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

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Eric Holder Tells Media Outlets Leak Guidelines Will Change

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-13

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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

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Full Text Obama Presidency May 31, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Urging Congress to Prevent Student Loan Interest Rates from Rising in the White House Rose Garden

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

If Congress Doesn’t Act, Rates for New Federal Student Loans Will Double

]Source: WH, 5-31-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on student loansPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on student loans in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 31, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

This morning, when President Obama called on Congress to prevent federal student loan rates from doubling on July 1, he returned to a familiar theme.

A year ago, we were in the same place — just a few weeks out from seeing the average student with these loans racking up an additional $1,000 in debt.

So speaking from the Rose Garden, the President asked the students and young people in attendance to speak out in favor of action on college affordability, just as they did in 2012….READ MORE

Remarks by the President on College Affordability

Source: WH, 5-31-13

Rose Garden

10:26 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Have a seat.  Have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.  I know it’s a little warm.  (Laughter.)

One of my favorite things about this job is that I get to spend some time with remarkable young people from all across the country.  It inspires me.  It makes me feel good.  Those of you who have had to put on suits and ties and show up at the White House first thing on a Friday morning may not feel the same way I do — (laughter) — but I appreciate all of you being here.  You cleaned up very well.

And these students and graduates are here to talk about something that matters to millions of young people and their families, and that’s the cost of a college education.  Because this isn’t just critical for their futures, but it’s also critical for America’s future.

Over the past four and a half years, we’ve been fighting our way back from a financial crisis and an incredibly punishing recession — the worst since the Great Depression — and it cost millions of Americans their jobs and their homes, the sense of security that they’d spent their lives building up.

The good news is, today, our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 38 months.  500,000 of those jobs are in manufacturing.  We’re producing more of our own energy, we’re consuming less energy, and we’re importing less from other countries.  The housing market is coming back.  The stock market has rebounded.  Our deficits are shrinking at the fastest pace in 50 years.  People’s retirement savings are growing again.  The rise of health care costs are slowing.  The American auto industry is back.

So we’re seeing progress, and the economy is starting to pick up steam.  The gears are starting to turn again, and we’re getting some traction.  But the thing is, the way we measure our progress as a country is not just where the stock market is; it’s not just to how well the folks at the top are doing; it’s not just about the aggregate economic numbers.  It’s about how much progress ordinary families are making.  Are we creating ladders of opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard?  Are we creating not only a growing economy, but also the engine that is critical to long-lasting, sustained economic growth — and that is a rising, thriving middle class.  That’s our focus.  That’s what we’ve got to be concerned about every single day.  That’s our North Star.

And that means there are three questions we have to ask ourselves as a nation.  Number one:  How do we make America a magnet for good jobs in this competitive 21st century economy?  Number two:  How do we make sure that our workers earn the skills and education they need to do those jobs?  And number three:  How do we make sure those jobs actually pay a decent wage or salary, so that people can save for retirement, send their kids to college?

Those are the questions we’ve got to be asking ourselves every single day.  So we’re here today to talk about that second question.  How do we make sure our workers earn the skills and education they need to do the jobs that companies are hiring for right now, and are going to keep hiring for in the future?  We know that the surest path to the middle class is some form of higher education — a four-year degree, a community college degree, an advanced degree.  You’re going to need more than just a high school education to succeed in this economy.

And the young people here today, they get that.  They’re working through college; maybe just graduated.  And earning their degree isn’t just the best investment that they can make for their future — it’s the best investment that they can make in America’s future.

But like a lot of young people all across the country, these students have had to take on more and more and more debt to pay for this investment.  Since most of today’s college students were born, tuition and fees at public universities have more than doubled.  And these days, the average student who takes out loans to pay for four years of college graduates owing more than $26,000.  How many people are on track here for $26,000?

And that doesn’t just hold back our young graduates.  It holds back our entire middle class, because Americans now owe more on our student loans than we do on our credit cards.  And those payments can last for years, even decades, which means that young people are putting off buying their first car, or their first house — the things that grow our economy and create new jobs.  And I’ve said this before, I know this firsthand — Michelle and I, we did not finish paying off our student loans until about nine years ago.  And our student loans cost more than our mortgage.  Right when we wanted to start saving for Sasha and Malia’s college education, we were still paying off our own college education.

And we were lucky.  We had more resources than many.  So we cannot price the middle class or folks who are willing to work hard to get into the middle class out of a college education.  We can’t keep saddling young people with more and more and more debt just as they’re starting out in life.

Now, the good news is over the past four years, my administration has done a lot to address this.  Working with members of Congress, we’ve expanded student aid.  We’ve reformed the student loan system.  We’ve saved tens of billions of taxpayer dollars that were just going to big banks, and made sure that the money went to helping more young people afford college.

We made it easier to pay back those loans by passing a law that says you’ll only have to pay 10 percent of your monthly income towards your student — federal student loans once you graduate.  This is important to emphasize, by the way, because a lot of your peers, a lot of young people don’t know this.  Under existing law that we passed, you never have to pay more than 10 percent of your income in paying back your federal student loans, which means if you want to be a teacher, you want to go into a profession that does not pay a lot of money but gives you a lot of satisfaction, you are still capable of doing that and supporting yourself.

We unveiled a new college scorecard that gives parents and students the clear, concise information that you need to shop around for a school with the best value for you.  And I’ve made it clear that those colleges that don’t do enough to keep college costs down should get less taxpayer support.

So we’re doing what we can, but here’s the thing:  If Congress doesn’t act by July 1st, federal student loan rates are set to double.  And that means that the average student with those loans will rack up an additional $1,000 in debt.  That’s like a $1,000 tax hike.  I assume most of you cannot afford that.  Anybody here can afford that?  No.

Now, if this sounds like déjà vu all over again, that’s because it is.  We went through this last summer.  Some of you were here.  It wasn’t as hot.  (Laughter.)  I don’t think we did this event outside.  (Laughter.)  But we went through this.  And eventually, Congress listened to all the parents and young people who said “don’t double my rate.”  And because folks made their voices heard, Congress acted to keep interest rates low.  But they only did it for a year and that year is almost up.

So the test here is simple.  We’ve got to make sure that federal student loan rates don’t double on July 1st.  Now, the House of Representatives has already passed a student loan bill, and I’m glad that they took action.  But unfortunately, their bill does not meet that test.  It fails to lock in low rates for students next year.  That’s not smart.  It eliminates safeguards for lower-income families.  That’s not fair.  It could actually cost a freshman starting school this fall more over the next four years than if we did nothing at all and let the interest rates double on July 1st.

So the House bill isn’t smart and it’s not fair.  I’m glad the House is paying attention to it, but they didn’t do it in the right way.  So I’m asking young people to get involved and make your voices heard once again.  Last year, you convinced 186 Republicans in the House and 24 Republicans in the Senate to work with Democrats to keep student loan rates low.  You made something bipartisan happen in this town that is — that’s a powerful thing.  You guys were able to get Democrats and Republicans to vote for something that was important.

