielberg movie, “Lincoln,” you see Secretary Seward by Lincoln’s side the whole time, advising and supporting him. And in fact, the night that President Lincoln was assassinated, the conspirators broke into his house and tried to kill him. So I don’t want that to happen to anybody – (laughter ) – but I like his willingness to work with President Lincoln, he made a real difference during our civil war, and I admire him greatly.

MS. SALES: We will try to go to Colombia again shortly, we’re just having some technical issues getting that up. So instead let’s swing over to London, to the BBC, where Ros Atkins is waiting. He’s the presenter of the BBC World Service program “World Have Your Say.” Ros, tells us who’s with you there.

MR. ATKINS: Leigh, hi. And, Secretary Clinton, you’re very welcome to the BBC’s new home here in London. I’ve got five guests; they come from Britain, Greece, Germany and Italy. And our first question is from Carolina.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Carolina. I come from Turin, in Italy. And I wanted to ask you, what do you think is the most powerful diplomatic tool? Do you think that it’s more economic preponderance or legitimacy in international status, or perhaps just access to the media? And would you have given me the same answer four years ago?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question. I think all three are different and they are used differently at different times. Certainly one of my responsibilities, when I became Secretary of State, was to restore American leadership in the world. It had been somewhat damaged and we needed to get out there and reach out to people, demonstrate our willingness to be everywhere in the world, working with people who shared our values and our aspirations, solving crises, doing what we could to deal with many of the underlying problems.

It’s also very important, however, to focus on technology and communication because four years ago, that was not part of diplomacy. We have brought a lot of the tools of modern technology – social media – into the State Department. In fact, we’re using them now with Twitter and Facebook. Because there needs to be a two-way conversation. It’s no longer governments just talking at people, whether it’s talking at other leaders or talking at populations. There has to be a dialogue and people are hungry for that, young people in particular. They deserve to have their views heard and acted on as we shape the world for the future. So these are the kinds of considerations that we are constantly balancing, and we need to do a better job, frankly, at those tools you mentioned and others that have to be deployed.

MR. ATKINS: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for answering Carolina’s question. We certainly appreciate the chance to connect BBC viewers and listeners with you today. Our next question comes from Octavia, who’s from Germany.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Octavia. I’m from Frankfurt, in Germany.

My question is the following: The Obama Administration has stressed its intentions to reset and improve its relationship with Russia. So far, however, it seems like this project has failed, if we think, for example, of recent disputes over Russia’s stance towards the Assad regime in Syria, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the Magnitsky bill. In your opinion, do the United States need Europe as an intermediary in order to achieve a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation with Russia one day?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, another excellent question. I think it’s not either/or. The United States has a very important bilateral relationship with Russia. During the last four years, we got a new nuclear weapons agreement to decrease our stockpiles, we worked together to enhance our efforts in Afghanistan, we had a bilateral commission that didn’t draw headlines but produced results in many areas of mutual interest and concern.

But it’s also important that we work with Europe and that Europe also work to make sure that we try to shape and create a positive relationship with Russia. And I will admit it is challenging right now. Russia ended all of our aid programs where we were working on ending tuberculosis, helping abused children, and so much else.

So it’s going to have to be a mutual effort, Europe and the United States both bilaterally and together, working to try to persuade Russia and particularly Russian leadership that they should become more integrated into and connected with Europe and the West. That’s where the future lies, and we hope that the next few years will be more successful doing that.

MR. ATKINS: (Inaudible) Octavia’s question, and I should mention that before this program began, we all sat around discussing the kind of questions everyone here would like to ask you, and one came up a number of times. Sahara is a British Pakistanian; you were suggesting this one.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, my name is Sahara Sawar. I’m from Dubai, but a British Pakistani. My biggest question to you was: Firstly, are you planning on writing your memoirs already? And if you are following in the footsteps of Madeleine Albright in hers, where she said that her lasting regret was what happened in Rwanda, what would you say was your lasting regret?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly, the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something that I deeply regret and am working hard to make sure we do everything we can to prevent.

