Full Text Obama Presidency November 30, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Fiscal Cliff Deal & Middle Class Tax Extension in Visit to Rodon Group Toy Manufacturing Facility in Hatfield, Pennsylvania

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama: The Sooner We Get This Done, the Sooner Our Economy Gets a Boost

Source: WH, 11-30-12

President Barack Obama examines a K'NEX rollercoasterPresident Barack Obama examines a K’NEX rollercoaster with Michael Araten, President and CEO of K’NEX and Rodon Group, right, during a tour of the company in Hatfield, Pa., Nov. 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, President Obama spoke at a toy factory in Hatfield, Pennsylvania about extending tax cuts for middle-class families.

The Rodon Group, a third-generation family owned business, manufactures Tinkertoy and K’NEX building sets. The company depends on the many Americans who buy gifts for family and friends during the holiday season.

But, if Congress doesn’t act before the end of the year, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1, President Obama said.

 A typical middle-class family of four would see their income taxes go up by about $2,200. That’s for a typical family — it would be more for some folks. That’s money a lot of families just can’t afford to lose. That’s less money to buy gas, less money to buy groceries. In some cases, it means tougher choices between paying the rent and saving for college. It means less money to buy more K’NEX.

“And when folks are buying fewer clothes, or cars, or toys, that’s not good for our businesses; it’s not good for our economy; it’s not good for employment,” President Obama explained.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the K’NEX Production FacilityPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the K’NEX Production Facility in Hatfield, Pa., Nov. 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

But there is another option.

Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. That means 98 percent of Americans, 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime in 2013. Those who make more than $250,000 would still keep their tax cut on the first $250,000 of income.

President Obama said he has a pen ready to sign that law as soon as it’s ready, but he can’t do that without help from both from Congress and the American people.

I need you to remind members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — to not get bogged down in a bunch of partisan bickering, but let’s go ahead and focus on the people who sent us to Washington and make sure that we’re doing the right thing by them.

So I want you to call, I want you to send an email, post on their Facebook wall. If you tweet, then use a hashtag we’re calling “My2K.” … Because it’s about your “2K” in your pocket.

“Let’s give families all across America the kind of security and certainty that they deserve during the holiday season,” he said. “Let’s keep our economy on the right track. Let’s stand up for the American belief that each of us have our own dreams and aspirations, but we’re also in this together, and we can work together in a responsible way; that we’re one people, and we’re one nation. That’s what this country is all about”

Remarks by the President in Visit to Rodon Group Manufacturing Facility

Hatfield, Pennsylvania

12:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Well, good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Good morning!

THE PRESIDENT: Everybody, please, please have a seat. Have a seat. Relax for a second. (Laughter.)

It is good to see all of you. Hello, Hatfield! (Applause.) It is good to be back in Pennsylvania. And it is good to be right here at K’NEX. (Applause.) I want to thank Michael Araten, Robert Glickman, and the inventor of K’NEX, Joel Glickman, for hosting me today and giving me a great tour. (Applause.) Where did they go? Where did they go? I want to — (applause) — stand up. Stand up so everybody can see you guys. There they are. (Applause.) There you go.

And I just noticed, we’ve got a couple of outstanding members of Congress here. We’ve got Chaka Fattah — (applause)
— and Allyson Schwartz. (Applause.)

Now, I just finished getting a tour of the K’NEX workshop. I have to say, it makes me wish that Joel had invented this stuff a little sooner, when I was a kid. (Laughter.) Back then, you couldn’t really build a rollercoaster out of your Erector Set. (Laughter.)

And I also got a chance to meet some of the folks who have been working around the clock to keep up with the Christmas rush, and that’s a good thing. These guys are Santa’s extra elves here. They manufacture almost 3,000 K’NEX pieces every minute. And every box that ends up on store shelves in 30 countries is stamped “Made in America.” And that’s something to be proud of. That’s something to be proud of. (Applause.)

By the way, I hope the camera folks had a chance to take a look at some of the K’NEX, including that flag made out of K’NEX. And Joe Biden was in Costco; he wanted to buy some of this stuff. (Laughter.) But I told him he had too much work to do. I wasn’t going to have him building rollercoasters all day long. (Laughter.)

Now, of course, Santa delivers everywhere. I’ve been keeping my own naughty-and-nice list for Washington. So you should keep your eye on who gets some K’NEX this year. (Laughter.) There are going to be some members of Congress who get them, and some who don’t. (Laughter and applause.)

So, look, this is a wonderful time of year. It’s been a few weeks since a long election finally came to an end. And obviously, I couldn’t be more honored to be back in the White House. But I’m already missing the time that I spent on the campaign visiting towns like this and talking to folks like you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. That’s why I miss you. (Applause.)

And one of the benefits of traveling and getting out of the White House is it gives you a chance to have a conversation with the American people about what kind of country do we want to be
–- and what kind of country do we want to leave to our kids.

I believe America only thrives when we have a strong and growing middle class. And I believe we’re at our best when everybody who works hard has a chance to get ahead. That’s what I believe. And I know that’s what the founders of this company believe as well. We were talking about these guys’ dad, who I understand just passed away at the age of 101. So these guys have good genes in addition to inventive minds. And the story of generations starting businesses, hiring folks, making sure that if you work hard, you can get ahead, that’s what America is all about. And that’s at the heart of the plan that I’ve been talking about all year.

I want to reward manufacturers like this one and small businesses that create jobs here in the United States, not overseas. (Applause.) And by the way this is a company — one of the few companies in the toy industry that have aggressively moved jobs back here. (Applause.) That’s a great story to tell because we’ve got the best workers in the world and the most productive workers in the world, and so we need champions for American industry creating jobs here in the United States.

I want to give more Americans the chance to earn the skills that businesses are looking for right now, and I want to give our children the kind of education they’ll need in the 21st century. I want America to lead the world in research and technology and clean energy. I want to put people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our schools. And I want to do all this while bringing down our deficits in a balanced and responsible way. (Applause.)

Now, on this last point, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk in Washington and in the media about the deadlines that we’re facing on jobs and taxes and investments. This is not some run-of-the-mill debate. This isn’t about which political party can come out on top in negotiations. We’ve got important decisions to make that are going to have a real impact on businesses and families all across the country.

Our ultimate goal, our long-term goal is to get our long-term deficit under control in a way that is balanced and is fair. That would be good for businesses, for our economy, for future generations. And I believe both parties can — and will — work together in the coming weeks to get that done. We know how that gets done. We’re going to have to raise a little more revenue. We’ve got to cut out spending we don’t need, building on the trillion dollars of spending cuts we’ve already made. And if we combine those two things, we can create a path where America is paying its bills while still being able to make investments in the things we need to grow like education and infrastructure. So we know how to do that.

But in Washington, nothing is easy, so there is going to be some prolonged negotiations. And all of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen. I’m willing to do that, and I’m hopeful that enough members of Congress in both parties are willing to do that as well. We can solve these problems. But where the clock is really ticking right now is on middle-class taxes. At the end of the year, middle-class taxes that are currently in place are set to expire — middle-class tax cuts that are currently in place are set to expire.

There are two things that can happen. If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. Every family, everybody here, you’ll see your taxes go up on January 1st. I mean, I’m assuming that doesn’t sound too good to you.

AUDIENCE: No!

THE PRESIDENT: That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That’s a Scrooge Christmas. A typical middle-class family of four would see their income taxes go up by about $2,200. That’s for a typical family — it would be more for some folks. That’s money a lot of families just can’t afford to lose. That’s less money to buy gas, less money to buy groceries. In some cases, it means tougher choices between paying the rent and saving for college. It means less money to buy more K’NEX.

AUDIENCE: Booo — (laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Just the other day, economists said that if income taxes go up on the middle class, people will spend nearly $200 billion less in stores and online. And when folks are buying fewer clothes, or cars, or toys, that’s not good for our businesses; it’s not good for our economy; it’s not good for employment.

So that’s one path: Congress does nothing, we don’t deal with this looming tax hike on middle-class families, and starting in January, everybody gets hit with this big tax hike and businesses suddenly see fewer customers, less demand. The economy, which we’ve been fighting for four years to get out of this incredible economic crisis that we have, it starts stalling again. So that’s one path.

The good news is there’s a second option. Right now, Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income — everybody. So that means 98 percent of Americans, 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime — because 98 percent of Americans make $250,000 a year or less; 97 percent of small businesses make $250,000 a year or less. So if you say income taxes don’t go up for any income above $250,000, the vast majority of Americans, they don’t see a tax hike.

But here’s the thing. Even the top 2 percent, even folks who make more than $250,000, they’d still keep their tax cut on the first $250,000 of income. So it would still be better off for them, too, for us to go ahead and get that done. Families would have a sense of security going into the new year. Companies like this one would know what to expect in terms of planning for next year and the year after. That means people’s jobs would be secure.

The sooner Congress gets this done, the sooner our economy will get a boost. And it would then give us in Washington more time to work together on that long-range plan to bring down deficits in a balanced way: Tax reform, working on entitlements, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more so we can keep investing in things like education and research that make us strong.

So those are the choices that we have. And understand this was a central question in the election — maybe the central question in the election. You remember. We talked about this a lot. (Laughter.) It wasn’t like this should come as a surprise to anybody. We had debates about it. There were a lot of TV commercials about it. And at the end of the day, a clear majority of Americans — Democrats, Republicans, independents — they agreed with a balanced approach to deficit reduction and making sure that middle-class taxes don’t go up. Folks agreed to that.

Now, the good news is we’re starting to see a few Republicans coming around to it, too — I’m talking about Republicans in Congress. So the reason I’m here is because I want the American people to urge Congress soon, in the next week, the next two weeks, to begin the work we have by doing what we all agree on. Both parties agree that we should extend the middle-class tax cuts. We’ve got some disagreements about the high-end tax cuts, right? Republicans don’t want to raise taxes on folks like me; I think I can pay a little bit more to make sure that kids can go to college and we can build roads and invest in NIH so that we’re finding cures for Alzheimer’s. And that’s a disagreement that we’re going to have and we’ve got to sort out.

