Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey about Paris Terror Attacks Transcript



Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

Source: WH, 11-16-15

Kaya Palazzo Resort
Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

Full Text Political Transcripts November 13, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Paris Terror Attacks Statement Transcript



Statement by the President on the Situation in Paris

Source: WH, 11-13-15

5:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  I just want to make a few brief comments about the attacks across Paris tonight.  Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.  This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond.  France is our oldest ally.  The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.  And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress.  Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong.  The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.  And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.

We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.

We don’t yet know all the details of what has happened.  We have been in contact with French officials to communicate our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been killed, to offer our prayers and thoughts to those who have been wounded.  We have offered our full support to them.  The situation is still unfolding.  I’ve chosen not to call President Hollande at this time, because my expectation is that he’s very busy at the moment.  I actually, by coincidence, was talking to him earlier today in preparation for the G20 meeting.  But I am confident that I’ll be in direct communications with him in the next few days, and we’ll be coordinating in any ways that they think are helpful in the investigation of what’s happened.

This is a heartbreaking situation.  And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like.  We’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves.  And whenever these kinds of attacks happened, we’ve always been able to count on the French people to stand with us.  They have been an extraordinary counterterrorism partner, and we intend to be there with them in that same fashion.

I’m sure that in the days ahead we’ll learn more about exactly what happened, and my teams will make sure that we are in communication with the press to provide you accurate information.  I don’t want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this.  It appears that there may still be live activity and dangers that are taking place as we speak.  And so until we know from French officials that the situation is under control, and we have for more information about it, I don’t want to speculate.

Thank you very much.

                                  END            5:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts November 9, 2015: President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Statement before their White House Meeting Transcript



Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 11-9-15

Oval Office

10:34 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is very good to welcome once again Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to the Oval Office.  There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.

Before I get started, I just want to say a brief word about the Jordanian attack that we discovered earlier — the fact that someone dressed in military uniform carried out an attack at a training facility in which it appears that there may have been two or three U.S. citizens killed, and a number of other individuals injured.  Obviously, a full investigation is taking place.  We take this very seriously, and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened.  But at this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to.  And at the point where the families have been notified, obviously our deepest condolences will be going out to them.

I also want to extend my condolences to the Israeli people on the passing of former President Navon.  Obviously, he was an important figure in Israeli politics.  And we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.

This is going to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face.  It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas.  And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities.  And that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.

We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.  The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of U.S. security infrastructure in the region, as we make sure that one of our closest allies cannot only protect itself but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats.

In light of what continues to be a chaotic situation in Syria, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what’s happening there.  We’ll have an opportunity to discuss how we can blunt the activities of ISIL, Hezbollah and other organizations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks.  A lot of our time will be spent on a memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate.  It will be expiring in a couple of years, but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement is going.  It’s no secret that the Prime Minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue, but we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting and destabilizing activities that Iran may be taking place.  And so we’re going to be looking to make sure that we find common ground there.

And we will also have an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns that both of us have around violence in the Palestinian Territories.  I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against its and Israeli citizens.  And I want to repeat once again, it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.

I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path towards peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself.

And so this is going to be a lot of work to do, with too little time, which is why I will stop here and just once again say, welcome.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.  Mr. President, first let me express the condolences of the people of Israel for the loss of American lives.  We are with you.  We’re with each other in more ways than one.  And I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong.  I think it’s rooted in shared values.  It’s buttressed by shared interests.  It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.

We are obviously tested today in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it.  I think everybody can see it — with the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression and terror by Iran’s proxies and by Iran itself.  And the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands.  And we don’t know what will transpire.

And I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror; how we can roll back.  It’s a daunting task.

Equally, I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace.  We’ll never give up the hope for peace.  And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror and destruction, and neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.  And I look forward to discussing with you practical ways in which we can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.

And finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolstering Israel’s security in the memorandum of understanding that we’re discussing.  Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.  And I want to express my appreciation to you and express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you for your efforts in this regard during our years of common service and what you’re engaging in right now — how to bolster Israel’s security, how to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can, as you’ve often said, defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

So for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

10:43 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 29, 2015: Paul Ryan’s Remarks to the House of Representatives after his Election as Speaker of the House Transcript



Speaker Ryan’s Remarks to the House of Representatives

Source: Speaker Ryan’s Press Office, 10-29-15

Thank you, Madam Leader. Before I begin, I want to thank the family and friends who flew in from Wisconsin and from all over to be here today. In the gallery, I have my mom, Betty; my sister, Janet; my brothers, Stan and Tobin; and more relatives than I can count. Most important of all, I want to recognize my wife, Janna, and our three kids: Liza, Charlie, and Sam.

I also want to thank Speaker Boehner. For almost five years, he led this House. And for nearly 25 years, he served it. Not many people can match his accomplishments: the offices he held, the laws he wrote. But what really sets John apart is he’s a man of character—a true class act. He is, without question, the gentleman from Ohio. So please join me in saying, one last time, “Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”

Now I know how he felt. It’s not till you hold this gavel and stand in this spot and look out and see all 435 members of the House—as if all of America was sitting right in front of you. It’s not till then that you feel it: the weight of responsibility, the gravity of the moment.

And standing here, I cannot help but think of something Harry Truman once said. The day after Franklin Roosevelt died and Truman became president, he told a group of reporters: “If you ever pray, pray for me now. . . . When they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

We all should feel that way. A lot is on our shoulders. So if you ever pray, pray for each other— Republicans for Democrats, Democrats for Republicans. And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding, because—when you’re up here, you see it so clearly—wherever you come from, whatever you believe, we are all in the same boat.

I never thought I’d be the speaker. But early in my life, I wanted to serve in the House. I thought the place was exhilarating—because here, you could make a difference. If you had a good idea and worked hard, you could make it happen. You could improve people’s lives. To me, the House represented the best of America: the boundless opportunity to do good.

But let’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going. We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.

We need to let every member contribute—not once they have earned their stripes, but right now. I come at this job as a two-time committee chair. The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation. If you know the issue, you should write the bill. Open up the process. Let people participate. And they might change their tune. A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will work in good faith. Instead of trying to stop the majority, they might try to become the majority.

In other words, we need to return to regular order. Now, I know that sounds like process. But it’s actually a matter of principle. We are the body closest to the people. Every two years, we face the voters—and sometimes face the music. But we do not echo the people. We represent them. We are supposed to study up and do the homework that they cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand—we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.

And if there were ever a time for us to step up, this would be that time. America does not feel strong anymore because the working people of America do not feel strong anymore. I’m talking about the people who mind the store and grow the food and walk the beat and pay the taxes and raise the family. They do not sit in this House. They do not have fancy titles. But they are the people who make this country work, and this House should work for them.

Here’s the problem. They’re working hard. They’re paying a lot. They are trying to do right by their families. And they are going nowhere fast. They never get a raise. They never get a break. But the bills keep piling up—and the taxes and the debt. They are working harder than ever to get ahead. Yet they are falling further behind. And they feel robbed—cheated of their birthright. They are not asking for any favors. They just want a fair chance. And they are losing faith that they will ever get it. Then they look at Washington, and all they see is chaos.

What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together—what a weight off their shoulders. How reassuring it would be if we actually fixed the tax code, put patients in charge of their health care, grew our economy, strengthened our military, lifted people out of poverty, and paid down the debt. At this point, nothing could be more inspiring than a job well done. Nothing could stir the heart more than real, concrete results.

The cynics will scoff and say it’s not possible. But you better believe we are going to try. We will not duck the tough issues. We will take them head on. We are going to do all we can so working people get their strength back and people not working get their lives back. No more favors for the few. Opportunity for all—that is our motto.

I often talk about the need for a vision. I’m not sure I ever said what I meant. We solve problems here—yes. We create a lot of them too. But at bottom, we vindicate a way of life. We show by our work that free people can govern themselves. They can solve their own problems. They can make their own decisions. They can deliberate, collaborate, and get the job done. We show self-government is not only more efficient and more effective; it is more fulfilling. In fact, we show it is that struggle, that hard work, the very achievement itself that makes us free.

That is what we do here. And we will not always agree—not all of us, not all of the time. But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them. I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.

And there is every reason to have hope. When the first speaker took the gavel, he looked out at a room of 30 people, representing a nation of 3 million. Today, as I look out at you, we represent a nation of 300 million. So when I hear people say America does not have it—we are done, we are spent—I do not believe it. I believe, with every fiber of my being, we can renew the America Idea. Now, our task is to make us all believe.

My friends, you have done me a great honor. The people of this country have done all of us a great honor. Now, let’s prove ourselves worthy of it. Let’s seize the moment. Let’s rise to the occasion. And when we are done, let us say we left the people—all the people—more united, happy, and free. Thank you.

– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-ryans-remarks-house-representatives#sthash.AHNVeuhN.dpuf


Full Text Political Transcripts October 29, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Farewell Address to the House of Representatives Transcript



Speaker John Boehner’s Farewell Address: This, Too, Can Really Happen To You

Source: Speaker Ryan’s Press Office, 10-29-15

My colleagues, I rise today to inform you that I will resign as Speaker of the House effective upon the election of my successor.

I will also resign as Representative of Ohio’s Eighth District at the end of this month.

I leave with no regrets or burdens.  If anything, I leave as I started – just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job.

That’s what I’m most proud of – that I’m still just me…

But before I go, let me just express what an honor it is been to serve with all of you.  

The people’s House is, in my view, the great embodiment of the American idea.

Everyone comes from somewhere and is on some mission.

I come from a part of the world where we’re used to working.

As far back as I can remember, I was working…going back to when I was eight or nine, throwing newspapers, working at my dad’s bar on Saturdays from 5 am – 2 pm for 2 dollars…TOTAL.

I never thought about it as coming up the easy way or the hard way. 

It’s just the Cincinnati way.

Our city takes its name from a great Roman general, Cincinnatus – a farmer who answered the call of his nation to lead, then surrendered his power and returned to his plow.

For me, it wasn’t a farm – it was a small business. 

And it wasn’t so much a calling as it was a mission: to strive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government in Washington, DC.   

How did we do?

Well, here are some facts….

For the first time in nearly 20 years, we have made real entitlement reforms, saving trillions over the long term.

We have protected 99 percent of Americans from tax increases.

We are on track to save taxpayers $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years – the most significant spending reductions in modern history.

We have banned earmarks altogether.

We have protected this institution, and made it more open to the people.

And every day in this capital city, hundreds of kids from the toughest of neighborhoods are finally getting a decent education.

I am proud of these things. 

But the mission is not complete, and the truth is, it may never be…

One thing I came to realize is that this battle over the size and scope of government has been going on for more than 200 years.   

And the forces of the status quo go to an awful lot of trouble to prevent change.  Real change takes time. 

That’s certainly true for all the things I just mentioned. 

Yes, freedom makes all things possible. 

But patience is what makes all things real.

So believe in the long, slow struggle. 

Believe in this country’s ability to meet her challenges, and lead the world.

Believe in the decency of people to come together and do what can be done. 

And remember, you can’t do a big job alone, especially this one.

I’m grateful to my family…

I’m grateful to my colleagues…

I’m grateful to all the people who work in this institution … you’ve made me proud every day.

I’m grateful to my staff … I’ve always told them, you never leave Boehnerland, and that certainly goes for me too.   

And I’m especially grateful to all my constituents and volunteers over the years…

That includes a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio who was putting up signs for me during one of my very first campaigns in the early 90s.

His name was Paul Ryan.

I don’t think he knew how to pronounce my name…

But, as Cincinnatus understood, there’s a difference between being asked to do something and being called to do something.

Paul is being called to serve, and I know he will serve that calling with grace and energy. 

I wish him, and his family, all the best.

My colleagues, I’ve described my life as a chase for the American Dream.

That chase began at the bottom of a hill just off the main drag in Reading, Ohio.

At the top was a small house with a big family … a shining city in its own right.  

The hill had twists.  And it had turns.  And even a few tears … nothing wrong with that.

But let me tell you, it was all just perfect.

Never forget, we are the luckiest people on the face of the Earth.

In America, you can do anything if you’re willing to work hard and make the necessary sacrifices.

If you falter – and you will – you can just dust yourself off and keep on going.

Because hope always springs eternal.

And if you just do the right things for the right reasons, good things will happen.

And this, too, can really happen to you… 

– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/farewell-address-too-can-really-happen-you#sthash.ugCuigN6.dpuf


Full Text Political Transcripts October 23, 2015: Paul Ryan’s Letter Announcing Candidacy for Speaker of the House Transcript



Paul Ryan’s Letter Announcing Candidacy for Speaker of the House

Source: WaPo, 10-22-15

The full letter:

Dear Colleague:

Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about our country, and it’s clear to me that we’re in a very serious moment. Working families continue to fall behind, and they are losing faith in the American Idea: the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead. At the same time, a weaker America has led to a more dangerous world. Our friends and rivals alike wonder whether we will pull ourselves out of this stupor.

Instead of rising to the occasion, Washington is falling short—including the House of Representatives. We are not solving the country’s problems; we are only adding to them.

But now, we have an opportunity to turn the page, to start with a clean slate, and to rebuild what has been lost. We can make the House a more open and inclusive body—one where every member can contribute to the legislative process. We can rally House Republicans around a bold agenda that will tackle the country’s problems head on. And we can show the country what a commonsense conservative agenda looks like.

That’s why I’m actually excited for this moment. I’ve spoken with many of you over the past few days, and I can sense the hunger in our conference to get to work. I know many of you want to show the country how to fix our tax code, how to rebuild our military, how to strengthen the safety net, and how to lift people out of poverty. I know you’re willing to work hard and get it done, and I think this moment is ripe for real reform.

That’s because, whatever our differences, we’re all conservatives. We were elected to defend the constitution. We share the same principles. We all believe America is the land of opportunity—the place where you should be able to go as far as your talents and hard work will take you. We all believe in empowering every person to realize his or her potential. And we have the know-how to apply these principles to the problems of today.

I never thought I’d be speaker. But I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve—I would go all in. After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as one, united team. And I am ready and eager to be our speaker.

This is just the beginning of our work. There is a long road ahead. So let’s get started.


Paul Ryan

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement at Veto Signing of Defense Spending Bill National Defense Authorization Act Transcript



Remarks by the President at Veto Signing of National Defense Authorization Act

Source: WH, 10-22-15

Oval Office

3:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  As President and Commander-in-Chief, my first and most important responsibility is keeping the American people safe.  And that means that we make sure that our military is properly funded, and that our men and women in uniform get the support, the equipment, the support for their families that they need and deserve when they protect our freedom and our safety.

The bill that has been presented to me authorizing our defense — excuse me — the bill that’s before me, authorizing our defense spending for this year, does a number of good things.  It makes sure that our military is funded.  It has some important provisions around reform for our military retirement system, which is necessary to make sure that it is stable and effective.  It’s got some cybersecurity provisions that are necessary for an increasing threat.

