Campaign Buzz December 12, 2011: Gingrich-Huntsman Debate on Foreign Policy & National Security at St Anselm College, New Hampshire Emulates Lincoln-Douglas Style — Candidates Agree on Issues — Transcript Excerpts

CAMPAIGN 2012

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

Jon M. Huntsman Jr., center, and Newt Gingrich covered only half of the 10 topics they planned to discuss during their 90 minute Lincoln-Douglas-style debate.
Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times
Jon M. Huntsman Jr., center, and Newt Gingrich covered only half of the 10 topics they planned to discuss during their 90 minute Lincoln-Douglas-style debate.

IN FOCUS: GINGRICH-HUNTSMAN DEBATE ON FOREIGN POLICY POLICY & NATIONAL SECURITY AT ST ANSELM COLLEGE EMULATES LINCOLN-DOUGLAS STYLE — CANDIDATES AGREE ON ISSUES

Live-blogging the Gingrich-Huntsman debate: Get updates from the Fix’s Aaron Blake and watch the Lincoln-Douglas style debate live…. WaPo, 12-12-11

“This is what we should have a lot more of. This is substantive. We’re a country in enormous trouble, and we need leaders who are willing to talk to citizens … We’re not going to solve things with, you know, what’s your solution on Libya in 30 seconds. This is not a Hollywood game, this is not a reality show. This is reality.” — Newt Gingrich

“We’re always looking for winners and losers in these things, but I think the winners might well be the American people.” — Jon Huntsman

Huntsman and Gingrich Square Off in Unmoderated Debate: In New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich and Jon M. Huntsman Jr. participated in a two-man unmoderated debate devoted to foreign policy and national security…. – NYT, 12-12-11

  • Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman agree on seriousness at debate in New Hampshire: The meeting of two presidential candidates here today was billed as a successor to the Lincoln Douglas debates, but turned out to be a festival of self-congratulation intended less to tease out differences between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman than simply signal their status as serious men.
    The 90-minute talk at St. Anselm College, moderated by local Republican operative Patrick Griffin, centered on national security and foreign policy, and the two men ranged widely across Asia and the Middle East. The debate showed a few of their differences – Huntsman, notably, favors a rapid withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan – but it lacked the animating point of the 1858 debates on which it was modeled: a core disagreement…. – Politico, 12-12-11
  • Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman square off in friendly debate: Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich and rival Jon Huntsman Jr. squared off Monday afternoon at a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate on national security and foreign policy.
    The event, sponsored by the St. Anselm College Republicans and hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library, was modeled after a series of seven debates that took place between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas during their 1858 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinios, in which one candidate spoke for the first 60 minutes, the second candidate followed with a 90-minute rebuttal, and then the first speaker had 30 minutes to respond.
    Monday’s debate lasted half as long and focused on half a dozen predetermined questions, but the candidates were allowed to answer without strict time constraints, which made for 90 minutes of what felt like a college seminar…. – LAT, 12-12-11
  • The Huntsman-Gingrich Debate That Wasn’t: The so-called “Lincoln-Douglas debate” between the GOP candidates at the top and bottom of the polls turned out to be an unenlightening lovefest
    Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich took a break from the campaign trail Monday to give a wide-ranging foreign-policy lecture at a New Hampshire university, where he was joined on the panel by a former ambassador to China, one Jon Huntsman.
    That’s what Monday afternoon’s supposed “Lincoln-Douglas debate” between Gingrich and Huntsman really felt like. The two flattered each other, recited a number of views that they mostly agreed upon, and filled the balance of the time with uncontroversial blather about the importance of foreign policy, the glories of the present event and, of course, the greatness of America…. – The Atlantic, 12-12-11
  • Gingrich, Huntsman Agree: Iran Is Scary GOP candidates exchange foreign policy views in New Hampshire debate: Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman engaged in a friendly, rather academic foreign policy debate today that saw more agreement than fireworks, the Los Angeles Times reports. Modeled on the Abraham Lincoln- Stephen Douglas debates of 1858—in which candidates spoke for long uninterrupted stretches—the two Republican contenders discussed issues including Iran, China, and Afghanistan at a college in New Hampshire. “I can see my daughter nodding off over there,” quipped Huntsman…. – Newser, 12-12-11

 

Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman Jr., left, and Newt Gingrich during a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman Jr., left, and Newt Gingrich during a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester. (EPA/CJ GUNTHER / December 12, 2011)

Gingrich-Huntsman debate live blog (VIDEO)

Debate over (5:27 p.m.)

The debate has concluded.

We got through five of 10 planned topics in 90 minutes.

And the time-keeper closed with a zing for Mitt Romney, who is not there to defend himself.

Of Gingrich’s plan to challenge President Obama to similar Lincoln-Douglas style debates, the time-keeper, Pat Griffin, said: “I’ll bet you $10,000 he doesn’t show up.”

Huntsman digs at Trump (5:26 p.m)

“I can’t wait to compare and contrast this format with the Donald Trump debate,” Huntsman said.

Huntsman has passed on participating in the Trump-moderated debate, but Gingrich is taking part.

Gingrich says Chinese relationship most important (5:16 p.m.)

Gingrich said the Chinese will be the United States’ most important relationship for decades to come.

“The most important relationship of the next 50 years is the American people and the Chinese people,” Gingrich said, differentiating that from the relationship between the governments.

“If you don’t fundamentally rethink what we’re doing here, you cannot compete with China,” Gingrich added. “If we do the right thing here, China can’t compete with us.”

Huntsman says U.S. has interest in Syria, not Libya (4:52 p.m.)

Huntsman said he disagrees with the intervention in Libya because there was no national security interest there.

As for Syria, he suggested more should have been done.

“I couldn’t see a definable national security interest” in Libya, he said. “With Syria, I see it a little differently, because it is a conduit, a pipeline for Iran.”

Huntsman calls Iran the “transcendant threat” (4:44 p.m)

Huntsman says Iran poses a bigger problem than any other country right now, calling it the “transcendant threat” and saying all options are on the table in dealing with the regime there.

Huntsman said a nuclear Iran would lead Turkey and other nations to build nuclear programs.

“I think all options are on the table, and I do believe we’re going to have a conversation with Israel” when Iran goes nuclear, Huntsman said.

He also said the Obama Administration missed an opportunity to get a foothold in the region with the Arab Spring.