But we already all agree, we say, on making sure middle-class taxes don’t go up, so let’s get that done. Let’s go ahead and take the fear out for the vast majority of American families so they don’t have to worry about $2,000 coming out of their pockets starting next year.

The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families. That’s already passed the Senate. Your member of Congress like Allyson and Chaka, other Democrats in the House, they’re ready to go. They’re ready to vote on that same thing. And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, we can pass the bill in the House. It will land on my desk, and I am ready — I’ve got a bunch of pens ready to sign this bill. (Laughter.) I’m ready to sign it. (Applause.) There are no shortage of pens in the White House. (Laughter.) And I carry one around for an emergency just in case, just waiting for the chance to use it to sign this bill to make sure people’s taxes don’t go up.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!

THE PRESIDENT: Well, don’t thank me yet, because I haven’t signed it. (Laughter.) I need some help from Congress.

So the key is, though, that the American people have to be involved. It’s not going to be enough for me to just do this on my own. So I’m hopeful that both sides are going to come together and do the right thing, but we all know you can’t take anything for granted when it comes to Washington. Let’s face it. And that’s why I’m going to be asking for all of you to make your voices heard over the next few days and the next couple of weeks.

I need you to remind members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — to not get bogged down in a bunch of partisan bickering, but let’s go ahead and focus on the people who sent us to Washington and make sure that we’re doing the right thing by them.

So I want you to call, I want you to send an email, post on their Facebook wall. If you tweet, then use a hashtag we’re calling “My2K.” Not Y2K, “My2K,” all right? Because it’s about your “2K” in your pocket. (Laughter.) We’re trying to burn that into people’s minds here. (Applause.)

So in the meantime I’m doing my part. I’m meeting with every constituency group out there. We’re talking to CEOs. We’re talking to labor groups. We’re talking to civic groups. I’m talking to media outlets, just explaining to the American people this is not that complicated. Let’s make sure that middle-class taxes don’t go up. Let’s get that done in the next couple of weeks.

Let’s also work together on a fair and balanced, responsible plan so that we are paying our bills — we’re not spending on things we don’t need, but we are still spending on the things that make us grow. That’s the kind of fair, balanced, responsible plan that I talked about during the campaign, and that’s what the majority of Americans believe in.

So I’m hopeful, but I’m going to need folks like you, the people here in Hatfield and here in Pennsylvania and all across the country, to get this done. And a lot is riding on this debate. This is too important to our economy, it’s too important for our families to not get it done. And it’s not acceptable to me, and I don’t think it’s acceptable to you, for just a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they don’t want tax rates on upper-income folks to go up. All right? That doesn’t make sense. (Applause.)

If your voices are heard, then we can help businesses like this one. We’re going to sell a whole bunch of K’NEX. (Laughter and applause.) Let’s give families all across America the kind of security and certainty that they deserve during the holiday season. Let’s keep our economy on the right track. Let’s stand up for the American belief that each of us have our own dreams and aspirations, but we’re also in this together, and we can work together in a responsible way; that we’re one people, and we’re one nation.

That’s what this country is about. That’s what all of you deserve. That’s what I’m fighting for every single day, and I will keep fighting for as long as I have the privilege of being your President.

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) God bless you. God bless the America. (Applause.)

END
12:19 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency November 29, 2012: US United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice Speech on UN Vote on Palestinian Observer State Status

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Amb. Rice on U.N. Vote on Palestinian Observer State Status

29 November 2012

Source: USEmbassy.gov, 11-29-12

U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 29, 2012

Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Following UN General Assembly Vote on Palestinian Observer State Status Resolution

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President.

For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.

That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.

The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.

But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees—strongly.

Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.

The United States therefore calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them. And we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts.

The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions—in the region, in New York, or elsewhere.

We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.

Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.

For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.

The United States believes the current resolution should not and cannot be read as establishing terms of reference. In many respects, the resolution prejudges the very issues it says are to be resolved through negotiation, particularly with respect to territory. At the same time, it virtually ignores other core questions such as security, which must be solved for any viable agreement to be achieved.

President Obama has been clear in stating what the United States believes is a realistic basis for successful negotiations, and we will continue to base our efforts on that approach.

The recent conflict in Gaza is just the latest reminder that the absence of peace risks the presence of war. We urge those who share our hopes for peace between a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel to join us in supporting negotiations, not encouraging further distractions. There simply are no short cuts.

Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other—and listen to each other—and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Political Headlines November 29, 2012: President Barack Obama & Mitt Romney Pledge to ‘Stay In Touch’ at White House Lunch

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Romney Pledge to ‘Stay In Touch’ at White House Lunch

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-29-12

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama and former rival Mitt Romney “pledged to stay in touch” after their hour-long lunch at the White House on Thursday, their first face-to-face encounter since the election.

“The focus of their discussion was on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future,” according to the White House.

Romney also congratulated the president “for the success of his campaign and wished him well over the coming four years.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines November 29, 2012: Speaker John Boehner on Fiscal Cliff: ‘White House Has to Get Serious’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Boehner on Fiscal Cliff: ‘White House Has to Get Serious’

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-29-12

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans and Democrats may be privately working to avoid the fiscal cliff, but in public they’re digging into opposing positions on the all-important issue of tax rates for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. And leaders from both parties say they want a “serious proposal” from the other side.

“No substantive progress has been made on the fiscal cliff negotiations,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters after a short phone conversation with President Obama Wednesday night and a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Thursday morning….READ MORE

Political Headlines November 29, 2012: President Barack Obama & John Boehner Share ‘Curt’ Phone Call on Fiscal Cliff

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Boehner Share ‘Curt’ Phone Call

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-29-12

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had what Politico called a “curt” conversation on Wednesday, the White House confirms.

Aides to the speaker also confirm the call, adding only, “Watch Boehner this morning” at a scheduled news conference on Capitol Hill.  Both sides refuse to say when during the day the call occurred….READ MORE

Political Headlines November 28, 2012: Susan Rice Gains Little Ground on Day 2 With Skeptical Republican Senators

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Susan Rice Gains Little Ground on Day 2 With Skeptical Senators

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-28-12

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Day two of Susan Rice’s charm offensive on Capitol Hill brought little support for the U.N. ambassador to become the next secretary of state if nominated by President Obama.

After meeting privately with Rice Wednesday morning, moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she still had questions about the embassy attack in Libya that “remain troubling” and needed to be answered before she can support Rice for secretary of state….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at First Cabinet Meeting Since Presidential Election

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Holds a Cabinet Meeting

Source: WH, 11-28-12

President Barack Obama holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet RoomPresident Barack Obama holds a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, President Obama held his first full Cabinet meeting since the election took place.

He first thanked Cabinet members for doing “a remarkable job on behalf of the American people, across the board, on a range of issues” including growing our economy, putting people back to work, and keeping Americans safe around the world.

But there’s still much work to be done, he reminded them. In today’s meeting, President Obama said the Cabinet would discuss efforts to help communities recover and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, as well as something that’s on the minds of many American families across the country: making sure taxes on the middle class don’t go up.

There is no reason why taxes on middle-class families should go up. It would be bad for the economy.  It would be bad for those families. In fact, it would be bad for the world economy. And so I think it’s very important that we get that resolved, and I am very open to a fair and balanced approach to reduce our deficit and provide the kind of certainty that businesses and consumers need so that we can keep this recovery going.

Earlier in the day, President Obama called on Americans to make their voices heard about how a $2,000 tax increase in 2013 would impact their family by visiting WH.gov/My2K, using the hashtag #My2K on Twitter, or speaking out on Facebook.

Watch his full remarks at the Cabinet meeting below:

Remarks by the President at a Cabinet Meeting

The Cabinet Room

3:11 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Is that brighter than usual? (Laughter.) Yes, that’s serious.

Well, listen, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to meet with my full Cabinet for the first time since the election took place. The primary purpose from my perspective is to say thank you, because everybody here, in their respective agencies, has done a remarkable job on behalf of the American people, across the board on a wide range of issues. They’ve always prioritized how do we make sure that we have a strong middle class, how do we grow our economy, how do we put people back to work, and how do we keep the American people safe and continue to extend our influence and our ideals around the world. And I could not have a better collection of people, many of whom have stayed here throughout my first term. And I think we’ve had as little turnover as any President during the course of a first term, and the reason is because everybody has done such a remarkable job.

So my main purpose is to say thank you to them, but also to remind them that we’ve got a lot of work to do. There are going to be a few specific issues that we spend a lot of time on. One in particular that I should note is that the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy is still being felt by families all across New York and New Jersey, parts of Connecticut. We are very pleased that under the leadership initially of Janet Napolitano and FEMA, but now Shaun Donovan, who’s heading up a task force, we’re focusing not only on recovery, but now on rebuilding and making sure those communities come back stronger than ever and people get the help that they need. So that will be an important topic because it’s really going to be an interagency concern.

The second thing that we’ll be talking about, obviously, is what’s on the minds of a lot of American families across the country, and that is making sure that we’ve got this fiscal cliff dealt with and that middle-class taxes don’t go up. I already spoke extensively about that today. I’ll just repeat: There is no reason why taxes on middle-class families should go up. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for those families. In fact, it would be bad for the world economy. And so I think it’s very important that we get that resolved, and I am very open to a fair and balanced approach to reduce our deficit and provide the kind of certainty that businesses and consumers need so that we can keep this recovery going.

And obviously, we’ll be spending some time talking about national security issues as well.

But I just want to say thank you to this extraordinary Cabinet for a job well done. And I will take this opportunity to publicly embarrass two members of the Cabinet whose birthdays are either today or tomorrow: Ric Shinseki, who is the Department of Veterans Affairs. Happy birthday to you. And that is actually today. (Applause.) And Janet Napolitano’s birthday is tomorrow. (Applause.)

