Political Headlines February 7, 2013: House of Representatives Democrats Unveil Plan to Address Gun Control & Violence

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Dems Unveil Plan to Address Gun Violence

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-7-13

House Democrats unveiled its task force’s plan to crack down on gun violence Thursday, calling on Congress to enact an assault weapons ban, outlaw high-capacity assault magazines, and put in place universal background checks for every firearm sale.

“Every person who holds public office takes that oath to protect and defend,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “It is our first responsibility.”

The plan, which consists of 15 proposals, largely mirrors the steps suggested by President Obama and Vice President Biden last month….READ MORE

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Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Marco Rubio: ‘There is only one savior, and it is not me’

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Marco Rubio: ‘There is only one savior, and it is not me’

Source: Washington Post (blog), 2-7-13

The newest issue of Time magazine contains a picture of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on the cover with the words: “The Republican Savior….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Marco Rubio on Time Magazine’s Cover: The Republican Savior: How Marco Rubio became the new voice of the GOP

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

TIME U.S. Cover: The Republican Savior

Full-body portrait of Marco Rubio

Immigrant Son (Features / Nation)

Source: Time, 2-7-13 (2-18-13)

Marco Rubio wants to sell the GOP on a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans. So why is his mom calling?…READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta’s Testimony & Statement on the Attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Statement on the Attacks on the US Facilities in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Source: DOD, 2-7-13

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 07, 2013

Chairman Levin, Senator Inhofe, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012.

Before I go into my testimony, let me just state my deepest thanks to all of you for the support and friendship that I’ve had with all of you on both sides of the aisle.  I’ve had the honor to live the American Dream as the son of Italian immigrants in the various capacities that I’ve had to serve this country.  The greatest privilege I think I’ve had is to serve as an elected member in the House and had the opportunity to work with many of you in that capacity, and then as member of the executive branch had the opportunity to work with you, as well.  I thank you for your dedication to the country, and I thank you for your willingness to serve the United States.

On that tragic day, as always, the Department of Defense was prepared for a wide range of contingencies.  I remind you that the NCTC in the six months prior to that attack identified some 281 threats to U.S. diplomats, diplomatic facilities, embassies, ambassadors and consulates worldwide — and obviously Benghazi was one of those almost 300 areas of concern.

But, unfortunately, there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on that — U.S. facilities in Benghazi.  And frankly without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond.  That’s not just my view or General Dempsey’s view.  It was the view of the Accountability Review Board that studied what happened on that day.

In the months since the tragedy at the temporary mission facility in the nearby Annex in Benghazi, we’ve learned that there were actually two short duration attacks that occurred some six hours apart.  And again, there was no specific intelligence that indicated that a second attack would occur at the Annex which was located some two miles away.

The bottom line is this, that we were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault, which could have been brought to an end by a U.S. military response, very simply, although we had forces deployed to the region.  Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response.  Despite the uncertainty at the time, the Department of Defense and the rest of the United States government spared no effort to do everything we could to try to save American lives.  Before, during and after the attack, every request the Department of Defense received we did, we accomplished.  But, again, four Americans’ lives were lost, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that, that does not happen again.

The four Americans who perished in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and the security personnel, all were heroes, and all were patriots.  I had the opportunity to join the president, Secretary Clinton and other officials at Andrews Air Force Base for the dignified transfer ceremony when those bodies of those heroes were returned home, and I had the opportunity to meet with their families.  I believe we all have a solemn responsibility for the families and to the personnel who put themselves at risk to find out exactly what happened, to bring those involved to justice and to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to prevent it from happening again and to ensure the safety of our personnel and facilities worldwide.

To that end, the Department of Defense has fully supported efforts by the Congress and the State Department to review the events and decisions surrounding the attacks in Benghazi.  We have made every effort to respond promptly to numerous requests for additional information, to provide briefings, to provide testimony to members and committees in the Congress.  In fact, General Dempsey and I were among the very first U.S. government senior officials to brief Congress on this tragedy.