“We missed a huge opportunity with the Arab Spring,” Huntsman said. “Huge missed opportunity.”

Gingrich largely agreed on Iran. He has previously said the United States needs to be ready to join Israel against Iran and called Iran the “biggest national security threat of the next 10 years.”

Gingrich says United States not safer than 10 years ago (4:29 p.m.)

Gingrich said the United States might not be any safer than it was in 2001 when the war in Afghanistan began and before the war in Iraq began.

“It’s hard for me to argue that we’re any safer than we were 10 years ago,” Gingrich said, pointing to potential nuclear capabilities in Iran and Pakistan.

Huntsman says bring Afghanistan troops home (4:22 p.m.)

Huntsman said the United States has had success in Afghanistan, and that it should bring the troops home.

“I think we’ve done the best that we could do, but I think we’ve done all we could do,” he said, repeating his past statements on the topic, which differ from his GOP opponents. Huntsman said the time has passed for nation-building and counter-insurgency, and that the new mission should be focused on counter-terrorism.

Huntsman went on to say that the United States’ relationship with Pakistan is too “transactional.”

“Pakistan, sadly, is nothing more than a transactional relationship with the United States,” Huntsman said. “For all the money we put into Pakistan, are we in a better situation? The answer is no.”

Original post (3:44 p.m.)

Starting at 4 p.m. eastern time, The Fix will be doing a modified live blog of the one-on-one, Lincoln-Douglas style debate in New Hampshire between Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman.

Check back on this post for regular updates on the key moments from the debate and everything you need to know about what’s said.

For now, see piece previewing the debate.

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Full Text December 12, 2011: First Lady Michelle Obama Visits Patients at Children’s National Medical Center

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama Visits Patients at Children’s National Medical Center

Source: WH, 12-12-11
First Lady reads Twas the Night Before ChristmasFirst Lady Michelle Obama reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas” during a Christmas holiday program with children, parents and staff at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2011. Participants included 19 year-old patient Ashley Riemer, right, Bo, the Obama family dog, and Santa Claus. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama visited patients at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., a tradition that dates back more than 60 years to First Lady Bess Truman. After touring the neonatal intensive care nursery and another unit at the hospital, Mrs. Obama settled in with Santa Claus and First Dog Bo to read T’was the Night Before Christmas to a group of children gathered in the hospital’s atrium.

After story time, the First Lady answered some questions about the Obama family’s Christmas Eve traditions (enjoying a big meal with extended family in Hawaii and waiting for Santa to arrive), her favorite Christmas movie (“It’s a Wonderful Life”), and what she’s getting the President for Christmas (it’s a surprise, of course!).

Bo at Children's National Medical CenterFirst Lady Michelle Obama and Bo, the Obama family dog, greet audience members at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 12, 2011. Mrs Obama visited and read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” during a Christmas holiday program with children, parents and staff. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

 

Remarks by the First Lady at Children’s National Medical Center

Washington, D.C.

2:53 P.M. EST

DR. NEWMAN:  Now, I’m Kurt Newman.  I’m the President and CEO here.  And we’re just thrilled to have Mrs. Obama with us.  We just had a wonderful tour to see a lot of the babies up in the neonatal intensive care nursery and on the intestinal rehab unit, and we talked to lots of doctors, nurses, patients.  So we’re thrilled to have her here today, with Santa Claus and Bo, to read a story about Christmas.

MRS. OBAMA:  All right, we ready?  Can everybody hear me?

AUDIENCE:  Yes.

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, first of all, how’s everybody doing?

AUDIENCE:  Good.

MRS. OBAMA:  Yeah?  Is it exciting?  Christmas is coming.  How many people have done their letters to Santa?  You got to get on it, you got to get on it.  (Laughter.)  You got to get your letters done.

All right, I’m going to read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  How many people have heard that?  Good, good.  So you can help out, where possible, okay?  And I’ll try to show some of the pictures as well.  I had the honor of reading this with guess who?  Kermit the Frog.  Me and Kermit, reading it — it was very exciting.

Hey — hey, you, little one — (laughter) — what’s going on?  What are you talking — are you scaring her?  All right, you guys good?  All right.

Okay, we’re going to read.  Okay, folks, sit, sit.  Are you ready?  Okay.

(Begins reading.)

All right, this is the night before Christmas — it’s, like, Christmas Eve.  Santa is coming; a lot of excitement.

(Continues reading.)

What do you think he was looking for?

AUDIENCE:  Santa.

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, let’s see.  You think it was — what was going on, Santa?  We’ll see, we’ll see.  All right.

(Continues reading.)

Do we know their names?  Do you want to say them with me, if we can?

Now, Dasher!  Now, Dancer!  Now, Prancer and Vixen!  On, Comet!  On, Cupid!  On, Donner and Blitzen!  To the top of the porch!  To the top of the the wall!  Now dash away, dash away, dash away, all!

CHILD:  Santa!  That looks like you!

MRS. OBAMA:  It does look like you.

SANTA:  Thank you.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Yeah, good one, goon one.  Now, which reindeer is missing?

AUDIENCE:  Rudolph.

MRS. OBAMA:  That’s right, where is Rudolph in this story?

SANTA:  He comes later.

MRS. OBAMA:  He’s later?  Later?

(Continues reading.)
He’s coming!  He’s coming into your house — (laughter) — with stuff.  How exciting!  What does he have?

(Continues reading.)

Way to go, Santa.  (Laughter.)  He cleaned up for you guys.  He got rid of the soot.

(Continues reading.)

SANTA:  Ho, ho, ho!

MRS. OBAMA:  Like a bowl full of jelly.  (Laughter.)

Way to go.  Way to be on cue, Santa.  (Laughter.)

SANTA:  Ho, ho, ho!

MRS. OBAMA:  (Continues reading.)

He’s busy, putting stuff under the tree.  It’s coming.  Christmas is coming!  It’s so exciting!  Oh, my goodness.

(Continues reading.)

He’s got to go to a lot of houses.  How do you do it?  (Laughter.)

SANTA:  — secrets.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s a miracle.  No secrets.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle.  And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.  But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

AUDIENCE:  A good night.

MRS. OBAMA:  Yay!  (Applause.)

That’s a good Christmas song.  Okay, so we have time for some questions, my favorite part of this experience.  Because the questions are very interesting.

HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Boys and girls, do you have some questions for the First Lady?

MRS. OBAMA:  We’ve got — I see one little red, beautiful red dress.  You feel like telling me your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Ellington.

MRS. OBAMA:  Ellington.  Ooh, beautiful name.  What’s your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Addison.

MRS. OBAMA:  Addison and Ellington.  will you speak for the both of you?  Thank you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  What does your family do on Christmas Eve?

MRS. OBAMA:  What does my family do on Christmas Eve?  Well, we have a tradition.  My husband grew up in Hawaii, right?  That’s where his family is And that’s hometown for us.  And we’ve gone there every year for 20 years.  So every year, we go to Hawaii.  And by the time Christmas Eve comes around, we put out the cookies for Santa.  We usually have a fun Christmas Eve dinner, and all the kids get around — they’re playing, they’re really excited, and they don’t go to bed right away because they’re too excited, and then we have to make them go to bed.  It’s a big hassle.  And then we wait for Santa.  It’s pretty simple.

What do you guys do on Christmas Eve?  What are you going to do on Christmas Eve?

Q    On Christmas Eve, we light the tree and —

MRS. OBAMA:  Wait for Santa.

Q    We light the tree, we eat dinner —

MRS. OBAMA:  Eat dinner.

Q    — we go to bed.  Most of the time my sisters and I are always awake until around 10, just waiting.

MRS. OBAMA:  Just waiting, can’t sleep.  The anticipation.

Q    And most of the time we see my dad going down the hallway.  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Thanks, Ellington.  And Addision.  Thanks for the question.

Any other questions?  We’ve got people with mics.  Oh, here we go.  Here’s one over here.  What’s your name, sweetie?

Q    Alex.

MRS. OBAMA:  Alex.  Hey, Alex.  What’s happening?

Q    What does your family like to eat on Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA:  What do we like to eat on Christmas?  Sometimes we have turkey, sometimes we have steak.  The girls love —

Q    Ew!

MRS. OBAMA:  Ew?  (Laughter.)

Q    Steak?

MRS. OBAMA:  Steak.

Q    Ew!

MRS. OBAMA:  You don’t like steak?

Q    We don’t eat any —

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, we only have steak.  (Laughter.)  And we — and our girls love macaroni and cheese.

Q    Oh, me, too.

MRS. OBAMA:  Yes, that’s big on the menu.  Got to have a little macaroni and cheese.  But we have lots of vegetables.

Q    So do we.

MRS. OBAMA:  What kind of vegetables?  String beans?  We have string beans.

Q    Carrots.

MRS. OBAMA:  Carrots.  Carrots are good.  What other good vegetables?

Q    Broccoli.

MRS. OBAMA:  Broccoli, that’s our favorite.  We have a lot of broccoli.  What about you, Addison?

Q    — salad.

MRS. OBAMA:  Salad.  So we have lots of vegetables that go with our food.

Q    And spinach.

MRS. OBAMA:  And spinach!  All right, so you know, with your dinner, having a little meat and having some vegetables, be a good thing.  We do it at our house, okay?  And then we have dessert.  And we have pie.  Lots of pie.  The President loves pie.  (Laughter.)  All kinds of pie.  Okay?

Q    Do you like pie?

MRS. OBAMA:  What?

Q    Blueberry pie?

MRS. OBAMA:  Blueberry pie.  What other kind of pies?

Q    All of them.

MRS. OBAMA:  What?

Q    All of them.

MRS. OBAMA:  All of them — all of the pies.

MODERATOR:  All right, Mrs. Obama, we have one over here for you.  Right over here.

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, okay.

Q    What is your favorite Christmas movie?

MRS. OBAMA:  What’s my favorite Christmas movie?  Oh, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Yes, that’s my — well, yes, that’s considered a Christmas movie.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” — have you seen that movie?

Q    No.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s an old black-and-white movie — yes, I know.  It’s just — (laughter.)  All right, so that’s the old people’s movie.  Let me think of a current move that you’d be familiar with.  What’s a good Christmas movie?

Q    “The Polar Express?”

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I love — well, that’s not a movie.  I love “Charlie Brown Christmas,” but that’s not a movie.  But my favorite holiday movie of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and you should get it because it’s about a man who thinks he’s not useful in the world.  And he’s got this beautiful family, and something happens and he wishes that he weren’t there, and a little angel comes down and grants his wish, and he sees what would happen in the world if he wasn’t there.  And even though he doesn’t think his life is significant, he sees that the whole town falls apart.  And then he wakes up and realizes that he’s got “A Wonderful Life.”  My favorite story.  (Laughter.)  It’s very sad.

HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Okay, we have another question.

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, I’m sorry.  I was getting into that a little too much.  Where is the other question?  Okay, what’s your name?

Q    Ebony.

MRS. OBAMA:  Ebony.  Hi.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t sing.  If my kids were here, they’d be embarrassed.  But they’re not so don’t tell them.  (Laughter.)

Q    What is your favorite Christmas story?

MRS. OBAMA:  My favorite Christmas story?  I like “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”  That’s a good one.  I always read that one.  That’s one of my favorites.

Yes.  All right, any other questions?  Who do we have?  All right.  Right here.  What’s your name?

Q    Dionne.

MRS. OBAMA:  Dale?

Q    Dionne.

MRS. OBAMA:  Dionne.

Q    What do you personally give the President for Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA:  What — say that again?

Q    What do you give the President for Christmas?

MRS. OBAMA:  For Christmas?  Well, again, we go through this every year.  I’m not going to say because it’s going to be reported in the paper and it won’t be a surprise.  (Laughter.)  Because he will read it.  And he’ll say, Oh, that’s what you’re getting me.  So you know I try to get him stuff that he likes to do, sports stuff, clothes.  But the truth is, we generally — we always say we’re not going to give each other gifts because the gift is the love that we have for each other.  Yes, that’s a good thing.  (Applause.)  But then he usually gets me something.  And them I’m like, we weren’t supposed to get each other stuff. so I got him something but I’m not going to say.  All right?  That make sense?  Last year one of the kids suggested that I get him a hot tub.  (Laughter.)  Remember that?  We didn’t get him a hot tub.  (Laughter.)

All right, young lady.

Q    What did you ask Santa for this year?

MRS. OBAMA:  What did I ask Santa for this year?  I haven’t done my ask FOR Santa.

