Political Musings February 14, 2014: Obama and Congress have a Washington snow day

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Congress have a Washington snow day

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As snow blanketed the Washington DC area on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 Congress and the White House came almost to a standstill, cancelling most events, work, a traditional snow day. Over 10 inches of snow fell in the capitol region…

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Full Text Obama Presidency October 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Source: WH, 10-18-13

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

Rose Garden

2:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.  And we’ve got an outstanding team here of folks who work every single day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fulfill that responsibility.  And that means that our entire government — our law enforcement and homeland security professionals, our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence personnel — are all working together.  It means working with state and local partners to disrupt terrorist attacks, to make our borders more secure, respond to natural disasters, and make our immigration system more effective and fair.

Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order.  Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task.  But that’s what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day.  And today I’m proud to announce my choice to lead them — an outstanding public servant who I’ve known and trusted for years — Mr. Jeh Johnson.

We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Janet couldn’t be here today — she’s already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state.  And I know that she’s going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state.  But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years.  I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.

Thanks in no small part to Janet’s leadership, her team, we’ve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm.  We’ve strengthened our borders.  We’ve taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values.  We’ve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires.  And we’ve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.

In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work.  From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.  As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.

When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today’s threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.

Jeh also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination across our government.  He’s been there in the Situation Room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.  And he’s respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who don’t always agree to work towards a common goal.

Jeh has experience leading large complex organizations.  As a member of the Pentagon’s senior management team, first under Bob Gates and then under Leon Panetta, he helped oversee the work of more than 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world.  And I think it’s fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.

He’s also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.  Jeh appreciates that any organization’s greatest asset is its people, and at the Pentagon he guided the report explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly would not weaken our military.  Congress ended up using that report that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh’s determined leadership.  I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.

And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.  Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didn’t treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved.  And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot.  “We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense,” Jeh says, “consistent with who we are as Americans.”  Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.

And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting –- not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are.  And that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made.  We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath.  We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.

And I’m confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I’m confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.

So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission.  You’ve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they’re looking forward to having you over there.  I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible.  And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve.  Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldn’t be here because they’re visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young.  It’s a fine college.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say hi to him.  But your son chose well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite Jeh Johnson to say a few words, hopefully our next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  (Applause.)

MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you noted, my wife and two kids are not here because it’s parents’ weekend at Occidental, and thanks to the cost of a non-refundable airline ticket — (laughter) — they could not be in two places at once.  They wish they could be here.

Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination and the trust you have placed in me to carry out this large and important responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I was not looking for this opportunity — I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice.  But when I received the call, I could not refuse it.

I am a New Yorker, and I was present in Manhattan on 9/11, which happens to be my birthday, when that bright and beautiful day was — a day something like this — was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history.  I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do?  Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.  I love this country.  I care about the safety of our people.  I believe in public service.  And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus, and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

Thank you again, sir.  (Applause.)

END

2:14 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Confirmation of Richard Cordray as Director for CFPB

Source:  WH, 7-17-13

State Dining Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, for decades, the middle class in this country was the engine that powered the economy, and that allowed us to all grow together.  Hard work paid off.  Responsibility was rewarded.  It was that basic bargain that made this country great — that no matter who you are or where you came from, you could make it if you put in enough blood, sweat and tears.

But over time, a winner-take-all philosophy began to take hold and it delivered huge rewards to those at the very top, but left everybody else working harder and harder just to stay afloat.  A lot of families took on more debt just to keep up.  Mortgages were sold that people really didn’t understand and, in some cases, couldn’t afford.  The financial sector was able to make huge bets with other people’s money.  And that strain of irresponsibility eventually came crashing down on all of us.

Now, I ran for President to restore that basic bargain.  I ran because I believed that our economy works best not from the top down, but from the middle out and from the bottom up, where you’ve got a rising, thriving middle class and ladders of opportunity for everybody.

So four years ago, even as we were working on restoring the economy and dealing with the immediate crisis, we also wanted to figure out how do we set new rules for the road to make sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector couldn’t break the law, or cheat consumers, or put the entire economy at risk.