We appeared before this committee on September 14th, 2012, three days after the attack, and provided the best information we had at that point as to what had taken place.  Additionally, the Defense Department participated in classified briefings and answered questions from the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security Oversight Committees, even when we were not called to testify.  We’ve also provided all requested support to the Accountability Review Board that was co-chaired by Ambassador Pickering and by Admiral Mullen.

Based on the information we compiled and the reviews that we conducted, let me describe for you DOD’s response to the events on September 11th, some of the lessons that we’ve learned and the adjustments we are making to our global force posture given continuing unrest throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  In fact, in many places, if we get the heads up that we need, the changes we made have already resulted in early decisions to deploy additional security or withdraw diplomatic staff in the advance of a crisis, from Central America to Khartoum, from Tunisia to Yemen, from Egypt to Mali and others.

While DOD does not have the primary responsibility for the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world, we do work closely with the State Department and support them as requested.  In the months prior to the Benghazi attack, as I’ve said, we had received from the intelligence community almost 300 reports on possible threats to American facilities around the world.  Over the course of the day on September 11th, General Dempsey and I received a number of reports of possible threats to U.S. facilities, including those in Cairo, Egypt.  But there were no reports of imminent threats to U.S. personnel or facilities in Benghazi.

By our best estimate, the incident at the temporary mission facility in Benghazi began at about 3:42 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 11th.  The Embassy in Tripoli was notified of the attacks almost immediately, and within 17 minutes of the initial reports, about 3:59 p.m., AFRICOM directed an unarmed and unmanned surveillance aircraft that was nearby to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility.  My understanding is that that UAV arrived about an hour and 11 minutes after the attack had begun and was focused on the primary facility there to try to determine what was taking place.

Soon after the initial reports about the attack in Benghazi were received, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region.  It’s important to remember that in addition to responding to the situation in Benghazi, we were also concerned about potential threats to U.S. personnel in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Sana’a, and elsewhere that could potentially require a military response.

In consultation with General Dempsey and AFRICOM Commander General Ham, I directed several specific actions.  First, we ordered a Marine Fleet Anti-terrorism Secure Team, a FAST team, stationed in Spain to prepare to deploy to Benghazi.  A second FAST platoon was ordered to prepare to deploy to the embassy in Tripoli.  A special operations force, which was training in central Europe, was ordered to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe, Sigonella.  And a special operations force based in the United States was ordered to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe as well at Sigonella.

Some have asked why other types of armed aircraft were not dispatched to Benghazi.  The reason simply is because armed UAVs, AC- 130 gunships or fixed-wing fighters, with the associated tanking, you’ve got to provide air refueling abilities;  you’ve got to arm all the weapons before you put them on the planes; targeting and support facilities, were not in the vicinity of Libya.  And because of the distance, it would have taken at least nine to 12 hours, if not more, to deploy these forces to Benghazi.  This was, pure and simple, in the absence, as I said of any kind of advance warning, a problem of distance and time.

Frankly, even if we were able to get the F-16s or the AC-130s over the target in time, the mission still depends on accurate information about what targets they’re supposed to hit.  And we had no forward air controllers there.  We had no direct no communications with U.S. personnel on the ground.  And as a matter of fact, we had no idea where the Ambassador was at that point to be able to conduct any kind of attacks on the ground.

The quickest response option available was a Tripoli-based security team that was located at the embassy in Tripoli.  And to their credit, within hours, this six-man team, including two U.S. military personnel, chartered a private airplane deployed to Benghazi.  Within 15 minutes of arriving at the Annex facility, they came under attack by mortar and rocket-propelled grenades.  Members of this team, along with others at the Annex facility, provided emergency medical assistance and supported the evacuation of all personnel.  Only twelve hours after the attacks had begun, all remaining U.S. government personnel had been safely evacuated from Benghazi.

Looking back, our actions in the immediate aftermath of these attacks have been subject obviously to intense scrutiny and review.  But let me share with you the conclusion of the Accountability Review Board, which I believe accurately assessed the situation.  And I quote:

“The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.  Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks, and continued throughout the night.  The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision- making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.  Quite the contrary:  the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack, and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base, was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response, and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.”