Unfortunately, it falls woefully short in three areas.  Number one, it keeps in place the sequester that is inadequate for us to properly fund our military in a stable, sustained way and allows all of our armed forces to plan properly.  I have repeatedly called on Congress to eliminate the sequester and make sure that we’re providing certainty to our military so they can do out-year planning, ensure military readiness, ensure our troops are getting what they need.  This bill instead resorts to gimmicks that does not allow the Pentagon to do what it needs to do.

Number two, unfortunately it prevents a wide range of reforms that are necessary for us to get our military modernized and able to deal with the many threats that are presenting themselves in the 21st century.  We have repeatedly put forward a series of reforms eliminating programs that the Pentagon does not want — Congress keeps on stepping back in, and we end up wasting money.  We end up diverting resources from things that we do need to have the kind of equipment and training and readiness that are necessary for us to meet all potential threats.

And the third thing is that this legislation specifically impeded our ability to close Guantanamo in a way that I have repeatedly argued is counterproductive to our efforts to defeat terrorism around the world.  Guantanamo is one of the premiere mechanisms for jihadists to recruit.  It’s time for us to close it.  It is outdated; it’s expensive; it’s been there for years. And we can do better in terms of keeping our people safe while making sure that we are consistent with our values.

So I’m going to be vetoing this authorization bill.  I’m going to be sending it back to Congress.  And my message to them is very simple:  Let’s do this right.  We’re in the midst of budget discussions — let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security.  Let’s make sure that we’re able, in a constructive way, to reform our military spending to make it sustainable over the long term, and let’s make sure that, in a responsible way, we can draw down the populations in Guantanamo, make sure that the American people are safe, and make sure that we’re not providing the kinds of recruitment tools to terrorists that are so dangerous.

3:57 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: Hillary Clinton’s Clinton testimony before House committee on Benghazi Transcript



Transcript: Clinton testifies before House committee on Benghazi

Source: Washington Post October 22 at 4:19 PM


GOWDY: Good morning. The committee will come to order.

The chair notes the presence of a quorum.

Good morning. Welcome, Madam Secretary. Welcome to each of you. This is a public hearing of the Benghazi Select Committee.

Just a couple of quick administrative matters before we start.

Madam Secretary, there are predetermined breaks, but I want to make it absolutely clear we can take a break for any reason or for no reason. If you or anyone, just simply alert me, then we will take a break and it can be for any reason or for no reason.

To our guests, we are happy to have you here. The witness deserves to hear the questions and the members deserve to hear the answers. So proper decorum must be observed at all times — no reaction to questions or answers, no disruptions. Some committees take an incremental approach to decorum. I do not. This is your one and only notice.

Madam Secretary, the ranking member and I will give opening statements and then you will be recognized for your opening statement. And then after that, the members will alternate from one side to the other. And because you have already been sworn, we will go straight to your opening. So I will now recognize myself and then recognize Mr. Cummings, and then you, Madam Secretary.

Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served this country with courage and with honor. And they were killed under circumstances that most of us could never imagine. Terrorists poured through the front gate of an American facility, attacking people and property with machine guns, mortars, and fire. It is important that we remember how these four men died. It is equally important that we remember how these four men lived and why.

They were more than four images on a television screen. They were husbands and fathers and sons and brothers and family and friends. They were Americans who believed in service and sacrifice. Many people speak wistfully of a better world, but do little about it. These four went out and actually tried to make it better and it cost them their lives.

So we know what they gave us. What do we owe them?

GOWDY: Justice for those that killed them. We owe their families our everlasting gratitude, respect. We owe them and each other the truth — the truth about why we were in Libya, the truth about what we were doing in Libya, the truth about the escalating violence in Libya before we were attacked and these four men were killed, the truth about requests for additional security, the truth about requests for additional personnel, the truth about requests for additional equipment, the truth about where and why our military was positioned as it was on the anniversary of 9/11, the truth about what was happening and being discussed in Washington while our people were under attack, the truth about what led to the attacks, and the truth about what our government told the American people after the attacks.

Why were there so many requests for more security personnel and equipment, and why were those requests denied in Washington? Why did the State Department compound and facility not even come close to meeting proper security specifications? What policies were we pursuing in Libya that required a physical presence in spite of the escalating violence?

Who in Washington was aware of the escalating violence? What precautions, if any, were taken on the anniversary of 9/11? What happened in Washington after the first attack? And what was our response to that attack?

What did the military do or not do? What did our leaders in Washington do or not do, and when? Why was the American public given such divergent accounts of what caused these attacks, and why is it so hard to get information from the very government these four men represented, served and sacrificed for?

Even after an Accountability Review Board and a half dozen congressional investigations, these and other questions still lingered. These questions linger, because previous investigations were thorough. These questions lingered because those previous investigations were narrow in scope, and either incapable or unwilling to access the facts and evidence necessary to answer all relevant questions.

So the House of Representatives, including some Democrats I hasten to add, asked this committee to write the final accounting of what happened in Benghazi. This committee is the first committee to review more than 50,000 pages of documents, because we insisted that they be produced. This committee is the first committee to demand access to more eyewitnesses, because serious investigations talk to as many eyewitnesses as possible. This committee is the first committee to thoroughly and individually interview scores of other witnesses, many of them for the first time. This committee is the first committee to review thousands of pages of documents from top State Department personnel. This committee is the first committee to demand access to relevant documents from the CIA, the FBI, the Department Of Defense and even the White House.

This committee is the first committee to demand access to the e- mails to and from Ambassador Chris Stevens. How could an investigation possibly be considered serious without reviewing the e- mails of the person most knowledgeable about Libya?

This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personnel e- mail on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record, including e-mails about Benghazi and Libya, in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office.

You will hear a lot today about the Accountability Review Board. Secretary Clinton has mentioned it more than 70 times in her previous testimony before Congress. But when you hear about the ARB, you should know the State Department leadership hand picked the members of the ARB.

The ARB never interviewed secretary Clinton. The ARB never reviewed her e-mails. And Secretary Clinton’s top adviser was allowed to review and suggest changes to the ARB before the public ever saw it. There’s no transcript of ARB interviews. So, it’s impossible to mow whether all relevant questions were asked and answered. Because there’s no transcript, it is also impossible to cite the ARB interviews with any particularity at all.

That is not independent. That is not accountability. That is not a serious investigation. You will hear there were previous congressional investigations into Benghazi. And that is true. It should make you wonder why those investigations failed to interview so many witnesses and access so many documents.

If those previous congressional investigations were really serious and thorough, how did they miss Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails? If those previous investigations were serious and thorough, how did they miss Secretary Clinton’s e-mails? If those congressional investigations really were serious and thorough, why did they fail to interview dozens of key State Department witnesses, including agents on the ground who experienced the attacks firsthand?

GOWDY: Just last month, three years after Benghazi, top aides finally returned documents to the State Department. A month ago, this committee received 1,500 new pages of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails related to Libya and Benghazi, three years after the attacks.

A little over two weeks ago, this committee received nearly 1,400 pages of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails, three years after the attacks. It is impossible to conduct a serious fact-centric investigation without access to the documents from the former Secretary of State, the ambassador who knew more about Libya than anybody else and testimony from witnesses who survived the attacks.

Madam Secretary, I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you. Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This investigation is about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil.

It is about what happened before, during and after the attacks that killed them. It is about what this country owes to those who risk their lives to serve it. And it is about the fundamental obligation of government to tell the truth always to the people that it purports to represent.

Madam Secretary, not a single member of this committee signed up to investigate you or your e-mail. We signed up to investigate and therefore honor the lives of four people that we sent into a dangerous country to represent us. And to do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others. Our committee has interviewed half a 100 witnesses. Not a single one of them has been named Clinton until today.

You were the secretary of state for this country at all relevant times. So, of course, the committee is going to want to talk to you. You are an important witness. You are one important witness among half a hundred important witnesses. And I do understand you wanted to come sooner than today. So let me be clear why that did not happen.

You had an unusual e-mail arrangement which meant the State Department could not produce your e-mails to us. You made exclusive use of personal e-mail and a personal server. And when you left the State Department, you kept the public record to yourself for almost two years. And it was you and your attorneys who decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not our decisions. It was only in March of this year we learned of this e-mail arrangement. And since we learned of this e-mail arrangement, we have interviewed dozens of witnesses, only one of whom was solely related to your e-mail arrangement. And that was the shortest interview of all, because that witness invoked his fifth amendment privilege against incrimination.

Making sure the public record is complete is what we serious investigations do. It’s important and remains important that this committee have access to all of Ambassador Stevens’ e-mails, the e- mails of senior leaders and witnesses and it is important to gain access to all of your e-mails, Madam Secretary.

Your e-mails are no less or no more important than the e-mails of anyone else. It just took us a little bit longer to get them and it garnered a little more attention in the process. I want you to take note during this hearing how many times congressional Democrats call on this administration to make long awaited documents available to us. They won’t.

Take note of how many witnesses congressional Democrats ask us to schedule for interview. They won’t. We would be closer to finding out what happened and writing the final definitive report if Democrats on this committee had helped us just a little bit pursue the facts. But if the Democrats on this committee had their way, dozens of witnesses never would have been interviewed, your public record would still be private.

Thousands of documents would never be accessed and we wouldn’t have the e-mails of our own ambassador. That may be smart politics, but it is a lousy way to run a serious investigation.

There are certain characteristics that make our country unique in the annals of history. We are the greatest experiment in self- governance the world has ever known, and part of that self-governance comes self-scrutiny, even of the highest officials.

GOWDY: Our country is strong enough to handle the truth and our fellow citizens expect us to pursue the truth wherever the facts take us.

So this committee is going to do what we pledged to do and what should have been done, frankly, a long time ago, which is interview all relevant witnesses, examine all relevant evidence, and access all relevant documents. And we’re going to pursue the truth in a manner worthy of the memory of the four people who lost their lives and worthy of the respect of our fellow citizens.

And we are going to write that final definitive accounting of what happened in Benghazi. We would like to do it with your help and the help of our Democrat colleagues, but make no mistake, we are going to do it nonetheless. Because understanding what happened in Benghazi goes to the heart of who we are as a country and the promises we make to those that we send into harm’s way. They deserve the truth. They deserve the whole truth. They deserve nothing but the truth. The people we work for deserve the truth. The friends and family of the four who lost their lives deserve the truth.

We’re going to find the truth because there is no statute of limitations on the truth.

With that, I would recognize my friend my Maryland.

CUMMINGS: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Madam Secretary, I want to thank you very much for being here today to testify before Congress on this very important issue. This is your third time. This week, our chairman, Mr. Gowdy, was interviewed in a lengthy media profile. During his interview, he complained that he was, and I quote, he “has an impossible job.” That’s what the chairman said — “impossible job.” He said it’s impossible to conduct a serious, fact-centric investigation in such a, quote, “political environment.”

I have great respect for the chairman, but on this score he is absolutely wrong. In fact, it has been done by his own Republican colleagues in the House on this very issue, Benghazi. The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee conducted an extensive, bipartisan, two-year investigation and issued a detailed report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee also conducted a bipartisan investigation. Those bipartisan efforts respected and honored the memories of the four brave Americans who gave their lives in Benghazi: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

The problem is that the Republican caucus did not like the answers they got from those investigations, so they set up this select committee with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget. And they set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president.

Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation. What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In the chairman’s interview, he tried to defend against this criticism by attempting to cast himself as the victim. And he complained about attacks on the credibility of the select committee.

CUMMINGS: His argument would be more compelling if Republicans weren’t leading the charge. As we all know, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Speaker Boehner’s second in command and the chairman’s close friend admitted that they established the select committee to drive down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers. Democrats didn’t say that. The second in command in the House said that, a Republican.

Republican Congressman Richard Hanna said the Select Committee was, quote, “designed — designed to go after Secretary Clinton.” And one of the chairman’s own, hand-picked investigators, a self- proclaimed conservative Republican, charged that he was fired in part for not going along with these plans to, quote, “hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton,” end of quote.

These stark admissions reflect exactly what we have seen inside the Select Committee for the past year. Let’s just look at the facts. Since January, Republicans have canceled every single hearing on our schedule for the entire year except for this one, Secretary Clinton. They also canceled numerous interviews that they had planned with the Defense Department and the CIA officials.

Instead of doing that, they said they were going — what they were going to do, Republicans zeroed in on Secretary Clinton, her speech writers, her I.T. staffers and her campaign officials.

This is what the Republicans did, not the Democrats. When Speaker Boehner established this Select Committee, he justified it by arguing that it would, quote, “cross jurisdictional lines.” I assume he meant we would focus on more than just secretary of State.

But, Madam Secretary, you are sitting there by yourself. The Secretary Of Defense is not on your left. The director of the CIA is not on your right. That’s because Republicans abandoned their own plans to question those top officials.

So, instead of being cross jurisdictional, Republicans just crossed them off the list. Last weekend, the chairman told the Republican colleagues to shut up and stop talking about the Select Committee.

What I want to know is this. And this is a key question. Why tell the Republicans to shut up when they are telling the truth, but not when they are attacking Secretary Clinton with reckless accusations that are demonstrably false? Why not tell them to shut up then? Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton has blood on her hands. Mike Huckabee accused her of ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi. Senator Ryan Paul said Benghazi was a 3 a.m. phone call that she never picked up. And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?

Everyone on this panel knows these accusations are baseless, from our own investigation and all those before it. Yet Republican members of this Select Committee remain silent.

On Monday, the Democrats issued a report showing that none of the 54 witnesses the committee interviewed substantiated these wild Republican claims. Secretary Clinton did not order the military to stand down, and she neither approved nor denied requests for additional security.

I ask our report be included in the official report for the hearing. Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Without objection.

CUMMINGS: What is so telling is that we issued virtually the same report a year ago. Same report. When we first joined the Select Committee, I asked my staff to put together a complete report and database setting forth the questions that have been asked about the attacks and all of the answers that were provided in the eight previous investigations.

I asked that this report also be included in the record, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Without objection.

CUMMINGS: The problem is that rather than accepting these facts, Republicans continue to spin new conspiracy theories that are just as outlandish and inaccurate.

For example, the chairman recently tried to argue that Sidney Blumenthal was Secretary Clinton’s adviser on Libya. And this past Sunday, Representative Pompeo claimed on national television that Secretary Clinton relied on Sidney Blumenthal for most of her intelligence on Libya. Earlier this week, the Washington Post fact checker awarded this claim four Pinocchios, its worst rating.

Here is the bottom line. The Select Committee has spent 17 months and $4.7 million of taxpayer money. We have held four hearings and conducted 54 interviews and depositions. Yes, we have received some new e-mails from Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Stevens and others. And yes, we have conducted some new interviews.

But these documents and interviews do not show any nefarious activity. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The new information we obtained confirms and corroborates the core facts we already knew from eight previous investigations. They provide more detail, but they do not change the basic conclusions. It is time — it is time, and it is time now, for the Republicans to end this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition. We need to come together and shift from politics to policy. That’s what the American people want, shifting from politics to policy.