Q    You got to get on that!

MRS. OBAMA:  I got to get on it.  (Laughter.)  It’s true.  But what I really, really want is for all kids to grow up with the chance to be healthy and happy, and to live a good life, and to get a good education, and to grow up and be anything they want to be.  And if every child could have just that simple gift out of life, that would be a wonderful Christmas present for me.

I try to do it for my girls, and I know there are some kids that don’t have the support and the love that they need, and I wish every kid had the same kind of support and love that I know many of you have, because you are fortunate enough to be here and be surrounded by people who care about you.  I just want that for all kids all over the world.  (Applause.)

All right, we’ve got this young lady in the maroon turtleneck.  Yes, you had your hand up.

What’s your name?

Q    Veronica.

MRS. OBAMA:  Nice to see you.

Q    Do you all have parties — do you have like a Christmas party at the White House?

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, do we.  (Laughter.)  We have — my staff is — we open the house right — the day after Thanksgiving the big tree comes, and volunteers come from all over the country and they decorate the White House.  And they decorate for about four days.  We’ve got tons of Christmas trees, beautiful decorations.  This year we’ve done a tree for Gold Star families, which are families who have lost a loved one who is serving in the military.  And the big tree is in dedication to Blue Star families, and those are families who have a loved one serving in the military.

So it was a very special time decorating, because a lot of these families came to help decorate.  Once they finish, we open up the house, and we’ll have over 85,000 people who will come through the White House.  and we have holiday parties.  We have almost two every day for two weeks.  So, yes, we have holiday parties.  And the President and I are at every holiday party, and we shake almost every hand or take a picture, and we usually do them twice a day.  So, yes, we have a few people that come over.

Q    Thank you.

MRS. OBAMA:  What’s your name?

Q    Cameron.

MRS. OBAMA:  Camera?

Q    Cameron.

MRS. OBAMA:  I’m like, Camera?  (Laughter.)  Cameron — hey, Cameron.

Q    I was just wondering, how does Santa know which chimney to go down?

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, that’s — would you like to handle that one, Santa?

SANTA:    I always go for the biggest one.  The bigger —

Q    The biggest?

SANTA:  — the easier is to get in there.

Q    Oh, well, you’re pretty skinny around now, man.  (Laughter.)

SANTA:  Yes.  I still have a few more weeks to get —

MRS. OBAMA:  He’s got time.

SANTA:  I got time.

MRS. OBAMA:  You can do a lot in a couple of weeks.  (Laughter.)

HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Great.  Well, thanks for those wonderful questions.

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, thank you, guys.

HOSPITAL STAFF PERSON:  Mrs. Obama, on behalf of Children’s National, thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to be with us.  (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, my pleasure.  My pleasure.  (Applause.)

END 3:11 P.M. EST

Full Text & Political Buzz December 12, 2011: President Barack Obama Meets with Iraq Prime Minister & Declares End of Iraq War in Joint Press Conference with PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq in the Oval Office on Monday.

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA MEETS WITH IRAQ’S PRIME MINISTER — DECLARES END OF IRAQ WAR

Obama heralds end of divisive Iraq war: President Barack Obama heralded the end of the divisive Iraq war Monday, and warned Iraq’s neighbors that the United States would remain a major player in the region even as it brings its troops home…. – AP, 12-12-11

  • Obama Meets Iraqi Leader to Chart Broad Shifts: President Obama, meeting with Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, at the White House on Monday, said the emergence of Iraq as a “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic” nation nine years after the American-led invasion had created a beacon of democracy in the Arab world.
    When the Arab League meets in Baghdad next year for the first time in decades, he said, “people throughout the region will see a new Iraq that’s determining its own destiny.”
    The two leaders appeared at a news conference after a morning of meetings as the two governments marked a landmark shift in their relationship with the withdrawal of American troops. In a signal of the enduring security relationship, the United States said it would supply additional F-16 fighter jets to Iraq, helping rebuild an Air Force that was destroyed by the war…. – NYT, 12-12-11
  • Obama: ‘History will judge’ Iraq war: President Barack Obama, whose opposition to the Iraq War played a key role in delivering him to the White House, declined on Monday to judge the wisdom of the difficult and divisive military campaign as he emphasized plans to bring all U.S. combat forces home by the end of the year.
    “History will judge the original decision to go into Iraq,” Obama said in response to a question at a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
    Obama said the withdrawal of U.S. troops is on track, along with a “normalization” of relations between the U.S. and Iraq.
    “After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month,” Obama declared. “This is a historic moment. A war is ending. A new day is upon us.”… – Politico, 12-12-11

President Obama Welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Source: WH, 12-12-11
Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (378MB) | mp3 (36MB)

President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to discuss the end of the Iraq war and the steps necessary to realize a new phase in the relationship between the two countries.

Since the President has taken office, nearly 150,000 U.S. servicemembers have left Iraq, and hundreds of bases have been closed. Before the end of the year, the last of our troops will cross the border and return home. After nine years, the war is over.

The President and the Prime Minister met at the White House — first for a bilateral session in the Oval Office where they were joined by Vice President Joe Biden, then for a joint press conference.

Before answering questions from reports, President Obama said:

Today, I’m proud to welcome Prime Minister Maliki — the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. We’re here to mark the end of this war; to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible; and to turn the page — begin a new chapter in the history between our countries — a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Iraq faces great challenges, but today reflects the impressive progress that Iraqis have made.  Millions have cast their ballots — some risking or giving their lives — to vote in free elections. The Prime Minister leads Iraq’s most inclusive government yet. Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent.

Nearly 4,500 Americans lost their lives in the Iraq War. After the press conference, President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki visited the Arlington National Cemetery where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama gestures while speaking in the South Court Auditorium at the White House. | AP Photo

‘We’ve got an enormous investment of blood and treasure in Iraq,’ Obama said. | AP Photo

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq in a Joint Press Conference

South Court Auditorium

12:24 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Please have a seat.  Good afternoon, everyone.

When I took office, nearly 150,000 American troops were deployed in Iraq, and I pledged to end this war, responsibly.  Today, only several thousand troops remain there, and more are coming home every day.

This is a season of homecomings, and military families across America are being reunited for the holidays.  In the coming days, the last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq, with honor and with their heads held high.  After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month.