Still, after all of that, it is clear that there are lessons to be learned here and steps that must be taken to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to protect our personnel and our facilities abroad.  So, in concert with the State Department and the intelligence community, we are in the process of developing enhanced security for U.S. personnel and facilities in the wake of Benghazi.  There will always be a tension between mission effectiveness for personnel — the ability to get out and do what they’re supposed to do in these countries — and their physical security.

We’re committed to steps that avoid a bunker mentality, and yet we still must afford greater protection from armed attack.  We’re taking steps along three tracks.  First, host nation capacity.  We have been able to better assess and build up the capabilities of host governments to provide security for U.S. personnel and facilities.  The fact it, as you all know, that our embassies and consulates depend on host country personnel to provide the first line of security.  And this episode raises concerns about the ability of some newly established or fragile governments to properly secure U.S. diplomatic facilities.

To address these concerns, we are working with the State Department in considering how DOD can better help host nations enhance the security provided to our diplomatic facilities.  Where permissible and appropriate, and in collaboration with the Secretary of State and the U.S. Chief of Mission in the affected country, we believe that the Defense Department can assist in their development using a range of security assistance authorities to train and equip those forces in the host country, and we are doing exactly that.

Secondly, we have to enhance diplomatic security.  We’ve got to harden these facilities and we, again, are working with the State Department to try to reassess diplomatic security overall.  To determine what changes may be required, we assisted the State Department in the deployment of an interagency security assessment team to evaluate the security level at 19 vulnerable diplomatic facilities, including our embassy in Libya.  And we’re in the process of developing recommendations on potential security increases as required.

As part of this review, we have also considered how the role, mission and resourcing of the Marine security guards could be adapted to respond to this new threat environment.  In the near term, we’ve agreed with the Department of State to add 35 new Marine Security Guard detachments — that’s almost 1,000 Marines — over the next two and three years, in addition to the 152 detachments that are in place today.  We’re working with State to identify those specific locations for the new detachments, and we will identify any necessary resource and force structure adjustments in order to support this initiative.

Although there was not a Marine Security Guard detachment posted to the Benghazi Temporary Mission Facility, based on our review of all Embassy security incidents that occurred in September of 2012.  In Tunis, in Cairo, in Khartoum and in Sana’a, we have initiated coordination with the Department of State to expand the Marines’ role beyond their primary mission of protecting classified information.

As some of you know, their primary mission is not providing outside security.  Their primary mission is to protect classified information.  But we believe that we can try to augment their role into terms of providing greater security protection as well.  This could include the expanded use of non-lethal weapons, additional training and equipment to support the Embassy Regional Security Officer’s response options when host nation’s security force capabilities are at risk of being overwhelmed.

The third area is enhanced intelligence and military response capacity.  We are focused on enhancing intelligence collection and ensuring that our forces throughout the region are prepared to respond to crisis if necessary.

The United States military, as I’ve said, is not and, frankly, should not be a 9-1-1 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world.  The U.S. military has neither the resources nor the responsibility to have a fire house next to every U.S. facility in the world.

We have some key bases, particularly in this region.  We have some key platforms from which we can deploy.  And we have forces on alert, and we’re prepared to move.  But our ability to identify threats, to adjust posture, to prevent plots, and respond to attacks to our personnel at home and overseas depends on actionable intelligence — and it always will.

Therefore, we’re working with the State Department and the intelligence community to ensure that our collection and analysis is linked with military posture and planning.  We’re working to enhance our intelligence collection to improve the responsiveness of contingency assets and to adjust the location of in-extremis reaction forces.  At the same time, we’re working closely with State to ensure they have our best estimate of response times for each at-risk diplomatic facility so that they can make the best informed decisions about adjustments to their staff presence in areas of increased security threat.

We’ve deployed key response forces abroad.  We have reduced their response time.  But let me again say to you that even those forces that are on a tight alert time of N-plus-two — notice plus two hours — to be able to on a plane.  Once those forces are put on airlift, it still requires many hours in that part of the world to fly distances, long distances in order to be able to respond.

I firmly believe that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Armed Forces did all we could do in the response to the attacks in Benghazi and employed every asset at our disposal that could have been used to help save lives of our American colleagues.  We will support efforts to bring those responsible to justice, and we are working with the task force involved and headed up by the FBI to do just that.