We need to finally make good on our promises to the families. And the families only asked us to do three things. One, do not make this a political football. Two, find the facts. Three, do everything in your power to make sure that this does not happen again.

And so we need to start focusing on what we here in Congress can do to improve the safety and security of our diplomatic corps in the future.

And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

GOWDY: The chair thanks the gentleman from Maryland.

Madam Secretary, you are recognized for your opening statement.

CLINTON: Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Cummings, members of this committee.

The terrorist attacks at our diplomatic compound and later, at the CIA post in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, took the lives of four brave Americans, Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty And Tyrone Woods.

I’m here to honor the service of those four men. The courage of the Diplomatic Security Agency and the CIA officers who risked their lives that night. And the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world.

I knew and admired Chris Stevens. He was one of our nation’s most accomplished diplomats. Chris’ mother liked to say he had “sand in his shoes,” because he was always moving, always working, especially in the Middle East that he came to know so well.

When the revolution broke out in Libya, we named Chris as our envoy to the opposition. There was no easy way to get him into Benghazi to begin gathering information and meeting those Libyans who were rising up against the murderous dictator Gadhafi. But he found a way to get himself there on a Greek cargo ship, just like a 19th- century American envoy.

But his work was very much 21st-century, hard-nosed diplomacy.

CLINTON: It is a testament to the relationships that he built in Libya that on the day following the awareness of his death, tens of thousands of Libyans poured into the streets in Benghazi. They held signs reading, “Thugs don’t represent Benghazi or Islam,” “Sorry, people of America, this is not the behavior of our Islam or our prophet,” “Chris Stevens, a friend to all Libyans.”

Although I didn’t have the privilege of meeting Sean Smith personally, he was a valued member of our State Department family. An Air Force veteran, he was an information management officer who had served in Pretoria, Baghdad, Montreal and the Hague.

Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty worked for the CIA. They were killed by mortar fire at the CIA’s outpost in Benghazi, a short distance from the diplomatic compound. They were both former Navy SEALs and trained paramedics with distinguished records of service including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As secretary of State, I had the honor to lead and the responsibility to support nearly 70,000 diplomats and development experts across the globe. Losing any one of them, as we did in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, Haiti and Libya, during my tenure was deeply painful for our entire State Department and USAID family and for me personally. I was the one who asked Chris to go to Libya as our envoy. I was the one who recommended him to be our ambassador to the president.

After the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as Marines carried his casket and those of the other three Americans off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base. I took responsibility, and as part of that, before I left office, I launched reforms to better protect our people in the field and help reduce the chance of another tragedy happening in the future.

What happened in Benghazi has been scrutinized by a non-partisan hard-hitting Accountability Review Board, seven prior congressional investigations, multiple news organizations and, of course, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. So today, I would like to share three observations about how we can learn from this tragedy and move forward as a nation.

First, America must lead in a dangerous world, and our diplomats must continue representing us in dangerous places. The State Department sends people to more than 270 posts in 170 countries around the world. Chris Stevens understood that diplomats must operate in many places where our soldiers do not, where there are no other boots on the ground and safety is far from guaranteed. In fact, he volunteered for just those assignments.

He also understood we will never prevent every act of terrorism or achieve perfect security and that we inevitably must accept a level of risk to protect our country and advance our interests and values. And make no mistake, the risks are real. Terrorists have killed more than 65 American diplomatic personnel since the 1970s and more than 100 contractors and locally employed staff.

Since 2001, there have been more than 100 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. But if you ask our most experienced ambassadors, they’ll tell you they can’t do their jobs for us from bunkers. It would compound the tragedy of Benghazi if Chris Stevens’ death and the death of the other three Americans ended up undermining the work to which he and they devoted their lives.

We have learned the hard way when America is absent, especially from unstable places, there are consequences. Extremism take root, aggressors seek to fill the vacuum and security everywhere is threatened, including here at home. That’s why Chris was in Benghazi. It’s why he had served previously in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem during the second intifada.

Nobody knew the dangers of Libya better. A weak government, extremist groups, rampant instability. But Chris chose to go to Benghazi because he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time. He knew that eastern Libya was where the revolution had begun and that unrest there could derail the country’s fragile transition to democracy. And if extremists gained a foothold, they would have the chance to destabilize the entire region, including Egypt and Tunisia. He also knew how urgent it was to ensure that the weapons Gadhafi had left strewn across the country, including shoulder-fired missiles that could knock an airplane out of the sky, did not fall into the wrong hands. The nearest Israeli airport is just a day’s drive from the Libyan border.

Above all, Chris understood that most people in Libya or anywhere reject the extremists’ argument that violence can ever be a path to dignity or justice. That’s what those thousands of Libyans were saying after they learned of his death. And he understood there was no substitute for going beyond the embassy walls and doing the hard work of building relationships.

Retreat from the world is not an option. America cannot shrink from our responsibility to lead. That doesn’t mean we should ever return to the go-it-alone foreign policy of the past, a foreign policy that puts boots on the ground as a first choice rather than a last resort. Quite the opposite. We need creative, confident leadership that harnesses all of America’s strengths and values, leadership that integrates and balances the tools of diplomacy, development and defense.

And at the heart of that effort must be dedicated professionals like Chris Stevens and his colleagues who put their lives on the line for a country, our country, because they believed, as I do, that America is the greatest force for peace and progress the world has ever known. My second observation is this. We have a responsibility to provide our diplomats with the resources and support they need to do their jobs as safely and effectively as possible. After previous deadly attacks, leaders from both parties and both branches of government came together to determine what went wrong and how to fix it for the future.

That’s what happened during the Reagan administration, when Hezbollah attacked our embassy and killed 63 people, including 17 Americans, and then in a later attack attacked our Marine barracks and killed so many more. Those two attacks in Beirut resulted in the deaths of 258 Americans.

It’s what happened during the Clinton administration, when Al Qaida bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing more than 200 people, wounding more than 2,000 people and killing 12 Americans.

And it’s what happened during the Bush administration after 9/11.

Part of America’s strength is we learn, we adapt and we get stronger.

CLINTON: After the Benghazi attacks, I asked Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of our most distinguished and longest serving diplomats, along with Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — appointed by President George W. Bush — to lead an accountability review board.

This is an institution that the Congress set up after the terrible attacks in Beirut. There have been 18 previous accountability review boards. Only two have ever made any of their findings public — the one following the attacks on our embassies in East Africa, and the one following the attack on Benghazi.

The accountability review board did not pull a single punch. They sound systemic problems and management deficiencies in two State Department bureaus. And the review board recommended 29 specific improvements. I pledged that by the time I left office, every one would be on the way to implementation and they were.

More Marines were slated for deployment to high-threat embassies. Additional diplomatic security agents were being hired and trained. And Secretary Kerry has continued this work.

But there is more to do and no administration can do it alone. Congress has to be our partner, as it has been after previous tragedies. For example, the accountability review board and subsequent investigations have recommended improved training for our officers before they deploy to the field. But efforts to establish a modern joint training center are being held up by Congress. The men and women who serve our country deserve better.

Finally, there is one more observation I’d like to share. I traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state. Every time I did, I felt great pride and honor representing the country that I love. We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad, leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology. Our nation has a long history of bipartisan cooperation on foreign policy and national security. Not that we always agree, far from it, but we do come together when it counts.

As secretary of state, I worked with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia. I worked with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, to open up Burma, now Myanmar, to democratic change. I know it’s possible to find common ground because I have done it. We should debate on the basis of fact, not fear. We should resist denigrating the patriotism or loyalty of those with whom we disagree. So I’m here. Despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas, I’m here to honor those we lost and to do what I can to aid those who serve us still.

My challenge to you, members of this committee, is the same challenge I put to myself. Let’s be worthy of the trust the American people have bestowed upon us. They expect us to lead, to learn the right lessons, to rise above partisanship and to reach for statesmanship. That’s what I tried to do every day as secretary of state and it’s what I hope we will all strive for here today and into the future.

Thank you.
Meet the members of the Benghazi panel
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The group investigating the Benghazi incident is made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats.

GOWDY: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

I did not cut off your opening at all, nor would I think about doing so because the subject matter is critically important and you deserve to be heard. I would just simply note that, and I don’t plan on cutting off any of your answers — our members have questions that we believe are worthy of being answered, so I would just simply note that we do plan to ask all of the questions, and whatever precision and concision that you can give to the answers, without giving short shrift to any of the answers, would be much appreciated.

And with that, I would recognize the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Roskam.

ROSKAM: Good morning, Secretary Clinton.

Jake Sullivan, your chief foreign policy adviser, wrote a tick- tock on Libya memo on August 21, 2011. And this was the day before the rebels took Tripoli. He titles it, quote, “Secretary Clinton’s Leadership on Libya,” in which he describes you as, quote, “a critical voice” and, quote, “the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya and instrumental in tightening the noose around Gadhafi and his regime.”

But that didn’t come easy, did it? Because you faced considerable opposition, and I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff.

CLINTON: One thing at a time, Congressman.

ROSKAM: OK. That didn’t come easy, did it, that leadership role and that public face and so forth that I just mentioned?

CLINTON: (OFF-MIKE) this is an issue that the committee has raised. And it really boils down to why were we in Libya; why did the United States join with our NATO and European allies, join with our Arab partners to protect the people of Libya against the murderous planning of Gadhafi. Why did we take a role alongside our partners in doing so.

There were a number of reasons for that. And I think it is important to remind the American people where we were at the time when the people of Libya, like people across the region, rose up demanding freedom and democracy, a chance to chart their own futures. And Gadhafi…

ROSKAM: I take your point.

CLINTON: … Gadhafi threatened them with genocide, with hunting them down like cockroaches. And we were then approached by, with great intensity, our closest allies in Europe, people who felt very strongly — the French and the British, but others as well — that they could not stand idly by and permit that to happen so close to their shores, with the unintended consequences that they worried about.

And they asked for the United States to help. We did not immediately say yes. We did an enormous amount of due diligence in meeting with not only our European and Arab partners, but also with those were heading up what was called the Transitional National Council. And we had experienced diplomats who were digging deep into what was happening in Libya and what the possibilities were, before we agreed to provide very specific, limited help to the European and Arab efforts.

We did not put one American soldier on the ground. We did not have one casualty. And in fact, I think by many measures, the cooperation between NATO and Arab forces was quite remarkable and something that we want to learn more lessons from.

ROSKAM: Secretary Clinton, you were meeting with opposition within the State Department from very senior career diplomats in fact. And they were saying that it was going to produce a net negative for U.S. military intervention.

For example, in a March 9th, 2011 e-mail discussing what has become known as the Libya options memo, Ambassador Stephen Mull, then the executive secretary of the State Department and one of the top career diplomats, said this, “In the case of our diplomatic history, when we’ve provided material or tactical military support to people seeking to drive their leaders from power, no matter how just their cause, it’s tended to produce net negatives for our interests over the long term in those countries.”

Now, we’ll come back to that in a minute. But you overruled those career diplomats. I mean, they report to you and you’re the chief diplomat of the United States. Go ahead and read the note if you need to.


CLINTON: I have to — I have to…

ROSKAM: I’m not done with my question. I’m just giving you the courtesy of reading your notes.

CLINTON: That’s all right.

ROSKAM: All right.

They were — they were pushing back, but you overcame those objections. But then you had another big obstacle, didn’t you, and that was — that was the White House itself. There were senior voices within the White House that were opposed to military action — Vice President Biden, Department of Defense, Secretary Gates, the National Security Council and so forth.

But you persuaded President Obama to intervene militarily. Isn’t that right?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I think it’s important to point out there were many in the State Department who believed it was very much in America’s interests and in furtherance of our values to protect the Libyan people, to join with our European allies and our Arab partners. The ambassador, who had had to be withdrawn from Libya because of direct attacks — or direct threats to his physical safety, but who knew Libya very well, Ambassador Cretz, was a strong advocate for doing what we could to assist the Europeans and the Arabs.

CLINTON: I think it’s fair to say there were concerns and there were varying opinions about what to do, how to do it, and the like. At the end of the day, this was the president’s decision. And all of us fed in our views. I did not favor it until I had done, as I said, the due diligence speaking with not just people within our government and within the governments of all of the other nations who were urging us to assist them, but also meeting in-person with the gentleman who had assumed a lead role in the Transitional National Council.

So it is of course fair to say this is a difficult decision. I wouldn’t sit here and say otherwise. And there were varying points of view about it. But at the end of the day, in large measure, because of the strong appeals from our European allies, the Arab League passing resolution urging that the United States and NATO join with them, those were unprecedented requests.

And we did decide in recommending to the president there was a way to do it. The president I think, very clearly had a limited instruction about how to proceed. And the first planes that flew were French planes. And I think what the United States provided was some of our unique capacity. But the bulk of the work militarily was done by Europeans and Arabs.

ROSKAM: Well I think you are underselling yourself. You got the State Department on board. You convinced the president, you overcame the objections of Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Gates, the National Security Council. And you had another obstacle then, and that was the United Nations.

And you were able to persuade the Russians, of all things, to abstain, and had you not been successful in arguing that abstention, the Security Council Resolution 1973 wouldn’t have passed because the Russians had a veto. So you overcame that obstacle as well, right? Isn’t that right?

CLINTON: Well congressman, it is right that doing my due diligence and reviewing the various options and the potential consequences of pursuing each of them, I was in favor of the United States joining with our European allies and our air partners and I also was in favor of obtaining U.N. Security Council support because I thought that would provide greater legitimacy. And that of course, our ambassador to the U.N. was very influential and successful in making the case to her colleagues. But this was at the behest of the president once he was presented with the varying argument.

ROSKAM: And you presented the argument… CLINTON: Congressman, I have been in a number of situation room discussions. I remember very well, the very intense conversation over whether or not to launch the Navy SEALS against the compound we thought in (inaudible) that might house bin Laden.

There was a split in the advisers around the president. Eventually the president makes the decision. I supported doing what we could to support our European and Arab partners in their effort on a humanitarian basis, a strategic basis, to prevent Gadhafi from launching and carrying massacres.

ROSKAM: There was another obstacle that you overcame and that was the Arabs themselves. Jake Sullivan sent you an e-mail, and he said this, “I think you should call. It will be a painful 10 minutes. But you will be the one who delivered Arab support.” And that’s a Jake Sullivan e-mail of March 17th to you asking you to call the secretary general of the Arab League.

So to put this in totality, you were able to overcome opposition within the State Department. You were able to persuade the president. You were able to persuade the United Nations and the international community. You made the call to the Arabs and brought them home. You saw it. You drove it. You articulated it. And you persuaded people. Did I get that wrong?

CLINTON: Well, congressman, I was the secretary of state. My job was to conduct the diplomacy. And the diplomacy consisted of a long series of meetings and phone calls both here in our country and abroad to take the measure of what people were saying and whether they meant it.