When you do these jobs, you have to understand at the very beginning that you can’t control everything. There are terrible situations right now being played out in the Congo, Syria, where we all wish that there were clear paths that we could follow together in the international community to try to resolve. So every day is a mixture of trying to end crises, help people be smart about using the tools of American diplomacy and development to join in with others who are facing similar crises as we are.

But I take away far more positive memories. And yes, I will write a memoir. I don’t know what I’ll say in it yet, but – (laughter) – I’ll have a chance to go into greater detail on this and other matters.

MS. SALES: That’s where we’ll leave London, and we will pick up instead in New Delhi, to NDTV, which is one of India’s top broadcasters, and presenter Barkha Dutt, India’s top female journalist and news anchor, who did one of these events with you, Secretary Clinton, last year.

Barkha, are you there with us?

MS. DUTT: I absolutely am. And Secretary Clinton, good evening from India. It’s an absolute pleasure to be talking with you again. We all remember that wonderful town hall with you in Kolkata on your last trip here to India. I have here with me a bunch of very bright young students all itching to ask you a question.

But before I take my microphone to the students, just by way of comment, Secretary Clinton, I know despite all your denials, all of us are waiting to see you back in political action in 2016 as possibly – (laughter) – the United States’ first woman president. So I’m not saying that as a question. I’m just observing that we think – (laughter) – that might happen. Great to have you on the show, Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you again. Thank you so much.

MS. DUTT: I notice that you didn’t answer that. I’ll try get a little more out of you as this program goes along.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s why you’re such a good journalist, Barkha.

MS. DUTT: We have a lot of people here – (laughter) – thank you. And I will probe that a little further, but I’m going to hand over the mike to a young boy on my right who has a question for you, Secretary Clinton.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good evening, ma’am. My question concerns the recent Richard Headley case and the sentence that was handed out.

MS. DUTT: David Headley.

QUESTION: Sorry, David Headley case and the sentence that was handed out to him. Given that he’s pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the 26/11 attacks, why is America so hesitant to extradite him to India?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is not directly under my jurisdiction, but I will say this: There was intensive amount of investigation and interrogation of him by Indian authorities as well as American authorities. A lot of useful information was obtained, and I think that this sentence represents both the punishment that he richly deserves for his participation, but also a recognition of the role that he has played and is expected to continue to play in supporting Indian and American efforts to prevent the kind of horrific attack that occurred in Mumbai.

MS. DUTT: Secretary Clinton, if I can just pick up on that question by this young boy here, I know that when we were doing the town hall in Kolkata, you assured Indians that it was you who had cleared the $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed’s head, who, as you know, is a key architect of the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, the terrorist group. You also spoke about al-Zawahiri being in Pakistan according to your information.

I know a lot of people in India want to hear from you tonight. When you look back at your term, are you satisfied with the success that you were able to achieve in bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice? Or are you left with a sense of regret? Are you left with a sense that more could have been done, and somehow you didn’t have enough time or weren’t able to put enough pressure on Pakistan to get it done?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Barkha, I think it is unfinished business that we are not in any way walking away from. I’m leaving office, but I can assure you and the Indian people this remains one of our very highest priorities.

We were successful in capturing and eliminating a number of the most dangerous terrorists who have safe haven inside Pakistan. We have continued to press the Pakistani Government, because of course the terrorists inside Pakistan are first and foremost an ongoing threat to the stability of Pakistan, and they need to deal with it because of that, as well as the implications for India, Afghanistan, the United States, and elsewhere.

I also think that the efforts that both Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari in Pakistan have made to improve communication, business, trade, commerce between India and Pakistan helps to create a more receptive environment for dealing with these serious threats. So of course, I’m not satisfied. As I told you in Kolkata, I believe going after terrorism is an obligation of every country, everywhere, every sensible person. We can have disagreements, but they cannot be in any way using violence or condoning the use of violence.

So we’re not giving up. We are on this job literally every single day. And we’ve improved our information sharing, our law enforcement cooperation with India, and I think that will pay dividends in years to come.

MS. DUTT: We’re testing (inaudible).

MS. SALES: Just lost audio to Barkha there. Let’s see if we can get that back up because it would be great to hear one more question from India if we can.