As I said going forward, we intend to adapt to the security environment, to ensure that we’re better positioned and prepared to support the Department of State in securing our facilities around the world.  But in order to be able to effectively protect the American people and our interests abroad at a time of instability, we must have an agile and ready force able to quickly respond.  And above all — and forgive me for being repetitious — we have got to end the cloud of budget uncertainty that hangs over the Department of Defense and the entire U.S. government.

I’ve got to use this opportunity to express, again, my greatest concern as Secretary.  Frankly, one of the most greatest security risks we are now facing as a nation, that this budget uncertainty could prompt the most significant military readiness crisis in more than a decade.

The Department of Defense faces the prospect of sequestration on March 1st.  If Congress fails to act, sequestration is triggered.  And if we also must operate under a year-long continuing resolution, we would be faced with having to take about $46 billion-plus out of the defense budget and we would face a $35 billion shortfall in operating funds alone for our active forces, with only a few months remaining in the fiscal year.

Protecting the warfighters, protecting the critical deployments we have, we’re gonna have to turn to the one area that we have in order to gain the funds necessary, and that’s readiness.  It’s maintenance.  This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world.

The responsibility of dealing with this crisis obviously rests with the leadership of the nation.  I know the members of this committee share the deep concerns that I’ve raised about sequestration, and, obviously, I urge you to do whatever you can to try to avoid this threat to our national defense.

The State Department and the intelligence community, obviously, also must be provided the resources they need in order to execute the missions that we expect of them — including the enhancements that I’ve described today.

Whatever steps are required to be taken to properly posture U.S. forces for possible emergency response operations, those steps would be seriously impacted by the readiness crisis caused by uncertain resources.

We have a responsibility — and I take that responsibility seriously — to do everything we can to protect our citizens.  That responsibility, however, rests with both the executive branch and the Congress.  If we work together, we can keep our Americans safe.

Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s Testimony at Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Benghazi, Libya Terror Attack

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Panetta: Budget Cuts Threaten Security

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-7-13

State Department photo

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday that the automatic budget cuts prescribed in the sequestration legislation would undermine the Department of Defense’s ability to fulfill its responsibility to protect American citizens.

“This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world,” Panetta told senators at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“The responsibility to protect our citizens rests with both the administration and the Congress,” Panetta said….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Nominee for CIA Director John Brennan’s Senate Confirmation Hearing — Defends Counterterrorism Policies

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Brennan Defends Counterterrorism Policies at Hearing

Source: NYT, 2-7-13

Protesters briefly disrupted the confirmation hearing for John O. Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to be C.I.A. director, on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Protesters briefly disrupted the confirmation hearing for John O. Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to be C.I.A. director, on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

John O. Brennan, the nominee to be C.I.A. director, acknowledged “widespread debate” about “current counterterrorism policies” but said America was still “at war with Al Qaeda.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the House Democrats Annual Retreat in Leesburg, Virginia — House Democratic Issues Conference

POLITICAL BUZZ


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at House Democratic Issues Conference

Source: WH, 2-7-13 

Lansdowne Resort
Leesburg, Virginia
12:49 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Xavier, thank you for that very gracious introduction and your outstanding leadership.

Let me begin by saying that I could not be happier that one of my most important friends and partners is still leading our Democrats in the House of Representatives. I love Nancy Pelosi. Give her a big round of applause. (Applause.) Love Nancy Pelosi. (Applause.) Also, she just generates good-looking grandbabies. (Laughter.) They’re all so handsome and sharp and beautiful.

To Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, as well as Xavier and Joe Crowley, thank you so much for the great work that you guys are doing each and every day. And to Steve Israel, who worked tirelessly to bring on 49 new outstanding members of this caucus. (Applause.) I am looking forward to spending time with all 49 of you. And hopefully we’ll be seeing you over at the White House and at various events, but obviously I know that you came here to get something done. And I am looking forward to working with you every single day to make sure that we’re doing right by the people who sent us here.