And I was fortunate even when I was running for President to have some friends like Elizabeth Warren, who had already done a lot of academic work on this and had a whole series of ideas about how we might start making sure that consumers were treated better, and as a consequence, take some of the risk out of the system.  And because of those conversations and that work, and because of some terrific efforts by other members in Congress, we were able, for the time in history, to get a consumer watchdog on the job — to look out for the interests of everyday Americans.  And I am very proud to say that last night, Rich Cordray was finally confirmed — (laughter) — by the United States Senate to keep serving as America’s consumer watchdog and as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  So we’re very pleased about that.  (Applause.)

I first nominated Rich for this position two years ago this week.  (Laughter.)  He was eminently qualified.  He had the support of Democrats and Republicans from across the country.  A majority of state attorneys general from both parties — Rich’s former colleagues — called on him to be confirmed.  And for two years, Republicans in the Senate refused to give Rich a simple yes-or-no vote — not because they didn’t think he was the right person for the job, but because they didn’t like the law that set up the consumer watchdog in the first place.

But without a director in place, the CFPB would have been severely hampered.  And the CFPB wasn’t able to give consumers the information they needed to make good, informed decisions.  Folks in the financial system who were doing the right thing didn’t have much certainty or clear rules of the road.  And the CFPB didn’t have all the tools it needed to protect consumers against mortgage brokers, or credit reporting agencies, or debt collectors who were taking advantage of ordinary Americans.

As a consequence, last year, I took steps on my own to temporarily appoint Richard so he could get to work on their behalf.  And Americans everywhere are better off because he did. And thanks to not only Rich, but his terrific team — I know many are represented here — we’ve made real strides, even despite the fact that the agency was hampered by the confirmation process.

And I would argue that part of the reason we were able to finally get Rich confirmed today is because he’s shown through his leadership and because of the very hard work that everybody at the CFPB has already done that this is making a difference in the lives of the American people — a positive difference day in, day out.  It’s hard to argue with success.

So, yesterday, Richard was officially confirmed.  I want to thank Senators from both parties, including Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Senator McCain, for coming together to help get Rich confirmed.  And obviously, Elizabeth, who wasn’t a senator when she thought this up, but is now a senator — she was poking and prodding people for a long time — (laughter) — to help make it happen.

Senator Reid’s leadership, in particular, was obviously instrumental in getting this done, and I couldn’t be more grateful to him.

And together, we’re giving Americans a guarantee that the protections they enjoy today will still be around next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and for years to come.

While we’re on the topic of nominations, I also want to thank the Senate for agreeing to give my other nominees who’ve waited far too long the votes that they deserve.  These are all highly qualified men and women who are just ready to go to work for the American people — for students and for seniors, for veterans, for middle-class families.  Special interests, they’ll always have their lobbyists.  They’ll always have the capacity to tilt the system in their favor.  But middle-class folks deserve leaders who are going to stand up for them as well on a day-to-day basis, in the trenches.

So let me use this opportunity to remind people of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under Rich’s leadership can do and has done already, even in some difficult circumstances.

Today, if you want to take out a mortgage or a student loan or a payday loan, or you’ve got a credit reporting agency or debt collector who’s causing you problems — maybe they’re not playing by the rules, maybe they’re taking advantage of you — you have somewhere to go.  The CFPB has already addressed more than 175,000 complaints from all across the nation, giving people an advocate who is working with them when they’re dealing with these financial institutions that may not always be thinking about consumers first.

Today, as part of the CFPB’s “Know Before You Owe” efforts, students and their parents can get a simple report with the information they need before taking out student loans.  And more than 700 colleges have joined to make this information clear and transparent.   It’s making a difference.

And by the way, if you’ve noticed that some credit card forms are becoming easier to understand than they used to be, that’s because of the work of Rich’s team and other folks across this administration have done to make sure that people understand the kinds of debts that they’re taking on through their credit cards.

Today, veterans have access to tools that they need to defend against dishonest lenders and mortgage brokers who try to prey on them when they come home from serving their country.  Today seniors are better protected from someone who sees their homes or their retirement savings as an easy target for get-rich-quick schemes.

And thanks to the hard work of folks at the CFPB, so far    6 million Americans have gotten more than $400 million in refunds from companies that engaged in unscrupulous practices.