All right, guys. Thank you. We want to get back to work.

Q Mr. President, do you think the Hill is being fair to Susan Rice in its meetings?

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much guys.

Q Any thoughts on that at all?

THE PRESIDENT: Susan Rice is extraordinary. I couldn’t be prouder of the job that she’s done as the USPR. (Applause.)
END
3:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency November 28, 2012: Joy to All: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2012 White House Christmas Holiday Decor — Remarks at Holiday Press Preview

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Joy to All: First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2012 White House Holiday Decor

Source: WH, 11-28-12

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with children of military families at the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with children of military families in the Green Room of the White House during the Christmas holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The theme of the 2012 White House Holiday decorations is “Joy to All”.

The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline. And in welcoming a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 90,000 anticipated visitors, First Lady Michelle Obama explained that this year’s theme “celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons: the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks.”

The 2012 decorations embrace several beloved White House traditions: There are 54 decorated trees throughout the residence, and four of them on display in the Grand Foyer are trimmed with ornaments that pay tribute to the holiday legacies of former First Ladies dating back to Mrs. Kennedy, including some original ornaments from years past.

Two of the rooms pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Armed Forces and their families. The walls of the East Landing are adorned with wreaths crafted with red, white, and blue yarn, and a tree decorated with red, white and blue ornaments completes the space. The official White House Christmas tree, which stands tall in the center of the Blue Room, honors the courageous service of the troops, veterans, and military families who serve our country with pride. The 18-foot-6- inch Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina is trimmed with ornaments decorated by military children living on U.S. Military Bases all over the world, and these one-of-a-kind ornaments honor their parents’ commitment to service.

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a craft project during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama and children of military families participate in a craft project in the State Dining Room of the White House during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) (Official White House Photo)

Other traditions that continue include the annual representation of the White House in pastry form: This year, the White House Gingerbread House was constructed from more than 175 pounds of gingerbread and modified gingerbread, and more than 50 pounds of chocolate. The base of the House, a combination of wheat, rye, and white-flour gingerbread, mimics the color of the sandstone house prior to 1798, when the president’s residence was first painted white.

First Dog Bo Obama also makes a return. A life-size replica of the First Family’s Portuguese Water Dog –made out of 18,000 one-inch black pompoms and 2,000 white pompoms — is the centerpiece of the East Garden Room, and more than 40 handmade “Bo-flakes” ornaments hang from the trees throughout the White House. White House staff have prepared a special activity for all of the young people who visit during the holiday season: They’ll receive a bookmark with a checklist that instructs them to find the “Bo-flake” ornament hanging in eight rooms of the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama Makes a honey tea stirrer during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012.

First Lady Michelle Obama shows her honey tea stirrer that she made with and children of military families during a craft project in the State Dining Room of the White House during the holiday press preview, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Of course, none of this would be possible if not for the volunteers who take time out of their busy lives to come from all parts of the country to help decorate the White House, and Mrs. Obama thanked them in her remarks this afternoon. This year, 85 volunteers representing 39 states worked tirelessly to transform the People’s House, undertaking tasks from stringing all 20,000 of the pompoms on the Bo topiary to covering iron arches in the Lower Cross Hall with over 6,000 repurposed White House glass ornaments.

Remarks by the First Lady at Holiday Press Preview

East Room

1:33 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA: Well, hi, everyone. Welcome to the White House. Pretty cool, huh? Yes.

Well, let me start by thanking Jennifer, first of all, for that very lovely introduction, and to welcome her family here as well, her father and her husband. We are just so grateful for your service and so glad you could be here. Thank you, Jennifer, for everything that your family — you and your family have done for this country and what you’ve done to help make this house as beautiful as it is.

As First Lady, I think you all know that I have had the privilege of traveling all across this country. And one of the best things I get to do is to meet with all of the wonderful, extraordinary military families like Jennifer’s family and all of your families. And it’s an honor, truly an honor to host you all here today at the White House. It’s a cool house. I like it.

I have said this many times before and I will say it again, because I can’t say it enough — our military families truly represent the very best that this country has to offer. And I’ve seen it up close. You all do so much for this country, and you do it with such amazing poise and grace.

You all are outstanding neighbors. You are just phenomenal, focused parents. You all are tremendous coworkers and community leaders in your own rights. And you all do this under such extraordinary circumstances. So many of you are doing it while moving from base to base every couple of years, enduring all of those months of long deployments with loved ones serving, oftentimes, halfway around the world.

And then, there are our military kids. You guys look gorgeous today, and handsome — (laughter) — and very clean. (Laughter.) And we’re going to try to change that, because we’re going to have sugar and glue and stuff like that. And it will be okay, moms and dads, because the photos will have been done. So they can get a little messy and get the black Bo cookies around their mouths. (Laughter.)

But you guys are very brave. You all are tremendous heroes in your own rights, because we know how hard you all work to adjust to all the changes that go on in your life. How many new schools have you guys been — how many schools have you guys been in? And give me some numbers. Have you been — you can go ahead. How many schools have you been to?

CHILD: Four.

MRS. OBAMA: And how old are you?

CHILD: Ten.

MRS. OBAMA: Ten. Four schools — 10 years old. That is typical. And then you meet these kids and they’ve been to so many schools in a few years, but they’re adjusting. They’re keeping their grades up, right? (Laughter.) I can tell you’re an A student. I can just feel it. (Laughter.)

And so many of you step up and handle your business while mom or dad is away. Right? You do what you can do. And I just want you all to know — all of you — just how proud we are. We are so proud of you. We think you’re pretty amazing individuals. I know it may not feel that way, but you’re special. And we’re just so happy to have you here. We’re grateful for your sacrifice. We’re grateful for you service.

And that’s really why we wanted to invite all of you here today — to say thank you. This is one big, huge thank you. From me to you all — thank you. We have found some wonderful ways to pay tribute to your service and sacrifice as an important part of our holiday decorating efforts here at the White House.

And it starts, as you all have seen, the minute visitors walk through the White House for their tours. The first thing they see, the very first tree they see honors our men and women in uniform for the extraordinary sacrifice they and their families have made. And thanks to several of you here today, I know that this tree is now decorated with special Gold Star ornaments bearing the names of some of America’s greatest heroes, those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House during this season will have the opportunity to decorate their own ornament and hang it on that very tree for the entire holiday period in honor of their loved ones.

But there’s more. Because in that area, there’s also an opportunity for visitors to fill out Operation Honor cards, and I filled out many myself. But these cards are used to pledge an individual service to their community in honor of our military families, servicemembers and veterans. And guests will also be able to write a note expressing their gratitude for the service that all of you have given to this country.

And we are also honoring our military families with some very special decorations on the official White House Christmas tree that’s in the Blue Room. It’s the biggest tree in the house. It’s huge — stands close to 19 feet tall. It is one of my favorite trees. This very special Joining Forces tree is covered with hand-decorated ornaments made by military children living in U.S. bases around the world. We have spent months and months gathering these beautiful ornaments, and guests will be able to take the time and read the messages and hear from these kids directly as they tour the White House.

In addition to these unique tributes to our military families, we also have many of the traditional holiday favorites built around our central theme. And as a little bit of a history lesson, the custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter Caroline. And this year’s theme is “Joy to All.” It celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons: the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks.

We’ve also continued the tradition of decorating trees throughout the house. We have 54 trees in the White House — 54. That’s a lot of trees. Fifty-four trees that reflect the theme including four trees in the grand foyer, which is the area out here. There are four beautiful trees that are trimmed with ornaments paying tribute to the holiday legacies of former First Ladies dating back to Jacqueline Kennedy.

And this is a really wonderful treat — some of them are replicas, but there are a few on there that are original ornaments. And they’re tagged, so when you look on them you can see some of them are mine, some of them are Laura Bush’s, and they just give you a sense of what Christmas felt like in other administrations with other families and First Ladies.

And of course, keeping with past holiday traditions, we have our annual White House Gingerbread House. Have you guys seen that yet?

CHILDREN: Yes!

MRS. OBAMA: It is — Bill Yosses, our executive pastry chef, and his team did a phenomenal job. This White House looks kind of real. What do you all think?

CHILDREN: Yes!

MRS. OBAMA: It looks pretty — oh, we get a thumbs up there. (Laughter.) Bill is over there. We got a thumbs up. But it is beautiful.

A White House holiday staple since the 1960s, this year’s house weighs nearly 300 pounds. So it’s a pretty big house, and its walls are made to resemble granite. So he did some kind of technique to make it look like real granite. And it even includes chandeliers that light up. It glows. (Laughter.) Like Rudolph’s nose, right?

So it’s beautiful. And we have a little replica First Lady’s Garden, with all the little details in there, and a big giant Bo. Bo is kind of big, don’t you think? (Laughter.) That basically represents Bo’s standing in the house. (Laughter.) He is almost as big as the house. He is such a huge personality.

But we also have a special activity prepared for the young people who visit the White House this year. We thought it would be fun to give them a bookmark with a checklist that instructs them to find all of the hidden Bo ornaments located in eight rooms of the White House. So it’s our version of “Where’s Waldo?”, but we do it with Bo. (Laughter.) And we hope that will keep kids busy while their parents are looking at the Christmas cards and you guys are really focusing in, the kids will have something to do.

But these are just a few of this year’s highlights, and I could go on and on. But I know we have cookies to decorate and things to do. But what I have to tell you is that this would be — this would not be possible if it weren’t for the 85 fabulous volunteers like Jennifer, who took time out of their busy lives to come from all parts of the country to help us decorate this house.

And it happens overnight. I mean literally once the tree is delivered, it is a matter of days before this house is transformed into what you see. And it’s because of people like Jennifer who come in, and they build bonds, and they share stories about their grandchildren. And they’re as dedicated as Jennifer is to making this house beautiful, and we’re just so grateful to have so many people willing to take time out of their lives and invest in this house for so many to see.