Now, I actually just changed the format here. I called an audible — because originally the way this was scheduled was I was just going to talk and then I was going to shake some hands, and I thought, since this is not a shy bunch, it might make sense for me to take some questions and some advice I’m sure you guys have for me. (Laughter.) So what I’m going to do is I’m just going to make s few points at the top, and then what I’d like is maybe Xavier or Steve or somebody can come up here, you can call on folks, and we’ll spend a little time with Q&A before I get a chance to say hello to everybody.

And part of the reason I want to keep my remarks short is because I just made a pretty long speech a couple of weeks ago, and I’m about to make another next week, and I don’t want you guys tired of me. (Laughter.)

But, obviously, I’m deeply grateful to have been reelected, and I’m humbled by the support that I received from all across the country. (Applause.) And I said at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning — and I was telling the truth — I genuinely am humbled. The fascinating thing about this job is the longer you’re in it, the more humble you get, and the more you recognize your own imperfections. And you try to make up with effort and hard work those gaps in your personality or your intelligence that become so apparent to everybody on the daily news every day. (Laughter.)

But even as I think it’s important to be humbled by the privilege of this office and the privilege of serving in the United States Congress, even as it’s important not to read too much into any particular political victory — because this country is big, it is diverse, it is contentious, and we don’t have a monopoly on wisdom, and we need to remember that — despite all those things, I think it’s also important for us to feel confident and bold about the values we care about and what we stand for.

And I tried to do that in my inauguration speech, and I’m hoping that we all do that over the next four years. Because when I think about what it means to be a Democrat in this day and age, I start with the basic proposition that we are all created equal, that we’re all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. And my governing philosophy and my interest in public service grows out of how we make that union more perfect for more people, day in, day out.

And that starts with an economy that works for everybody. Throughout my campaign, and throughout many of your campaigns, we talked about this bedrock notion that our economy succeeds and our economy grows when everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is getting a fair shake and everybody is playing by the same rules. That we have an economy in which we’re growing a vibrant middle class — that it grows from the middle out and the bottom up, not from the top down.

And over the next four years as I work with this caucus and every caucus, the question I will ask myself on every item, every issue is, is this helping to make sure that everybody has got a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules. Because I believe that is a growth agenda — not just an equity agenda, not just a fairness agenda — that is a growth agenda. That is when we have grown fastest.
And that means that what you’ll hear from me next week, I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America. (Applause.) It means that we’re focused on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century. (Applause.) It means that we’ve got an energy agenda that can make us less dependent on foreign oil, but also that we’re cultivating the kind of clean energy strategy that will maintain our leadership well into the future.

It means that we’re going to talk about, yes, deficits and taxes and sequesters and potential government shutdowns and debt ceiling — we’ll talk about that stuff, but all from the perspective of how are we making sure that somebody who works hard in this country — a cop, or a teacher, or a construction worker, or a receptionist — that they can make it if they work hard, and that their kids can make it and dream even bigger dreams than they have achieved.

And obviously a lot of what we’ll be working on initially over the next few weeks is going to be on how do we deal with the sequester issue. And I just want to make this quick point. I had a press conference this week in which I reiterated I am prepared, eager, and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this “governance by crisis” — (applause) — where every two weeks or every two months or every six months, we are threatening this hard-won recovery — where finally housing is starting to pick up, and commercial real estate is starting to do better, and the unemployment numbers are still too high, but we’re seeing some job growth, and businesses are investing and manufacturing is doing well — and we continue to have these self-inflicted crises here in Washington that suddenly leads everybody to tap the brakes.

And so what I said this week was I want to do something big to provide certainty and steadiness for the economy and for American families. And that means a balanced package that will reduce our long-term deficit and debt, but that still allows us to invest in those things that we need to grow right now — (applause) — because that’s also a deficit reduction agenda, us growing faster.

And in order to have a balanced package, that means that — we’ve already done a lot of cuts. We’ve done some revenue now. And so the rest of the way moving forward, we can do some additional reforms, and make our health care programs work better and make them more efficient, and we can cut our programs that we don’t need. But it also means that we’ve got to be able to close some tax loopholes and deductions that the average American cannot take advantage of, to raise the revenue to actually do the job in a way that allows us to continue to grow. (Applause.)