So this year, if it looks like your representatives have changed their minds, you’re going to have to call them up again or email them again or Tweet them again and ask them what happened, what changed?  You’re still taking out these loans.  You’re still facing challenges.

Remind them that we’re a people who help one another earn an education, because it benefits all of us.  During the Civil War, Lincoln had the foresight to set up a system of land grant colleges.  At the end of World War II, we set up the GI Bill so that people like my grandfather could come back from a war and get an education.  All these things created the greatest middle class on Earth.

My mom, a single mom, was able to get the support that she needed through loans and grants — even while she was also working and raising two kids — to get her degrees.  I’m only here, Michelle is only right over there in the East Wing because we got great educations.  We didn’t come from privilege.  And we want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities, because that has been good for the country as a whole.

It’s up to us now to carry forward that tradition.  Higher education cannot be a luxury for a privileged few.  It is an economic necessity that every family should be able to afford, every young person with dreams and ambition should be able to access.  And now is not the time for us to turn back on young people.  Now is not the time to slash the investments that help us grow.  Now is the time to reaffirm our commitment to you and the generation that’s coming behind you, and that if we work together to generate more jobs and educate more kids and open up new opportunities for everybody who’s willing to work and willing to push through those doors of opportunity, America can’t be stopped.

So I’m putting my faith in you.  Let’s work together.  Let’s get this done by July 1st.  Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
10:36 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 30, 2013: Threatening Ricin Laced Letter Sent to President Obama Similar to Pair Sent to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Threatening Letter to Obama Similar to Pair Sent to Bloomberg

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-30-13 

Authorities intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama at a White House mail-sorting facility that was similar to the ones targeting Bloomberg, according to The New York Times. The letter was turned over to the FBI task force investigating the letters sent to Bloomberg, at least one of which tested positive for ricin….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 30, 2013: President Barack Obama to Nominate James Comey for FBI Director

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama to Nominate James Comey to Lead FBI

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-30-13

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Obama is preparing to nominate James Comey, a former deputy attorney general in the President George W. Bush administration, as the next director of the FBI. Still, a formal announcement could be weeks away….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 29, 2013: NYC’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gun Control HQ Mailed Ricin Laced Letters

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg, Gun Control HQ Targeted in Ricin Mailings

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-29-13

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

New York City police say two verbally poisonous letters sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg contained traces of actual poision: ricin. The author of the letters, police say, targeted Bloomberg because of his support for gun control measures….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 29, 2013: White House Hosts First-Ever Hispanic Business Leaders Forum

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House Hosts First-Ever Hispanic Business Leaders Forum

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-29-13

The White House, in conjunction with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, hosted the country’s top Hispanic business leaders on Wednesday for the first-ever “Hispanic Business Leaders Forum” to discuss jobs and economic topics, specifically the role Latino communities play in the economy….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 29, 2013: Michele Bachmann: I’m quitting my House seat in 2014 — Won’t Seek Re-election Next Year

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Michele Bachmann: I’m quitting my House seat in 2014

Source: NBCNews.com, 5-29-13

Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann, who last year ran for the Republican presidential nomination, announced on Wednesday that she will stand down from her seat in the U.S….READ MORE

Bachmann Won’t Seek Re-election Next Year

Source: NYT, 5-29-13 

Representative Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, announced that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Asian American and Pacific Islander AAPI Heritage Month Celebration

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks at AAPI Heritage Month Celebration

Source: WH, 5-29-13
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrationPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebration in the East Room of the White House, May 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Last night, President Obama delivered remarks before over 200 members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community at a White House celebration of AAPI Heritage Month. The audience included national, state, and local community leaders; elected officials; leaders of philanthropic, youth, and arts organizations; and members of the President’s Administration, including Sri Srinivasan, who was recently confirmed unanimously by the Senate to become the first South Asian American federal appeals court judge….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at AAPI Heritage Month Celebration

Source: WH, 5-28-13 

East Room

5:48 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Aloha!

AUDIENCE:  Aloha!

THE PRESIDENT:  Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And thank you, Joan, for the introduction.  And I want to thank everybody who’s here — the incredible warmth of the reception.  A sign of the warmth is the lipstick on my collar.  (Laughter.)  I have to say I think I know the culprit — where is Jessica Sanchez?  (Laughter.)  Jessica — it wasn’t Jessica.  It was her aunt.  Where is she?  (Laughter.)  Auntie, right there.  Look at this.  (Laughter.)  Look at this.  I just want everybody to witness.  (Laughter.)  So I do not want to be in trouble with Michelle.  (Laughter.)  That’s why I’m calling you out right in front of everybody.  (Laughter.)

We are here today to honor the incredibly rich heritage and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  And there’s no better example of that diversity than the people who are in this room.  We’ve got members of Congress; we’ve got members of my administration; we’ve got lots of special guests and talented performers.

And every day, we’re reminded of the many ways in which Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders have all contributed and enriched our nation throughout our history.  Obviously for me, I don’t have to look any further than my own family.  I’ve got my brother-in-law here, Konrad, who is — (applause) — Konrad Ng, who’s heading up the Smithsonian Asian American Center — it probably has a longer name than that.  (Laughter.)  My sister, Maya; their beautiful daughters — my nieces, Suhaila and Savita.

I can think back on my college years when my roommates were Indian and Pakistanis, which is how I learned how to cook keema and dal.  (Laughter and applause.)  Very good.  And of course, I can dig back into my own memories of growing up in Hawaii and in Indonesia.  And so certainly it’s been a central part of my life, the entire Asia Pacific region.

But it’s more than food and family — because generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders helped build this country, and helped to defend this country, and to make America what it is today.  It’s a history that speaks to the promise of our nation  — one that welcomes the contributions of all people, no matter their color or their beliefs, because we draw from the rich traditions of everybody who calls America home.  “E pluribus unum” — out of many, one.

And the artists joining us today exemplify that creed.  So we’ve got performers like Karsh Kale, who fuses the best of East and West, mixing eclectic beats with the sounds of his heritage and creating music that’s distinctly his own — that’s a trait, obviously, that’s distinctly American.  We’ve got musicians like Paula Fuga and John Cruz, whose work represents the spirit of my native Hawaii and reminds us that we’re all part of the same ohana.  We have authors like Amy Tan, who uses her own family’s immigration story to trace the stories of others.  She makes out of the particular something very universal.

We value these voices because from the very beginning, ours has been a nation of immigrants; a nation challenged and shaped and pushed ever forward by diverse perspectives and fresh thinking.  And in order to keep our edge and stay ahead in the global race, we need to figure out a way to fix our broken immigration system — to welcome that infusion of newness, while still maintaining the enduring strength of our laws.  And the service and the leadership of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have proved that point time and again.

So we take opportunities like today to honor the legacy of those who paved the way, like my friend, the late Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, the first Japanese American to serve in Congress  — and to celebrate the pioneers of this generation, like Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, one of the first female veterans elected to Congress.  (Applause.)  And one of my favorite people right now, Sri Srinivasan, who has just been confirmed.  (Applause.)  Here’s Sri, right here.  (Applause.)