We had heard sometimes before from countries saying, well, the United States should go do this. And when we would say, well, what would you do in support of us, there was not much coming forth. This time, if they wanted us to support them in what they saw as an action vital respective to their respective national security interests, I wanted to be sure they were going to bear the bulk of the load. And in fact, they did. What the United States did, as I said, was use our unique capacities. As I recall, if you want if you monetary terms, slightly over a billion dollars or less than we spend in Iraq in one day, is what the United States committed in support of our allies. We asked our allies to do a lot for us Congressman, they had asked is for us to help them.

ROSKAM: My time is expiring. Let me reclaim my time. Let me reclaim my time because it’s expiring. Actually, you summed it up best when you e-mailed your senior staff and you said of this interchange, you said, “It’s good to remind ourselves and the rest of the world that this couldn’t have happened without us.” And you were right, Secretary Clinton.

Our Libya policy be couldn’t have happened without you because you were its chief architect. And I said we were going to go back to Ambassador Mulls’ warning about using military for regime change, and he said, “Long-term things weren’t going to turn out very well. And he was right. After your plan, things in Libya today are a disaster. I yield back.

CLINTON: Well, we’ll have more time I’m sure to talk about this because that’s not a view that I will ascribe to.

GOWDY: Thank the gentleman from Illinois and I recognize the gentleman from Maryland.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much Madam secretary, and again I want to thank you for being here. I want to start with the No. 1 question that Republicans claim has not been answered in eight previous investigations. Yesterday the chairman wrote an op-ed and he said, this is his top unanswered question about Benghazi. And it is, and I quote, “Why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests for additional security personnel and equipment and why those requests were denied?”

I’ll give you a chance to answer in a minute. Secretary Clinton, as you know, this exact question has been asked many times and answered many times. Let’s start with the accountability review board. Now you, a moment ago you talked about Admiral Mullen. But you also appointed another very distinguished gentlemen, Ambassador Pickering.

And of course Admiral Mullen served under Republican administrations. And Ambassador Pickering, who I have a phenomenal amount of respect for, served 40 years, as you know, as part of our diplomatic core. He served under George H.W. Bush and also served as U.N. Ambassador under — he also served under Reagan.

Now, I’m just wondering — let me go back to that question. Why our people in Libya and Benghazi made so many requests, and then, I want you to comment. There seems to be an implication that the ARB, Accountability Review Board, was not independent. And I think the chairman said they were hand-picked by you, of course, that’s done by law. But I’m just — would you comment on those two things, please?

CLINTON: Yes. I’d be happy to.

Now, as I said in my opening statement, I take responsibility for what happened in Benghazi. I felt a responsibility for all 70,000 people working at the State Department in USAID. I take that very seriously. As I said with respect to security requests in Benghazi back when I testified in January 2013, those requests and issues related to security were rightly handled by the security professionals in the department.

I did not see them. I did not approve them. I did not deny them. Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen make this case very clearly in their testimony before your committee and in their public comments. These issues would not ordinarily come before the secretary of state. And they did not in this case.

As secretary, I was committed to taking aggressive measures to ensure our personnel’s and facilities were as safe as possible. And certainly when the nonpartisan critical report from the accountability review board came forward, I took it very seriously. And that’s why I embraced all of their recommendations and created a new position within the Diplomatic Security Bureau specifically to evaluate high- risk posts.

CLINTON: I think it’s important also to mention, Congressman, that the Diplomatic Security professionals who were reviewing these requests, along with those who are serving in war zones and hot spots around the world, have great expertise and experience in keeping people safe. If you go on CODELs, they are the ones who plan your trip to keep you safe.

They certainly did that for me. But most importantly, that’s what they do every day for everybody who serves our country as a diplomat or development professional.

And I was not going to second-guess them. I was not going to substitute my judgment, which is not based on experience that they have in keeping people safe, for theirs. And the changes that were recommended by the accountability review board are ones that we thought made sense and began quickly to implement.

CUMMINGS: Now, the ARB., after conducting, Madam Secretary, more than 100 interviews, identifies a specific employee at the State Department who denied these requests. It was Deputy Assistant Secretary Of The Bureau Of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb. And again, she did come before the Oversight Committee.

The ARB report was very critical of her. It was also critical of her two supervisors. Principal deputy assistant secretary and the assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security. The Oversight Committee found the same answer as the ARB. It found that this official denied these requests. It found no evidence that you approved or denied them.

The problem is Republicans just keep asking the same question over and over again, and pretend they don’t know the answer. In 2013, the Republican chairman of five House committees issued a report falsely accusing you personally of denying these requests cable (ph) over your signature.

The next day, the next day, the chairman of the Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, went on national television and accused you of the same thing.

Can we play that clip, please?


REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-CALIF.: Secretary of State was just wrong. She said she did not participate in this. And yet only a few months before the attack, she outright denied security in her signature in April 2014.


CUMMINGS: Do you remember that, Madam Secretary?


CUMMINGS: Well, when the Washington Post fact checker examined this claim, they gave it four Pinocchios. They called it a whopper. It turns out, that the Republicans had a copy of that cable, but didn’t tell the American people that your so-called signature was just a stamp that appeared on millions of cables from the State Department every single year.

Is that right?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

CUMMINGS: Now, Madam Secretary, my goal has always been to gather facts and to defend the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Last year, I asked our staff to compile an asked and answered database.

And this particular issue was answered thoroughly. On Monday, we put out another report and this issue was addressed yet again. But the Republicans want to keep this attack going, so they are now trying to argue that we have new e-mails that raise new questions.

The truth is that we have reviewed these e-mails, and they don’t contradict previous conclusions. They confirm them. They corroborate them. We have reviewed e-mails from Ambassador Stevens. And they show that he asked Charleston Lamb for more security.

Nothing we have obtained, not the new interviews or the new e- mails changes the basic fact we have known for three years.

Secretary Clinton, let me ask one final question, and please take as much time as you want to answer this. There is no evidence to support the Republican claims that you personally rejected security requests. So, some have a argued that since you knew the danger was increasing in Libya, you should have been in there making detailed decisions about whether this would be 5, 7, or even 9 security officers at any given post.

Madam Secretary, I know you have answered it over again. You might just want to elaborate and just I’ll give you — I have a minute and seven seconds.

CLINTON: Well, thank you, Congressman. I think there has been some confusion, and I welcome the opportunity to try to clarify it to the best of my ability. With respect, as you rightly point out, the claims that were made about the cables, I think you have explained the fact, which is that it is the long-standing tradition of the State Department for cables from around the world to be sent to and sent from the State Department under the signature, over the signature of the secretary of State. It’s a — it’s a stamp. It’s just part of the tradition. There are millions of them, as you point out. They are sorted through and directed to the appropriate personnel. Very few of them ever come to my attention.

None of them with respect to security regarding Benghazi did. Then the other point, which I thank you for raising so that perhaps I can speak to this one as well. There is, of course, information that we were obtaining about the increasingly dangerous environment in Libya.

Across the country, but in particular in Eastern Libya. And we were aware of that. And we were certainly taking that into account. There was no actionable intelligence on September 11th, or even before that date, about any kind of planned attack on our compound in Benghazi. And there were a lot of debates, apparently, that went on within the security professionals about what to provide.

Because they did have to prioritize. The Accountability Review Board pointed that out. The State Department has historically, and certainly before this terrible accident, not had the amount of money we thought necessary to do what was required to protect everyone.

So, of course, there had to be priorities. And that was something that the security professionals dealt with. I think that both Admiral Mullen And Ambassador Pickering made it very clear that they thought that the high threat post should move to a higher level of scrutiny. And we had immediately moved to do that.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

GOWDY: Thank the gentleman. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms. Brooks.

BROOKS: Good morning, Secretary Clinton.

CLINTON: Good morning.

BROOKS: Thank you for being here today. In drawing on what you just said, that very few, but no requests for Benghazi came to your attention, I’d like to show you something. This pile represents the e-mails that you sent or received about Libya in 2011, from February through December of 2011.

This pile represents the e-mails you sent or received from early 2012 until the day of the attack. There are 795 e-mails in this pile. We’ve counted them.

There’s 67 e-mails in this pile in 2012. And I’m troubled by what I see here. And so, my questions relate to these piles. In this pile in 2011 I see daily updates, sometimes is hourly updates from your staff about Benghazi and Chris Stevens.

When I look at this pile in 2012, I only see a handful of e-mails to you from your senior staff about Benghazi. And I have several questions for you about this disparity, because we know from talking to your senior advisers, that they knew, and many of them are here today seated behind you, they knew to send you important information, issues that were of importance to you.

And I can only conclude by your own records that there was a lack of interest in Libya in 2012.

So, let’s first focus, though, on this pile and what was happening in Libya in 2011. We had an ambassador to Libya, Ambassador Cretz. But you have told us — and you told us in your opening, you hand-picked Chris Stevens to be your special representative in Benghazi, and you sent him there.

And by your own e-mails, most provided last February, a few provided just a few weeks ago, they show that in March of ’11 — so, we’re in March of ’11, you had Chris Stevens join you in Paris, where you were meeting with the leader of the Libyan revolution.

And after Paris, that is when, as you talked about Chris Stevens went into Benghazi I believe in April 5th of 2011 on that Greek cargo ship. How long was he expected to stay?

What were Chris Stevens’s orders from you about Libya and about Benghazi specifically?

CLINTON: Chris Stevens was asked to go to Benghazi to do reconnaissance, to try to figure out who were the leaders of the insurgency who were based in Benghazi, what their goals were, what they understood would happen if they were successful. It was, as I had, the hard-nosed 21st century diplomacy that is rooted in the old- fashioned necessary work of building relationships and gathering information.

BROOKS: How long was he anticipated to stay in Benghazi, do you recall?

CLINTON: There — it was open-ended. We were, in discussing it with him, unsure as to how productive it would be, whether it would be appropriate for him to stay for a long time or a short time. That was very much going to depend upon Chris’ own assessment.

We knew we were sending someone who understood the area, who understood the language, who understood a lot of the personalities because of the historical study that he used to love to do. And we were going to be guided by what he decided.

BROOKS: I’d like to draw your attention to an e-mail. It’s an e-mail found at Tab 1. It’s an Op Center e-mail that was forwarded to you from Huma Abedin on Sunday, March 27th that says at the bottom of the e-mail — so the current game plan is for Mr. Stevens to move no later than Wednesday from Malta to Benghazi. But the bottom of the e- mail says the goal of this one-day trip is for him to lay the groundwork for a stay of up to 30 days.

So just to refresh that recollection, I believe initially the goal was to go in for 30 days. Were you personally briefed on his security plan prior to him going into Libya?


BROOKS: Because at that time, if I’m not mistaken — I’m sorry to interrupt — Gadhafi’s forces were still battling the rebels, correct?

CLINTON: That’s right.

BROOK: And so what were — were you personally briefed before you sent Mr. Stevens into Benghazi?

CLINTON: I was personally told by the officials who were in the State Department who were immediately above Chris, who were making the plans for him to go in, that it was going to be expeditionary diplomacy. It was going to require him to make a lot of judgments on the ground about what he could accomplish and including where it would be safe for him to be and how long for him to stay. And I think the initial decision was, you know, up to 30 days and reassess. But it could have been 10 days, it could have been 60 days depending upon what he found and what he reported back to us.

BROOKS: And possibly what was determined about the danger of Benghazi. Who were those officials?

CLINTON: Well, there were a number of officials who were…

BROOKS: That were advising you on the security specifically?

CLINTON: Well, with respect to the security, this was a particular concern of the assistant secretary for the bureau in which Chris worked.

BROOKS: I’m sorry. What was that person’s name?

CLINTON: Assistant secretary Jeff Feldman.

BROOKS: Thank you.

CLINTON: And it was also a concern of the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, as well as other officials within the State Department. And I think it’s fair to say, Congresswoman, this was, we all knew, a risky undertaking and it was something that was, as I said in my opening statement, more reminiscent of the way diplomacy was practiced back in the 19th century.

Because we didn’t have is the Internet. We didn’t have instantaneous communication. You would send diplomats and envoys into places and not hear from them for maybe months. This was obviously not of that kind, but it was not that different in degree from what we had done before. And it was a risky undertaking and one which Chris volunteered for and was anxious to undertake.

BROOKS: And it was so risky — I’d like to pull up another e- mail from the Op Center that forwarded to you from Ms. Abedin Sunday, April 10th. So he had been there about five days. And it indicates that the situation in Ajdabiya had worsened to the point where Stevens is considering departing from Benghazi. This is within five days of him going in.

Were you aware of that concern in the first five days that he had gone in?


BROOKS: And did anyone share that with you and — did share that with you?

CLINTON: Yes. We were aware because we were — we were really counting on Chris to guide us and give us the information from the ground. We had no other sources. You know, there was no American outpost. There was no, you know, American military presence. Eventually, other Americans representing different agencies were able to get into Benghazi and begin to do the same work, but they, of course, couldn’t do that work overtly, which is why we wanted a diplomat who could be publicly meeting with people to try to get the best assessment.

But it was always going to be a constant risk, and we knew that.

BROOKS: And so let me go back to the risk in 2011 because there was a lot of communication, again, once again from your senior staff, from the State Department to you or from you in 2011. And in fact, that is when Gadhafi fell. He fell in 2011. But then when we go to 2012, Libya, Benghazi, Chris Stevens, the staff there, they seem to fall off your radar in 2012, and the situation is getting much worse in 2012. It was getting much worse.

And let me just share for you in your records that we have reviewed, there is not one e-mail to you or from you in 2012 when an explosive device went off at our compound in April. There’s not a single e-mail in your records about that explosive device.

So my question is, this was a very important mission in 2011, you sent Chris Stevens there. But yet when your compound is attacked in 2012, what kind of culture was created in the State Department that your folks couldn’t tell you in an e-mail about a bomb in April of 2012?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I did not conduct most of the business that I did on behalf of our country on e-mail. I conducted it in meetings. I read massive amounts of memos, a great deal of classified information. I made a lot of secure phone calls. I was in and out of the White House all the time. There were a lot of things that happened that I was aware of and that I was reacting to.

If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I didn’t have a computer, I did not do the vast is majority of the work on my e-mail. And I bet there are a lot of Sid Blumenthal’s e-mails in there from 2011 too.

BROOKS: Well, we’ll get to…

CLINTON: And so I think that there were — I don’t want you to have a mistaken impression about what I did and how I did it. Most of my work was not done on e-mails with my closest aides, with officials in the State Department, officials in the rest of the government, as well as the White House and people around the world.

BROOKS: And thank you for sharing that because I’m sure that it’s not all done on e-mails, Madam Secretary, and there are meetings and there are discussions. And so then when your compound took a second attack on June 6th, when a bomb blew a wall through the compound then, no e-mails, no e-mails at all. But I am interested in knowing who were you meeting with, who were you huddling with, how were you informed about those things? Because there is nothing in the e-mails that talks about two significant attacks on our compounds in 2012. There was a lot of information in 2011 about issues and security posture and yet nothing in 2012.