Now, the reason this is relevant is because I gather — and I haven’t gotten this from firsthand sources, but from secondhand sources in the press — that our friends on the other side of the aisle, their position is: We’re concerned about the sequester. We recognize that just cutting the federal spending with a meat ax, as opposed to scalpel is probably damaging — it will damage our national security; it will damage our educational system. We’ll have kids getting kicked off of Head Start. It will mean people who have disabled kids suddenly having less help.

They recognize that the sequester is a bad idea, but what they’ve suggested is that the only way to replace it now is for us to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and not close a single loophole, not raise any additional revenue from the wealthiest Americans or corporations who have a lot of lawyers and accountants who are able to maneuver and manage and work and game the system.

And I have to tell you, if that’s an argument that they want to have before the court of public opinion, that is an argument I’m more than willing to engage in. (Applause.) Because I believe the American people understand that, yes, we need to reduce the deficit, but it shouldn’t just be on the backs of seniors; it shouldn’t just be on the backs of young people who are trying to get a college education; it should not just be on the backs of parents who are trying to give their kids a better start in life; that all of us have to participate — and that if, in fact, it’s important for us to make sure we’ve got a strong national defense and that we reduce our spending in a smart way, we sure as heck should be willing to ask those of us who are luckiest in this society to close a few loopholes and deductions that the average American doesn’t get.

And if that’s the choice that we’ve got, I promise you we can win that debate because we’re on the right side of this argument. And I expect that you guys will be with me on that. (Applause.)

Last point I’ll make — obviously economic growth is a priority. But making sure that we’re opening up opportunity for everybody is also important. And that’s why immigration reform is so critical. (Applause.) I said this is going to be a top priority and an early priority of my administration. I am heartened to see Republicans and Democrats starting to be in a serious conversation about getting this done. Now is the time.

I recognize that the politics aren’t always easy. There are regional variations. I understand that in some places this may end up being a tough issue. But what I also know is that part of our strength is our youth and our dynamism, and our history for attracting talent from all around the globe. And I’ve seen that talent in some of the young DREAMers that I’ve met who want to serve in our military, want to get an engineering degree, want to help build this country, want to start a business. And I want to make sure that that American future is secured.

So we need to get immigration reform done. And I’m going to be pushing hard to get it done early. (Applause.)

And we’re also going to have to make sure that we keep the American people safe, which means that we’re going to continue to work, even as we draw down our troops in Afghanistan, to go after those who would attack America.

And we’ve got to be mindful about steps we can take to end the cycle of gun violence in this country. And we should do so — (applause) — recognizing that, again, there are regional differences here and we should respect those, and guns mean something different for somebody who grew up on a farm in a rural community than somebody who grew up in an inner city and they’re different realities and we have to respect them. But what we know is the majority of responsible gun owners recognize we cannot have a situation in which 20 more of our children, or a 100 more of our children, or a 1,000 more of our children are shot and killed in a senseless fashion, and that there are some common-sense steps that we can take and build a consensus around. And we cannot shy away from taking those steps.

So the bottom line is this, people — we’ve got a lot of work to do. What we’ve learned over the last four years — at least what I’ve learned over the last four years — is that it won’t be smooth; it won’t be simple. There will be frustrations. There will be times when you guys are mad at me — (laughter) — and I’ll occasionally read about it. But as long as we keep in mind why we came here in the first place; as long as we think back to whatever inspired each of us to say, maybe I can give something back, maybe I can make a difference, maybe my purpose here on Earth is not just thinking about what’s in it for me, but thinking about what’s in it for the broader community — for my neighborhood, for my state, for my country — if we keep that in mind every single day, I have no doubt that we will continue the extraordinary progress that we’ve made already.

And as a byproduct of doing that good work and keeping that focus, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi is going to be Speaker again pretty soon. (Applause.)

All right? So thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)
END
1:12 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency February 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast Discusses His Faith & Calls for Humility

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Calls for Humility at the National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-7-13

President Obama addresses the National Prayer Breakfast (February 7, 2013)President Barack Obama addresses the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Feb. 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In discussing his faith at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made a call for humility — a trait which, he noted, Washington could embrace more fully.