I was proud to nominate Sri, and he was just confirmed unanimously to become the first South Asian American federal appeals court judge.  (Applause.)  I was telling his kids, who are here today, if he starts getting a big head, walking around the house with a robe — (laughter) — asking them to call him “Your Honor” — (laughter) — then they should talk to me.  (Laughter.)

In every election, at every board meeting, in every town across America, we see more and more different faces of leadership, setting an example for every young kid who sees a leader who looks like him or her.  And that’s a good thing.  We’ve got to keep that up.  We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure everybody works hard, everybody plays by the rules, everybody has a chance to get ahead — to start their own business, to earn a degree, to write their own page in the American story — that the laws respect everybody, that civil rights apply to everybody.  That’s who we are at our best and that’s what we’re here to celebrate.  That’s the challenge that I believe we’re going to meet together.

So I want to thank all of you for being here tonight.  It is going to be a wonderful gathering.  And from Michelle and Malia and Sasha — and Bo — (laughter) — thank you all for the incredible contributions that you’re making each and every day.

God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
5:54 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: Bob Dole Says GOP Should Close for Repairs on Fox News Sunday

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Bob Dole Thinks GOP Should Close for Repairs

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-13

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Bob Dole says he couldn’t make it as a Republican today – and a tilt toward more conservative voters in the key Iowa Republican caucuses may bear him out….

“I doubt it,” Dole said. “Reagan wouldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas and — We might have made it, but I doubt it.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: President Barack Obama Jokes About Lipstick Stain on Shirt Collar at Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month Celebration

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Jokes About Lipstick Stain on Shirt Collar

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama had a bit of a lipstick problem at the White House Tuesday evening….

“I want to thank everybody who’s here for the incredible warmth of the reception. A sign of the warmth is the lipstick on my collar.  I have to say I think I know the culprit,” the president said to laughter at the Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month celebration at the White House.  “Where’s Jessica Sanchez? It wasn’t Jessica. It was her aunt. Where is she? Auntie, right there. Look at this. Look at this. I just want everybody to witness.” “I do not want to get in trouble with Michelle, so I’m calling you out right in front of everybody,” he joked….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech in Asbury Park, NJ After Touring the Jersey Shore with Gov Chris Christie

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama congratulates New Jersey Governor Chris Christie while playing the “TouchDown Fever” arcade game along the Point Pleasant boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., May 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Remarks by the President in Asbury Park, NJ

Source: WH, 5-28-13 

Asbury Park Convention Hall
Asbury Park, New Jersey

1:26 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, New Jersey!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back in Jersey.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back!  (Applause.)

Let me, first of all, say thank you to Governor Christie for that introduction and the great work he’s done here.  (Applause.) Your Mayor, Ed Johnson, is here as well and has been working tirelessly on your behalf.  (Applause.)  We’ve got three great representatives in Congress from New Jersey — Rush Holt, Frank Pallone, Donald Payne, Jr.  (Applause.)

Now, last week, my advisors asked me — they said, Mr. President, do you want to spend next Tuesday in Washington, or would you rather spend it at the Jersey Shore?  (Applause.)  And I’ve got to say I’ve got to make some tough decisions as President, but this wasn’t one of them.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I appreciate that.  (Applause.)

Governor Christie and I just spent some time on the Point Pleasant boardwalk.  I got a chance to see the world’s tallest sandcastle being built.  We played some Touchdown Fever — I got to say, Christie got it in the tire the first try — (laughter)  — although I did pay for his throws.  (Laughter.)  I played a little Frog Bog, and Governor Christie’s kids taught me the right technique for hitting the hammer to get those frogs in the buckets the way I was supposed to.  (Laughter.)  And, of course, I met with folks who are still rebuilding after Sandy.

Now, we all understand there’s still a lot of work to be done.  There are homes to rebuild.  There are businesses to reopen.  There are landmarks and beaches and boardwalks that aren’t all the way back yet.  But thanks to the hard work of an awful lot of people, we’ve got wonderful shops and restaurants and arcades that are opening their doors.  And I saw what thousands of Americans saw over Memorial Day Weekend:  You are stronger than the storm.  (Applause.)  After all you’ve dealt with, after all you’ve been through, the Jersey Shore is back and it is open for business, and they want all Americans to know that they’re ready to welcome you here.  (Applause.)

And I’ve got to say, if they ever let me have any fun, I’d have some fun here.  (Laughter and applause.)  I was telling my staff on the ride over, I could see being a little younger — (laughter) — and having some fun on the Jersey Shore.  (Applause.)  I can’t do that anymore.  (Laughter.)  Maybe after I leave office.  (Laughter and applause.)

I think a friend of mine from here once put it pretty well:  “Down the shore, everything’s all right.”  (Applause.)  He’s the only guy a President still has to call “The Boss.”  (Laughter.)  Other than the First Lady.  (Laughter.)

But for generations, that’s what this place has been about. Life isn’t always easy.  We’re a people who have to work hard and do what it takes to provide for our families — but when you come here, everything’s all right.  And whether you spend a lifetime here, or a weekend, or a summer, the Shore holds a special place in your heart and a special place in America’s mythology, America’s memory.

When I was here seven months ago, Hurricane Sandy had just hammered communities all across the East Coast, and lives were lost, and homes and businesses were destroyed, and folks were hurting.  And I remember something Chris said back then.  He said, “We cannot permit that sorrow to replace the resilience that I know all New Jerseyans have.”

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Yes, we do!

THE PRESIDENT:  And it didn’t.  You didn’t let it.  You kept going.  Because these towns have a special character — not just in the summer but all year round.  From the moment the hurricane hit, first responders worked around the clock to save lives and property.  And neighbors opened their homes and their hearts to one another.  And you came together as citizens to rebuild.

And we’re not done yet, and I want to make sure everybody understands that, because for somebody who hasn’t seen their home rebuilt yet or is still trying to get their business up and running again, after all those losses, we don’t want them to think that somehow we’ve checked a box and we’ve moved on.  That’s part of the reason I came back, to let people know we’re going to keep on going until we finish.  (Applause.)

But if anybody wondered whether the Shore could ever be all right again, you got your answer this weekend.  (Applause.)  From Sea Bright to Bay Head, from Belmar to Seaside Heights, folks were hanging out on balconies and beaches.  Shows were sold out at the Stone Pony.  (Applause.)  Kids were eating ice cream and going on rides, going and eating some more ice cream.  (Laughter.)  Guys were trying to win those big stuffed animals to impress a special girl.  So like I said, the Jersey Shore is back in business.

The work is not over, though.  Seven months ago, I promised you that your country would have your back.  I told you we would not quit until the job was done, and I meant it.  I meant it.  (Applause.)

Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA, he couldn’t be here today, but I want to thank him and his team for their ongoing work.  FEMA was here before Sandy made landfall; they’re still here today.  They’re working with the Governor’s team and with the task force I set up to support families and communities who still need help.  Since the storm hit, we’ve provided billions of dollars to families and state and local governments across the region, and more is on the way.