CLINTON: Well, I’d be happy to explain. Every morning when I arrived at the State Department, usually between 8:00 and 8:30, I had a personal one-on-one briefing from the representative of the Central Intelligence Agency who shared with me the highest level of classified information that I was to be aware of on a daily basis.

I then had a meeting with the top officials of the State Department every day that I was in town. That’s where a lot of information, including threats and attacks on our facilities, was shared. I also had a weekly meeting every Monday with all of the officials, the assistant secretaries and others, so that I could be brought up to date on any issue they were concerned about.

During the day, I received hundreds of pages of memos, many of them classified, some of them so top secret they were brought into my office in a locked briefcase that I had to read and immediately return to the courier. And I was constantly at the White House in the situation room meeting with the national security adviser and others. I would also be meeting with officials in the State Department, foreign officials and others.

So there was a lot going on during every day. I did not e-mail during the day and — except on rare occasions when I was able to. But I didn’t conduct the business that I did primarily on e-mail. That is not how I gathered information, assessed information, asked the hard questions of the people that I worked with.

BROOKS: It appears that leaving Benghazi — with respect to all of that danger, leaving Benghazi was not an option in 2012.

And I yield back.

CLINTON: If I could just quickly respond, there was never a recommendation from any intelligence official in our government, from any official in the State Department, or from any other person with knowledge of our presence in Benghazi to shut down Benghazi, even after the two attacks that the compound suffered.

And perhaps, you know, you would wonder why, but I can tell you that it was thought that the mission in Benghazi, in conjunction with the CIA mission, was vital to our national interests.

GOWDY: The gentlelady from Indiana yields back.

The chair will now briefly recognize Mr. Cummings and then Ms. Duckworth.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I just want to clarify, when I was asking Secretary Clinton a question a moment ago, I mentioned an e-mail that had gone from Ambassador Chris Stevens to Deputy Secretary Lamb. What I meant to say was a cable. And I just wanted to make sure the record was clear.

GOWDY: The record will reflect that.

Ms. Duckworth?

DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Secretary Clinton, I’m pleased that you finally have the opportunity to be here. Before I start my line of questioning, I just want to clarify with regard to the April-June, 2012 incidents. I believe that the procedure that the State Department had for these types of incidents was to actually hold what are called emergency action committee hearings on the ground immediately. And in fact, there were at least five on the records for June alone, on the ground in both Tripoli and Benghazi.

And that is the correct procedure for handling such instances. Is that not correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton, my focus and my job on this committee is to make sure that we never put brave Americans like Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty ever on the ground again anywhere in the world without the protection that they so rightly deserve.

Having flown combat missions myself in some dangerous places, I understand the dedication of our men and women who choose to serve this country overseas. I have a special affinity for the diplomatic corps because these are folks who go in without the benefit of weapons, without the benefit of military might, armed only with America’s values and diplomatic words and a handshake, to forward our nation’s interests globally.

And so I am absolutely determined to make sure that we safeguard in the name of our heroic dead our men and women in the diplomatic corps wherever where they around the world.

So, the bottom line for me, I’m a very mission-driven person, the bottom line for me with respect to examining what went wrong in Benghazi is clear. Let’s learn from those mistakes and let’s figure out what we need to do to fix them.

I’ve only been in Congress not quite three years, almost three years. And in this time, I’ve actually served on two other committees in addition to this one that has looked at the Benghazi attacks, both Armed Services and Oversight and Government Reform. So I’ve had a chance to really look at all of these documents.

One of the things that I saw, and I’d like you to — discuss this with you, is that the Department of State and the Department of Defense at the time seems to have not had the most ideal cooperation when it came to threat or security analysis. I do know, however, that over the past decade, they’ve established a tradition of working together on the ground in dangerous regions that has increased over time.

However, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, which also looked at the Benghazi attack, I’m concerned that the interagency cooperation between State and DOD was not sufficient in the weeks and months leading up to the September 11, 2012 attacks. For example, joint contingency planning and training exercises, if we had conducted any joint interagency planning and training exercises, this may have actually helped State and DOD to identify and fix existing vulnerabilities in the temporary mission facility in Benghazi.

Moreover, regular communications between AFRICOM, which is the DOD command, and the special mission Benghazi, could have facilitated the pre-positioning of military assets in a region where there were very real questions over the host country’s ability to protect our diplomatic personnel.

Secretary Clinton, within the weeks of the terrorist attack in Benghazi happening, following that, I understand you partnered with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to establish and deploy five interagency security assessment teams to assess our security posture and needs at at least the 19 high-threat posts in 13 different countries. In fact, Deputy Secretary Nize (ph) testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in December of 2012 that the State Department and DOD ISAT initiative created a road map for addressing emerging security challenges.

Why did you partner with the Department of Defense to conduct such a high-priority review? And was it effective in addressing the shortfalls inn Benghazi and applying it for other locations?

CLINTON: Congressman — Congresswoman, thank you very much, and thanks for your service, and particularly your knowledge about these issues rising from your own military service and the service on the committees here in the House.

It’s very challenging to get military assets into countries that don’t want them there. And in fact, that has been a constant issue that we have worked, between the State Department and the Department of Defense. The Libyans made it very clear from the very beginning they did not want any American military or any foreign military at all in their country.

And what I concluded is that we needed to have these assessments because even if we couldn’t post our own military in the country, we needed to have a faster reaction. I certainly agree 100 percent with the findings of the Armed Services Committee here in the House and other investigations. Our military did everything they could. They turned over every rock. They tried to deploy as best they could to try to get to Benghazi. It was beyond the geographic range. They didn’t have assets nearby because we don’t have a lot of installations and military personnel that are in that immediate region.

So following what happened in Benghazi, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey and I, agreed to send out mixed teams of our diplomatic security and their top security experts from the Defense Department to get a better idea of the 19 high-threat posts. And that’s exactly what we did. And it gave us some guidance to try to have better planning ahead of time.

I know Admiral Mullen testified that it would be beyond the scope of our military to be able to provide immediate reaction to 270 posts. But that’s why we tried to narrow down. And of course, we do get help from our military in war zones. The military has been incredibly supportive of our embassy in Kabul and our embassy in Baghdad. But we have a lot of hot spots now and very dangerous places that are not in military conflict areas where we have American military presence.

So we wanted to figure out how we could get more quickly a fast reaction team to try to help prevent what happened in Benghazi.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

So this ISAT process that the joint teams at DOD and State that goes out, and initially looked at the 19 posts, that’s great that they come back with a report. It’s kind of like, you know, the seven reports do this, and now we have another committee. We can keep having committees to look into Benghazi, but we never act on them. It doesn’t help our men and women on the ground. And that’s what I’m focused on.

So what I want to know is, with these ISATs, so they came back with their recommendations to you. Have they been resourced? Are they institutionalized? Is — what has been done with this process so that it’s not a snapshot in time in reaction to Benghazi attack? And I want to make sure that, you know, at the very least, we’re continuing that cooperation, or at least there’s some sort of institutionalization of the review process to make sure that if it’s not those 19 posts, if the shift now is there’s 20 posts or some other posts. What has been done to make sure it’s institutionalized?

CLINTON: Well, that was one of the changes that I instituted before I left. And I’m confident that Secretary Kerry and his counterpart, Secretary Carter, at the Defense Department are continuing that. Because I think it was very useful. Certainly, it was useful for our security professionals and our diplomats to be partnered in that way with the Defense Department.

You know, historically, the only presence at some of our facilities has been Marines. And as you know well, Marines were there not for the purpose of personnel protection. They were there to destroy classified material and equipment. And so part of the challenge that we have faced inn some of these hot-spot, dangerous areas is how we get more of a presence. And after Benghazi, we were able to get Marines deployed to Tripoli.

So this is a constant effort between the State Department and the Defense Department, but it’s my strong belief that the ISAT process has been and should be institutionalized and we should keep learning from it.

DUCKWORTH: I’d like to touch on the quadrennial reviews. Again, coming from Armed Services, even as a young platoon leader out in, you know, in a platoon, we got and read the defense quadrennial review, which is a review that happens on a periodic basis, that gives the individual soldier an idea of what the Defense Department is trying to do. And I understand you initiated something similar in the State Department.


DUCKWORTH: And this goes to — there’s been discussion already about the culture at the State Department, especially when it comes to security. I found that the Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review is really good at instilling culture throughout the department.

Can you talk a little bit how and why you decided to do the review for the State Department? Was it useful? Is it useful? Is it getting out there? Is it a waste of time, and we shouldn’t be wasting money on it and we should be doing something else?

CLINTON: Well, I hope it’s not the latter. I learned about the Quadrennial Defense Review serving on Armed Services Committee in the Senate during my time there.

I agree with you completely, Congresswoman. It is a very successful road map as to where we should be going. And I’m impressed as a platoon leader, it was something you too into account. So, when I came to the State Department, there had never been anything like this done, there was no road map.

And the State Department, USAID would come up and fight for the money they could get out of Congress, no matter who was in charge of the Congress, every single year. It is one percent of the entire budget. And it was very difficult to explain effectively what it is we were trying to achieve.

So it did institute the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Diplomacy And Development Review. And one of the key questions that we were addressing is, what is this balance between risk and reward when it comes to our diplomats and our development professionals?

Because the first thing I heard when I got to the State Department was a litany of complaints from a lot of our most experienced diplomats that they were being ham-strung. That the security requirements were so intense, that they were basically unable to do their jobs. And of course, then, from the security professionals, who were all part of this, what we call the QDDR, they were saying, we don’t want you to go beyond the fence.

We can’t protect you in all of these dangerous circumstances. How you balance that — and it is a constant balancing of risk and reward, in terms of what we hope our diplomats and development professionals can do. So, it has been twice now. Secretary Kerry, in his tenure, has done the second QDDR. And I hope it becomes as important and as much of a road map as the QDR has for our Defense Department and our military services.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you. I’m out of time, Mr. Chairman.

GOWDY: Thank you the gentle lady from Illinois. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Alabama, Ms. Roby.

ROBY: Good morning.

CLINTON: Good morning.

ROBY: Secretary Clinton, some I colleagues have focused on your relationship with the Ambassador Chris Stevens, and why you sent him into Benghazi in 2011 as part of your broader Libya initiative.

But it’s not so clear from everything that we’ve reviewed that you had a vision in Benghazi going forward into 2012 and beyond. It appears that there was confusion and uncertainly within your own department about Libya. And quite frankly, Secretary Clinton, it appears that you were a large cause of that uncertainty.

And we have seen all the day-to-day updates and concern early in 2011. And I heard what you said to my colleague, Ms. Brooks. And I’ll get to that in a minute.

But showing that Libya, and for that matter Benghazi, belonged to you in 2011. It was yours, so to speak. And from your own records that we have, we saw a drop in your interest in Libya and Benghazi in 2012.

Not only do the records show your drop in interest in Benghazi, it was even noticed by your own staff. I want to point this out to you — I say this, because I want to point you to an e-mail in early February 2012, between two staffers at your Libya desk that says, you didn’t know whether we still even had a presence in Benghazi.

Let’s not use my words. Let’s use theirs. This can be found at tab 31. The e-mail says — and it is dated February 9, 2012. One writes to the other about an encounter that she had with you.

Quote, “Also, the secretary also asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi. I think she would be upset to hear, yes, we do. But because we don’t have enough security, they are on lockdown,” end quote.

And I say this is very troubling to me because it raises several issues that I would like to ask you about. I’m struck by the first part, quote, “The secretary asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi.” Now, you pointed out to Mrs. Brooks in her last line of questioning, based on the e-mail stacks here, that you engaged in a lot of conversations and briefings. So, I’m assuming that this conversation with this member of your staff took place in one of those briefings.

But then she sent this e-mail asking about this. So, how can this be that two of your staffers are e-mailing about whether or not you even knew if we had a presence in Benghazi in 2012, with all your interest in Libya in 2011, including your trip in October of 2011? And that months later, we come to find out you didn’t even know we had a presence there?

CLINTON: Well, I can’t comment on what has been reported. Of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi. I knew that we were evaluating what that presence should be, how long it should continue. And I knew exactly what we were doing in Libya.

And I think it’s important. Since you have very legitimate questions about what we were doing. You know, the United States played a role in the first election that the Libyan people had in 51 years. It was a successful election by every count. And they voted for moderates. They voted for the kind of people they wanted to govern them.

We had a very successful effort that the United States supported, getting rid of Gadhafi’s remaining chemical weapons, which we led and supported the United Nations and others in being able to do.

We were combating the proliferation of weapons. That’s one of the reasons why there was a CIA presence in Benghazi, because we were trying to figure out how to get those weapons out of the wrong hands, and get them collected in a way and destroyed. And in fact, we began reducing those heavy weapon stocks.

We were working on providing transition assistance to the Libyans. I met with the Libyans. I telephoned with the Libyans. I saw the Libyans all during this period. And it was hard. Because a lot of them knew what they wanted, but they didn’t know how to get from where they were to that goal.

And we did an enormous amount of work. My two deputies, Tom Nides and Bill Burns, went to Libya. Other officials in the State Department went to Libya. So there was a constant, continuing effort that I led to try to see what we could do to help.

Now, one of the problems we faced is that the Libyans did not really feel that welcome a peace-keeping mission. They couldn’t welcome foreign troops to their soil. That made it really difficult. And it didn’t have to be American troops, it could have been troops from anywhere in the world under a U.N. Mandate that might have helped them begin to secure their country.

ROBY: Secretary Clinton, if I may, I hear what you’re saying, but this e-mail says something very, very different.

CLINTON: Well, I — you know, I can’t speak to that. I can just tell you what I was doing, and I was doing a lot.

ROBY: Sure. But these — this was your staff. And I…


ROBY: If they had this conversation with you, why would they make it up?

But I want to move on. This e-mail, you know, makes me wonder about the vision for Benghazi, because they’re asking if you — they’re saying that you asked if we still had a presence. But if you — you know, we look at the second part of the e-mail, quote, “And I think she would be upset to say, yes, we do,” I…

CLINTON: Congresswoman, I’m sorry. I have no recollection of, or no knowledge of — of course…

ROBY: Well, please turn to tab 31, because it’s right there.

CLINTON: Well, I trust that you have read it. But I also tell you that we had a presence in Benghazi. We had members of the administration and Congress visiting Benghazi.

So, of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi. I can’t speak to what someone either heard or misheard. But I think what’s important, and I understand that the underlying point of your request question is, what were we doing about Libya? And after Gadhafi fell.

ROBY: Right. And I’ve heard that first part.

CLINTON: And that’s what I’m trying to explain to you about what we were doing.