“In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours, we will encounter every opinion,” he said. “And our task as citizens — whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word — is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly, for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it every day, not just at a prayer breakfast.”

Presidential attendance at the breakfast is a long-standing tradition, and this is President Obama’s fifth appearance.

Read his full remarks here.

Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-6-13

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:03 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please have a seat.
Mark, thank you for that introduction. I thought he was going to talk about my gray hair. (Laughter.) It is true that my daughters are gorgeous. (Laughter.) That’s because my wife is gorgeous. (Applause.) And my goal is to improve my gene pool.

To Mark and Jeff, thank you for your wonderful work on behalf of this breakfast. To all of those who worked so hard to put this together; to the heads of state, members of Congress, and my Cabinet, religious leaders and distinguished guests. To our outstanding speaker. To all the faithful who’ve journeyed to our capital, Michelle and I are truly honored to be with you this morning.

Before I begin, I hope people don’t mind me taking a moment of personal privilege. I want to say a quick word about a close friend of mine and yours, Joshua Dubois. Now, some of you may not know Joshua, but Joshua has been at my side — in work and in prayer — for years now. He is a young reverend, but wise in years. He’s worked on my staff. He’s done an outstanding job as the head of our Faith-Based office.

Every morning he sends me via email a daily meditation — a snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me. And despite my pleas, tomorrow will be his last day in the White House. So this morning I want to publically thank Joshua for all that he’s done, and I know that everybody joins me in wishing him all the best in his future endeavors — including getting married. (Applause.)

It says something about us — as a nation and as a people — that every year, for 61 years now, this great prayerful tradition has endured. It says something about us that every year, in times of triumph and in tragedy, in calm and in crisis, we come together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as brothers and sisters, and as children of God. Every year, in the midst of all our busy and noisy lives, we set aside one morning to gather as one community, united in prayer.

We do so because we’re a nation ever humbled by our history, and we’re ever attentive to our imperfections — particularly the imperfections of our President. We come together because we’re a people of faith. We know that faith is something that must be cultivated. Faith is not a possession. Faith is a process.

I was struck by the passage that was read earlier from the Book of Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” He rewards those who diligently seek Him — not just for one moment, or one day, but for every moment, and every day.

As Christians, we place our faith in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ. But so many other Americans also know the close embrace of faith — Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs. And all Americans — whether religious or secular — have a deep and abiding faith in this nation.

Recently I had occasion to reflect on the power of faith. A few weeks ago, during the inauguration, I was blessed to place my hand on the Bibles of two great Americans, two men whose faith still echoes today. One was the Bible owned by President Abraham Lincoln, and the other, the Bible owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I prepared to take the sacred oath, I thought about these two men, and I thought of how, in times of joy and pain and uncertainty, they turned to their Bibles to seek the wisdom of God’s word — and thought of how, for as long as we’ve been a nation, so many of our leaders, our Presidents, and our preachers, our legislators and our jurists have done the same. Each one faced their own challenges; each one finding in Scripture their own lessons from the Lord.

And as I was looking out on the crowd during the inauguration I thought of Dr. King. We often think of him standing tall in front of the endless crowds, stirring the nation’s conscience with a bellowing voice and a mighty dream. But I also thought of his doubts and his fears, for those moments came as well — the lonely moments when he was left to confront the presence of long-festering injustice and undisguised hate; imagined the darkness and the doubt that must have surrounded him when he was in that Birmingham jail, and the anger that surely rose up in him the night his house was bombed with his wife and child inside, and the grief that shook him as he eulogized those four precious girls taken from this Earth as they gathered in a house of God.

And I was reminded that, yes, Dr. King was a man of audacious hope and a man of relentless optimism. But he was always — he was also a man occasionally brought to his knees in fear and in doubt and in helplessness. And in those moments, we know that he retreated alone to a quiet space so he could reflect and he could pray and he could grow his faith.

And I imagine he turned to certain verses that we now read. I imagine him reflecting on Isaiah, that we wait upon the Lord; that the Lord shall renew those who wait; that they shall mount up with wings as eagles, and they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.