And even as my team is helping communities recover from the last hurricane season, they’re already starting to prepare for the next hurricane season, which starts this Saturday — because if there’s one thing that we learned last year, it’s that when a storm hits, we’ve got to be ready.  Education, preparation — that’s what makes a difference.  That’s what saves lives.  And anyone who wants to make sure they’re ready — for a hurricane or any other disaster — I want them to visit something — a website called Ready.gov.  Make a plan.  It’s never too early.

We’ve also got to remember that rebuilding efforts like these aren’t measured in weeks or months, but they’re measured in years.  That’s why just this past Thursday, we announced billions of new relief aid for New York and New Jersey transit agencies.  And that’s why the Army Corps of Engineers is working to restore beaches and strengthen the Shore’s natural defenses.  That’s why last year I joined Governor Christie and your representatives, fighting to get a relief package through Congress.  We’re going to keep doing what it takes to rebuild all the way and make it better than it was before, make it stronger than it was before, make it more resilient than it was before.  (Applause.)

So, Jersey, you’ve still got a long road ahead, but when you look out on this beach — this beautiful beach here, even in the rain, it looks good.  You look out over the horizon, you can count on the fact that you won’t be alone.  Your fellow citizens will be there for you — just like we’ll be there for folks in Breezy Point and Staten Island — (applause) — and obviously, we’re going to be there for the folks in Monroe [sic], Oklahoma, after the devastation of last week.  (Applause.)

Part of the reason I wanted to come back here was not just to send a message to New Jersey, but send a message to folks in Oklahoma:  When we make a commitment that we’ve got your back, we mean it — (applause) — and we’re not going to finish until the work is done.  Because that’s who we are.  We help each other as Americans through the bad times, and we sure make the most of the good times.  (Applause.)

So let’s have some good times on the New Jersey Shore this summer.  (Applause.)  And next summer and the summer after that, and all year long, America, bring your family and friends.  Spend a little money on the Jersey Shore.  (Applause.)  You’ll find some of the friendliest folks on Earth, some of the best beaches on Earth.  And you’ll see that even after a tough couple of months, this place is as special as ever, and down the Shore, everything is still all right.  (Applause.)

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)  God bless America.  (Applause.)

1:35 P.M. EDT
END

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: President Barack Obama & NJ Gov Chris Christie Tour Recovery Efforts at Jersey Shore

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama, Christie Tour Recovery Efforts at Jersey Shore

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-13

Office of NJ Gov. Chris Christie/Twitter

Seven months after superstorm Sandy hammered the New Jersey coast, President Obama returned to the Jersey Shore to highlight the state’s recovery and rebuilding efforts, declaring that the “Jersey Shore is back.”

“We’re still rebuilding after Sandy.  Now we all understand that there is still a lot of work to be done,” the president said Tuesday before a crowd of 3,800 at the Asbury Park Convention Hall in Asbury Park, N.J….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: White House Say They Knew of Sen John McCain’s Syria Trip

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House Knew of McCain’s Syria Trip

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-13

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

The White House was made aware ahead of time that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would travel to Syria this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday….READ MORE

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

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Did Eric Holder Lie Under Oath?

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

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

History Buzz May 27, 2013: President Obama on Mt. Rushmore? Some professors say ‘yes’

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

President Obama on Mt. Rushmore? Some professors say ‘yes’

Source: Global Dispatch, 5-27-13

In a survey with a incredibly small sampling size, ten George Washington University political and history professors, show that at least some of those surveyed believe Mr. Obama should, and will eventually join Presidents Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln, according to a College Fix report last week.

Mt. Rushmore Image/Colin.faulkingham at the wikipedia project

Of the 10 history and political science professors asked, three suggested that Obama may eventually be added to the huge sculpture in South Dakota….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama Honors Fallen Troops at Arlington National Cemetary — Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Honors Fallen Troops, Looks to the War’s End on Memorial Day

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-27-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

In a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama today called on Americans to never forget the sacrifice of soldiers who served in harm’s way and died for their fellow countrymen.

“America stands at a crossroads, but even as we turn a page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war,” Obama said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Commemorating Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Delivers Memorial Day Remarks at Arlington National Cemetery

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Today President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate Memorial Day, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and delivering remarks.

The President thanked members of the armed forces and veterans for their service to the United States, and paid tribute to our fallen heroes laid to rest at Arlington

President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying (5/27/13)President Barack Obama participates in a Memorial Day wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Watch the President’s full remarks

Remarks by the President Commemorating Memorial Day

Source: WH, 5-27-13 

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia

11:31 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Please be seated.  Thank you very much.  Good morning, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Chuck Hagel, not only for the introduction but, Chuck, for your lifetime of service — from sergeant in the Army to Secretary of Defense, but always a man who carries with you the memory of friends and fallen heroes from Vietnam.  We’re grateful to you.

I want to thank General Dempsey, Major General Linnington, Kathryn Condon, who has served Arlington with extraordinary  dedication and grace and who will be leaving us, but we are so grateful for the work that she’s done; for Chaplain Brainerd, Secretary Shinseki, all our guests.  And most of all, to members of our armed services and our veterans; to the families and friends of the fallen who we honor today; to Americans from all across the country who have come to pay your respects:  I have to say it is always a great honor to spend this Memorial Day with you at this sacred place where we honor our fallen heroes — those who we remember fondly in our memories, and those known only to God.

Beyond these quiet hills, across that special bridge, is a city of monuments dedicated to visionary leaders and singular moments in the life of our Republic.  But it is here, on this hallowed ground, where we choose to build a monument to a constant thread in the American character — the truth that our nation endures because it has always been home to men and women who are willing to give their all, and lay down their very lives, to preserve and protect this land that we love.

That character — that selflessness — beats in the hearts of the very first patriots who died for a democracy they had never known and would never see.  It lived on in the men and women who fought to hold our union together, and in those who fought to defend it abroad — from the beaches of Europe to the mountains and jungles of Asia.  This year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the end of fighting in Korea, we offer a special salute to all those who served and gave their lives in the Korean War.  And over the last decade, we’ve seen the character of our country again — in the nearly 7,000 Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields and city streets half a world away.

Last Memorial Day, I stood here and spoke about how, for the first time in nine years, Americans were no longer fighting and dying in Iraq.  Today, a transition is underway in Afghanistan, and our troops are coming home.  Fewer Americans are making the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and that’s progress for which we are profoundly grateful.  And this time next year, we will mark the final Memorial Day of our war in Afghanistan.

And so, as I said last week, America stands at a crossroads.  But even as we turn the page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our nation is still at war.

It should be self-evident.  And in generations past, it was.  And during World War II, millions of Americans contributed to the war effort — soldiers like my own grandfather; women like my grandmother, who worked the assembly lines.  During the Vietnam War, just about everybody knew somebody — a brother, a son, a friend — who served in harm’s way.

Today, it’s different.  Perhaps it’s a tribute to our remarkable all-volunteer force, made up of men and women who step forward to serve and do so with extraordinary skill and valor.  Perhaps it’s a testament to our advanced technologies, which allow smaller numbers of troops to wield greater and greater power.  But regardless of the reason, this truth cannot be ignored that today most Americans are not directly touched by war.