ROBY: Yes, ma’am. I want to get to the second part of the e- mail that suggests that we were in lockdown, that you would have been upset to know yes — heard the first part of your answer — but that we were in lockdown. And you’ve said on numerous occasions, including in your opening statement, on point number one, you know, America must lead and we must represent in dangerous places, quote, “They can’t do their jobs for us in bunkers.”

And essentially what we know is that there weren’t the required number of security on the ground in order for the individual to even move about the country to provide you with what you have reiterated on numerous occasions as being very important at that time, which is political reporting.

CLINTON: Well, could — could you tell me who is — who are the names on this e-mail that you’re talking about?

ROBY: Sure. I can. Turn to tab 31. You have a book in front of you. It is Alice Abdallah and I’m going to pronounce it wrong, Enya Sodarais (ph)? Is that correct?

CLINTON: They were not on my staff. I’m not in any way contradicting what they think they heard or what they heard somebody say. But the people that I know…

ROBY: Can you tell me who they were if they were not on your staff?

CLINTON: They were not on my — they were in the State Department, along with thousands of other people. They were not part of the secretary staff. But I get what you’re saying, Congresswoman. And I want to focus on this. I think it’s a fair and important question.

The facility in Benghazi was a temporary facility. There had been no decision made as to whether or not it would be permanent. It was not even a consulate. Our embassy was in Tripoli. Obviously much of the work that we were doing was going through the embassy.

There was a very vigorous discussion on the part of people who were responsible for making a recommendation about Benghazi as to what form of consulate, what form of facility it should be. Chris Stevens believed that it should be a formal consulate.

But that was something that had to be worked out. And there had not yet been a decision at the time that the attack took place. So it was not a permanent facility. And, you know, there were a number of questions that people were asking about whether it could or should be.

ROBY: I want to drill down on the security issue. But I also want to say it’s frustrating for us here on this panel asking these questions to hear you in your opening statement talk about the responsibility you took for all 70 plus thousand employees, yet I read you an e-mail between two of those employees and it seems as though you’re just kind of brushing it off as not having any knowledge.

CLINTON: I’m just saying I have no recollection of it and it doesn’t correspond with the facts of what we were doing on a regular basis. ROBY: Well if we talk for just a minute about the security, I have a few seconds left. In 2011, during the revolution, then envoy Stevens had 10 agents with him on the ground in Benghazi. And then we know in 2012 where the security situation had deteriorated even further, there were only three agents assigned to Benghazi.

Again, can’t even move anybody off of the facility to do the necessary political reporting. And my question is, you know, why did you not acknowledge, because of your interest in 2011, the importance of having those security officers there to do what was so important to you, which was the political reporting? Then in 2011, 2010, and when an am bass doctor was there, three, and he brought two of his own the night of the attack, which would meet the requisite five, but there was really only three there at any given time. So if you could address that, again, I’m running a little short on time.

CLINTON: Well, he did have five with him on September 11th and…

ROBY: Well, he brought two, right? He brought two with him, there were three there, and there were…

CLINTON: Right. But the point was they were personal security. So they were there to secure him. So yes, he did bring two. When he got there, he had five.

ROBY: Can you address the discrepancy?

CLINTON: The day before September 10th he went in to Benghazi. He went to a luncheon with leading civic leaders, business leaders in Benghazi. So he felt very comfortable. It was his decision. Ambassadors do not have to seek permission from the State Department to travel around the country that they are assigned to.

He decided to go to Benghazi by taking two security officers with him and having three there, he had the requisite five that had been the subject of discussion between the embassy and the State Department security professionals.

I’m not going to in any way suggest that he or the embassy got everything they requested. We know that they didn’t from the Accountability Review Board, by investigations that were done by the Congress. We know that there were a lot of discussions about what was needed, particularly in Benghazi. And that the day that he died he had five security officers.

A lot of security professionals who have reviewed this matter, even those who are critical, that the State Department did not do enough, have said that the kind of attack that took place would have been very difficult to repel. That’s what we have to learn from, Congresswoman.

There are many lessons going back to Beirut, going back to Tehran and the take over of our embassy and going all the way through these years. And sometimes we learn lessons and we actually act and we do the best we can. And there’s a perfect, terrible example of that with respect to what happened in Benghazi.

Certainly. And my time has expired. We will certainly never know what the outcome would have been if there had been more agents that night. I yield back.

CLINTON: Well, that’s not what the professionals, that’s not what the experts in security have concluded, if you have read the Accountability Review Board…

ROBY: I have read it Secretary Clinton. And it says that security was grossly in adequate.

CLINTON: Well, it said that there were deficiencies within two bureaus in the State Department which we have moved to correct and it also pointed out that the diplomatic security officers that were there acted heroically. There was not one single question about what they did. And they were overrun. And it was unfortunate that the agreement we had with the CIA annex and when those brave men showed up that it was also not enough.

ROBY: Certainly. We’ll discuss this more. I have to yield back.

GOWDY: The gentle lady’s time has expired. The chair will now recognizes the gentleman from Washington.

SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you Madam Secretary for being here. Just to clarify, you knew we had a presence.

CLINTON: Of course I knew, I knew, Congressman, of course.

SMITH: Going back to your earlier question, you were also aware of those two attacks on your compounds even though you didn’t e-mail about it.

CLINTON: Yes, I was aware.

SMITH: And that I think sort of points out, I mean, after 17 months and $4.7 million, as the ranking member pointed out in his opening statements, and as we’ve seen today, you know, this committee is simply not doing its job. And I don’t really think it should have been formed in the first place.

But what we have heard here is well, first of all, an obsession with e-mail. The idea that two fairly junior level staffers might not have gotten something wrong in what they heard or the information in an e-mail might, in fact, not be accurate, are certainly not things that should be news to anybody. But it is the obsession with the e- mails that takes us off what should have been the task of this committee.

I also find it interesting that Mr. Obi’s (ph) final comments were to quote the ARB report. Yes, the ARB report I think was very good. I think we absolutely had to have it. I think it was appropriate for the committees and Congress to do the investigations they did. But all of that begs the question as to why we’ve spent the $4.7 million we have spent on this.

And even in the chairman’s opening remarks, it was primarily a defense of the committee’s existence. Not any new information. Not here’s what we, in those 17 months and $4.7 million have figured out that is new and different. Nothing. In fact, we have heard nothing. Even in today’s hearing. Not a single solitary thing that hasn’t already been discussed repeatedly. So we have learned absolutely nothing.

Yes, we have uncovered a trove of new information. In this age, I don’t think there’s ever an end to e-mails. We could probably go on for another two years and we’d find more. The question is what we found anything substantively that tells us something different about what happened in Benghazi? And the answer to that question is no.

Look, I didn’t think this committee should have been formed in the first place. But if it was going to be formed, the least we could do is to actually focus on the four brave Americans who were killed, why they were killed, and focus on Benghazi. And we have not. Mr. Roskam’s questions I found to be the most interesting. Basically — I don’t know, it was like he was running for president.

He wanted to debate you on overall Libya policy as to why we got in the first place. And that’s debatable. And I think you will argue that quite well. But that’s not about the attack on Benghazi. That’s not about what we could have done in Benghazi to better protect them.

So again, I think we have seen hat this committee is focused on you. And I’m the ranking member of the Armed Services committee. I don’t see the Department of Defense here. I don’t see the CIA here. There were many, many other agencies involved in this. And yet yours has been the one they have obsessively focused on. And I think that’s a shame for a whole lot of reasons.

SMITH: For one thing, this committee, as it has been in the news the last several weeks, has been yet one more step in denigrating this institution. And I happen to think this institution needs more support, not less. So I wish we would stop doing that.

And I — you know, you mentioned Beirut, and that was the first though that occurred to me when this happened, was a Democratic Congress at the time did a fair and quick investigation of what was an unspeakable tragedy — two separate suicide bombings four months apart. And there was clearly inadequate security. But the focus there was not on partisanship, not on embarrassing the Reagan administration, but in actually figuring out what happened and how we can better protect Americans.

Now, I wonder if I could just ask questions about what I think is the central issue, and that is how do we have that presence in the world that you described in what is an increasingly dangerous world? Because as I’ve traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen and other places, I’m consistently amazed by the willingness of our diplomatic corps to put their lives at risk. And I wonder how do you balance that very difficult decision. Because frankly, what I’ve heard more often from that diplomatic corps is that they chafe at the restrictions.

I mean, I remember vividly being in Peshawar, which is, you know — I mean, I didn’t like the ride from the airport to the embassy, which was 10 minutes, and we were there for, I don’t know, a few hours and then out. You know, the State Department personnel, they live there and went out amongst the community. How do you try and strike that balance of, you know, being present and at the same time meeting the security obligations?

And then most importantly, who drives that decision? Because it seems to me in most instances it is driven by the diplomatic corps there. If they take risks, it’s because they’ve decided to do it. They’re there. They know the security situation certainly better than the secretary and better than most everybody else. What is the proper way to strike that balance going forward to protect our personnel and still fulfill their mission?

CLINTON: Congressman, I think that is the most important question, and I would certainly welcome Congressional discussion and debate about this because it’s what we tried to do — going back to Congresswoman Duckworth’s question, what we tried to begin to do in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the first one that was ever done, because that’s exactly what we were facing. You know, we have had diplomats and development professionals in war zones now for a number of years. We’ve had them in places that are incredibly unstable and dangerous because of ongoing conflicts. It is, I think, the bias of the diplomacy corps that they be there because that’s what they signed up for. And they know that if America is not represented, then we leave a vacuum and we lose our eyes and our ears about what people are thinking and doing.

It is certainly the hardest part of the job in many of our agencies and departments today. And it was for me in the State Department. That’s why I relied on the security professionals because by the time I got there in 2009, the diplomatic security professionals had been taking care of American diplomats in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan for years. And they had learned a lot of the lessons and they were forced to make tough decisions all the time.

You mentioned Peshawar, one of clearly the high threat posts that the United States maintains a presence in. But when you think that since 2001 we’ve had 100 of our facilities attacked, if we were to shut them all down, if we were to pull out from all of them, we would be blinding ourselves. So it’s a constant balancing act. What are the risks and what are the rewards for opening, maintaining and/or closing a site.

I don’t know that there’s any hard and fast rule that we can adopt. We just have to get better at making that assessment, Congressman, and your question really goes to the heart of it. When you were as a member of Congress in Peshawar, you were guarded by our diplomatic security professionals. They had to assess was it safe enough for a member of Congress to come, how do we get him from the airport to the embassy.

It won’t surprise you to hear we’ve had attacks there as so many other places around the world. And that is a heavy responsibility, and the diplomatic security professionals get it right 999 times out of a thousand. And it’s deeply distressing to them when anything goes wrong.

We have lost non-Americans with some of these attacks on facilities. We’ve lost our locally-employed staff. They never want to see any successful attack, so they have to be — they have to be right 100 percent of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once. And, you know, that’s why this is really at the core of what I tried to do before even I got the Accountability Review Board, going back to the QDDR, to come up with a better way of trying to make those assessments.

SMITH: Madam Secretary, if I may, just two final points. I mean, so the bottom line is Benghazi on 9/11/2012 was not the only dangerous place in the world where our security personnel were and where these difficult decisions had to be made.


SMITH: And the other point I want to make before my time expires, now this was in 2012, so we were only a couple of years into this, but Secretary of Defense Ash Carter just I think yesterday wrote an editorial in the Wall Street journal about the impact of five years of budget uncertainty on the DOD’s ability to function. I mean, for five years, we have gone through C.R.s, threatened government shutdowns, one actual government shutdown, and constant budget uncertainty.

Now, my area is the Department of Defense. I know how it’s impacted them. They basically from one week to the next barely know what they can spend money on. Now, one of the criticisms is that there should have been more security, but if you don’t have a budget, if you don’t have an appropriations bill, how does that complicate your job as secretary in trying to figure out what money you can spend?

CLINTON: Well, it makes it very difficult, Congressman. And this is a subject that we talked about all the time, how do you plan. How do you know — you know, you have so many diplomatic security officers in so many dangerous places, how do you know what you’re going to have to be able to deploy and where are you going to have to make the choices.

That’s why the prioritization, which shouldn’t have to be, in my view, the responsibility of the officials in the State Department or the Defense Department to try to guess what makes the most sense. We should have a much more orderly process for our budget.

And I will say again, as secretary of State, the kind of dysfunction and failure to make decisions that we have been living with in our government hurts us. It hurts us in the obvious ways, like where you’re going to deploy forces if you’re in DOD or where we’re going to send security if you’re in the Department of State.

But it hurts us as the great country that we are, being viewed from an abroad as unable to handle our own business. And so it has a lot of consequences. And it’s something that I wish that we could get over and have our arguments about policy, have our arguments about substance, but get back to regular order, where we have the greatest nation in the world with a budget that then they can plan against as opposed to the uncertainty that has stalked us now for so long.

SMITH: Thank you, Madam Secretary. So the bottom line is Congress needs to do its job.

CLINTON: Right. I agree with that.

GOWDY: The gentlemen yields back. And I’ll be happy to get a copy of my opening statement for the gentleman from Washington so he can refresh his recollection on all the things our committee found that your previous committee missed. And with that I’ll go to the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Westmoreland.

WESTMORELAND: Thank you. Madam Secretary, I talk a little slower than everybody else, so…

CLINTON: I lived in Arkansas a long time. I don’t need an interpreter, Congressman. WESTMORELAND: So some of the questions I’m asking you can just get a yes-or-no answer, that would be great. But I do want you to give us a full answer.

But Mr. Smith from Washington mentioned there was no new facts brought out in some of these interviews, and I want to just say that I think he was at one interview for one hour. I have been at a bunch of those and there has been a lot of new facts that’s come out.

One of the things he said, it doesn’t — that you knew about these two incidents that have been mentioned previously. It’s not a matter if you knew about them, it’s a matter of what you did about them. And to us, the answer to that is nothing. Now, you say you were briefed by the CIA every morning that you were in Washington; is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

WESTMORELAND: Did they ever mention to you Assistant Acting Director Morrell wrote in his book that there were scores of intelligence pieces describing in detail how the situation in Libya was becoming more and more dangerous. Did you ever read any of these pieces?

CLINTON: Yes. As I’ve previously stated, we were certainly aware that the situation across Libya was becoming more dangerous, and that there were particular concerns about eastern Libya.

WESTMORELAND: Did you read the piece that was Libya, Al Qaida establishing sanctuary?

CLINTON: I’m aware that was certainly among the information provided to me.

WESTMORELAND: There was another particular piece that was talked about after the IED attack that AFRICOM wrote. Al Qaida expands in Libya. Were you familiar with that?

CLINTON: I can’t speak to specific pieces, Congressman, but I was well aware of the concerns we all had about the setting up of jihadist training camps and other activities in Libya, particularly in eastern Libya.