So this is not just some abstract, theoretical exercise.  Families, many of them hard-pressed, have money in their pockets, maybe, in some cases, saved a home or were able to send their kids to college, because of the work that Rich and his team is doing right now.  And that’s money that oftentimes families didn’t have the power to recover before.

So Americans are better off because of what Rich has done as our consumer watchdog and his outstanding team is doing each and every day.  And, by the way, that’s just the tangible benefits that we know of, that $400 million in refunds.  But part of what happens is when you’ve got a watchdog, people don’t try as many things.  And everybody starts tightening up their practices because they know somebody is watching.  And so that has ripple effects throughout our economy.

So Americans everywhere are better off because of the work that these folks have done.  And now that Rich has gotten the yes-or-no vote he deserved, businesses and consumers have more certainty than they did before that this will continue.

So we’ve come a long way over the last four and a half years.  Our economy is growing.  Our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs over the past 40 months.  We’ve locked in new safeguards to protect against another crisis, and we are making sure that we are doing everything we can to change the incentives inside the financial system and try to end tax-funded — taxpayer-funded bailouts for good.  And even though more work remains, our system is fairer and it’s more sound than it was when the crisis hit.

Of course, we’ve still got a long way to go to restore that basic bargain, to restore that sense of security that too many middle-class families still are fighting to rebuild.  But if we just keep letting people like Rich do their jobs, if we let all these incredible young people know that you’re going to keep on going for a long time, you’re building something that will last beyond our government’s service and we’ll be providing protections for generations to come — and if we keep focused on that North Star — a rising, thriving middle class, an economy where prosperity is broad-based — then I’m confident that we’re ultimately going to get to where we need to go.

So I want to thank everybody.  And I just want to give Rich a quick chance to say something.  (Applause.)

MR. CORDRAY:  Thank you.  I want to thank the President — this President, in particular, who has believed in us from the beginning.  I want to thank the Senate and the senators for the chance to persevere and be confirmed as the director of this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  All I ever asked for, all I ever worked for was to have a chance to have an up-or-down vote on the merits, and I thank them for that.

For nearly two years, as the President indicated, we have been focused on making consumer finance markets work better for the American people.  Today’s action — the action — I was sworn in by the Vice President this morning, and the Senate confirmation — means that there will be certainty for those markets and for the industries we oversee.

For me, it also reaffirms that our central responsibility is to stand on the side of consumers and see that they’re treated fairly, just as the President described it.  It’s something that people deserve.  It’s something that they want and need.  And we’re there to try to provide it.

We will continue that essential work and each one of us — those of us here and those of us in Washington and around the country who work for this new Consumer Bureau, including most especially myself — we’re grateful for the opportunity that you’ve given us to serve our country in this important way.

Thank you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

END
11:16 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines July 12, 2013: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Resigning

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Resigning

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-12-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to step down from her cabinet position in order to become president of the University of California system.

“For more than four years I have had the privilege of serving President Obama and his Administration as the Secretary of Homeland Security,” Napolitano said in a statement on Friday. “The opportunity to work with the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security, who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s efforts to protect our communities and families from harm, has been the highlight of my professional career.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama on Monday nominated longtime economic adviser Jason Furman as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, calling him “one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation.”

“When the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job,” the president said as he stood alongside Furman at a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Nominates Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Source: WH, 6-10-13

President Barack Obama announces his intent to nominate Jason FurmanPresident Barack Obama announces his intent to nominate Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, left, as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to succeed current CEA Chairman Alan Krueger, right, in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, President Obama nominated Jason Furman to replace Alan Krueger as the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Furman, 42, will bring a vast amount of economic experience to the role. In 2009, he joined the Obama administration as an Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council….READ MORE

Remarks by the President Nominating Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Source: WH, 6-10-13 

State Dining Room

2:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, all of you.  It’s now been nearly five years since an economic crisis and a punishing recession came together to cost far too many Americans their jobs, and their homes, and the sense of security that they had built up over time.  And by the time I took office, my team and I were facing bubbles that had burst; markets that had cratered; bank after bank on the verge of collapse.  And the heartbeat of American manufacturing, our auto industry, was flatlining.  And all this meant that hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs each month. So this was a scary time. And nobody had any idea where the bottom would be.