So it’s going to be a great holiday for everyone, and we are just excited to have visitors come through. This is our official opening. Throughout the holiday season, more than 90,000 people will come from all around the world to see this house. And I couldn’t imagine a better way to get things kicked off by having all of you here with us.

So with that, I want to, again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service and your sacrifice. And I do hope that your holiday season is truly special, that you really use this time to reflect and come together.

And so many of us in this country will use your lives as inspiration as we sit around our trees and our tables and we think about all that we have and all that all of you are sacrificing to make sure that we live in freedom and harmony. We are truly grateful to all of you, and we thank you.

And now, you guys ready to have some fun?

CHILDREN: Yes!

MRS. OBAMA: So I’m going to ask all of our — ready, righteous. You guys are going to come with me. May you rise. We’ve got activities planned. Parents, do not despair. Your children will be safe. We will bring them back, maybe a little dirtier, but they’ll be happy. A little bit of a sugar high, maybe. Try not to — try not to glue and lick at the same time. Remember there’s glue. Everything is not edible. (Applause.)

You guys ready to come with me and do some decorating? All right, let’s go. We will see you all shortly. Thank you so much. Happy holidays. (Applause.)

END
1:45 P.M. EST

Political Headlines November 28, 2012: President Barack Obama Launches #My2K Fiscal Cliff Campaign

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Launches #My2K Fiscal Cliff Campaign

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-28-12

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Kicking off his public relations campaign to build support for his plan to avert the looming “fiscal cliff,” President Obama on Wednesday said he is doing his part and urged Americans to pressure lawmakers to do theirs.

“Middle class families, folks who are working hard to get into the middle class, they’re watching what we do right now. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, when the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens,” the president told a crowd of middle class Americans at the White House Wednesday….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 28, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Extending Tax Cuts for the Middle Class

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Wants Americans to Speak Out on Passing the Middle Class Tax Cuts

Source: WH, 11-28-12

President Barack Obama discusses the need for Congress to extend the middle class tax cuts (November 28, 2012)President Barack Obama delivers remarks regarding the need for Congress to extend the middle class tax cuts, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, Nov. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Surrounded by Americans who had written into the White House in support of his plan, President Obama today renewed his call to prevent a tax increase on the middle class.

“If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes automatically go up at the beginning of next year,” the President said. “A typical middle-class family of four would see its income taxes go up by $2,200. That’s $2,200 out of people’s pockets. That means less money for buying groceries, less money for filling prescriptions, less money for buying diapers. It means a tougher choice between paying the rent and paying tuition. And middle-class families just can’t afford that right now.”

To help find an agreement President Obama pledged to keep up the pressure — meeting with lawmakers, labor leaders, and business executives. And he called on the American people to speak up and add their own voices to the debate.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, when the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens,” he said.

You can share your story by visiting WH.gov/My2K, or help keep the conversation going online on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #My2K. Or, read what others are saying about what $2,000 means to them.

“I can only do it with the help of the American people,” President Obama said. “Do what it takes to communicate a sense of urgency. We don’t have a lot of time here. We’ve got a few weeks to get this thing done.”

Watch the President’s full remarks here

Remarks by the President on Extending Tax Cuts for the Middle Class

Source: WH, 11-28-12

South Court Auditorium

12:01 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much.
Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you very much. Everybody, please have a seat — except you guys. Don’t sit down. (Laughter.)

Well, good morning, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: There’s been a lot of talk here in Washington about the deadlines we’re facing on taxes and deficits — these deadlines are going to be coming up very soon, in the coming weeks. But today is important because I want to make sure everybody understands this debate is not just about numbers. It’s a set of major decisions that are going to affect millions of families all across this country in very significant ways. And their voices — the voices of the American people — have to be part of this debate. And so I asked some friends of mine here to join me, some folks from here in the area.

Our ultimate goal is an agreement that gets our long-term deficit under control in a way that is fair and balanced. That kind of agreement would be good for our businesses; it would be good for our economy; it would be good for our children’s future. And I believe that both parties can agree on a framework that does that in the coming weeks. In fact, my hope is to get this done before Christmas.

But the place where we already have, in theory at least, complete agreement right now is on middle-class taxes. And as I’ve said before, we’ve got two choices. If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their taxes automatically go up at the beginning of next year. Starting January 1st, every family in America will see their taxes go up.

A typical middle-class family of four would see its income taxes go up by $2,200. That’s $2,200 out of people’s pockets. That means less money for buying groceries, less money for filling prescriptions, less money for buying diapers. (Laughter.) It means a tougher choice between paying the rent and paying tuition. And middle-class families just can’t afford that right now.

By the way, businesses can’t afford it either. Yesterday, I sat down with some small business owners who stressed this point. Economists predict that if taxes go up on the middle class next year, consumers will spend nearly $200 billion less on things like cars and clothes and furniture — and that obviously means fewer customers. That cuts into business profits. That makes businesses less likely to invest and hire, which means fewer jobs. And that can drag our entire economy down.

Now, the good news is there’s a better option. Right now, as we speak, Congress can pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. Everybody’s. And that means that 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime. Ninety-eight percent of Americans, 97 percent of small businesses would not see their income taxes go up by a single dime.

Even the wealthiest Americans would still get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. So it’s not like folks who make more than $250,000 aren’t getting a tax break, too. They’re getting a tax break on the first $250,000 just like everybody else.

Families and small businesses would, therefore, be able to enjoy some peace of mind heading into Christmas and heading into the New Year. And it would give us more time then next year to work together on a comprehensive plan to bring down our deficits, to streamline our tax system, to do it in a balanced way — including asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, so that we can still invest in things like education and training, and science and research.

Now, I know some of this may sound familiar to you because we talked a lot about this during the campaign. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. This was a major debate in the presidential campaign and in congressional campaigns all across the country. And a clear majority of Americans — not just Democrats, but also a lot of Republicans and a lot of independents — agreed we should have a balanced approach to deficit reduction that doesn’t hurt the economy and doesn’t hurt middle-class families. And I’m glad to see — if you’ve been reading the papers lately — that more and more Republicans in Congress seem to be agreeing with this idea that we should have a balanced approach.

So if both parties agree we should not raise taxes on middle-class families, let’s begin our work with where we agree. The Senate has already passed a bill that keeps income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to vote for that same bill today. And if we can get a few House Republicans to agree as well, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way. I’ve got to repeat, I’ve got a pen. I’m ready to sign it. (Applause.)

So my point here today is to say let’s approach this problem with the middle class in mind — the folks who are behind me and the millions of people all across the country who they represent. The American people are watching what we do — middle-class families, folks who are working hard to get into the middle class — they’re watching what we do right now. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, when the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens.

Some of you may remember that a year ago, during our last big fight to protect middle-class families, tens of thousands of working Americans called and tweeted and emailed their representatives, asking them to do the right thing. And sure enough, it worked. The same thing happened earlier this year when college students across the country stood up and demanded that Congress keep rates low on their student loans. Congress got the message loud and clear and they made sure that interest rates on student loans did not go up.

So the lesson is that when enough people get involved, we have a pretty good track record of actually making Congress work. And that’s important, because this is our biggest challenge yet — and it’s one that we can only meet together.

So in the interest of making sure that everybody makes their voices heard, last week we asked people to tell us what would a $2,000 tax hike mean to them. Some families told us it would make it more difficult for them to send their kids to college. Others said it would make it tougher for them to cover the cost of prescription drugs. Some said it would make it tough for them to make their mortgage.

Lyn Lyon, who’s here, from Newport News — where’s Lyn? There she is. She just wants to see some cooperation in Washington. She wrote, “Let’s show the rest of the world that we’re adults and, living in a democracy, we can solve our problems by working together.”

So that’s what this debate is all about. And that’s why it’s so important that as many Americans as possible send a message that we need to keep moving forward. So today, I’m asking Congress to listen to the people who sent us here to serve. I’m asking Americans all across the country to make your voice heard. Tell members of Congress what a $2,000 tax hike would mean to you. Call your members of Congress, write them an email, post it on their Facebook walls. You can tweet it using the hashtag “My2K.” Not “Y2K.” (Laughter.) “My2K.” We figured that would make it a little easier to remember.

And I want to assure the American people I’m doing my part
— I’m sitting down with CEOs; I’m sitting down with labor leaders; I’m talking to leaders in Congress. I am ready and able and willing and excited to go ahead and get this issue resolved in a bipartisan fashion so that American families, American businesses have some certainty going into next year. And we can do it in a balanced and fair way, but our first job is to make sure that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up. And since we all theoretically agree on that, we should go ahead and get that done. (Applause.) If we get that done, a lot of the other stuff is going to be a lot easier.

So in light of just sort of spreading this message, I’m going to be visiting Pennsylvania on Friday to talk with folks at a small business there that are trying to make sure that they’re filling their Christmas orders. And I’ll go anywhere and I’ll do whatever it takes to get this done. It’s too important for Washington to screw this up. Now is the time for us to work on what we all agree to, which is let’s keep middle-class taxes low. That’s what our economy needs. That’s what the American people deserve.

And if we get this part of it right, then a lot of the other issues surrounding deficit reduction in a fair and balanced and responsible way are going to be a whole lot easier. And if we get this wrong, the economy is going to go south. It’s going to be much more difficult for us to balance our budgets and deal with our deficits because if the economy is not strong, that means more money is going out in things like unemployment insurance, and less money is coming in, in terms of tax receipts. And it just actually makes our deficit worse.

So we really need to get this right. I can only do it with the help of the American people. So, tweet — what was that again — “My2K” — tweet using the hashtag “My2K,” or email, post it on a member of Congress’s Facebook wall. Do what it takes to communicate a sense of urgency. We don’t have a lot of time here. We’ve got a few weeks to get this thing done. We could get it done tomorrow. Now, optimistically, I don’t think we’re going to get it done tomorrow — (laughter) — but I tell you, if everybody here goes out of their way to make their voices heard, and spread the word to your friends and your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, then I am confident we will get it done. And we will put America on the right track not just for next year but for many years to come. All right?

Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Appreciate it.
END
12:12 P.M. EST

Full Text Barack Obama Presidency November 27, 2012: President Obama and President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto’s of Mexico Speeches Before Bilateral Meeting

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Welcomes Mexico President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto

Source: WH, 11-27-12

President Obama meets with President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto (November 27, 2012)President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico in the Oval Office, Nov. 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This afternoon, President Obama welcomed Enrique Peña Nieto, the President-elect of Mexico, to the Oval Office.

By long-standing tradition, newly elected Mexican presidents hold early meetings with the United States, in part because it symbolizes the close relationship between our two countries.

And President-elect Peña Nieto is himself no stranger to the United States, having spent a year in Maine as a student.

“But I think that’s representative of the strength of the relationship between the United States and Mexico,” President Obama said. “It’s not just a matter of policy, but it’s a matter of people, as represented by the many U.S. citizens who travel to Mexico, who live in Mexico, and obviously the incredible contribution that Mexican Americans make to our economy, our society, and to our politics.”

President Obama noted that President-elect Peña Nieto’s reform agenda is one that Americans will watch closely — as what happens in Mexico affects our society as well.

The president-elect was also quick to draw parallels between himself and President Obama.

“We were both congressmen — legislators, as we say in Spanish — in our respective congresses in our own countries,” he said. “And this means we’re very sensitive to the needs of our peoples. And we also share a very important vision, the vision for instance of creating more jobs. We know this is very important, not only for the American people but also for the Mexican peoples, for both of our nations.”

On Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation to the President-elect Peña Nieto’s inauguration.

Watch their full remarks here

Remarks of President Obama and President-Elect Peña Nieto of Mexico Before Bilateral Meeting

Oval Office

4:00 P.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is my great pleasure to welcome President-elect Peña Nieto to the Oval Office and to the White House. This is a longstanding tradition where — almost unique I think in the relationship between countries — we meet early with the President-elect of Mexico because it symbolizes the extraordinarily close relationship we have between our two countries.

Over the last four years, I’ve been able to work with President Felipe Calderón and I think we established an excellent working relationship so I wish him all the best in his new life.

And I’m very confident that I’m going to establish a strong personal as well as professional relationship with the President-elect, who I know has an outstanding reputation for wanting to get things done.

Now, President Peña Nieto I think represents the close ties between our two countries because I understand that he lived in the United States in Maine for a year, where the winters are even worse than Chicago, my hometown. (Laughter.)

But I think that’s representative of the strength of the relationship between the United States and Mexico. It’s not just a matter of policy, but it’s a matter of people, as represented by the many U.S. citizens who travel to Mexico, who live in Mexico, and obviously the incredible contribution that Mexican Americans make to our economy, our society, and to our politics.

I know that President Peña Nieto has a very ambitious reform agenda, and we are very much looking forward to having a fruitful discussion here today about not only how we can strengthen our economic ties, our trades ties, our coordination along the border, improving our joint competitiveness, as well as common security issues. But I think what I know the President-elect is also interested in is a discussion about both regional and global issues, because Mexico has become not simply an important bilateral partner, but is today a very important multilateral, multinational leader on a whole range of issues from energy to climate change, and we look forward to working with Mexico not only on regional issues, but also on global issues.

And just as President-elect Peña Nieto’s reform agenda is of great interest to us because what happens in Mexico has an impact on our society, I know he’s interested in what we do as well on issues like comprehensive immigration reform. And I’ll be sharing with him my interest in promoting some issues that are important to the United States, but ultimately will be important to Mexico as well.

So Mr. President-elect, I want to welcome you. Congratulations on your outstanding victory. Vice President Biden will be leading our delegation to your inauguration. We only send the Vice President to inaugurations when the country is really at the top of the list in importance to us and so we just want to wish you well and I look forward to an excellent relationship in the years to come.

PRESIDENT-ELECT PEÑA NIETO: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much, President Barack Obama. It’s truly a great pleasure to be here with you. I feel so happy and thank you for your hospitality. This is of course my first visit as President-elect of Mexico and I also want to congratulate you for your victory last November 6th for your second term as President of the United States. I of course wish you great success and I know you have a great task before you, but I know, I trust that you will be doing a wonderful job.

And I also want to thank you so much, President Obama, for having Vice President Joseph Biden go to Mexico for my inaugural ceremony next Saturday, December first. I feel so pleased to be able to have Vice President Biden represent you in Mexico. And of course we’re waiting for him and your delegation with open arms.

And I find that this is an opportunity we only have every 12 years. We’re practically beginning our administration, same that you’ll be starting your next four-year term, I will be starting a six-year administration in Mexico, as you well know, and I think this is really a great opportunity for all of us to have a closer link of brotherhood, of sisterhood, of collaboration, and of course, of great accomplishments we might both have working together.

Yes, and I believe that we have very important tasks before us that are common, as a matter of fact. For instance, we have many common things. We were both congressmen — legislators, as we say in Spanish — in our respective congresses in our own countries. And this means we’re very sensitive to the needs of our peoples. And we also share a very important vision, the vision for instance of creating more jobs. We know this is very important, not only for the American people but also for the Mexican peoples, for both of our nations. These are two very important demands in our countries.

And we do have the opportunity to grow, but not only that, we also have the opportunity to integrate North America, to be participating in this part of the world. And I am so pleased that this is the situation we’re in.

And of course, as I said, to increase the integration of North America, to really take advantage of the open spaces we have for our work — and not only in this part of the world, but also with Asia, of course and just mentioning for instance the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership. And my government is of course very much interested in strengthening this, because we believe that this is going to be a great opportunity for all of us.

Yes, and of course in terms of security that’s another major challenge we all face. My government has set out to reduce the violence situation in our country. And for that, of course, we have set out to launch a strategy for this purpose. And I will do everything we can for this. We want to have — we have the will to have cooperation, efficient cooperation with respect, respect for our sovereign states. And of course in terms of the border, we want our border to be a safe, modern, connected border, legal border — that’s exactly what we’ve set out to accomplish.

Yes, and in terms of the reform for migration, the migration reform, we do have to tell you that we fully support your proposal, sir, for this migration reform. More than demanding what you should do or shouldn’t do, we do want to tell you that we want to contribute. We really want to participate with you. We want to contribute towards the accomplishment, so that of course we can participate in the betterment and the well-being of so many millions of people who live in your country and who are also participating. So we want to be part of this.

And I trust that we’ll be able to have a very close relationship in our work, Mr. President. And of course I want to invite you to come to Mexico, a state visit. And as you know, next year in 2013, we’re going to be holding the North American Summit, the leaders’ summit. And you’re of course invited. And we really hope to see you there. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Any excuse to go to Mexico, I’m always game. In fact, I’m jealous of Joe Biden. (Laughter.) But anyway, thank you very much. Welcome. Thank you, everybody.

END
4:17 P.M. EST

Obama Presidency November 23, 2012: First Lady Michelle Obama Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

First Lady Michelle Obama Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree

Source: WH, 11-23-12

The official White House Christmas tree, a 19-foot Fraser fir, arrives in a horse-drawn carriageThe official White House Christmas tree, a 19-foot Fraser Fir, arrives in a horse-drawn carriage at the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama greeted the official White House Christmas Tree, which arrived via horse-drawn carriage. Daughters Sasha and Malia and First Dog Bo also helped welcome the tree. This year’s official tree is a 19-foot Fraser Fir that was selected in early October and harvested this month at Peak Farms in Jefferson, North Carolina.. It will be displayed throughout the holiday season in the Blue Room. Members of the National Christmas Tree Association have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room each year since 1966.

First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dog Bo, receives the official White House Christmas treeFirst Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dog Bo, receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House, Nov. 23, 2012. The tree, a 19-foot Fraser Fir from Jefferson, N.C., arrived in a horse-drawn carriage. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Full Text Political Headlines November 22, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers Optimism Is Important in Face of Fiscal Challenges

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

GOP Address: Rep. McMorris Rodgers Optimism Is Important in Face of Fiscal Challenges

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-22-12

McMorris [dot] House [dot] gov

In this week’s Republican address Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) echoes the president’s message reminding us of the freedoms  afforded to Americans.

Giving thanks to service members serving away from their families and remaining thoughtful of the many families still dealing with the effects of superstorm Sandy, Rep. McMorris Rodgers says, “The same spirit of service and optimism that brings us together today should inspire us all year round.”

“That why, here in Washington, D.C., Republicans have reached out to President Obama in the hope of working together to help our economy grow and solve the debt that threatens our children’s future,” she says in the address….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 22, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address Wishes the American People a Happy Thanksgiving

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Wishing Americans a Happy Thanksgiving

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-22-12

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

As Americans are preparing to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, President Obama take the opportunity in his weekly address to reflect on the blessings and freedoms we share.

Thanksgiving is a day “full of family and friends; food and football,” the president says. ” … But most of all, it’s a time to give thanks for each other, and for the incredible bounty we enjoy.”…READ MORE

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving

Source: WH, 11-22-12

During this holiday season, President Obama gives thanks in his weekly address for all of the blessings we share as Americans, and expressed his gratitude to the brave men and women who are defending our freedom around the world.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

Weekly Address: Wishing the American People a Happy Thanksgiving

WASHINGTON, DC—During this holiday season, President Obama gave thanks in his weekly address for all of the blessings we share as Americans, and expressed his gratitude to the brave men and women who are defending our freedom around the world.  As we come together to spend time with those we love, we also stand with those who are less fortunate this year, including our fellow Americans in the northeast who lost so much during the recent storm.  This Thanksgiving, friends, family, and community will gather in the spirit of unity and look out for those less fortunate – to pull each other up and move forward together.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00 a.m. ET, Thursday, November 22, 2012. 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
November 22, 2012

On behalf of the Obama family – Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Bo – I want to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.