We know that in Scripture, Dr. King found strength; in the Bible, he found conviction. In the words of God, he found a truth about the dignity of man that, once realized, he never relinquished.

We know Lincoln had such moments as well. To see this country torn apart, to see his fellow citizens waging a ferocious war that pitted brother against brother, family against family — that was as heavy a burden as any President will ever have to bear.

We know Lincoln constantly met with troops and visited the wounded and honored the dead. And the toll mounted day after day, week after week. And you can see in the lines of his face the toll that the war cost him. But he did not break. Even as he buried a beloved son, he did not break. Even as he struggled to overcome melancholy, despair, grief, he did not break.

And we know that he surely found solace in Scripture; that he could acknowledge his own doubts, that he was humbled in the face of the Lord. And that, I think, allowed him to become a better leader. It’s what allowed him in what may be one of the greatest speeches ever written, in his second Inaugural, to describe the Union and the Confederate soldier alike — both reading the same Bible, both prayed to the same God, but “the prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

In Lincoln’s eyes, the power of faith was humbling, allowing us to embrace our limits in knowing God’s will. And as a consequence, he was able to see God in those who vehemently opposed him.

Today, the divisions in this country are, thankfully, not as deep or destructive as when Lincoln led, but they are real. The differences in how we hope to move our nation forward are less pronounced than when King marched, but they do exist. And as we debate what is right and what is just, what is the surest way to create a more hopeful — for our children — how we’re going to reduce our deficit, what kind of tax plans we’re going to have, how we’re going to make sure that every child is getting a great education — and, Doctor, it is very encouraging to me that you turned out so well by your mom not letting you watch TV. I’m going to tell my daughters that when they complain. (Laughter.) In the midst of all these debates, we must keep that same humility that Dr. King and Lincoln and Washington and all our great leaders understood is at the core of true leadership.

In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours, we will encounter every opinion. And our task as citizens — whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word — is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly, for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it every day, not just at a prayer breakfast.

I have to say this is now our fifth prayer breakfast and it is always just a wonderful event. But I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we’ve been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten — on the same day of the prayer breakfast. (Laughter.) I mean, you’d like to think that the shelf life wasn’t so short. (Laughter.) But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable news networks and it’s like we didn’t pray. (Laughter.)

And so my hope is that humility, that that carries over every day, every moment. While God may reveal His plan to us in portions, the expanse of His plan is for God, and God alone, to understand. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Until that moment, until we know, and are fully known, all we can do is live our lives in a Godly way and assume that those we deal with every day, including those in an opposing party, they’re groping their way, doing their best, going through the same struggles we’re going through.

And in that pursuit, we are blessed with guidance. God has told us how He wishes for us to spend our days. His Commandments are there to be followed. Jesus is there to guide us; the Holy Spirit, to help us. Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. See in everyone, even in those with whom you disagree most vehemently, the face of God. For we are all His children.

That’s what I thought of as I took the oath of office a few weeks ago and touched those Bibles — the comfort that Scripture gave Lincoln and King and so many leaders throughout our history; the verses they cherished, and how those words of God are there for us as well, waiting to be read any day that we choose. I thought about how their faith gave them the strength to meet the challenges of their time, just as our faith can give us the strength to meet the challenges of ours. And most of all, I thought about their humility, and how we don’t seem to live that out the way we should, every day, even when we give lip service to it.

As President, sometimes I have to search for the words to console the inconsolable. Sometimes I search Scripture to determine how best to balance life as a President and as a husband and as a father. I often search for Scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better President. And I believe that we are united in these struggles. But I also believe that we are united in the knowledge of a redeeming Savior, whose grace is sufficient for the multitude of our sins, and whose love is never failing.

And most of all, I know that all Americans — men and women of different faiths and, yes, those of no faith that they can name — are, nevertheless, joined together in common purpose, believing in something that is bigger than ourselves, and the ideals that lie at the heart of our nation’s founding — that as a people we are bound together.

And so this morning, let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith. Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour. And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble. And let us promise Him and to each other, every day as the sun rises over America that it will rise over a people who are striving to make this a more perfect union.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END
9:21 A.M. EST

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