Four and a half years later, our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 36 months.  The American auto industry has come roaring back.  We’re producing more of our own energy, we’re consuming less that we import from other countries.  Our deficits are shrinking rapidly.  The cost of health care is slowing.  The housing market is rebounding.  People’s retirement savings are growing.  The wealth that was lost from that recession has now been recovered.

All of this progress is a testament to the grit and resolve of the American people, most of all.  But it’s also due in some measurable way to the incredible dedication of the men and women who helped to engineer America’s response.  And two of those people are standing next to me, two very smart economists:  Alan Krueger and Jason Furman.

Today, I can announce that Alan is heading back to teach his beloved students at Michelle’s alma mater — Princeton University.  When they get together all they can talk about is Princeton and they’re all very proud, and those of us who didn’t go to Princeton have to put up with it.  (Laughter.)  And I’m proud to say that Jason Furman has agreed to replace Alan as the Chairman of my Council of Economic Advisers.

During the crisis, Alan stepped in initially to help engineer our response as Assistant Secretary and chief economist at the Treasury Department.  He was so good that we then had to beg him to come back, extend his tour, to serve as the Chairman of my Council of Economic Advisers, where he’s been the driving force behind actions that we’ve taken to help restart the flow of lending to small businesses, and create new jobs, and arm workers with the skills they need to fill them, to reduce income inequality, to rebuild our aging infrastructure, and to bring down our deficits in a responsible way.

And Alan is driven by the basic bargain at the heart of our economy — the idea that hard work should be rewarded.  He’s motivated by the principle that no one who works full-time in the greatest nation on Earth should have to raise their families in poverty or below poverty levels.  His commitment to a rising, thriving middle class shines through in his often passionate presentations and — at least for an economist they’re passionate.  (Laughter.)  And in the policies that he’s pushed, and I know this will continue to be a focus of his research.

Alan’s wife and son are here today, and I know that they’re all looking forward to having Alan back.  (Laughter.)  And now that Alan has some free time, he can return to another burning passion of his — “Rockonomics.”  The economics of rock and roll.  This is something that Alan actually cares about — seriously, on Wednesday he’s giving a speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He’s got a t-shirt under his suit — (laughter) — with a big tongue sticking out.  (Laughter.)  Don’t show it.  (Laughter and applause.)

So Alan has become one of my most trusted advisors.  He’s become a wonderful friend.  I’m sad to see him go.  But I know that he will continue to do outstanding work and, fortunately, he’ll still be available for us to consult with him periodically because he’s a constant font of good ideas about how we can further help the American people.  So thank you very much, Alan, for all the good work that you’ve done.  (Applause.)

I’m also proud to nominate another outstanding economist to take his place.  Jason Furman is one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation, don’t take my word for it — you can talk to other economists who know a lot more than I do about it.  He’s won the respect and admiration from his peers across the political spectrum.  His Ph.D. thesis advisor, Greg Mankiw, chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush.  Nobel Prize Winner Joe Stiglitz, on the other side of the economic spectrum, hired Jason to work for the CEA under President Clinton.

After leaving President Clinton’s White House, Jason finished his Ph.D. in economics, quickly acquired a reputation as a world-class scholar and researcher.  But public service kept calling, and Jason kept answering that call because he believes deeply in it.  So from working at the World Bank on issues of inequality and international finance to developing new proposals to strengthen our health and retirement programs, he helped to shape some of our most important economic policy debates.

And when I asked him to join my team in 2008, even though his baby daughter — that’s right — (laughter) — you were this big — had just been born, he agreed to serve once again.  And over the last five years I’ve come to trust not only his head, but also his heart, because Jason never forgets who it is that we’re fighting for:  middle-class families, folks who are working hard to climb their way into the middle class, the next generation.

And when the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job.  He understands all sides of an argument, not just one side of it.  He’s worked tirelessly on just about every major economic challenge of the past four and a half years, from averting a second depression, to fighting for tax cuts that help millions of working families make ends meet, to creating new incentives for businesses to hire, to reducing our deficits in a balanced way that benefits the middle class.