For us, like so many of you, this is a day full of family and friends; food and football.  It’s a day to fight the overwhelming urge to take a nap – at least until after dinner.  But most of all, it’s a time to give thanks for each other, and for the incredible bounty we enjoy.

That’s especially important this year.  As a nation, we’ve just emerged from a campaign season that was passionate, noisy, and vital to our democracy.  But it also required us to make choices – and sometimes those choices led us to focus on what sets us apart instead of what ties us together; on what candidate we support instead of what country we belong to.

Thanksgiving is a chance to put it all in perspective – to remember that, despite our differences, we are, and always will be, Americans first and foremost.

Today we give thanks for blessings that are all too rare in this world.  The ability to spend time with the ones we love; to say what we want; to worship as we please; to know that there are brave men and women defending our freedom around the globe; and to look our children in the eye and tell them that, here in America, no dream is too big if they’re willing to work for it.

We’re also grateful that this country has always been home to Americans who see these blessings not simply as gifts to enjoy, but as opportunities to give back.  Americans who believe we have a responsibility to look out for those less fortunate – to pull each other up and move forward together.

Right now, as we prepare to gather around our dinner tables, there are families in the northeast who don’t have that luxury.  Many of them have lost everything to Hurricane Sandy – homes, possessions, even loved ones.  And it will be a long time before life goes back to normal.

But in the midst of so much tragedy, there are also glimmers of hope.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen FEMA personnel, National Guard and first responders working around the clock in hard-hit communities.  We’ve seen hospital workers using their lunch breaks to distribute supplies.  Families offering up extra bedrooms.  The fire department advertising free hot showers.  Buses full of volunteers coming from hundreds of miles away.  Neighbors sharing whatever they have – food, water, electricity – and saying again and again how lucky they are to have a roof over their heads.

It would have been easy for these folks to do nothing – to worry about themselves and leave the rest to someone else.  But that’s not who we are.  That’s not what we do.

As Americans, we are a bold, generous, big-hearted people.  When our brothers and sisters are in need, we roll up our sleeves and get to work – not for the recognition or the reward, but because it’s the right thing to do.  Because there but for the grace of God go I.  And because here in America, we rise or fall together, as one nation and one people.

That’s something to be grateful for – today and every day.

So to all the Americans doing your part to make our world a better place – it is my privilege to serve as your President.  To all our servicemembers – it is my honor to be your Commander in Chief.  And from our family to yours, happy Thanksgiving.

Full Text Obama Presidency November 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon — Pardons Cobbler, the National Thanksgiving Turkey

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Pardons Cobbler, the National Thanksgiving Turkey

Source: WH, 11-21-12

Watch the video

Today, President Obama pardoned Cobbler, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, in a ceremony at the White House. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, and the first time the American people cast their vote via the White House Facebook page to decide which of two turkeys would receive the honor.

Although Cobbler was selected for the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey, both he and his alternate, Gobbler, received a pardon. The two 19-week old, 40-pound turkeys were named by elementary school students Rockingham County, Virginia, where the turkeys were raised.

President Obama, the First Lady and daughters Malia and Sasha will be taking two not-so-lucky turkeys to a local food bank this afternoon, and he asked that “every American to do what they can to help families who are in need of a real Thanksgiving this year.”

Tomorrow, in the company of friends and loved ones, we will celebrate a uniquely American holiday.  And it’s a chance for us to spend time with the people we care about and to give thanks for the blessings that we enjoy; and to think about just how lucky we are to live in the greatest nation on Earth.

But it’s also a time to remember those who are less fortunate -– and this year, that’s particularly true for our neighbors in the Northeast who have lost their homes and their possessions, and even their loved ones to Hurricane Sandy.

He also wished a very happy Thanksgiving to the men and women in uniform who are away from their families this holiday. “But the reason they’re there is because they give thanks too for the extraordinary life that have here in the United States of America,” he said.

After the ceremony, the two turkeys spared the fate of becoming Thanksgiving dinner will travel to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens. The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through January 6.  After the holidays, the two birds will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.


For more information:

 

Remarks by the President at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon

The Rose Garden

2:08 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good afternoon, everybody.  (Turkey gobbles.)  (Laughter.)

They say that life is all about second chances.  And this November, I could not agree more.  (Laughter.)  So in the spirit of the season, I have one more gift to give, and it goes to a pair of turkeys named Cobbler and Gobbler.  The American people have spoken, and these birds are moving forward.  (Turkey gobbles.)  (Laughter.)  I love this bird.  (Laughter.)

Now, I joke, but for the first time in our history, the winners of the White House Turkey Pardon were chosen through a highly competitive online vote.  And once again, Nate Silver completely nailed it.  (Laughter.)  The guy is amazing.  He predicted these guys would win.

I want to thank everyone who participated in this election.  Because of your votes, the only cobbler anyone’s eating this Thanksgiving will come with a side of ice cream.  And for that, our winning turkey can thank his stellar campaign team led by Steve Willardsen, who is the Chairman of the National Turkey Foundation and raised this beautiful bird at Miller Farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  So here’s Steve.  (Applause.)

And, as always, if for some reason Cobbler cannot fulfill his duties as the Official White House Turkey, Gobbler will be waiting in the wings.

From here, these two — (laughter) — from here these two lucky birds will be swept up in a whirlwind of fame and fortune that will ultimately lead them to Mount Vernon, where they will spend their twilight years in the storied home of George Washington.  And later today, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will be taking two turkeys who were not so lucky to a local food bank here in Washington, D.C.  I want to thank Jaindl Turkey Farms in Pennsylvania for donating these birds — or those birds — and I’d like to ask every American to do what they can to help families who are in need of a real Thanksgiving this year.

Tomorrow, in the company of friends and loved ones, we will celebrate a uniquely American holiday.  And it’s a chance for us to spend time with the people we care about and to give thanks for the blessings that we enjoy; and to think about just how lucky we are to live in the greatest nation on Earth.

But it’s also a time to remember those who are less fortunate -– and this year, that’s particularly true for our neighbors in the Northeast who have lost their homes and their possessions, and even their loved ones to Hurricane Sandy.

In the last few weeks, I had a chance to visit both New Jersey and New York.  And while I’ve seen entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and heartbreaking loss and devastation, I have yet to find a broken spirit.

Countless stories of courage, and compassion, and resilience have emerged in the aftermath of the storm.  But one that comes to mind today is about a tree on Staten Island.  It’s a giant blue spruce that came crashing down in the front yard of Joseph Ingenito, whose home in New Dorp Beach flooded during the hurricane.  Today, if you go to Joseph’s street, you’ll see a lot of damage and debris scattered all over the block.  But you’ll also see the top of that tree, standing tall in front of his house, decorated with ornaments that survived the storm, along with anything else his neighbors could find including empty cups and surgical masks and safety goggles.  It’s a Christmas tree, and it’s there to remind the neighborhood that there will still be holidays to celebrate, and happy moments to share, and life will go on.  And we will rebuild.

And so tomorrow, we give thanks -– not only for the things that we have, or the people we love, but for the spirit that sees us through the toughest times, and holds us together as one American family, guided along our journey by the hope of a better day.

And I hope that over this holiday weekend, we’re also thinking about our extraordinary men and women overseas who are serving far away from home in harm’s way.  But the reason they’re there is because they give thanks too for the extraordinary life that have here in the United States of America.

So may God bless those brave men and women in uniform who are away from their families this holiday season.  May God bless the American people.  May you all have a very happy Thanksgiving.

And with that I think we are going to bestow the official pardon on — wait, which — is he Gobbler or Cobbler?  Cobbler.  Come on.  All right, I’ve got to give the special dispensation.  Congratulations, Cobbler.  You have a great life.

Everybody give Cobbler a big round of applause.

(The turkeys are pardoned.)

END
2:18 P.M. EST

Political Headlines November 21, 2012: President Barack Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-21-12

ABC News

President Obama “pardoned” the National Thanksgiving Turkey – and its designated backup — in the Rose Garden on Wednesday.

Cobbler and alternate Gobbler are each 19-week old, 40-pounders, raised at the farm of Craig and Nancy Miller, near Harrisonburg, Va., with the supervision of National Turkey Federation chairman Steve Willardsen, in partnership with the Virginia Poultry Federation.

The turkeys’ names were chosen by students from elementary schools in Rockingham County, Va….READ MORE

Political Headlines November 21, 2012: Jesse Jackson Jr. to Resign House Seat

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Jesse Jackson Jr. to Resign House Seat

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-21-12

US Congress

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the embattled Democrat from Illinois who has been on medical leave from Capitol Hill for months undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder, resigned from the House of Representatives Wednesday.

Aides to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said they had received a letter of resignation from Jackson Jr….READ MORE

Political Headlines November 21, 2012: Sen. John McCain Surprised by DNI Benghazi Talking Points Admission

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John McCain Surprised by DNI Benghazi Talking Points Admission

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-21-12

ABC News

Sen. John McCain, one of the loudest critics of the White House reaction to the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, admitted on Tuesday that he was surprised that the Director of National Intelligence admitted to removing references to al Qaeda in the talking points memo that followed the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s 2012 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation 2012 from President Obama

In giving gratitude for ‘the God-given bounty that enriches our lives,’ Americans should remember the ‘indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.’ Washington’s and Lincoln’s ‘expressions of unity still echo today.’

By President Barack Obama

Source: CS Monitor, 11-20-12

President Obama stands with his daughters Sasha, left, and Malia and Walter Pelletier, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, after pardoning the turkey, “Courage,” during a ceremony at the White House, Nov. 25, 2009. Mr. Obama says Americans should thank ‘those who honor [our proud heritage] by giving back.’

Alex Brandon/AP/File

Enlarge

Washington

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. As many pause to lend a hand to those in need, we are also reminded of the indelible spirit of compassion and mutual responsibility that has distinguished our Nation since its earliest days.