As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day.  Our troops and our military families understand this, and they mention to me their concern about whether the country fully appreciates what’s happening.  I think about a letter I received from a Naval officer, a reservist who had just returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.  And he wrote me, “I’m concerned that our work in Afghanistan is fading from memory.”  And he went on to ask that we do more to keep this conflict “alive and focused in the hearts and minds of our own people.”

And he’s right.  As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan.  They’re still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission.  And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington.

Captain Sara Cullen had a smile that could light up a room and a love of country that led her to West Point.  And after graduation, Sara became a Black Hawk pilot — and married a former Black Hawk pilot.  She was just 27 years old when she and four other soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash during a training mission near Kandahar.  This past April, Sara was laid to rest here, in Section 60.  Today, Sara is remembered by her mother, Lynn, who says she is “proud of her daughter’s life, proud of her faith and proud of her service to our country.”  (Applause.)

Staff Sergeant Frankie Phillips came from a military family and was as tough as they come.  A combat medic, Frankie was on patrol in Afghanistan three weeks ago when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.  He was so humble that his parents never knew how many lives he had saved until soldiers started showing up at his funeral from thousands of miles away.  And last week, Frankie was laid to rest just a few rows over from Sara.

Staff Sergeant Eric Christian was a born leader.  A member of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Eric had served five tours of duty, but kept going back because he felt responsible for his teammates and was determined to finish the mission.  On May 4th, Eric gave his life after escorting a high-ranking U.S. official to meet with Afghan leaders.  Later, his family got a letter from a Marine who had served two tours with Eric.  In it, the Marine wrote, “There were people who measured their success based on how many enemies they killed or how many missions they led to conquer a foe.  Eric based his success on how many of his friends he brought home, and he brought home many — including me.”  Eric was laid to rest here at Arlington, just six days ago.  (Applause.)

So today, we remember their service.  Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.  And just as we honor them, we hold their families close.  Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating.  And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm’s way, we know the consequences all too well.  I feel it every time I meet a wounded warrior, every time I visit Walter Reed, and every time I grieve with a Gold Star family.

And that’s why, on this day, we remember our sacred obligation to those who laid down their lives so we could live ours:  to finish the job these men and women started by keeping our promise to those who wear America’s uniform — to give our troops the resources they need; to keep faith with our veterans and their families, now and always; to never stop searching for those who have gone missing or who are held as prisoners of war.

But on a more basic level, every American can do something even simpler.  As we go about our daily lives, we must remember that our countrymen are still serving, still fighting, still putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Last fall, I received a letter from Candie Averette, of Charlotte, North Carolina.  Both of her sons are Marines.  Her oldest served two tours in Iraq.  Her youngest was in Afghanistan at the time.  He was, in her words, “100 percent devoted to his deployment and wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Reading Candie’s letter, it was clear she was extraordinarily proud of the life her boys had chosen.  But she also had a request on behalf of all the mothers just like her.  She said, “Please don’t forget about my child and every other Marine and soldier over there who proudly choose to defend their country.”

A mother’s plea — please don’t forget.  On this Memorial Day, and every day, let us be true and meet that promise.  Let it be our task, every single one of us, to honor the strength and the resolve and the love these brave Americans felt for each other and for our country.  Let us never forget to always remember and to be worthy of the sacrifice they make in our name.

May God bless the fallen and all those who serve.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:44 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 26, 2013: President Barack Obama Tours Tornado Damage: Country Will Be ‘Shelter from the Storm’ for Oklahoma

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama: Country Will Be ‘Shelter from the Storm’ for Oklahoma

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-26-13

Oklahoma Cty Sheriff(MOORE, Okla.)

Standing in front of the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was destroyed by last week’s tornado, President Obama offered words of support to the community of Moore, Okla., saying that people across this country will serve as a “shelter from the storm” for all those impacted by the deadly tornadoes.

“God has a plan, and it’s important to know that we also recognize we’re instruments of His will, and we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore,” the president said in Moore, Okla. at the site where seven students were killed by the tornado on Monday. “When we say we’ve got your backs, I promise you, we keep our word.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 26, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech After Touring the Tornado Damage in Moore, Oklahoma

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Tours Tornado Damage in Moore, Oklahoma: “We’ve Got Your Back”

Source: WH, 5-26-13

It was just one week ago that tornadoes tore through Oklahoma, devastating the town of Moore.

Today, President Obama traveled to the area — visiting Plaza Towers Elementary School to offer a nation’s condolences, and a promise to help Moore rebuild.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks along side what remains of Plaza Towers Elementary SchoolPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks along side what remains of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, May 26, 2013. Oklahoman Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials stand with him. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The President thanked Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Mayor Glenn Lewis of Moore for their quick, outstanding response, and praised other local officials instrumental in helping to save lives and jumpstart the town’s recovery efforts.

President Obama highlighted the everyday acts of heroism in Moore, thanking first responders and volunteers for embodying the “Oklahoma Standard”

President Barack Obama talks with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in MoorePresident Barack Obama talks with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, and local officials as he tours tornado damage along a block of Eagle Drive in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President closed by urging every American to step up and help the people of Oklahoma.

After visiting Plaza Towers, President Obama stopped by Moore Fire Department Station #1 to meet with first responders. The fire station has served as a command center throughout the disaster, first for search and rescue and now for survivor services.

President Barack Obama talks with first responders in MoorePresident Barack Obama talks with first responders and agency officials at Moore Fire Department Station #1 in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Ed. Note: You can help people affected by the recent tornadoes through American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Remarks by the President After Touring the Tornado Damage in Oklahoma

Source: WH, 5-26-13 

Moore, Oklahoma

12:57 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Obviously, a picture is worth a thousand words, and what we’re seeing here I think gives you some sense of what the people of Moore and the people of Oklahoma have been dealing with over these last several days.

There are a couple of acknowledgements that I want to make, but let me begin by just saying that whenever I come to an area that’s been devastated by some natural disaster like this, I want to make sure everybody understands I’m speaking on behalf of the entire country.  Everywhere, fellow Americans are praying with you, they’re thinking about you, and they want to help.

And so I’m just a messenger here today, letting everybody here know that you are not alone, that you’ve got folks behind you.

Obviously, the damage here is pretty hard to comprehend.  Our hearts go out to the families who have been impacted, including those who had loved ones who were lost.  And that was true for the parents of some of the children here at Plaza Towers Elementary School.

There are a number of people I want to especially thank, because they’ve engaged in some heroic efforts in dealing with this disaster.  First of all, Governor Mary Fallin, thank you so much for your quick response and your outstanding work.  Mayor Glenn Lewis, the mayor of Moore, who has been mayor here before, when there was a disaster, and because of his strong spirit and sense of community has been able to help lead the community through this disaster.  We very much appreciate your work.

Representative Tom Cole — not only is this his congressional district, but more importantly, this is his hometown.  And so for him, this carries a special sadness but also a resolve in terms of trying to make sure that the city of Moore bounces back.  Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City, a neighbor and friend — we appreciate him being here.  Craig Fugate is here, and obviously we are very proud of the work that he and his FEMA team have done.  Susie Pierce, superintendent of schools here — thank you for your leadership.