MS. DUTT: As you must know, we’ve been seeing street protests by young students here related to the horrific gang rape that took place in Delhi recently, and gender rights are really on the top of public consciousness here in India. So, a question from this young boy here.

QUESTION: So my question to you is this: Why is it that women in politics, even in supposedly progressive societies like the United States, have to conform to masculinist and privileged constructions of a statesman in the public sphere? And I must ask you, how difficult is it for a woman politician to access political space that is heavily gendered and that dictates how a woman leader has to behave and conduct herself?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That could be a topic for a whole show because it’s a profound question, but let me make two brief points. First, although it is better than it was, having been in and around politics for many years now, there is still a double standard. And it is a double standard that exists from the trivial, like what you wear, to the incredibly serious, like women can’t vote, women can’t run for office, women are not supposed to be in the public sphere. But there is a spectrum of the double standard, and of the both legal and cultural barriers to respect for women, for the full participation of women.

So we do have a ways to go, and even in democracies. And a democracy like yours, unlike mine, that’s had a woman leader and has a woman at the head of the current governing party where women have achieved a lot of political success, there is still a tremendous amount of discrimination and just outright abuse of women, particularly uneducated women, women who can’t stand up for themselves, but clearly, even as we saw in the terrible gang rape, a woman trying to better herself, go to school.

Secondly, this has been the cause of my life and will continue to be as I leave the Secretary of State’s office, because we are hurting ourselves. The young woman who essentially was raped and then died of her terrible injuries, who knows what she could have contributed to India’s future? When you put barriers in the way of half the population, you, in effect, are putting brakes on your own development as a nation.

And there is more than adequate research to prove this, but just in a personal, everyday life example, I’m looking at one of the leading journalists in the world, certainly one of the leading journalists in India, Barkha. She brings to her job her experiences that are then infusing the coverage that she provides. And if you lose that kind of perspective, you are really doing a disservice to your society. So I personally was very encouraged and even proud to see young men and young women out in the streets protesting the way that young women are treated by men who do not understand or have never been taught to accept that it’s not just their sisters and their mothers that they should respect, but all girls and women. So I’m looking for big changes in India in the years to come.

MS. SALES: Thank you, Secretary Clinton, and thank you Barkha and our friends in India. Now, I can already tell you, we’re probably going to have some technical issues with this but we would really like to try to go to Lagos in Nigeria. So let’s give it a go. We have some people there at Channels Television, and news presenter Maupe Ogun is waiting with some young people.

Maupe, can you hear us?

MS. OGUN: Yes, I can, loudly, too. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m joined by a group of people who have warned me not to call them young boys or girls. (Laughter.) They’re all young professionals and we’re absolutely delighted to be a part of this conversation. Well, Madam Secretary, I’m going to take my first question, and it’s from in-house. We’re asking that, in 2009, when President Obama did visit Ghana, he said that what Africa needed was strong institutions, not strongmen, something that you’ve also echoed as well. Can you uphold any models in Africa where you can say that they’re making progress in building strong institutions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, and in fact, both politically and economically, I see progress happening in Africa. I don’t want to overstate it because some places are more stable, but let me give you just an example or two. When the President of Malawi recently died, the Vice President – now President Banda – was in line to become President. But there was an immediate reaction by some in the government and some in society who said, we can’t have a woman president, or we don’t agree with her politics. But thankfully, the people of Malawi said, no, we have a constitution, we want the rule of law, we want Joyce Banda to be the President since she is in line to be President. That was a big move, and it was very important, and we obviously supported it.

When you look at the reelection of President Sirleaf in Liberia – tough job, post-conflict society, but peaceful transition despite a hard-fought election. The recent election in Ghana, another example where President Atta had passed away, his Vice President came into office, but he still had to go through an election. So when you look through the countries in Africa, you can see democratic institutions getting stronger and you can see economies getting stronger. Now, you are sitting in one of the most important countries in Africa – I would say in the world. It really matters how well the next election in Nigeria goes, whether it’s free and fair and transparent. It really matters whether the endemic corruption is finally pursued so that everybody in Nigeria feels that they’re not going to be left out.