Many Thanksgivings have offered opportunities to celebrate community during times of hardship. When the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony gave thanks for a bountiful harvest nearly four centuries ago, they enjoyed the fruits of their labor with the Wampanoag tribe – a people who had shared vital knowledge of the land in the difficult months before. When President George Washington marked our democracy’s first Thanksgiving, he prayed to our Creator for peace, union, and plenty through the trials that would surely come. And when our Nation was torn by bitterness and civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we were, at heart, one Nation, sharing a bond as Americans that could bend but would not break. Those expressions of unity still echo today, whether in the contributions that generations of Native Americans have made to our country, the Union our forebears fought so hard to preserve, or the providence that draws our families together this season.

As we reflect on our proud heritage, let us also give thanks to those who honor it by giving back. This Thanksgiving, thousands of our men and women in uniform will sit down for a meal far from their loved ones and the comforts of home. We honor their service and sacrifice. We also show our appreciation to Americans who are serving in their communities, ensuring their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. Their actions reflect our age-old belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and they affirm once more that we are a people who draw our deepest strength not from might or wealth, but from our bonds to each other.

On Thanksgiving Day, individuals from all walks of life come together to celebrate this most American tradition, grateful for the blessings of family, community, and country. Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 22, 2012, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together – whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors – and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

– BARACK OBAMA

Political Headlines November 20, 2012: House Republicans Write President Barack Obama Letter Opposing Susan Rice Nomination

House Republicans Write Obama Letter Opposing Susan Rice Nomination

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-20-12

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Although they have no say in her possible confirmation proceedings, 97 House Republicans have spoken out loud and clear about their opposition to President Obama nominating United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice as the next secretary of state.

Rice has come under attack by the GOP and some Democrats for initially stating that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 was the result of a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Islam movie….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 19, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Myanmar Speech at the University of Yangon, Rangoon, Burma

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Promises Support for the People of Burma

Source: WH, 11-19-12

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Yangon (November 19, 2012)

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the University of Yangon in Rangoon, Burma, Nov. 19, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by President Obama at the University of Yangon

Rangoon, Burma

2:39 P.M. MMT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Myanmar Naingan, Mingalaba!  (Laughter and applause.)  I am very honored to be here at this university and to be the first President of the United States of America to visit your country.

I came here because of the importance of your country.  You live at the crossroads of East and South Asia.  You border the most populated nations on the planet.  You have a history that reaches back thousands of years, and the ability to help determine the destiny of the fastest growing region of the world.

I came here because of the beauty and diversity of your country.  I have seen just earlier today the golden stupa of Shwedagon, and have been moved by the timeless idea of metta — the belief that our time on this Earth can be defined by tolerance and by love.  And I know this land reaches from the crowded neighborhoods of this old city to the homes of more than 60,000 villages; from the peaks of the Himalayas, the forests of Karen State, to the banks of the Irrawady River.

I came here because of my respect for this university.  It was here at this school where opposition to colonial rule first took hold.  It was here that Aung San edited a magazine before leading an independence movement.  It was here that U Thant learned the ways of the world before guiding it at the United Nations.  Here, scholarship thrived during the last century and students demanded their basic human rights.  Now, your Parliament has at last passed a resolution to revitalize this university and it must reclaim its greatness, because the future of this country will be determined by the education of its youth.

I came here because of the history between our two countries.  A century ago, American traders, merchants and missionaries came here to build bonds of faith and commerce and friendship.  And from within these borders in World War II, our pilots flew into China and many of our troops gave their lives.  Both of our nations emerged from the British Empire, and the United States was among the first countries to recognize an independent Union of Burma.  We were proud to found an American Center in Rangoon and to build exchanges with schools like this one.  And through decades of differences, Americans have been united in their affection for this country and its people.

Above all, I came here because of America’s belief in human dignity.  Over the last several decades, our two countries became strangers.  But today, I can tell you that we always remained hopeful about the people of this country, about you.  You gave us hope and we bore witness to your courage.

We saw the activists dressed in white visit the families of political prisoners on Sundays and monks dressed in saffron protesting peacefully in the streets.  We learned of ordinary people who organized relief teams to respond to a cyclone, and heard the voices of students and the beats of hip-hop artists projecting the sound of freedom.  We came to know exiles and refugees who never lost touch with their families or their ancestral home.  And we were inspired by the fierce dignity of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as she proved that no human being can truly be imprisoned if hope burns in your heart.

When I took office as President, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear.  I said, in my inauguration address, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”  And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.  Under President Thein Sein, the desire for change has been met by an agenda for reform.  A civilian now leads the government, and a parliament is asserting itself.  The once-outlawed National League for Democracy stood in an election, and Aung San Suu Kyi is a Member of Parliament.  Hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been released, and forced labor has been banned.  Preliminary cease-fires have been reached with ethnic armies, and new laws allow for a more open economy.

So today, I’ve come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship.  America now has an Ambassador in Rangoon, sanctions have been eased, and we will help rebuild an economy that can offer opportunity for its people, and serve as an engine of growth for the world.  But this remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go.  Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation.  The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished — they must be strengthened; they must become a shining North Star for all this nation’s people.

And your success in that effort is important to the United States, as well as to me.  Even though we come from different places, we share common dreams:  to choose our leaders; to live together in peace; to get an education and make a good living; to love our families and our communities.  That’s why freedom is not an abstract idea; freedom is the very thing that makes human progress possible — not just at the ballot box, but in our daily lives.

One of our greatest Presidents in the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, understood this truth.  He defined America’s cause as more than the right to cast a ballot.  He understood democracy was not just voting.  He called upon the world to embrace four fundamental freedoms:  freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  These four freedoms reinforce one another, and you cannot fully realize one without realizing them all.

So that’s the future that we seek for ourselves, and for all people.  And that is what I want to speak to you about today.

First, we believe in the right of free expression so that the voices of ordinary people can be heard, and governments reflect their will — the people’s will.

In the United States, for more than two centuries, we have worked to keep this promise for all of our citizens — to win freedom for those who were enslaved; to extend the right to vote for women and African Americans; to protect the rights of workers to organize.

And we recognize no two nations achieve these rights in exactly the same way, but there is no question that your country will be stronger if it draws on the strength of all of its people.  That’s what allows nations to succeed.  That’s what reform has begun to do.

Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected.  Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted.  And as you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.  Instead of being ignored, citizens who protested the construction of the Myitsone dam were heard.  Instead of being outlawed, political parties have been allowed to participate.  You can see progress being made.  As one voter said during the parliamentary elections here, “Our parents and grandparents waited for this, but never saw it.”  And now you can see it.  You can taste freedom.

And to protect the freedom of all the voters, those in power must accept constraints.  That’s what our American system is designed to do.  Now, America may have the strongest military in the world, but it must submit to civilian control.  I, as the President of the United States, make determinations that the military then carries out, not the other way around.  As President and Commander-In-Chief, I have that responsibility because I’m accountable to the people.

Now, on other hand, as President, I cannot just impose my will on Congress — the Congress of the United States — even though sometimes I wish I could.  The legislative branch has its own powers and its own prerogatives, and so they check my power and balance my power.  I appoint some of our judges, but I cannot tell them how to rule, because every person in America — from a child living in poverty to me, the President of the United States — is equal under the law.  And a judge can make a determination as to whether or not I am upholding the law or breaking the law.  And I am fully accountable to that law.

And I describe our system in the United States because that’s how you must reach for the future that you deserve — a future where a single prisoner of conscience is one too many.  You need to reach for a future where the law is stronger than any single leader, because it’s accountable to the people.  You need to reach for a future where no child is made to be a soldier and no woman is exploited, and where the laws protect them even if they’re vulnerable, even if they’re weak; a future where national security is strengthened by a military that serves under civilians and a Constitution that guarantees that only those who are elected by the people may govern.

On that journey, America will support you every step of the way — by using our assistance to empower civil society; by engaging your military to promote professionalism and human rights; and by partnering with you as you connect your progress towards democracy with economic development.  So advancing that journey will help you pursue a second freedom — the belief that all people should be free from want.

It’s not enough to trade a prison of powerlessness for the pain of an empty stomach.  But history shows that governments of the people and by the people and for the people are far more powerful in delivering prosperity.  And that’s the partnership we seek with you.

When ordinary people have a say in their own future, then your land can’t just be taken away from you.  And that’s why reforms must ensure that the people of this nation can have that most fundamental of possessions — the right to own the title to the land on which you live and on which you work.

When your talents are unleashed, then opportunity will be created for all people.  America is lifting our ban on companies doing business here, and your government has lifted restrictions on investment and taken steps to open up your economy.  And now, as more wealth flows into your borders, we hope and expect that it will lift up more people.  It can’t just help folks at the top.  It has to help everybody.  And that kind of economic growth, where everybody has opportunity — if you work hard, you can succeed — that’s what gets a nation moving rapidly when it comes to develop.

But that kind of growth can only be created if corruption is left behind.  For investment to lead to opportunity, reform must promote budgets that are transparent and industry that is privately owned.

To lead by example, America now insists that our companies meet high standards of openness and transparency if they’re doing business here.  And we’ll work with organizations like the World Bank to support small businesses and to promote an economy that allows entrepreneurs, small businesspeople to thrive and allows workers to keep what they earn.  And I very much welcome your government’s recent decision to join what we’ve called our Open Government Partnership, so that citizens can come to expect accountability and learn exactly how monies are spent and how your system of government operates.

Above all, when your voices are heard in government, it’s far more likely that your basic needs will be met.  And that’s why reform must reach the daily lives of those who are hungry and those who are ill, and those who live without electricity or water.  And here, too, America will do our part in working with you.

Today, I was proud to reestablish our USAID mission in this country, which is our lead development agency.  And the United States wants to be a partner in helping this country, which used to be the rice bowl of Asia, to reestablish its capacity to feed its people and to care for its sick, and educate its children, and build its democratic institutions as you continue down the path of reform.