Today, I’m proud to welcome Prime Minister Maliki — the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq. We’re here to mark the end of this war; to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible; and to turn the page — begin a new chapter in the history between our countries — a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Iraq faces great challenges, but today reflects the impressive progress that Iraqis have made.  Millions have cast their ballots — some risking or giving their lives — to vote in free elections.  The Prime Minister leads Iraq’s most inclusive government yet.  Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent.

Economically, Iraqis continue to invest in their infrastructure and development.  And I think it’s worth considering some remarkable statistics.  In the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s.  With oil production rising, Iraq is on track to once again be one of the region’s leading oil producers.

With respect to security, Iraqi forces have been in the lead for the better part of three years — patrolling the streets, dismantling militias, conducting counterterrorism operations.  Today, despite continued attacks by those who seek to derail Iraq’s progress, violence remains at record lows.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, that’s a tribute to your leadership and to the skill and the sacrifices of Iraqi forces.

Across the region, Iraq is forging new ties of trade and commerce with its neighbors, and Iraq is assuming its rightful place among the community of nations.  For the first time in two decades, Iraq is scheduled to host the next Arab League Summit, and what a powerful message that will send throughout the Arab world.  People throughout the region will see a new Iraq that’s determining its own destiny — a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process.

Mr. Prime Minister, as we end this war, and as Iraq faces its future, the Iraqi people must know that you will not stand alone.  You have a strong and enduring partner in The United States of America.

And so today, the Prime Minister and I are reaffirming our common vision of a long-term partnership between our nations.  This is in keeping with our Strategic Framework Agreement, and it will be like the close relationships we have with other sovereign nations.  Simply put, we are building a comprehensive partnership.

Mr. Prime Minister, you’ve said that Iraqis seek democracy, “a state of citizens and not sects.”  So we’re partnering to strengthen the institutions upon which Iraq’s democracy depends  — free elections, a vibrant press, a strong civil society, professional police and law enforcement that uphold the rule of law, an independent judiciary that delivers justice fairly, and transparent institutions that serve all Iraqis.

We’re partnering to expand our trade and commerce.  We’ll make it easier for our businesses to export and innovate together.  We’ll share our experiences in agriculture and in health care.  We’ll work together to develop Iraq’s energy sector even as the Iraqi economy diversifies, and we’ll deepen Iraq’s integration into the global economy.

We’re partnering to expand the ties between our citizens, especially our young people.  Through efforts like the Fulbright program, we’re welcoming more Iraqi students and future leaders to America to study and form friendships that will bind our nations together for generations to come.  And we’ll forge more collaborations in areas like science and technology.

We’ll partner for our shared security.  Mr. Prime Minister, we discussed how the United States could help Iraq train and equip its forces — not by stationing American troops there or with U.S. bases in Iraq — those days are over — but rather, the kind of training and assistance we offer to other countries.  Given the challenges we face together in a rapidly changing region, we also agreed to establish a new, formal channel of communication between our national security advisors.

And finally, we’re partnering for regional security.  For just as Iraq has pledged not to interfere in other nations, other nations must not interfere in Iraq.  Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected.  And meanwhile, there should be no doubt, the drawdown in Iraq has allowed us to refocus our resources, achieve progress in Afghanistan, put al Qaeda on the path to defeat, and to better prepare for the full range of challenges that lie ahead.

So make no mistake, our strong presence in the Middle East endures, and the United States will never waver in defense of our allies, our partners, or our interests.

This is the shared vision that Prime Minister Maliki and I reaffirm today — an equal partnership, a broad relationship that advances the security, the prosperity and the aspirations of both our people.

Mr. Prime Minister, you’ve said it yourself — building a strong and “durable relationship between our two countries is vital.”  And I could not agree more.

So this is a historic moment.  A war is ending.  A new day is upon us.  And let us never forget those who gave us this chance — the untold number of Iraqis who’ve given their lives; more than one million Americans, military and civilian, who have served in Iraq; nearly 4,500 fallen Americans who gave their last full measure of devotion; tens of thousands of wounded warriors, and so many inspiring military families.  They are the reason that we can stand here today.  And we owe it to every single one of them — we have a moral obligation to all of them — to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.

Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER AL-MALIKI:  (As interpreted, and in progress) — positive atmosphere that prevailed among us, and for the obligations, the common obligations, of ending the war, and the commitment to which the American forces will withdraw from Iraq, which is a withdrawal that affects — that indicates success, and not like others have said that it was negative, but the goals that we established were achieved.

Iraq had a political process established, a democratic process, and adoption of the principles of elections and the transfer — peaceful transfer of authority.  Iraq is following a policy, a foreign policy, which does not intervene in the affairs of others and does not allow the others to intervene in its own affairs.  Iraq is looking for common grounds with the others, and establishes its interest at the forefront and the interest of the others, which it is concerned about, like from any confusion.

Your Excellency, today we meet in Washington after we have completed the first page of a constructive cooperation in which we also thank you and appreciate you for your commitment to everything that you have committed yourself to.  And anyone who observes the nature of the relationship between the two countries will say that the relationship will not end with the departure of the last American soldier.  It only started when we signed in 2008, in addition to the withdrawal treaty, the Strategic Framework Agreement for the relationship between our two countries.

And because we have proven success in the first mission, a very unique success — nobody imagined that we would succeed in defeating terrorism and the al Qaeda — we must also establish the necessary steps in order to succeed in our second stage, which is the dual relationship under the Strategic Framework Agreement, in the economic sphere, as well as in educational and commercial and cultural and judicial and security cooperation fields.

Iraq now has become — reliant completely on its own security apparatus and internal security as a result of the expertise that it gained during the confrontations and the training and the equipping.  But it remains in need of cooperation with the United States of America in security issues and information and combating terrorism, and in the area of training and the area of equipping, which is needed by the Iraqi army.  And we have started that.  And we want to complete the process of equipping the Iraqi army in order to protect our sovereignty, and does not violate the rights of anybody — or do not take any missions that sovereignty of others.

Today, the joint mission is to establish the mechanisms and the commitments that will expedite our — we have reached an agreement, and we have held a meeting for the higher joint committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Biden, the Vice President, and myself in Baghdad, and we spoke about all the details that would put the framework agreement into implementation.