So I think there is work being done and challenges ahead, but I see positive steps that I want to recognize.

MS. OGUN: Well, we’ll take the next question now. Chude would like to ask the next question.

QUESTION: Right. Hello, Madam Secretary. Congratulations on the spectacular run and we’re looking forward to the next one in 2016. But moving on quickly, when you look at the things that have happened in – I mean, some the crises in Mali or South Sudan or Benghazi, Libya, some people have said that the U.S. has led from behind mostly, and perhaps that’s a mistake in some of these cases. What would you say is the biggest mistake? I (inaudible) even though you’ve had the June 2012 review. What would you say is the biggest mistake that you – that has happened over the past few years, and how will the incoming Secretary of State be able to work on those issues moving forward after you’re gone?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me clarify that I think what President Obama and I have tried to do is to build international coalitions to address serious crises. We believe that, of course, the United States remains the paramount military and economic power in the world, but the future we want to see are more nations taking responsibility and playing a role. And I think that is visionary leadership. I think it is looking over the horizon and recognizing that in Africa, for example, what we hope to see are key countries, anchor countries like Nigeria, dealing with your own internal challenges, but also playing a role externally in order to help keep and create peace.

We just had a quite successful outcome in Somalia. Still a long way to go for Somalia, but thanks to African troops – from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya – trained and funded by the United States along with others, they were able to push al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate, out of key cities and territory in Somalia, and then we were able to have an election. So we now have an elected government for the first time in many decades, and we want to support that. Because one thing that President Obama and I believe is that ultimately what happens inside a country is up to the people of that country; they are the ones who have to stand up against oppression, corruption, the kind of poor governance that holds countries back. The United States wants to be your partner. We want to help you economically and in other ways. But we want to create the conditions where more countries can achieve the kind of outcomes that will benefit them.

So it’s a different model than what we had in the prior Administration to the Obama Administration. But we believe strongly in supporting reform in Burma, for example, where I was privileged to go to make a statement and then accompany President Obama back there, to helping Mali fend off these extremists who are trying to disrupt and destabilize the country. But we want other people to step up and learn more about what they are capable of doing themselves.

MS. SALES: Okay, we’re going to leave Nigeria there and we will take another Twitter question, Secretary Clinton. This one was received via Sina Weibo, which is the Chinese sort of micro-blogging network, like Twitter. It’s from somebody named “Terracotta Warriors on Horseback.” (Laughter.) The question is: “Do you not think that competition between the United States and China in Asia will not lead to both sides losing?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t. I think healthy competition is part of development, human nature. I don’t see any problem with healthy competition as long as it is rules-based. Healthy competition requires that everybody know what the rules are, and then you go out and compete, whether it’s on the sporting field or in the economic or political arena.

My hope – and I have written about this, I’ve spoken about it – is that the United States and China will together defy history. Historically, a rising power and a predominant power have had clashes, whether they were economic or military. Neither of us want to see that happen. We want to see a rising power like China join the international community as a responsible stakeholder, continue its extraordinary efforts to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, create a strong, vital middle class, have respectful relations with its neighbors in all of the ways on land and sea that that is required.

And the United States wants to deepen and broaden our engagement with China. I helped to put together the strategic and economic dialogues, which we then used to discuss everything, from border security to food safety to cyber matters. And we want to continue that, because we believe strongly that the world is big enough for a lot of nations to be important players, and that is certainly true of China, and we want to see the kind of cooperative, comprehensive, positive relationship that I worked for.

MS. SALES: We’re still desperately hoping we can get up the Bogota satellite, but in the meantime we’ll take one quick question again from London once more. So Ros, are you standing by there?

MR. ATKINS: I am. Hello, Leigh. Secretary Clinton, our next question comes from Elisa, who’s German. It’s as much a plea as a question, I think.

QUESTION: Yes, very much. Dear Madam Secretary, I’m Elisa from Germany, and just before the show, we’ve been talking about how we would really like you to run for president. And we were wondering when you’re going to make a decision on this really important question, and we believe that would be a really important symbol for women essentially all over the world. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am not thinking about anything like that right now. I am looking forward to finishing up my tenure as Secretary of State and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation. (Laughter.)