Amy Simpson — I want to especially commend Plaza Towers Elementary School principal, as well as Shelley McMillan, the Briarwood Elementary School principal.  They were on the ground when this happened, and because of their quick response, their keeping a level head, their putting kids first saved a lot of people.  And they’re still going through some tough times.  I can only imagine being their husbands, who are here, and the panic that I’m sure they were feeling when the tornado first struck.  But I know that they could not be prouder of their wives for the outstanding work that they did in this amazing situation.

I want to thank Chief of Police, Jerry Stillings, and all the first responders in this area who were some of the first folks on the scene who were putting themselves at risk to save other people’s lives.  That’s what first responders do — but sometimes we take them for granted, and it’s important we don’t and we remember moments like that.  That’s why it’s so important that we continually support them.

At my direction, Craig Fugate arrived here on Tuesday.  FEMA was on the ground even before Monday’s tornado hit.  And their teams have now completed searches of more than 1,200 buildings.  We’ve helped to register more than 4,200 people for disaster assistance, and we’ve approved more than $3.4 million in direct aid.  Obviously, there’s a lot more to come.  But it’s not just a government response.  We’ve seen incredible outpourings of support from churches, from community groups who are helping folks begin to recover.

This area has known more than its share of heartbreak.  But people here pride themselves on the “Oklahoma Standard” –- what Governor Fallin has called, “Being able to work through disasters like this, and [to] come out stronger on the other side.”  And that’s what we’ve been seeing this week.

From the forecasters who issued the warnings, to the first responders who dug through the rubble, to the teachers who shielded with their own bodies their students, Oklahomans have inspired us with their love and their courage and their fellowship.

Neighbors have been offering up spare bedrooms and couches for those in need of shelter.  Universities have opened up their buildings for temporary housing.  And local companies have pitched in.

This is a strong community with strong character.  There’s no doubt they’re going to bounce back.  But they need help — just like any of us would need help if we saw the kind of devastation that we’re seeing here.  We have about 1,200 homes that have been completely destroyed, but we’ve got 12,000 that have been damaged in one way or another, and that’s a big piece of business.  And along with the schools, we’ve got a hospital that has been destroyed.  It’s going to take a long time for this community to rebuild.

So I want to urge every American to step up.  If I’ve got one message for folks here today:  Go online, donate to the American Red Cross.  And if you’re from the area and you need to register for disaster assistance, you can call 1-800-621-FEMA.  That’s 1-800-621-FEMA.  Or you can go to disasterassistance.gov.  Disasterassistance.gov on the web.  Either way, I guarantee you, if you’ve got some significant damage and have been impacted, go ahead and reach out, and there are going to be professionals there who are ready and willing to provide you the assistance that you need.

We know Moore is going to come back stronger from this tragedy.  Your mayor said that you’re already printing new street signs.  And I want folks affected throughout Oklahoma to know that we’re going to be with you every step of the way.

On Sunday, the first deadly tornadoes touched down about 40 miles from here.  And I mentioned this the day afterwards — there was a story that really struck me in the press — in the rubble was found a Bible, open to the words that read:  “A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest.”  And it’s a reminder, as Scripture often is, that God has a plan, and it’s important, though, that we also recognize we’re an instrument of his will.  And we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore who have been impacted.

And when we say that we’ve got your back, I promise you, we keep our word.  If you talk to folks in Alabama who have been affected over the last couple of years; you talk to the folks at Joplin, who I know have actually sent volunteers down here to Moore; if you talk to folks in New Jersey and New York, they’ll tell you that when we say we’re going to be there until you completely rebuild, we mean it.  And I want everybody to have that confidence.

So, again, to all the people here behind me, I want to say how proud I am of them, how grateful I am for their service.  I want to make one final comment.  A lot of the first responders talked about the training they’ve done, in part through some federal grants, to prepare for disasters like this.  And, as a consequence, when it actually happens, they know what to do, they’re not losing time, they’re able to go through all the drills and the training that they’ve gone through.

Training, education, both for citizenry but also for first responders, is absolutely critical.  And we’ve got to make sure that those resources remain in place.  So I know everybody in Congress cares deeply about what’s happening, and I’m confident that resources will be forthcoming when it comes to rebuilding.  But remember that it’s also the ongoing training and equipment that we’re making sure that those things are in place.  We can’t shortchange that kind of ongoing disaster response.  We can’t just wait until the disaster happens.  That’s how, in part, we were able to save a lot of lives — and I want everybody to keep that in mind.

So with that, let me just, again, say thank you to everybody here.  Madam Governor, thank you for your leadership.  And may God bless the people of Oklahoma and obviously continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

END 1:07 P.M. CDT

Political Headlines May 26, 2013: Sen Rand Paul: Drones, Scandals Threaten President Obama’s ‘Moral Authority’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Sen. Rand Paul: Drones, Scandals Threaten Obama’s ‘Moral Authority’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-26-13

ABC(WASHINGTON)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on ABC’s This Week that the recent controversies engulfing the White House over the IRS, reporter leak investigations, and Benghazi have threatened President Obama’s “moral authority to lead the nation,” while he continued to question the administration’s use of drone strikes against terrorist targets overseas….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines May 25, 2013: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s US Military Academy Commencement Address — Tells West Point Cadets Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-25-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military….READ MORE

United States Military Academy Commencement

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, West Point, N.Y., Saturday, May 25, 2013

Source: DOD, 5-25-13

General Huntoon, thank you.

I am not unaware, especially on a rainy day, that graduates, their guests, and their families, prize brevity.

No, I’m not finished.

I told my wife last night that the last thing I want you graduates to remember is your Secretary of Defense droning on and on and that it’s raining.  I want you to remember me and your experience here with far more positive memories.

First, let me thank you very much for this privilege to participate in such an important and historic occasion for all of you and for this institution.

Secretary McHugh, General Odierno – distinguished West Point Class of 1976 – we’re still figuring out of he has problems that he left behind here that we haven’t uncovered yet.  If he’s walked everything off, then we can be sure he’s clean.

Members of Congress, West Point alumni and distinguished guests: I really am honored to be here with you to help celebrate this Class of 2013 and their families.

I’ve been looking forward to my visit to West Point since I was informed that I was asked to be your speaker.  I’ve traveled to West Point over the years as a United States Senator many times and was always inspired by my visits and but I was mostly inspired by the conversations with the cadets.  A long-time friend, who is no stranger to this institution, who has given me years of sage advice, came with me today – Harry Walters.  Harry’s a member of the Class of ‘59.  As you all know, Harry was the starting fullback on that great undefeated Black Knights team when Pete Dawkins won the Heisman Trophy.  You also know that Harry was an Assistant Secretary of the Army and Administrator of the Veterans Administration under President Ronald Reagan.  I always feel better when Harry’s around.  Harry, thank you for what you have meant to this institution and our country.

I also want to acknowledge another good friend and distinguished West Point graduate, who you all know, my friend and former Senate colleague, Senator Jack Reed, Class of ‘71.  Jack and I got to the Senate the same year, 1996.  He’s been not only a friend and colleague but a confidant who has given me wise counsel over the years and continues to do that.  As you may know, Senator Reed is the only West Pointer in the Senate.