And so, Eve, Jason’s wife, who is an accomplished writer herself, has put up with a lot of hours with Jason away.  Henry and Louisa, who are here, they’ve made a lot of sacrifices so that their husband and dad could be here working for the American people.  So I appreciate you guys for sharing daddy.  (Laughter.)  Just a little bit longer.  (Laughter.)  And the reason it’s important is because while we’ve cleared away the rubble of crisis and laid a new foundation for growth, our work is nowhere near done.

Even though the economy is growing, too many middle-class families still feel like they’re working harder and harder and can’t get ahead.  Inequality is still growing in our society.  Too many young people aren’t sure whether they’ll be able to match the living standards of their parents.  We have too many kids in poverty in this country still.

There are some basic steps that we can take to strengthen the position of working people in this country, to help our economy grow faster, to make sure that it’s more competitive.  And some of that requires political will.  Some of it requires an abiding passion for making sure everybody in this country has a fair shot.  But it also requires good economists.  I know it’s called a dismal science, but I don’t find it that dismal.  (Laughter.)  I think it’s actually pretty interesting.  Alan and Jason appreciate that.  (Laughter.)  So sometimes the rest of my staff thinks, oh, Obama is getting together with his economists and they’re going to have a wonkfest for the next hour.  (Laughter.)

But this stuff matters.  It’s not just numbers on a page.  It makes a difference in terms of whether or not people get a chance at life, and also, how do we optimize opportunity and make sure that it — we don’t have a contradiction between an efficient, growing, free-market economy, and one in which everybody gets a fair shot and where we’re caring for the vulnerable and the disabled and folks in our society who need help.

So a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, that rewards hard work and responsibility, that’s our North Star.  Jason shares that focus.  I know Alan shares that passion.  And Jason’s new role as the Chairman of the Economic — Council of Economic Advisors, he’ll be working with some of our country’s leading economists, including Jim Stock, who has joined us.  And I’m relying on them to provide analysis and recommendations with just one thing in mind: What’s going to do the most good for the most people in this country — not what’s best for a political party, not what’s best for a special interest.  I don’t have another election.  It’s not what’s best for me — what’s best for our middle class, and everybody who is working hard to get there.  That’s what the American people deserve.

So I would urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Jason Furman. And I want to, again, thank Alan for his outstanding service.  I want to thank Jason and his family for continuing to serve the country they love.  And for all the economists in the room, thank you for the occasionally under-appreciated work that you do.  (Laughter.)

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
2:25 P.M EDT

Political Headlines June 7, 2013: President Barack Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited — ‘Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: ‘Nobody Is Listening to Your Telephone Calls’

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-7-13

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” the president told reporters in his first public comments since the programs were disclosed.

“They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism,” he said….READ MORE

Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited

Source: NYT, 6-7-13

President Obama on Friday defended government efforts to gather telephone and Internet data, and sought to reassure Americans that his administration was not listening in on their calls….READ MORE

 

 

Political Headlines May 31, 2013: Eric Holder Tells News Media Outlets in Meetings Justice Department Leak Guidelines Will Change

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Eric Holder Tells Media Outlets Leak Guidelines Will Change

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-13

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Justice Department will weigh journalists’ concerns and modify its guidelines for investigating potential national security leaks, Attorney General Eric Holder told media outlets Friday….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: House Judiciary Committee: Did Eric Holder Lie Under Oath?

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Did Eric Holder Lie Under Oath?

Source: National Review Online (blog), 5-28-13

The House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters, an aide close to the matter told The Hill….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 24, 2013: Eric Holder signed off on DOJ affidavit for Fox reporter James Rosen

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Eric Holder signed off on DOJ affidavit for Fox reporter: report

Source: Washington Times, 5-24-13

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. approved a search warrant identifying a Fox News reporter as a potential co-conspirator in an espionage case, NBC News reported….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 23, 2013: President Barack Obama Orders Justice Department DOJ Review of Leak Investigations

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Orders DOJ Review of Leak Investigations

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-23-13

Edward Linsmier/Getty Images

President Obama is a little uneasy with the way journalists have been dragged into the Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of national security leak investigations. In fact, he has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a 45-day review of the department’s guidelines on the issue….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 21, 2013: In AP, James Rosen investigations, government makes criminals of reporters

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In AP, James Rosen investigations, government makes criminals of reporters

Source: Dana Milbank, WaPo, 5-21-13

…But here’s why you should care — and why this case, along with the administration’s broad snooping into Associated Press phone records, is more serious than the other supposed Obama administration scandals regarding Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service. The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.