In fact, you say you’re from Germany. I spoke this morning to your chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, and someone I have admired and watched over a number of years. I do want to see more women compete for the highest positions in their countries, and I will do what I can, whether or not it is up to me to make a decision on my own future. I right now am not inclined to do that, but I will do everything I can to make sure that women compete at the highest levels not only in the United States, but around the world, because I take seriously your question, and I think it’s not only for young women; it’s for young men, it’s for our future.

We have to break down these attitudes that kind of pigeonhole and stereotype people. Like what does a leader look like; well, a leader looks like somebody who’s a man. And in so many ways around the world today, sitting here with a journalist from Australia, which has a woman prime minister, women are subjecting themselves to the political process, which is never easy anywhere, and I want to see more of that. You have to have a thick skin. I will tell you that. But it’s really important that women are out there competing at the highest levels of government and business not only to demonstrate the capacity and quality of women’s leadership, but also to take advantage of the talents of every person we have.

MS. SALES: All right. Let’s see if we can get lucky now with Bogota, and journalist Andrea Bernal hopefully is able to speak to us this time. Andrea, are you there?

MS. BERNAL: Leigh, how are you? I’m here. Thanks again for giving us the entrance. Good morning, Mrs. Secretary Hillary Clinton.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.

MS. BERNAL: Thanks for being here with us at NTN24, the international news network for the Hispanic audience. We had the chance to have a conversation back three years ago in Quito, Ecuador. Thanks for being again with us here.

I would want to start with a question. Barack Obama’s government and you as a Secretary of head – State have led an international policy acknowledging the fact that the United States is not the only powerful nation in the world, recognizing the relevant roles of other countries in the world’s order, and considering dialogue as the right path. However, Latin America does not seem still to be a high priority for the United States. If it were in your decision, in your hands, how could the United States build a closer, more productive relationship with Latin America?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to say very clearly that Latin America has been a very high priority. I have spent a lot of time, as you know when I saw you in Ecuador, traveling throughout Latin America. We want to build on a couple of very important initiatives that the United States is partnering on.

One is energy. We are working hard to help bring greater access to affordable energy to all of Latin America. In fact, we’re working very closely with Colombia to do that, to come down from Mexico all the way down through Chile as well as in the Caribbean. We are working on climate change together, because a lot of the Latin American countries are quite advanced in using alternative forms of energy. We’re working on security now, particularly in Central America. The United States, Mexico, and Colombia are working to help our neighbors in Central America. We’re working on expanding education. I want to see many more students from Latin America coming to the United States and more students from the United States coming to Latin America. We’re working on technology transfers. So there’s a long list of what we’re working on.

But I must say, in part because Latin America is doing so well, your countries are resolving old problems and making progress democratically and economically. A lot of the conflict that was present decades ago has been resolved, and so it’s not a relationship that’s in the headlines all the time, because it’s so positive. We spend time working together. We don’t have to worry about threats to democracy, to security that have unfortunately found their way around the world. So I think we have a very close working relationship. I want it to be even closer. I’m working with President Obama for some second term initiatives that I think will be more headline comprehensive initiatives so that everybody knows how much we value our relationships with our closest neighbors.

MS. SALES: We’ve unfortunately lost –

MS. BERNAL: (Inaudible) a business management student at the University of Tolima in Colombia.

MS. SALES: Andrea, can you repeat that, please? Here we go.

QUESTION: Hi, Ms. Clinton. Well, it’s a pleasure to have you here. And since we have you here, I would like to ask you about democracy. Okay. Latin America, it’s currently experiencing an economic breakthrough that has helped most country in the region reduce poverty. However, it is not clear if this economic progress has actually strengthened our democracies.

So now with that in mind, the question would be: How do you evaluate the diverse democracies in our region, and how do you see our future?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think I see a lot of progress, but still work that needs to be done. If you look at Colombia, you are not the country you were 15 years ago. You have consolidated democracy. You – I know President Santos is attempting to try to negotiate a peace agreement so that people will turn away from violence and participate politically. In Mexico, we see great economic growth but also a very vibrant political system in the last election. In Brazil, similarly, we see the same kind of trends. There are others that you can point to.