Congratulations to the parents of the West Point Class of 2013.  This is your day too.  I know how very proud you are of these young American leaders.  Four years have passed since you performed the “90 second goodbye” at Eisenhower Hall, and first saw your sons and daughters march in formation on the way to Trophy Point.  At every step these cadets have benefited from your love, your support, and your reassurance.  So thank you, thank you all.

To the faculty and the staff: thank you.  We are grateful for your hard work in molding these young Army leaders.  Many of you are combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your experience, and for helping prepare these future officers for the challenges that lie ahead.

I also want to recognize and welcome the members of the Class of 1963, celebrating their 50th anniversary.  ‘63 is my vintage.  You have built an enduring bond with these graduates.  You welcomed the Class of 2013 as they reported to these grounds on R-Day, took part in their oath ceremony and spent time with them over the last four years.

To the class of 2013: congratulations!  We’re all very proud of you.

Like every man and woman who has stepped forward to serve in uniform, you made a courageous decision to offer yourself for a very purposeful life.  This institution has educated, trained, and inspired you to help shoulder the wheel in defense of our nation.  You’ve learned the meaning of duty, honor, and country.  And you will now be asked to lead our nation’s soldiers, an awesome responsibility.

My time in the Army shaped me forever, as it did for so many in this stadium today.  And while tactics, techniques and training have all surely changed in the decades since I was in the Army and since many of you who have served, the basic principles of soldiering and leadership remain the same.  Character and courage are still the indispensable requisites of both life and leadership.

In Vietnam, I learned that combat is a furnace that can consume you, or it can forge you into something better and stronger than you were before.  But it requires leaders to help bring the best out in all of us.

Many of you in the Corps of Cadets with prior service have already learned these hard truths of war.  You have also seen what is expected of young officers in today’s military – new demands of a shifting and complicated world.

Great leaders are men and women who know who they are, what they believe, and where they want to go.  Great leaders listen.  And they listen carefully.

Behind my desk in the Pentagon hang the portraits of two of the Army’s greatest leaders – men who played defining roles in shaping America and the world: Dwight David Eisenhower, West Point Class of 1915, and George Catlett Marshall.  They each embodied every dimension of leadership – in particular, they were intense listeners and deep thinkers.  And they knew when to act and when not to.  There are differences and there consequences for both.  They were never intimidated by failures or mistakes.  We all have them, we all make them.  But they learned and made adjustments and made wiser decisions as a result of those experiences.

The most important part of leadership is taking responsibility for your actions and decisions, and holding all around you accountable.

The military career of General Eisenhower provides one of the greatest examples of this kind of accountability.  You all, I’m sure, know the story.

On the eve of the Normandy invasion which he would command, Eisenhower scribbled a message on a piece of paper in the event that D-Day was a failure.  Eisenhower’s framed words hung in my Senate Office for twelve years.  They read: “Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops.  My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.  The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do.  If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”

That is accountability, and I often think of that story when I look at Eisenhower’s portrait in my Pentagon office.  Eisenhower’s simple and honest statement should be a guiding point for all of us in positions of authority and responsibility, and for all of you as you embark upon your military careers.

Remember always that the coin of the realm of leadership is trust.   In preparation for your career, you have been taught how to shoot an azimuth – how to use a compass to set your course toward an objective.  You’ve scrambled through these granite hills as new cadets and yearlings, learning how to guide yourselves.  Then you roamed them again as rising firsties, learning how to guide others.  You know by now that the greatness of leaders lies in their ability to shoot an azimuth that is straight and true, even under hostile fire or trying circumstances.  Adjust, adapt, be agile and be flexible, but don’t get thrown off course by the always-present distractions and uncontrollables of life.  For they will always be present.

Leaders don’t cut corners.  When you are faced with difficult decisions, you will always know that the right thing to do…is the right thing to do.  Do it.  Listen to yourself and be guided by what you believe is right.

Standing against the crowd and choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong, as the Cadet Prayer prescribes, can be very lonely and frightening at times.  And it requires immense moral courage.  But it will serve you well over the long haul and throughout your life.

As you embark on your new profession, you are charged with the clear responsibility of helping ensure that the Army is prepared for the future, just as you have been prepared here on the Hudson.  Pay attention to your environment and all around you, and listen carefully to your NCOs.  For your NCOs will help you engage and navigate, and they’ll keep you out of the deep ditches of command.

The Army you enter today is emerging – and in many ways recovering – from more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  During what has been the longest period of sustained combat in American history, the ground forces have shouldered a very heavy burden – doing the fighting and dying, and adapting under fire to a kind of conflict far different than what the Army’s leadership trained and prepared for after the Cold War.

A new Army is being shaped and you will not only be present in that new Army that’s being shaped.  You will have the responsibility of helping shape it and you will have the responsibility of helping lead it, and this all during a very complicated and uncertain time in the world.  The past decade reinforced a consistent theme in the history of America’s armed forces:  we can never predict when, where and how we will be called upon to fight.

The only thing we can predict is that wars are unpredictable, and they remain a fundamentally human endeavor.  Those who believe that war can be waged with precision from a distance, with minimal personal risk, would do well to remember this lesson.

These great uncertainties have implications for the kinds of thinkers and leaders the Army and America will need you to be.  The challenge you will face is how to build on the skills honed during the past decade of war while preparing for conflicts that are likely to take on a new and unfamiliar form – and to do this in an Army that will have fewer people and less money than it’s had in recent years.

You are entering the military at a time when the world is undergoing historic transformation.  A new world order is being constructed.  This moment, like others before it, calls for American leadership and engagement.  That leadership will include continuing to build coalitions of common interests and strengthening alliances and forging new ones.

The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his Fourth Inaugural on January 20, 1945 echo even more loudly today, when he said: “We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away…We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.”

Understand that there are rarely quick and easy solutions to every problem, there are evolving solutions, that require managing problems to the higher ground of resolution…and ultimately to a solution.  Too many costly strategic and tactical mistakes have been made by not appreciating this complicated reality in world affairs.

All this will matter little if the Army you lead is not maintained as a ready, disciplined, and cohesive force.  As the Army returns to garrison after more than a decade of constant deployments, some of the strains and stresses placed on soldiers and their families are easing.  At the same time, budget constraints are forcing the Army – along with all our services – to curtail training and cancel exercises, impacting readiness and morale.  Meanwhile, other threats to the health and quality of the all-volunteer force are increasing – alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and mental illness, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stop it.  This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect for every member of the military and society.  Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts.  This scourge must be stamped out.  We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens.  We cannot fail the Army or America.  We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead.  As President Obama said yesterday at the Naval Academy: “These crimes have no place in the greatest military on earth.”

While the Army today continues to be under stress, it is also far more professional, adaptable, lethal, and capable than it has ever been.  It is likewise growing more diverse.  We are all benefiting from the continued expansion of opportunities for women to serve in our military.  The United States military has long benefited from the service of gay men and lesbians.  Now they serve openly with full honor, integrity, and respect.  That makes this Army stronger.