To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job — seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public — deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based. Guns? Privacy? Due process? Equal protection? If you can’t speak out, you can’t defend those rights, either….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner: Scandals Reveal Obama Administration’s ‘Arrogance of Power’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Boehner: Scandals Reveal Obama Administration’s ‘Arrogance of Power’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

With a three-headed monster of controversy and scandal chasing the president this week — Benghazi, the IRS, The Justice Department’s monitoring AP —  House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that an “arrogance of power” within the Obama administration threatens to unravel the American people’s dithering confidence in government.

“Nothing dissolves the bonds between the people and their government like the arrogance of power here in Washington, and that’s what the American people are seeing today from the Obama administration — remarkable arrogance,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Rose Garden Press Conference Discussing the IRS & the Associated Press / Justice Department Scandals & Syria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Joint Press Conference by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Political storm clouds gave way to a steady drizzle at a Rose Garden news conference Thursday.

Source: WH, 5-16-13

Rose Garden

12:48 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, before we get started let me just make sure that I’m a good host.  Mr. Prime Minister, do you want an umbrella?  (Laughter.)  Because we can arrange it if you need it.  You’re okay?  All right, this will be incentive for the press to ask concise questions and us to give concise answers.

I’m going to start with Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg.

Q    Unfortunately, we all forgot umbrellas.  Mr. President, I want to ask you about the IRS.  Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your Counsel’s Office found out on April 22nd?  And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports as you said last Friday?  And also, are you opposed to there being a special council appointed to lead the Justice Department investigation?….

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, with respect to the IRS, I spoke to this yesterday.  My main concern is fixing a problem, and we began that process yesterday by asking and accepting the resignation of the Acting Director there.  We will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that — following up on the IG audit — that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions.  As I said last night, it is just simply unacceptable for there to even be a hint of partisanship or ideology when it comes to the application of our tax laws.

I am going to go ahead and ask folks — why don’t we get a couple of Marines, they’re going to look good next to us — (laughter) — just because I’ve got a change of suits — (laughter) — but I don’t know about our Prime Minister.  There we go.  That’s good.  You guys I’m sorry about.  (Laughter.)

But let me make sure that I answer your specific question.  I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press. Typically, the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared.  They tend to be a process that everybody is trying to protect the integrity of.  But what I’m absolutely certain of is that the actions that were described in that IG report are unacceptable.

So in addition to making sure that we’ve got a new acting director there, we’re also going to make sure that we gather up the facts, and hold accountable and responsible anybody who was involved in this.  We’re going to make sure that we identify any structural or management issues to prevent something like this from happening again.  We’re going to make sure that we are accepting all of the recommendations that the IG has in the report.

And I’m looking forward to working with Congress to fully investigate what happened, make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and also look at some of the laws that create a bunch of ambiguity in which the IRS may not have enough guidance and not be clear about what exactly they need to be doing and doing it right, so that the American people have confidence that the tax laws are being applied fairly and evenly.

So in terms of the White House and reporting, I think that you’ve gotten that information from Mr. Carney and others.  I promise you this — that the minute I found out about it, then my main focus is making sure we get the thing fixed.  I think that it’s going to be sufficient for us to be working with Congress.  They’ve got a whole bunch of committees.  We’ve got IGs already there.

The IG has done an audit; it’s now my understanding they’re going to be recommending an investigation.  And Attorney General Holder also announced a criminal investigation of what happened. Between those investigations, I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.

And that, ultimately, is the main priority that I have, but also I think the American people have.  They understand that we’ve got an agency that has enormous potential power and is involved in everybody’s lives.  And that’s part of the reason why it’s been treated as a quasi-independent institution.  But that’s also why we’ve got to make sure that it is doing its job scrupulously and without even a hint of bias, or a hint that somehow they’re favoring one group over another.

And, as I said yesterday, I’m outraged by this in part because, look, I’m a public figure — if a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one political view over another, obviously we’re all vulnerable.  And that’s why, as I’ve said, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you should be equally outraged at even the prospect that the IRS might not be acting with the kind of complete neutrality that we expect.