And here we talked about it and its activation.  And there will be other discussions and other meetings with the higher committee here in Washington in order to put the final touches regarding the necessary mechanisms for cooperation and achieving the common vision that we followed, which was based on our common wills and political independent decision, and the desire to respect the sovereignty of each other.

And we feel that we need political cooperation as well, in addition to cooperating in the security and economic and commercial fields.  We need a political cooperation, particularly with regard to the matters that are common and are of concern for us as two parties that want to cooperate.

The common vision that we used as a point of departure we have confirmed today.  And I am very happy, every time we meet with the American side, I find determination and a strong will to activate the Strategic Framework Agreement.  And I will say, frankly, this is necessary and it serves the interests of Iraq, as it is necessary and serves the interests of the United States of America.

This makes us feel that we will succeed with the same commitment, common commitment that we had in combating terrorism and accomplishing the missions, the basis of which Iraq was independent.  Iraq today has a lot of wealth and it needs experience and expertise, and American and foreign expertise to help Iraq exploiting its own wealth in an ideal way.  Iraq is still suffering from a shortage of resources, and we have established a strategy to increase the Iraqi wealth.  And we hope that the American companies will have the largest role in increasing our wealth in the area of oil and other aspects as well.

Iraq wants to rebuild all these sectors that were harmed because of the war and because of the adventurous policies that were used by the former regime, and we need a wide range of reform in the area of education.

We have succeeded in signing several agreements through the educational initiative, which put hundreds of our college graduates to continue their graduate studies and specialized subject in American universities.  And I am putting it before everyone who is watching the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq.  It is a very — it has very high aspirations.

And I would like to renew my thanks for His Excellency the President for giving me this opportunity, and I wish him more success, God willing.  Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We have time for a few questions.  I’m going to start with Ben Feller of AP.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President, and Mr. Prime Minister.  Mr. President, I have two questions for you on the region.  In Syria, you have called for President Assad to step down over the killing of his people, but Prime Minister Maliki has warned that Assad’s removal could lead to a civil war that could destabilize the whole region.  I’m wondering if you’re worried that Iraq could be succumbing to Iran’s influence on this matter and perhaps helping to protect Assad.

And speaking of Iran, are you concerned that it will be able to weaken America’s national security by discovering intelligence from the fallen drone that it captured?

Prime Minister Maliki, I’d like to ask you the question about Syria.  Why haven’t you demanded that Assad step down, given the slaughter of his people?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, the Prime Minister and I discussed Syria, and we share the view that when the Syrian people are being killed or are unable to express themselves, that’s a problem.  There’s no disagreement there.

I have expressed my outrage in how the Syrian regime has been operating.  I do believe that President Assad missed an opportunity to reform his government, chose the path of repression, and has continued to engage in repressive tactics so that his credibility, his capacity to regain legitimacy inside Syria I think is deeply eroded.

It’s not an easy situation.  And I expressed to Prime Minister Maliki my recognition that given Syria is on Iraq’s borders, Iraq is in a tough neighborhood; that we will consult closely with them as we move forward.

But we believe that international pressure, the approach we’ve taken along with partners around the world to impose tough sanctions and to call on Assad to step down, a position that is increasingly mirrored by the Arab League states, is the right position to take.

Even if there are tactical disagreements between Iraq and the United States at this point in how to deal with Syria, I have absolutely no doubt that these decisions are being made based on what Prime Minister Maliki believes is best for Iraq, not based on considerations of what Iran would like to see.

Prime Minister Maliki has been explicit here in the United States, he’s been explicit back in Iraq in his writings, in his commentary, that his interest is maintaining Iraqi sovereignty and preventing meddling by anybody inside of Iraq.  And I believe him.  And he has shown himself to be willing to make very tough decisions in the interest of Iraqi nationalism even if they cause problems with his neighbor.

And so we may have some different tactical views in terms of how best to transition to an inclusive, representative government inside of Syria, but every decision that I believe Prime Minister Maliki is making he is making on the basis of what he thinks is best for the Iraqi people.  And everything that we’ve seen in our interactions with Prime Minister Maliki and his government over the last several years would confirm that.

With respect to the drone inside of Iran, I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters that are classified.  As has already been indicated, we have asked for it back.  We’ll see how the Iranians respond.

PRIME MINISTER AL-MALIKI:  (As interpreted, in progress.) — difficult in Syria, and perhaps in other states as well.  But I know that peoples must get their freedom and their will and democracy and equal citizenship.  We are with these rights, the rights of people and with their wills because we have achieved that ourselves.  And if we could compare Iraq today with the past, we find that there is a great difference in democracy and elections and freedom.

Therefore, we honor the aspirations of the Syrian people.  But I cannot have — I do not have the right to ask a president to abdicate.  We must play this role, and we cannot give ourselves this right.

Iraq is a country that is bordering on Syria, and I am concerned about the interest of Iraq and the interest of the security of the region.  And I wish that what is required by the Syrian people would be achieved without affecting the security of Iraq.  And I know the two countries are related to each other, and we must be very prudent in dealing with this matter.

We were with the initiative by the Arab League.  But, frankly speaking, because we suffered from the blockade and the military interventions, we do not encourage a blockade because it exhausts the people and the government.  But we stood with the Arab League, and we were very frank with ourselves when they visited us in Baghdad, and we agreed on an initiative.  Perhaps it will be the last initiative that we’ll see in this situation and will achieve the required change in Syria without any violent operations that could affect the area in general.

I believe that the parties, all the parties realize the dangers of a sectarian war in Iraq, in Syria, and in the region, because it will be like a snowball that it will expand and it will be difficult to control it.

We will try to reach a solution, and I discussed the matter with His Excellency, the President, President Obama, and the Secretary General of the Arab League.  And there is agreement even from the Syrian opposition, who are leading the opposition in Syria, to search for a solution.  If we can reach a solution, it will avoid all the evils and the dangers.  And if we don’t, there must be another way to reach a solution that will calm the situation in Syria and in the area in general.

Q    (As interpreted, in progress.) — establish a new relationship — to establish the characteristics of a new relationship with the United States after the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq?  Relying on the Strategic Framework Agreement, have you reached a specific mechanism for the implementation of the framework agreement?

Your Excellency, President Obama, you said that there will be long-range relationships with Iraq.  Can you tell us exactly, will Iraq be an ally of the United States or just a friend, or will have a different type of relationship?

Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER AL-MALIKI:  (As interpreted.)  Definitely, without mechanisms, we will not be able to achieve anything we have.  These mechanisms will control our continuous movement.  Therefore, the framework agreement has a higher committee, or a joint committee from the two countries that meets regularly, and it has representatives from all the sectors that we want to develop relationship in — commerce, industry, agriculture, economy, security.

So the joint higher committee is the mechanism in which the ideas will be reached in relationship between the ministries that will implement what is agreed upon.  We believe through these two mechanisms, the mechanism of the joint committee and the mechanism of contact between each minister and his counterpart, we will achieve success, and this will expedite achieving our goal.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  As the Prime Minister described, I think our goal is to have a comprehensive relationship with Iraq.  And what that means is, is that on everything from expanding trade and commerce, to scientific exchanges, to providing assistance as Iraq is trying to make sure that electricity and power generation is consistent for its people, to joint exercises militarily — to a whole range of issues, we want to make sure that there is a constant communication between our governments; that there are deep and rich exchanges between our two governments — and between our peoples — because what’s happened over the last several years has linked the United States and Iraq in a way that is potentially powerful and could end up benefiting not only America and Iraq but also the entire region and the entire world.

It will evolve over time.  What may be discovered is, is that there are certain issues that Prime Minister Maliki and his government think are especially important right now — for example, making sure that oil production is ramped up, and we are helping to encourage global investment in that sector.

I know that the Prime Minister has certain concerns right now, militarily, that five years from now or 10 years from now, when the Iraqi air force is fully developed or the Iraqi navy is fully developed, he has less concern about.

Our goal is simply to make sure that Iraq succeeds, because we think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region.  We think an Iraq that is inclusive and brings together all people — Sunni, Shia, Kurd — together to build a country, to build a nation, can be a model for others that are aspiring to create democracy in the region.

And so we’ve got an enormous investment of blood and treasure in Iraq, and we want to make sure that, even as we bring the last troops out, that it’s well understood both in Iraq and here in the United States that our commitment to Iraq’s success is going to be enduring.

Christi Parsons.

Q    Thank you.  You were a little delayed coming out today — I was wondering if you could talk about any agreements that you may have reached that you haven’t detailed already.  For instance, can you talk a little bit more about who will be left behind after the U.S. leaves, how big their footprint will be, and what their role will be?

And, Mr. President, could you also address how convinced you are that the Maliki government is ready to govern the country and protect the gains that have been made there in recent years?  I also wonder if, on this occasion, you still think of this as “a dumb war”?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’ll take the last question first.  I think history will judge the original decision to go into Iraq.  But what’s absolutely clear is, as a consequence of the enormous sacrifices that have been made by American soldiers and civilians — American troops and civilians — as well as the courage of the Iraqi people, that what we have now achieved is an Iraq that is self-governing, that is inclusive, and that has enormous potential.

There are still going to be challenges.  And I think the Prime Minister is the first one to acknowledge those challenges. Many of them, by the way, are economic.  After many years of war and, before that, a brutal regime, it’s going to take time to further develop civil society, further develop the institutions of trade and commerce and the free market, so that the extraordinary capacity of the Iraqi people is fully realized.  But I have no doubt that Iraq can succeed.

With respect to security issues, look, when I came into office, I said we’re going to do this in a deliberate fashion.  We’re going to make sure that we leave Iraq responsibly, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.  We did it in phases.  And because we did it in phases, we were continually able to build up Iraqi forces to a point where when we left the cities, violence didn’t go up in the cities; when we further reduced our footprint, violence didn’t go up.  And I have no doubt that that will continue.

First question you had had to do with what footprint is left.  We’re taking all of our troops out of Iraq.  We will not have any bases inside of Iraq.  We will have a strong diplomatic presence inside of Iraq.  We’ve got an embassy there that is going to be carrying out a lot of the functions of this ongoing partnership and executing on the Strategic Framework Agreement.

We will be working to set up effective military-to-military ties that are no different from the ties that we have with countries throughout the region and around the world.  The Iraqi government has already purchased F-16s from us.  We’ve got to train their pilots and make sure that they’re up and running and that we have an effective Iraqi air force.

We both have interests in making sure that the sea lanes remain open in and around Iraq and throughout the region, and so there may be occasion for joint exercises.  We both have interests in counterterrorism operations that might undermine Iraqi sovereignty but also could affect U.S. interests, and we’ll be working together on those issues.

But what we are doing here today, and what we’ll be executing over the next several months, is a normalization of the relationship.  We will have a strong friend and partner in Iraq; they will have a strong friend and partner in us, but as one based on Iraqi sovereignty and one based on equal partnerships of mutual interest and mutual respect.  And I’m absolutely confident that we’re going to be able to execute that over the long term.

While I’m at it, since this may be the last question I receive, I just want to acknowledge — none of this would have been successful, obviously, without our extraordinary men and women in uniform.  And I’m very grateful for the Prime Minister asking to travel to Arlington to recognize those sacrifices.

There are also some individuals here who’ve been doing a bang-up job over the last year to help bring us to this day.  And I just want to acknowledge General Lloyd Austin, who was a warrior and, turns out, is also a pretty good diplomat — as well as Ambassador Jim Jeffreys [sic].  Both of them have done extraordinary work on the ground, partnering with their Iraqi counterparts.

And I’m going to give a special shout-out to my friend and partner, Joe Biden, who I think ever since I came in has helped to establish high-level, strong links and dialogue between the United States and Iraq, through some difficult times.  And I think Prime Minister Maliki would agree that the Vice President’s investment in making this successful has been hugely important.

PRIME MINISTER AL-MALIKI:  Thank you very much.  I believe the remaining of the question that was given was answered by His Excellency the President.  And I also — I said at the beginning, the dialogues that were to confirm the confidence and to move into the implementation of the framework agreement, and to find the companies and to train our soldiers on the weapons that were bought from America, and the need for expertise in other civil fields, and the protection of their movement in Iraq.

We talked also about the political issues, which is a common interest for us.  And we spoke also about the question of armament.  As the President said, Iraq has bought some weapons and now is applying for buying other weapons to develop its capabilities in the protection of Iraq.

These are all titles of what we discussed, but it was done in an atmosphere of harmony.