You know from your time here at West Point you will continue to learn from the work of generations of leaders – all generations of Army leadership – as you confront the new challenges of today and tomorrow.

This morning I have focused on your responsibilities – to the soldiers you will command, and to the institution that you will lead.  But the Army also has obligations to you.  In particular, it has a responsibility to put in place a culture and an organization that enables you to grow and succeed.  I know our leaders sitting here today and all of Army’s leadership across the globe work every day to achieve that accomplishment, an important objective that never, ever ends.  America will always need an Army that cultivates its best and brightest leaders, provides them and their families with incentives to remain in service, we always take care of our people.  You must always take care of your people.

In preparing for today, I reflected on many of my own experiences.  I reflected on my own experiences in particular during my days in the Army and all the great opportunities I’ve had in my life to serve this country.  And I thought about what insights I might be able to leave you with and not minimize the opportunity you’ve given me to be with you today.

That reflection brought me to a concluding observation.  It’s a reflection not about my own experience, not about me, but rather, it’s about someone else.  A professional soldier who walked these grounds as a young cadet fifty years ago.

Robert George Keats was a member of West Point’s Class of 1965.  He was an outstanding writer who helped put together General Douglas MacArthur’s memorial articles.  He established West Point’s history club and became its first President.  After graduation, he completed Airborne and Ranger schools, married his high school sweetheart, and volunteered for duty in Vietnam.

A few months after arriving in Vietnam, Captain Keats took command of my company – B Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.  Within ten days of taking command, on February 2, 1968 – shortly before his 24th birthday – he was killed.  I was there.

Captain Keats is buried at West Point Cemetery, alongside other heroes of the Long Gray Line – including 33 of the more than 90 West Point graduates who have died in uniform since September 11, 2001.

One of Captain Keats’ brothers, Walter Keats, and his West Point roommate, Robert Scully, are here with us today.

At Captain Keats’ funeral service a letter he had sent as a cadet was read aloud.  He wrote of being an idealist, committed to upholding and defending American values and virtues.  His letter included the following words: “I am in a fight to save the ideal now.  I shall be until the day I die.  The world can only be saved by people who are striving for the ideal.  I know we shall win, it can be no other way.”

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember, that like Robert George Keats, you chose to be a soldier at a defining time in our nation’s history.  You too are fighting for an ideal – as the Class of 2013 motto says, you are “defending the dream.”

America needs you, and it will count on you to uphold this ideal.  In Captain Keats’ words, “It can be no other way.”

Thank you for what you will do for our country and your families – and God bless you all.

Political Headlines May 25, 2013: GOP Weekly Address: Sen Jim Inhofe Says Oklahoma ‘Hit Hard,’ But ‘Not Knocked Out’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

GOP Weekly Address: Oklahoma ‘Hit Hard,’ But ‘Not Knocked Out’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-25-13

US Senate

In this week’s Republican address, Oklahoma’s senior senator, Jim Inhofe, speaks about the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. this week.

Oklahoma has been hit hard, but we’re not knocked out,” Sen. Inhofe says in the address, delivered on location in Moore….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: Paying Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Paying Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-25-13

The White House

In a Memorial Day themed weekly address, President Obama celebrates U.S. troops and paid tribute to those who died while serving in the military….READ MORE

Weekly Address: Giving Thanks to Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day 

Source: WH, 5-25-13

In this week’s address, President Obama commemorates Memorial Day by paying tribute to the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in service to our country.

Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

 Weekly Address: Giving Thanks to Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Weekly Address: Giving Thanks to Our Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 25, 2013
Source: WH, 5-25-13

Hi, everybody.   This week, I’ve been speaking about America’s national security – our past, our present, and our future.

On Thursday, I outlined the future of our fight against terrorism – the threats we face, and the way in which we will meet them.

On Friday, I went to Annapolis to celebrate the extraordinary young men and women of the United States Naval Academy’s Class of 2013 – the sailors and Marines who will not only lead that fight, but who will lead our country for decades to come.

And on Monday, we celebrate Memorial Day.  Unofficially, it’s the start of summer – a chance for us to spend some time with family and friends, at barbecues or the beach, getting a little fun and relaxation in before heading back to work.

It’s also a day on which we set aside some time, on our own or with our families, to honor and remember all the men and women who have given their lives in service to this country we love.

They are heroes, each and every one.  They gave America the most precious thing they had – “the last full measure of devotion.”  And because they did, we are who we are today – a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.

At a time when only about one percent of the American people bear the burden of our defense, the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform isn’t always readily apparent.  That’s partly because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen are so skilled at what they do.  It’s also because those who serve tend to do so quietly.  They don’t seek the limelight.  They don’t serve for our admiration, or even our gratitude.  They risk their lives, and many give their lives, for something larger than themselves or any of us:  the ideals of liberty and justice that make America a beacon of hope for the world.

That’s been true throughout our history – from our earliest days, when a tiny band of revolutionaries stood up to an Empire, to our 9/11 Generation, which continues to serve and sacrifice today.

Every time a threat has risen, Americans have risen to meet it.  And because of that courage – that willingness to fight, and even die – America endures.

That is the purpose of Memorial Day.  To remember with gratitude the countless men and women who gave their lives so we could know peace and live in freedom.

And we must do more than remember.

We must care for the loved ones that our fallen service members have left behind.

We must make sure all our veterans have the care and benefits they’ve earned, and the jobs and opportunity they deserve.

We must be there for the military families whose loved ones are in harm’s way – for they serve as well.

And above all, we must make sure that the men and women of our armed forces have the support they need to achieve their missions safely at home and abroad.

The young men and women I met at the Naval Academy this week know the meaning of service.  They’ve studied the heroes of our history.  They’ve chosen to follow in their footsteps – to stand their watch, man a ship, lead a platoon.  They are doing their part.  And each of us must do ours.

So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts.

And every day, let us work together to preserve what their sacrifices achieved – to make our country even stronger, even more fair, even more free.  That is our mission.  It is our obligation.  And it is our privilege, as the heirs of those who came before us, and as citizens of the United States of America.

Thank you.

Political Headlines May 24, 2013: Sen Bob Menendez: Immigration Reform Doesn’t Have 60 Votes to Pass in Senate Yet

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Menendez: Immigration Reform Doesn’t Have 60 Votes Yet

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The Gang of Eight immigration bill does not yet have a 60-vote majority in the Senate, according to one of its authors, Sen. Bob Menendez….

“We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” he said during the interview with Ramos, which was conducted in Spanish for Al Punto, Univision’s Sunday public affairs show. “We need to add more votes on the floor.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 24, 2013: President Barack Obama Nods to Drones in Naval Academy Commencement Address

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Nods to Drones in Naval Academy Speech

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-24-13
President Obama gave a nod to his newly articulated drone policy as he addressed the graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday.

“We still face threats from al Qaeda affiliates and individuals caught up in its ideology,” Obama said, addressing the academy’s graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Md. “Will still need to conduct targeted strikes against terrorists before they kill our citizens.”…READ MORE

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