And I think we’re going to be able to fix it.  We’re going to be able to get it done, and we’ve already begun that progress and we’re going to keep on going until it’s finished.

Jeff Mason.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’d like to ask you about the Justice Department.  Do you believe that the seizure of phone records from Associated Press journalists this week — or before that was announced recently this week was an overreach?  And do you still have full confidence in your Attorney General?  Should we interpret yesterday’s renewed interest by the White House in a media shield law as a response to that?  And, more broadly, how do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week’s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon administration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons and you can go ahead and read the history I think and draw your own conclusions.

My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government that we fix it.  That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.  That’s true with respect to the IRS and making sure that they apply the laws the way they were intended. That’s true with respect to the security of our diplomats, which is why we’re going to need to work with Congress to make sure that there’s adequate funding for what’s necessary out there.

Now, with respect to the Department of Justice, I’m not going to comment on a specific and pending case.  But I can talk broadly about the balance that we have to strike.  Leaks related to national security can put people at risk.  They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk.

U.S. national security is dependent on those folks being able to operate with confidence that folks back home have their backs, so they’re not just left out there high and dry, and potentially put in even more danger than they may already be.  And so I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as Commander-in-Chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.

Now, the flip side of it is we also live in a democracy where a free press, free expression, and the open flow of information helps hold me accountable, helps hold our government accountable, and helps our democracy function.  And the whole reason I got involved in politics is because I believe so deeply in that democracy and that process.

So the whole goal of this media shield law — that was worked on and largely endorsed by folks like The Washington Post Editorial Page and by prosecutors — was finding a way to strike that balance appropriately.  And to the extent that this case, which we still don’t know all the details of — to the extent that this case has prompted renewed interest about how do we strike that balance properly, then I think now is the time for us to go ahead and revisit that legislation.  I think that’s a worthy conversation to have, and I think that’s important.

But I also think it’s important to recognize that when we express concern about leaks at a time when I’ve still got 60,000-plus troops in Afghanistan, and I’ve still got a whole bunch of intelligence officers around the world who are in risky situations — in outposts that, in some cases, are as dangerous as the outpost in Benghazi — that part of my job is to make sure that we’re protecting what they do, while still accommodating for the need for information — or the need for the public to be informed and be able to hold my office accountable.

Q    I asked about Holder as well.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Prime Minister, just excuse me — you’re right, I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as Attorney General.  He’s an outstanding Attorney General and does his job with integrity, and I expect he will continue to do so.

Q    Mr. President, my first question is to you.  You mentioned that Assad should go, and the question is how and when. Is there a rough timetable?  And shall we be talking about the Syrian tragedy next year at this time?  What’s the idea?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We would have preferred Assad go two years ago; last year; six months ago; two months ago.  And there has been consistency on the part of my administration that Assad lost legitimacy when he started firing on his own people and killing his own people, who initially were protesting peacefully for a greater voice in their country’s affairs.  And obviously that’s escalated during the course of time.  So the answer is the sooner the better.

Now, in terms of the question how, I think we’ve already discussed that.  There’s no magic formula for dealing with a extraordinarily violent and difficult situation like Syria’s.  If there was, I think the Prime Minister and I would have already acted on it and it would already be finished.

And instead, what we have to do is apply steady international pressure, strengthen the opposition.  I do think that the prospect of talks in Geneva involving the Russians and representatives about a serious political transition that all the parties can buy into may yield results.  But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re helping the opposition, and obviously dealing with the humanitarian situation.  And we’ll do so in close consultation with Turkey, which obviously is deeply invested in this and with whom we’ve got an outstanding relationship with.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you, guys.

END
1:26 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Scandals at Rose Garden Press Conference

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Controversies

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Playing offense, President Obama on Thursday vowed to take action in response to the three controversies plaguing his administration, calling on Congress to provide additional resources to protect U.S. embassies abroad, vowing to hold accountable those who committed “outrageous actions” at the IRS, and pledging to strike a “balance” between protecting national security interests and the freedom of the press.

“My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government, that we fix it,” the president said in a rainy joint Rose Garden news conference with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, as his administration seeks to take charge in the wake of the scandals. “That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.”…READ MORE

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