WESTMORELAND: You — you were briefed, in I think the CIA, between January and September of 2012, at over 4500 pages of intelligence. Were you aware of how many pages of intelligence? And I know you had a specific division, I guess, of the State Department under you that was called Intelligence and Research.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: Did they keep you up to speed on all these 400 cables or different things that they were getting? Did they keep you up to speed on that, that you were aware of them?

CLINTON: Congressman, I can’t speak to specific reports. But I can certainly agree with you that I was briefed and aware of the increasingly dangerous upsurge in militant activity in Libya.

WESTMORELAND: And so what did you do to make sure that our men and women over there were protected, knowing how much the threat had grown, especially in Benghazi, because a lot of people say that really, in the summer of 2012, the security in Benghazi was worse than it was during the revolution.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, with respect to not only the specific incidents that you referenced earlier, but the overall concerns about Benghazi, I think I stated previously, there was never any recommendation by anyone, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the State Department officials responsible for Libya, to leave Benghazi.

Even after the two incidents that you mentioned. Because, in part, as I responded to Congressman Smith, we had so many attacks on facilities that, as I said, went back to 2001, that certainly also happened in other parts of the world while I was there. Each was evaluated, and there was not a recommendation. Furthermore, there was not even, on the morning of September 11, while Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were at the compound, Chris had spoken with intelligence experts. There was no credible, actionable threat known to our intelligence community…


CLINTON: … against our compound.

WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time, you said that the — Ambassador Chris was pulled out of Tripoli because of threats on his life.

CLINTON: There were threats from people associated with Gadhafi after the publication…


CLINTON: … of cables he had written that were made public by WikiLeaks.

WESTMORELAND: You — and you say you were aware of the two attacks at the mission facility in Benghazi.

CLINTON: Mm-hmm.

WESTMORELAND: Mr. Morell in his book states that there was 20 attacks on that facility. Are you familiar with the other 18?

CLINTON: There were two that we thought rose to the level of being serious, and I…

WESTMORELAND: Were — but were you familiar with the other 18?

CLINTON: … I’m not aware of 18 others. And I would point out, and I am sure that former Deputy Director Morell made this point when he was testifying, the CIA stayed in Libya.

The CIA had a much bigger presence than the State Department, despite the overall decline in stability. Some might argue actually because of the overall decline in stability, it was thought to be even more important for the CIA to stay there. And they also did not believe that their facility would be the subject of a deadly attack either, because I think sometimes…

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am (inaudible).

CLINTON: … you know, sometimes the — the discussion gets pulled together, when really we had Chris and Sean dying at the State Department compound, which we are discussing, and we had our other two deaths of Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty at the CIA annex.

WESTMORELAND: Reclaiming my time for just a minute. And I — and I do appreciate that. But if you — if you talk to the CIA contractors that were at the annex, and you ask them how they were armed and equipped, and then if you would — or could — talk to the diplomatic security agents that were at the facility, I think you will see that there was a big, big difference in the equipment that they had to protect theirself (ph).

But you knew of the two — what you called major incidents, but you don’t recollect the other 18 that Mr. Morell says happened. How many instances would it have taken you to say, “hey, we need to look at the security over there?”

Would it have been three major instances, 30 instances, 40 instances, 50 instances? How many instances would you have been made aware of that would have made you say, “hey, I don’t care what anybody else says, we’re going to protect our people. Chris Stevens is a good friend of mine, we’re going to look after him.”

How many would it have taken?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, of course I made it abundantly clear that we had to do everything we could to protect our people. What I did not — and do not believe any secretary should — do was to substitute my judgment from thousands of miles away for the judgment of the security professionals who made the decisions about what kind of security would be provided.


CLINTON: And that — I know that — that sounds somewhat hard to understand. But, you know, we have a process, and the experts, who I have the greatest confidence in, and who had been through so many difficult positions, because practically all of them had rotated through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, other places — they were the ones making the assessment. No one ever came to me and said, “we should shut down our compound in Benghazi.”

WESTMORELAND: Ma’am, I’m not saying shut it down. I’m saying protect it.


WESTMORELAND: I’m not saying — I’m not saying shut it down. I’m just saying protect it.


WESTMORELAND: When you say security professionals — I’m not trying to be disparaging with anybody, but I — I don’t know who those folks were, but…

CLINTON: Well, they were people who risked their lives to try to save…

WESTMORELAND: … just my little — in my little opinion, they weren’t very professional when it came to protecting people.

But let me say this. You said that the mission that you gave Ambassador Stevens was to go in to — in to investigate the situation. Now, if you’re going to investigate a situation, it would seem to me like you would have to get out into the country to investigate that.

And I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but there were not even enough diplomatic security for him to leave the compound without asking the CIA operatives to assist them. Were you aware of that?

CLINTON: Well, we had an agreement with the CIA to help supplement security and to come to the aid — it was a — it was a mutual agreement.

WESTMORELAND: Was that a — was that a written agreement?

CLINTON: No, it was — it was not a written agreement. But we — we are posted with the CIA in many places in the country…


CLINTON: … I mean, in the — in the world. And it’s important to have a good working relationship. And we did. And unfortunately, despite all the weapons and despite the fortification, two CIA contractors died at the CIA annex that night.

WESTMORELAND: Just to follow up on one thing about Ambassador Stevens. You got a lot of e-mails from Sidney Blumenthal. And you say that Mr. Blumenthal was a friend of yours. And he had your personal e-mail address.

You say Chris Stevens was a friend of yours. He asked numerous of times for extra protection. Now, if I had been Mr. Stevens — and I think anybody out there — anybody watching this would agree.

If I had been Mr. Stevens and I had had a relationship with you, and I had requested 20 or more times for additional security to protect not only my life but the people that were there with me, I would have gotten in touch with you some way.

I would have let you know that I was in danger, and that the situation had deteriorated to a point, I needed you to do something. Did he have your personal e-mail?

CLINTON: Congressman, I — I do not believe that he had my personal e-mail. He had the e-mail and he had the direct line to everybody that he’d worked with for years. He had been posted…

WESTMORELAND: But not your…

CLINTON: … with officials in the State Department. They had gone through difficult, challenging, dangerous assignments together. He was in constant contact with people.

Yes, he and the people working for him asked for more security. Some of those requests were approved. Others were not.

We’re obviously looking to learn what more we could do, because it was not only about Benghazi, it was also about the embassy in Tripoli. I think it’s fair to say that, you know, Chris asked for what he and his people requested, because he thought that it would be helpful. But he never said to anybody in the State Department you know what, we just can’t keep doing this, we just can’t — we can’t stay there. He was in constant contact with, you know, people on my staff, other officials in the State Department.

And, you know, I did have an opportunity to talk with him about the substance of the policy. But with respect to security, he took those requests where they belonged. He took them to the security professionals.

And I have to add, Congressman, the diplomatic security professionals are among the best in the world. I would put them up against anybody. And I just cannot allow any comment to be in the record in any way criticizing or disparaging them. They have kept Americans safe in two wars and in a lot of other really terrible situations over the last many years.

I trusted them with my life. You trust them with yours when you’re on CODELs. They deserve better. And they deserve all the support that the Congress can give them, because they’re doing a really hard job very well.

WESTMORELAND: Well, ma’am, all I can say is they missed something here. And we lost four Americans.

GOWDY: The gentleman’s time has expired. The chair will recognize the gentleman from Kansas, Mr. Pompeo.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, you’ve referred to the QDDR a couple of times as being important to diplomatic security. Is that correct?

CLINTON: It provoked a discussion, Congressman, about balancing of risk. POMPEO: Madam Secretary, I had a chance to read that. I wanted to only read the executive summary that ran 25 pages. But it didn’t have a word about diplomatic security in those entire 25 pages of the executive summary. Not one word, Madam Secretary. And then I read the remaining pages from out of the 270-plus. Do you know how many pages of those 270 had to do with diplomatic security?

CLINTON: It was about the balancing of risk and reward.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary…

CLINTON: Which was not only about diplomatic security specifically about, but about the larger question of our mission around the world.

POMPEO: Madam secretary, there was no balance. There was no balance. There was two pages out of 270 pages. You talked about a lot of things in there. You talked about a lot of improvements.

It didn’t have anything to do with diplomatic security in any material way in that report. You talked about being disappointed, too, I’ve heard you use that several times. You were disappointed, you read the ARB.

Why didn’t you fire someone? In Kansas, Madam Secretary, I get asked constantly, why has no one been held accountable? How come not a single person lost a single paycheck, connected to the fact that we had the first ambassador killed since 1979?

How come no one has been held accountable to date?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, the Accountability Review Board pointed out several people working in the State Department, who they thought had not carried out their responsibilities adequately. But they said that they could not find a breach of duty. And…

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am.

CLINTON: The personnel rules and the laws that govern those decisions were followed very carefully.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I’m not asking what the ARB did. I’m asking what you did.

CLINTON: I followed the law, Congressman. That was my responsibility.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, you’re telling me you had no authority to take anyone’s paycheck, to cause anyone to be fired? You’re telling me you were legally prohibited from doing that, is that your position here this morning?

CLINTON: It is my position that in the absence of finding dereliction or breach of duty, there could not be immediate action taken. But there was a process that was immediately instituted, and which led to decisions being made. POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. The decision was to put these back in full back pay, keep them on as employees. That was the decision made as a result of the processes you put in place. I will tell you, the folks in Kansas don’t think that is accountability.

I want to do some math with you. Can I get the first chart, please? Do you know how many security requests there were in the first quarter of 2012?

CLINTON: For everyone, or for Benghazi?

POMPEO: I’m sorry, yes, ma’am, related to Benghazi in Libya. Do you know how many there were?

CLINTON: No, I do not know.

POMPEO: Ma’am, there were just over a 100-plus. Second quarter, do you know how many there were?

CLINTON: No, I do not.

POMPEO: Ma’am, there were 172-ish. Might have been 171 or 173. That’s — how many were there in July and August and then in that week and few days before the attacks, do you know?

CLINTON: There were a number of them, I know that.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am, 83 by our count.

That’s over 600 requests. You’ve testified here this morning that you had none of those reach your desk; is that correct also?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

POMPEO: Madam Secretary, Mr. Blumenthal wrote you 150 e-mails. It appears from the materials we’ve read that all of those reached your desk.

Can you tell us why security requests from your professionals, the men that you just testified — and which I agree, are incredibly professional, incredibly capable people, trained in the art of keeping us all safe, none of those made it to you.

But a man who was a friend of yours, who had never been to Libya, didn’t know much about it, at least that was his testimony, didn’t know much about it, every one of those reports that he sent on to you that had to do with situations on the ground in Libya, those made it to your desk.

You asked for more of them. You read them. You corresponded with him. And yet the folks that worked for you didn’t have the same courtesy.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, as you’re aware, he’s a friend of mine. He sent me information he thought might be of interest. Some of it was, some of it wasn’t, some of it I forwarded to be followed up on. The professionals and experts who reviewed it found some of it useful, some of it not.

POMPEO: Madam secretary…

CLINTON: He had no official position in the government. And he was not at all my adviser on Libya. He was a friend who sent me information that he thought might be in some way helpful.

POMPEO: Madam secretary, I have lots of friends. They send me things. I have never had somebody send me pieces of intelligence with the level of detail Mr. Blumenthal sent me every week. That’s a special friend.

CLINTON: Well, it was information that had been shared with him that he forwarded on. And as someone who got the vast majority of the information that I acted on from official channels, I read a lot of articles that brought new ideas to my attention, and occasionally people including him and others would give me ideas. They all went into the same process to be evaluated.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I will tell you that the record we have received to date does not reflect that. It simply doesn’t. We’ve read the e-mails. We’ve read everything we can get our hands on. It’s taken us a long time to get it, but you, you just described all this other information you relied upon. And it doesn’t comport with the record that this committee has been able to establish today.

I want you to take a look at this chart to the left. You’ll see the increasing number of requests, over 600. I think data matters. The pictures are worth a lot. You see the increase in the requests, and the bottom line is the increase in security. And you’ll note that the slope of those two lines is very different.

Can you account for why that is, why we have an increase in requests yet no increase in security?

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, I can only tell you that I know a number of requests were fulfilled, and some were not. But from my perspective, again, these were handled by the people that were assigned the task of elevating them.

And, you know, I think it’s important to again reiterate that, although there were problems and deficiencies discovered by the Accountability Review Board, the general approach to have security professionals handle security requests, I think still stands.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. I wish you’d have listened to those security professionals.

You described Mr. Stevens as having the best knowledge of Libya of anyone. Your words this morning. And yet when he asked for increased security, he didn’t get it.

May I see the second chart, please? This chart says the same thing; I just talked to you about requests for assistance. This chart — I won’t go through the numbers in detail — we’ve talked about them a bit. But it shows the increasing number of security incidents at the facility, your facility, the State Department facility, in Benghazi, Libya.

And then again, it shows the increase in security being nonexistent. I assume your answer is the same with respect to the fact that we have increasing security incidents, but no corresponding increase in the amount of security?

CLINTON: Congressman, I just have to respectfully disagree. Many security requests were fulfilled.

POMPEO: Well, ma’am…

CLINTON: We would be happy to get that information for the record. So I can’t really tell what it is you’re putting on that poster, but I know that a number of the security requests were fulfilled for Benghazi.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. What it shows is that the number of diplomatic security agents at the beginning of 2012, and those that — they were there that day of the — the murder of four Americans is no different.

CLINTON: Congressman, the decision, as I recall, was that the post, namely embassy Tripoli on behalf of Benghazi, requested five diplomatic security personnel, and they did have that on the day that Chris Stevens was in Benghazi.

Unfortunately, that proved insufficient in the face of the kind of attack that they were facing.

POMPEO: Yes, ma’am. May — put the next poster up, please. Madam Secretary, you’re not likely to know who these two folks are, do you?

CLINTON: I do not.

POMPEO: The one on the left is Mohamed al-Zahawi. He was the head of Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist group based in Benghazi. The man on your left is Wissam bin Hamid. Were you aware that your folks in Benghazi, Libya met with that man on the — within 48 hours before the attack?

CLINTON: I know nothing about any meeting with him.

POMPEO: On September 11th, on the day that he was killed, Ambassador Stevens sent a cable through the State Department talking about his meeting with Mr. Bin Hamid. Are you aware of that cable?

CLINTON: No, I’m not.

POMPEO: He said — in his cable, he said they — referring to Mr. Wissam Bin Hamid — they wanted an introductory meeting, they were here. They asked us what we needed to bring security to Benghazi. So your officials were meeting with this man on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, discussing security, two days before that. But in August of that same year, the United States government had said that this very man was, quote, “a young rebel leader who allegedly fought in Iraq under the flag of al-Qaida.”

Were you aware that our folks were either wittingly or unwittingly meeting with al-Qaida on the ground in Benghazi, Libya, just hours before the attack?

CLINTON: I know nothing about this, Congressman.

POMPEO: I think that’s deeply disturbing. I think the fact that your team was meeting…

CLINTON: I’m sorry. Which team is this, Mr….