Q    (As interpreted.)  Mr. Prime Minister, you stated that there is cooperation in the area of armament.  Can you tell us the amount of military cooperation between the United States and Baghdad in this area?  Specifically, have you received any promises from President Obama in this regard, specifically — of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad?  There is argument going on inside Iraqi politician now regarding the size — it’s 15,000.  And I wonder if you discussed with Prime Minister to reduce the number of the diplomats.  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER AL-MALIKI:  Definitely, we have raised the issue of Iraqi need for weapons, for aerial protection and naval and ground protection.  We have a lot of weapons, American weapons, and it requires trainers.  And we received promises for cooperation from His Excellency the President for some weapons that Iraq is asking for, especially those related to its protection of its airspace.  And we hope that the Congress will approve another group of F-16 airplanes to Iraq because our air force was destroyed completely during the war that Iraq entered into.

And this is not all.  We also need technical equipment related to the security field.  These are issues that are being discussed by the concerned people in both countries, between the ministers of defense and interior, with their counterparts in the United States, and we received promises and facilitations.  And we agreed on how to make this relationship continuous in the security field, because both of us need each other and need cooperation, especially in chasing al Qaeda, which we started and was not defeated anywhere except in Iraq.  And we hope to cooperate with all those who feel the dangers of this organization — to cooperate with us as well.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Our view is a sovereign Iraq that can protect its borders, protect its airspace, protect its people.  And our security cooperation with other countries I think is a model for our security cooperation with Iraq.  We don’t want to create big footprints inside of Iraq — and that’s I think demonstrated by what will happen at the end of this month, which is we’re getting our troops out.  But we will have a very active relationship, military-to-military, that will hopefully enhance Iraqi capabilities and will assure that we’ve got a strong partner in the region that is going to be effective.

With respect to the embassy, the actual size of our embassy with respect to diplomats is going to be comparable to other countries’ that we think are important around the world.  There are still some special security needs inside of Iraq that make the overall number larger.  And we understand some questions have been raised inside of Iraq about that.

Look, we’re only a few years removed from an active war inside of Iraq.  I think it’s fair to say that there are still some groups, although they are greatly weakened, that might be tempted to target U.S. diplomats, or civilians who are working to improve the performance of the power sector inside of Iraq or are working to help train agricultural specialists inside of Iraq.  And as President of the United States, I want to make sure that anybody who is out in Iraq trying to help the Iraqi people is protected.

Now, as this transition proceeds, it may turn out that the security needs for our diplomats and for our civilians gradually reduces itself, partly because Iraq continues to make additional progress.  But I think the Iraqi people can understand that, as President of the United States, if I’m putting civilians in the field in order to help the Iraqi people build their economy and improve their productivity, I want to make sure that they come home — because they are not soldiers.

So that makes the numbers larger than they otherwise would be, but the overall mission that they’re carrying out is comparable to the missions that are taking place in other countries that are big, that are important, and that are friends of ours.  Okay?

Thank you very much, everybody.

END
1:04 P.M. EST

Legal Buzz December 12, 2011: Supreme Court Agrees to Rule on Arizona’s Immigration Law

LEGAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

IN FOCUS: SUPREME COURT AGREES TO REVIEW ARIZONA’S IMMIGRATION LAW

United States Supreme Court Official Site

Recent Supreme Court Decisions — Full Text Opinions

“You know the president’s position and the administration’s position. We look forward to arguing it in this case.” — White House press secretary Jay Carney

“I was stunned at the audacity of the Obama administration to file suit against an individual state seeking to safeguard its people. That shock turned to outrage as the federal government proceeded to file suit against three more states — South Carolina, Alabama and now Utah — that followed Arizona’s lead. Arizona has been more than patient waiting for Washington to secure the border. Decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation, and states deserve clarity from the Court in terms of what role they have in fighting illegal immigration.” — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement Monday

Supreme Court agrees to review Arizona’s restrictive immigration law: Supreme Court says it will rule on Arizona law targeting illegal immigrants….

US High court to look at state immigration laws: The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to rule on a politically charged law in Arizona targeting illegal immigrants…. – AP, 12-12-11

Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona’s Immigration Law: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Arizona may impose tough anti-immigration measures. Among them, in a law enacted last year, is a requirement that police there question people they stop about their immigration status.
The Obama administration challenged parts of the law in court, saying that it could not be reconciled with federal immigration laws and policies. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked enforcement of parts of the law in April…. – NYT, 12-12-11

  • Supreme Court takes Arizona immigration law case in key test of federal power: The Supreme Court has agreed to consider the tough Arizona immigration law, setting the stage for a potentially landmark ruling on whether states have rights to set immigration policy…. – CS Monitor, 12-12-11
  • Supreme Court to hear Arizona immigration law challenge: What should happen: The Supreme Court on Monday said it would review Arizona’s restrictive immigration law. Since the bill’s inception (it was signed into state law in April 2010), it has been the source of much national debate. … – WaPo, 12-12-11
  • Another high court election issue: Immigration: Another issue has zoomed to the top of the 2012 election calendar, courtesy of the US Supreme Court: Immigration. As with its plans to rule on President Obama’s health care law, the high court’s decision to take up Arizona’s … – USA Today, 12-12-11
  • Supreme Court to review Arizona immigration law: The Supreme Court, dealing a setback to the Obama administration, said Monday it will consider reviving Arizona’s law that targets illegal immigrants and gives more enforcement power to local police…. – LAT, 12-12-11
  • High Court to Decide on Arizona Immigration Law: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether an aggressive Arizona statute targeting illegal immigrants interferes with federal law…. – WSJ, 12-12-11
  • Arizona immigration law to be heard by Supreme Court: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether a law Arizona passed last year cracking down on illegal immigration violates the Constitution by intruding on the prerogatives of the federal government.
    The new high-profile platform for the continuing legal fight over immigration-related state laws has the potential to inflame the issue in the 2012 presidential campaign — a development that could benefit President Barack Obama’s appeal among Latinos, but hurt his standing with swing voters who tend to be broadly supportive of legislation to rein in illegal immigration.
    The Obama administration, which persuaded lower courts to block key parts of the Arizona law, known as S.B. 1070, had asked the Supreme Court not to take up the case at this time…. – Politico, 12-12-11
  • High court to look at Ariz. immigration law: Justices agree to examine state’s immigration measures which have been blocked by lower courts… – CBS News, 12-12-11
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