This country is famous for its natural resources, and they must be protected against exploitation.  And let us remember that in a global economy, a country’s greatest resource is its people.  So by investing in you, this nation can open the door for far more prosperity — because unlocking a nation’s potential depends on empowering all its people, especially its young people.

Just as education is the key to America’s future, it is going to the be the key to your future as well.  And so we look forward to working with you, as we have with many of your neighbors, to extend that opportunity and to deepen exchanges among our students.  We want students from this country to travel to the United States and learn from us, and we want U.S. students to come here and learn from you.

And this truth leads me to the third freedom that I want to discuss:  the freedom to worship — the freedom to worship as you please, and your right to basic human dignity.

This country, like my own country, is blessed with diversity.  Not everybody looks the same.  Not everybody comes from the same region.  Not everybody worships in the same way.  In your cities and towns, there are pagodas and temples, and mosques and churches standing side by side.  Well over a hundred ethnic groups have been a part of your story.  Yet within these borders, we’ve seen some of the world’s longest running insurgencies, which have cost countless lives, and torn families and communities apart, and stood in the way of development.

No process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation.  (Applause.)  You now have a moment of remarkable opportunity to transform cease-fires into lasting settlements, and to pursue peace where conflicts still linger, including in Kachin State.  Those efforts must lead to a more just and lasting peace, including humanitarian access to those in need, and a chance for the displaced to return home.

Today, we look at the recent violence in Rakhine State that has caused so much suffering, and we see the danger of continued tensions there.  For too long, the people of this state, including ethnic Rakhine, have faced crushing poverty and persecution.  But there is no excuse for violence against innocent people.  And the Rohingya hold themselves — hold within themselves the same dignity as you do, and I do.

National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country’s future, it is necessary to stop incitement and to stop violence.  And I welcome the government’s commitment to address the issues of injustice and accountability, and humanitarian access and citizenship.  That’s a vision that the world will support as you move forward.

Every nation struggles to define citizenship.  America has had great debates about these issues, and those debates continue to this day, because we’re a nation of immigrants — people coming from every different part of the world.  But what we’ve learned in the United States is that there are certain principles that are universal, apply to everybody no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what religion you practice.  The right of people to live without the threat that their families may be harmed or their homes may be burned simply because of who they are or where they come from.

Only the people of this country ultimately can define your union, can define what it means to be a citizen of this country.  But I have confidence that as you do that you can draw on this diversity as a strength and not a weakness.  Your country will be stronger because of many different cultures, but you have to seize that opportunity.  You have to recognize that strength.

I say this because my own country and my own life have taught me the power of diversity.  The United States of America is a nation of Christians and Jews, and Muslims and Buddhists, and Hindus and non-believers.  Our story is shaped by every language; it’s enriched by every culture.  We have people from every corners of the world.  We’ve tasted the bitterness of civil war and segregation, but our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede; that the lines between races and tribes fade away.  And what’s left is a simple truth: e pluribus unum — that’s what we say in America.  Out of many, we are one nation and we are one people.  And that truth has, time and again, made our union stronger.  It has made our country stronger.  It’s part of what has made America great.

We amended our Constitution to extend the democratic principles that we hold dear.  And I stand before you today as President of the most powerful nation on Earth, but recognizing that once the color of my skin would have denied me the right to vote.  And so that should give you some sense that if our country can transcend its differences, then yours can, too.  Every human being within these borders is a part of your nation’s story, and you should embrace that.  That’s not a source of weakness, that’s a source of strength — if you recognize it.

And that brings me to the final freedom that I will discuss today, and that is the right of all people to live free from fear.

In many ways, fear is the force that stands between human beings and their dreams.  Fear of conflict and the weapons of war.  Fear of a future that is different from the past.  Fear of changes that are reordering our societies and economy.  Fear of people who look different, or come from a different place, or worship in a different way.  In some of her darkest moments, when Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned, she wrote an essay about freedom from fear.  She said fear of losing corrupts those who wield it — “Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

That’s the fear that you can leave behind.  We see that chance in leaders who are beginning to understand that power comes from appealing to people’s hopes, not people’s fears.  We see it in citizens who insist that this time must be different, that this time change will come and will continue.  As Aung San Suu Kyi wrote: “Fear is not the natural state of civilized man.”  I believe that.  And today, you are showing the world that fear does not have to be the natural state of life in this country.

That’s why I am here.  That’s why I came to Rangoon.  And that’s why what happens here is so important — not only to this region, but to the world.  Because you’re taking a journey that has the potential to inspire so many people.  This is a test of whether a country can transition to a better place.

The United States of America is a Pacific nation, and we see our future as bound to those nations and peoples to our West.  And as our economy recovers, this is where we believe we will find enormous growth.  As we have ended the wars that have dominated our foreign policy for a decade, this region will be a focus for our efforts to build a prosperous peace.

Here in Southeast Asia, we see the potential for integration among nations and people.  And as President, I have embraced ASEAN for reasons that go beyond the fact that I spent some of my childhood in this region, in Indonesia.  Because with ASEAN, we see nations that are on the move — nations that are growing, and democracies that are emerging; governments that are cooperating; progress that’s building on the diversity that spans oceans and islands and jungles and cities, peoples of every race and every religion.  This is what the 21st century should look like if we have the courage to put aside our differences and move forward with a sense of mutual interest and mutual respect.

And here in Rangoon, I want to send a message across Asia: We don’t need to be defined by the prisons of the past.  We need to look forward to the future.  To the leadership of North Korea, I have offered a choice:  let go of your nuclear weapons and choose the path of peace and progress.  If you do, you will find an extended hand from the United States of America.

In 2012, we don’t need to cling to the divisions of East, West and North and South.  We welcome the peaceful rise of China, your neighbor to the North; and India, your neighbor to the West.  The United Nations — the United States will work with any nation, large or small, that will contribute to a world that is more peaceful and more prosperous, and more just and more free.  And the United States will be a friend to any nation that respects the rights of its citizens and the responsibilities of international law.

That’s the nation, that’s the world that you can start to build here in this historic city.  This nation that’s been so isolated can show the world the power of a new beginning, and demonstrate once again that the journey to democracy goes hand in hand with development.  I say this knowing that there are still countless people in this country who do not enjoy the opportunities that many of you seated here do.  There are tens of millions who have no electricity.  There are prisoners of conscience who still await release.  There are refugees and displaced peoples in camps where hope is still something that lies on the distant horizon.

Today, I say to you — and I say to everybody that can hear my voice — that the United States of America is with you, including those who have been forgotten, those who are dispossessed, those who are ostracized, those who are poor.  We carry your story in our heads and your hopes in our hearts, because in this 21st century with the spread of technology and the breaking down of barriers, the frontlines of freedom are within nations and individuals, not simply between them.

As one former prisoner put it in speaking to his fellow citizens, “Politics is your job.  It’s not only for [the] politicians.”  And we have an expression in the United States that the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen — not President, not Speaker, but citizen.  (Applause.)

So as extraordinary and difficult and challenging and sometimes frustrating as this journey may seem, in the end, you, the citizens of this country, are the ones who must define what freedom means.  You’re the ones who are going to have to seize freedom, because a true revolution of the spirit begins in each of our hearts.  It requires the kind of courage that so many of your leaders have already displayed.

The road ahead will be marked by huge challenges, and there will be those who resist the forces of change.  But I stand here with confidence that something is happening in this country that cannot be reversed, and the will of the people can lift up this nation and set a great example for the world.  And you will have in the United States of America a partner on that long journey.  So, cezu tin bad de.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
3:10 P.M. MMT

Full Text Obama Presidency November 18, 19, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speeches, Press Conferences & Bilateral Meetings during Southeast Asia Trip to Thailand, Myanmar, Burma

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:







Election 2012 November 18, 2012: Ron Barber, Former Gabrielle Giffords Aide, Wins Arizona Seat in Congress After Close Race

ELECTION 2012

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CAMPAIGN BUZZ
2012

THE HEADLINES….

Ron Barber, Former Gabrielle Giffords Aide, Wins Seat in Congress After Close Race

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-19-12

Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images

Democrat Ron Barber, former aide to Gabrielle Giffords, was declared the winner today of a tight congressional race in Southern Arizona.

Saturday morning, Barber’s opponent, Republican Martha McSally, called him and conceded the race.

The hard-fought battle played out in a newly redrawn district in Southern Arizona that covers parts of Tucson and Pima County and all of Cochise County….READ MORE

Political Headlines November 18, 2012: President Barack Obama Defends Myanmar Visit, ‘Not An Endorsement’ at a joint press conference with Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Defends Myanmar Visit, ‘Not An Endorsement’

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-18-12

Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

President Obama Sunday defended his decision to visit Myanmar against critics who say the trip is premature, saying it’s “an acknowledgement” of the country’s democratic progress but not “an endorsement.”

“I don’t think anybody’s under any illusion that Burma has arrived, that they’re where they need to be,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. “On the other hand, if we waited to engage until they had achieved a perfect democracy, my suspicion is we’d be waiting an awful long time.”

“One of the goals of this trip is to highlight the progress that has been made but also to give voice to the much greater progress that needs to be made in the future,” he said….READ MORE

Political Headlines November 17, 2012: President Barack Obama and Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney Are ‘Not Impressed’ — Oval Office Photo during Fierce Five White House Visit

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama and Olympic Gymnast McKayla Maroney Are ‘Not Impressed’

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-17-12

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The gold medalists from the women’s 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team met with President Barack Obama on Thursday. Obama jokingly mimicked gymnast McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” look during a photo-op.

Maroney turned into an internet celebrity during this summer’s games when a picture of her famous scowl went viral and eventually turning into an internet meme.

Photographs were taken in the Oval Office.

The other gymnasts meeting with Obama included Gabby Douglas, Kyla Ross, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.

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