But there are some outliers. Unfortunately, we still have a dictatorship in Cuba, which we hope will change soon. We have democratic challenges in other countries in Latin America. But overall, I think that progress has been made and you have to stay the course. It doesn’t happen quickly, but there is great reason to be quite optimistic about the institutionalization of democracy throughout Latin America.

MS. BERNAL: And we have a last question, Mrs. Secretary, thanks for your time, from Ana Maria Rodriguez. She’s a journalist and a student here in our studio. Ana Maria.

QUESTION: Ms. Clinton, good morning. I am Ana Maria Rodriguez. I’m a journalism student. I want to know, today, President Barack Obama will talk about immigration in Vegas. This is a very important (inaudible). And I want to know exactly, all of those immigrants at U.S., what can they expect from this speech from President Barack Obama?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they can expect that the President will put specifics behind his commitment to provide a path to citizenship for the immigrants who are here undocumented in the United States. And I was very pleased that even before the President’s speech, we had a bipartisan group of senators come out with a plan that would accomplish the same goal. So the President is very committed. We have leaders in our Congress who are very committed. And we’re going to do everything we can finally to achieve immigration reform.

MS. SALES: And that is where we’re going to leave Colombia. We have one final request today, Secretary, and we’re going to go to Australia via Skype to hear from two very serious, experienced foreign policy experts – people I know you rely on – your old mates, Hamish and Andy. (Laughter.) For those of you in the audience who don’t know, they’re Australian comedians. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, hello. Welcome.

SECRETARY CLINTON: These guys are hilarious.

QUESTION: Hamish and Andy here. It was an honor to interview you a couple of years ago. Here we are at Government House.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is it.

QUESTION: The Royal Palace here in Australia. It’s wonderful. We’re out in the back, so it’s not as fancy as it is from out in the front. But we just wanted to say, first of all, congratulations on a wonderful term as Secretary of State, and it was amazing having you out here. Certainly a career highlight for us to get to meet you. So many Australians took a lot away from your trip, Madam Secretary. We were just wondering, what was the best thing you took away from Australia?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, clearly my interview with you two.

MS. SALES: Oh, excuse me. (Laughter.) Excuse me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a lot of people will accuse us of having scripted this. (Laughter.) But thank you. Obviously, someone is saying that to you in your ear.

QUESTION: We were hoping it might have been the gravy chips that we gave you, but that was part of the interview, so that’s fine. We must stress, do not eat them under any circumstances. They’re well past their use-by date.

QUESTION: They’re still poisonous.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, obviously a lot of the good questions that we had were taken earlier tonight by some of the wonderful participants around the world, but luckily we still have a few. I have a friend, and I know obviously as you’re stepping back from the Secretary of State position, I have a friend who is about 31. He’s a cute-looking brunette.

QUESTION: Just a friend.

QUESTION: He’s very good, he’s been to university. He did two degrees; he graduated from one, so that’s quite good. (Laughter.) What qualifications – let’s just say John Kerry, something comes up, he can’t do the job, he can’t be the next Secretary of State. What qualifications could I tell my friend he should put on his CV if he wants to become the Secretary of State of the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think his educational background is important – the fact that he finished one degree out of two, that gives him a 50 percent record. (Laughter.) Better than most baseball players or other professional athletes. I think his good looks, that’s important. Yeah, because you’re going to be given a lot of TV time. I know you guys are radio guys, but it’s good that he doesn’t have just a face for radio. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Nothing (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: I guess, thirdly, broad travel, willingness to meet other people, listen to them, as you –

QUESTION: He loves petting zoos.

SECRETARY CLINTON: – have a lot of experience from interviewing. I would drop the gravy chips. I think the gravy chips would be misunderstood in diplomatic settings, especially since I sent them to a lab to be analyzed and you don’t want to know what’s in them. (Laughter.) So – but I think he’s got a good start here.

QUESTION: Unfortunately, gravy chips are the center of our policy, so I guess we’re (inaudible). (Laughter.) But you did say politics is about compromise, so I’m sure we could find a way there. Probably the big question on everyone’s lips is when you step back from being Secretary of State –

QUESTION: Well, she won’t be having to be called Madam Secretary.

QUESTION: You’re no longer Madam Secretary.

QUESTION: No.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Right.

QUESTION: I think on behalf of all the global citizens joining in the town hall meeting tonight, which of these three names would you like to adopt? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We spent three or four months on this.

QUESTION: The Incredible Hillary, the Artist Formerly Known as the Secretary – (laughter), or just Hill Clinton – but it does sound a bit like your husband.

QUESTION: Like Bill, yeah.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I think we’re going to have to work on that list. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: None. Okay.

QUESTION: None. (Laughter.) We will need another four or five months then to come back with another three at least. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’re going to sack it. We’re here at Government House so we can sack some of our advisors right now. (Laughter.) Junk.

QUESTION: We understand that you’ve been trying to cross to every single continent today at the town hall meeting. You haven’t got down to Antarctica. There’s one email – we’ve got a recent telegram that’s just come in here.

QUESTION: Yes, because we’re closest to Antarctica, our signals are a little bit better from them. Just a little telegram from Antarctica. I think it’s very important, obviously, that we recognize the frozen continent.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: It says, “Dear Madam Secretary – stop. Alien spaceship reactivated – stop. Help – stop. Send” – and then that’s it.

QUESTION: That’s it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So what should we write back to our stricken comrades in Antarctica? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s quite distressing. I think, as your first diplomatic mission, you may have to go to Antarctica and find evidence about what happened. The person sending that to you clearly is counting on you. (Laughter.) We will be happy to provide satellite support. I don’t know how fast you can get there, and you’re going to need different clothes than the ones you have on. But I think you need to follow through on this. You guys need to go to Antarctica and broadcast from Antarctica what you find.

QUESTION: That’s nice. Can we have a –

QUESTION: That’s so late here, it’s 2:30, and these are such cheap suits. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’ll have a swell, and then we’ll get right on. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’re going to have the first (inaudible) for having that comment. (Laughter.) Thank you. Amazing advice. This is why – we always say this. This is why you’re the Secretary of State, and we are not. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: That’s exactly why.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Bye. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thanks. Congratulations.

MS. SALES: I hope everyone around the world gets them.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Leigh, I meant radio interview. Yes, great.

MS. SALES: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. (Laughter.) I think Andy is unfortunately out of luck because while we have been talking, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has confirmed John Kerry as Secretary of State.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good. Excellent. Well, that’s good news. (Applause.)

MS. SALES: Have they hit you up for John Kerry’s number yet?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) No, but they will.

MS. SALES: They will.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Don’t you think?

MS. SALES: They will. They absolutely will. To wrap it up, let me just ask you one question. As you prepare to hand over to John Kerry, what would you like to see American diplomacy focused on?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think we have a choice. We have to deal with the immediate crises that come across our desk every day. We have to work on the longer-term challenges like security in North Africa. And we have to deal with what I call the trend lines, not the headlines. So continuing to use technology, women and girls, climate change, alternative energy – the kind of big projects that will have a tremendous impact on what kind of world we have. And there will be two alternative visions. If we don’t deal with climate change, food security, energy access that is sustainable, we could have increasing conflict over resources, for example. That’s not in the headlines today, but in ten years, it could be.

So when I think about the sort of buckets of responsibilities I have, very often what first comes across my desk is an attack here, a terrorist threat there, the immediate crises. And then I also am constantly asking for what are we – what do we do to get ahead of the crises, and then thirdly, what do we do that is not in those two buckets, but instead helps us shape the kind of world that these young people deserve to have.

MS. SALES: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for making time in your schedule all throughout your term as Secretary of State to speak directly to people all around the world. And all the very best for the next leg of your journey. Thank you so much. Please thank Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Leigh, thank you so much. You were masterful.

MS. SALES: Oh, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Just masterful. Have you ever done anything like that, with satellites?

MS. SALES: I have done a few things.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That was really good. Thank you all.

MS. SALES: Thank you. And wherever you are in the world, thank you for your company. Goodbye.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. (Applause.)

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