POMPEO: Your team would have been — we don’t know exactly who…

CLINTON: Well, it would be helpful…

POMPEO: It would have been one of the — one of your State Department employees, Madam Secretary, I don’t know which one. Perhaps you could enlighten us or help us get the records we need to do so.


POMPEO: To date, we’ve been able to learn that.

CLINTON: Well since we didn’t have an ongoing significant presence of State Department personnel in Benghazi, I don’t know to whom you are referring.

POMPEO: Mr. Chairman, I’ll yield back the balance of my time.

GOWDY: The gentleman from Kansas yields. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Madam Secretary, for coming again to answer our questions. We know over the last 17 months there have been a number of allegations that have been made with respect to you, and when the facts and the testimony and the record don’t support that, we seem to move on to the next, you know, new allegation.

One of the more recent ones is that Republicans are claiming that because you received e-mails from Sidney Blumenthal that he was your primary source for intelligence. Now, Chairman Gowdy claimed that Mr. Blumenthal was, and I’m going to quote him here, quote, “Secretary Clinton’s primary adviser on Libya because nearly half of all the e- mails sent to and from Secretary Clinton regarding Benghazi and Libya prior to the Benghazi terrorist attacks involved Sidney Blumenthal,” end quote.

He also claimed that Mr. Blumenthal was, and I’m quoting again, “one of the folks providing her the largest volume of information about Libya.” Secretary Clinton, was Sidney Blumenthal your primary policy adviser or your primary intelligence officer?

CLINTON: No. Of course not.

SANCHEZ: Was he the primary source of information that you were receiving on Libya?

CLINTON: No, absolutely not.

SANCHEZ: Can you tell us, then, who were you receiving information from and in what form? Because there’s been a particular emphasis on e-mail communication and e-mail communication only.

CLINTON: Well, as I testified earlier, I did not primarily conduct business on e-mail with officials in our government. And I think the e-mails that have been produced thus far demonstrate that as well.

As I said, I got intelligence briefings from the intelligence community. I had a very experienced group of senior diplomats who knew quite a bit about Libya. Deputy Secretary Bill Burns had been our nation’s top diplomat, who actually had negotiated with Gadhafi.

Prior to the entering in by the United States to support our European allies and Arab partners, I sent a team to meet with representatives of Gadhafi to see if there were some way that he would back down and back off of his increasingly hysterical threats against his own people.

We had people like the ambassador that I referenced earlier who had served in Libya and had the occasion to observe and to meet with Gadhafi. So we had a very large group of American diplomats, intelligence officers, and some private citizens who were experts in Libya who were available to our government. And we took advantage of every person we could with expertise to guide our decision-making.

SANCHEZ: So would it be fair to say that you received information from Ambassador Stevens?


SANCHEZ: The assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs?


SANCHEZ: The director of policy planning, Jacob Sullivan?


SANCHEZ: The National Security Council?


SANCHEZ: The intelligence community?


SANCHEZ: The Defense Department?


SANCHEZ: This weekend, one of our colleagues on this panel, Mr. Pompeo, went on Meet the Press and I wonder if we could queue up the video. He had this exchange.

Can we please play the video clip?


POMPEO: … Mr. Blumenthal. It goes directly to the security issue. We see now that former Secretary Clinton relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence. That is, she was relying…

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: That is factually not true.

POMPEO: No, it is absolutely factually correct.

MITCHELL: Relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence? You (inaudible).

POMPEO: Ms. Mitchell, take a look — take a look at the e-mail trail and you will see.

MITCHELL: That’s just — I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That clip for me just defies all logic. And I think Andrea Mitchell correctly called him out on something that was a falsehood.

Secretary Clinton, what did you think when you heard that clip?

CLINTON: Well, that it was factually untrue. And I think your questioning and what I have stated today is a much clearer and more factual description of how we gathered information to make our decisions regarding Libya.

SANCHEZ: With your answer that you believe it to be factually incorrect, I just want to add that The Washington Post fact-checker immediately awarded that claim for Pinocchios, which is the worst rating possible. And I’m going to quote the Post on what they said about that quote, “Looking at her private e-mails is just part of the picture and it ignores the fast amount of information, much of it classified, that is available to the secretary of state.”

Secretary Clinton, would you agree with that statement from The Washington Post?

CLINTON: Yes, I would.

SANCHEZ: OK. So, it seems to me, you know, there have been allegations that the work that this committee has done has been political in nature. And that much of the facts have already been decided before all of the evidence is in, including your testimony here today.

When I see clips like that, it sort of supports the theory that this panel is not really interested in investigating what happened just prior to, the evening of, and immediately in the aftermath of September 11th, 2012, but that in fact there is another motive behind that.

We have you here, and so while you are here I want to make the most of your time and allow you to sort of debunk many of the myths that have been generated over the last 17 months, most of which have no factual basis for those being said.

One is that you seemingly were disengaged the evening of September 11th, 2012. For example, Mike Huckabee accused you, as Mr. Cummings said, of ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi. And Senator Rand Paul stated that Benghazi was a three a.m. phone call that you never picked up. And Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack.

Those appear to be based on the testimony of witnesses and the documentation that we have obtained in this committee and other previous committees. They seem to run counter to the truth because the testimony we’ve received states pretty much that you were deeply engaged the night of the attack. So, can you describe for us what the initial hours of that night were like for you and how you learned about the attacks? And what your initial thoughts and actions were?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, I learned about the attacks from a State Department official rushing into my office shortly after or around 4 o’clock, to tell me that our compound in Benghazi had been attacked. We immediately summoned all of the top officials in the State Department for them to begin reaching out. The most important, quick call was to try to reach Chris himself. That was not possible. Then to have the diplomatic security people try to reach their agents. That was not possible. They were obviously defending themselves, along with the ambassador and Sean Smith.

We reached the second in command in Tripoli. He had heard shortly before we reached him, from Chris Stevens, telling him that they were under attack. We began to reach out to everyone we could possibly think who could help with this terrible incident.

CLINTON: During the course of the, you know, following hours, obviously I spoke to the White House. I spoke to CIA Director Petraeus. I spoke to the Libyan officials because I hoped that there was some way that they could gather up and deploy those who had been part of the insurgency to defend our compound.

I had conference calls with our team in Tripoli. I was on a — what’s called a SVTS, a, you know, videoconference with officials who had operational responsibilities in the Defense Department, in the CIA, at the National Security Council.

It was just a swirl and whirl of constant effort to try to figure out what we could do. And it was deeply — it was deeply distressing when we heard that the efforts by our CIA colleagues were not successful, that they had had to evacuate the security officers, our diplomatic security officers, that they had recovered Sean Smith’s body and they could not find the ambassador.

We didn’t know whether he had escaped and was still alive or not.


SANCHEZ: If I may, because my time is running short, I just want to point out that you spoke with folks on the ground, you spoke with folks in the White House, the CIA, the Libyan president of the general national congress.

Now, interestingly enough, former director of the CIA, David Petraeus, has not been before this committee and has not spoken with this committee. But he did testify before the House Intelligence Committee in 2012 and he said that you personally called him and asked him for help that night.

And I just want to end on this quote.

Quote, “When secretary Clinton called me later that afternoon to indicate that Ambassador Stevens was missing and asked for help, I directed our folks to ensure that we were doing everything possible and that is, of course, what they were doing that night.”

Is that correct?

CLINTON: That is. And also the Defense Department was doing everything it could possibly do. We had a plane bringing additional security from Tripoli to Benghazi. There was an enormous amount of activity, everyone. It was all hands on deck, everyone jumped in to try to figure out what they could do. The attack on the compound was very fast.

SANCHEZ: So would it be safe to say that you were fully engaged that evening?

CLINTON: That is certainly safe to say, Congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

And I yield back.

GOWDY: The gentlelady from California yields back.

The chair would now recognize the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

You just gave a long answer, Madam Secretary, to Ms. Sanchez about what you heard that night, what you’re doing. But nowhere in there did you mention a video. You didn’t mention a video because there was never a video-inspired protest in Benghazi. There was in Cairo but not in Benghazi.

Victoria Nuland, your spokesperson at the State Department, hours after the attacks said this, “Benghazi has been attacked by militants. In Cairo, police have removed demonstrators.”

Benghazi, you got weapons and explosions. Cairo, you got spray paint and rocks.

One hour before the attack in Benghazi, Chris Stevens walks a diplomat to the front gate. The ambassador didn’t report a demonstration. He didn’t report it because it never happened. An eyewitness in the command center that night on the ground said no protest, no demonstration; two intelligence reports that day, no protest, no demonstration.

The attack starts at 3:42 Eastern time, ends at approximately 11:40 pm that night.

At 4:06, an ops alert goes out across the State Department.

It says this, “Mission under attack, armed men, shots fired, explosions heard.”

No mention of video, no mention of a protest, no mention of a demonstration.

But the best evidence is Greg Hicks, the number two guy in Libya, the guy who worked side by side with Ambassador Stevens. He was asked, if there had been a protest, would the ambassador have reported it?

Mr. Hicks’s response, “Absolutely.”

For there to have been a demonstration on Chris Stevens’ front door and him not to have reported it is unbelievable, Mr. Hicks.

He said, secondly, if it had been reported, he would have been out the back door within minutes and there was a back gate.

Everything points to a terrorist attack. We just heard from Mr. Pompeo about the long history of terrorist incidents, terrorist violence in the country.

And yet five days later Susan Rice goes on five TV shows and she says this, “Benghazi was a spontaneous reaction as a consequence of a video,” a statement we all know is false. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what others have said.

“Rice was off the reservation,” off the reservation on five networks, White House worried about the politics. Republicans didn’t make those statements. They were made by the people who worked for you in the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, the actual experts on Libya in the State Department.

So if there’s no evidence for a video-inspired protest, then where did the false narrative start?

It started with you, Madam Secretary.

At 10:08, on the night of the attack, you released this statement, “Some have sought to justify the vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

At 10:08, with no evidence, at 10:08, before the attack is over, at 10:08, when Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are still on the roof of the annex, fighting for their lives, the official statement of the State Department blames a video.


CLINTON: During the day on September 11th, as you did mention, Congressman, there was a very large protest against our embassy in Cairo. Protesters breached the walls. They tore down the American flag. And it was of grave concern to us because the inflammatory video had been shown on Egyptian television, which has a broader reach than just inside Egypt.

And if you look at what I said, I referred to the video that night in a very specific way. I said, some have sought to justify the attack because of the video.

I used those words deliberately, not to ascribe a motive to every attacker but as a warning to those across the region that there was no justification for further attacks.

And, in fact, during the course of that week, we had many attacks that were all about the video. We had people breaching the walls of our embassies in Tunis, in Khartoum; we had people, thankfully not Americans, dying at protests. But that’s what was going on, Congressman. JORDAN: Secretary Clinton, I appreciate most of those attacks were after the attack on the facility in Benghazi. You mentioned Cairo. It was interesting what else Ms. Nuland said that day.

She said, “If pressed by the press, if there’s a connection between Cairo and Benghazi,” she said this, “there’s no connection between the two.”

So here’s what troubles me. Your experts knew the truth. Your spokesperson knew the truth. Greg Hicks knew the truth.

But what troubles me more is I think you knew the truth.

I want to show you a few things here. You’re looking at an e- mail you sent to your family.

Here’s what you said at 11:00 that night, approximately one hour after you told the American people it was a video, you say to your family, “Two officers were killed today in Benghazi by an Al Qaeda- like group.”

You tell — you tell the American people one thing, you tell your family an entirely different story.

Also on the night of the attack, you had a call with the president of Libya. Here’s what you said to him.

“Ansar al-Sharia is claiming responsibility.”

It’s interesting; Mr. Khattala, one of the guys arrested in charge actually belonged to that group.

And finally, most significantly, the next day, within 24 hours, you had a conversation with the Egyptian prime minister.

You told him this, “We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

Let me read that one more time.

“We know,” not we think, not it might be, “we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack, not a protest.”

State Department experts knew the truth. You knew the truth. But that’s not what the American people got. And again, the American people want to know why.

Why didn’t you tell the American people exactly what you told the Egyptian prime minister?

CLINTON: Well, I think if you look at the statement that I made, I clearly said that it was an attack. And I also said that there were some who tried to justify…

(CROSSTALK) JORDAN: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: … on the basis — on the basis of the video, Congressman.

And I think…

JORDAN: Real, real quick, calling it an attack is like saying the sky is blue. Of course it was an attack.


JORDAN: We want to know the truth. The statement you sent out was a statement on Benghazi and you say vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material on the Internet. If that’s not pointing as the motive of being a video, I don’t know what is. And that’s certainly what — and that’s certainly how the American people saw it.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, there was a lot of conflicting information that we were trying to make sense of. The situation was very fluid. It was fast-moving. There was also a claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Sharia. And when I talked to the Egyptian prime minister, I said that this was a claim of responsibility by Ansar al-Sharia, by a group that was affiliated — or at least wanted to be affiliated — with Al Qaida.

Sometime after that, the next — next day, early the next morning after that, on the 12th or 13th, they retracted their claim of responsibility.

JORDAN: Madam Secretary…

CLINTON: And I think if — if you look at what all of us were trying to do, and we were in a position, Congressman, of trying to make sense of a lot of incoming information…

JORDAN: Madam…

CLINTON: … and watch the way the intelligence community tried to make sense of it.

JORDAN: Madam Secretary, there was not…

CLINTON: So all I can say is nobody…

JORDAN: … conflicting — there was not conflicting information the day of the attack, because your press secretary said, “if pressed, there is no connection between Cairo and Benghazi.” It was clear. You’re the ones who muddied it up, not the — not the information.

CLINTON: Well, there’s no connection…

JORDAN: Here’s what — here’s what I think that — here’s what I think is going on. Here’s what I think’s going on.

Let me show you one more slide. Again, this is from Victoria Nuland, your press person. She says to Jake Sullivan, Philippe Reines. Subject line reads this: Romney’s Statement on Libya.

E-mail says, “This is what Ben was talking about.” I assume Ben is the now-somewhat-famous Ben Rhodes, author of the talking points memo. This e-mail’s at 10:35, 27 minutes after your 10:08 — 27 minutes after you’ve told everyone it’s a video, while Americans are still fighting because the attack’s still going on, your top people are talking politics.

It seems to me that night you had three options, Secretary. You could tell the truth, like you did with your family, like you did with the Libyan president, like you did with the Egyptian prime minister — tell them it was a terrorist attack.

You could say, “you know what, we’re not quite sure. Don’t — don’t really know for sure.” I don’t — I don’t think the evidence — I think it’s all in the person (ph) — but you could have done that.

But you picked the third option. You picked the video narrative. You picked the one with no evidence. And you did it because Libya was supposed to be — and Mr. Roskam pointed out, this great success story for the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department.

And a key campaign theme that year was GM’s alive, bin Laden’s dead, Al Qaida’s on the run. And now you have a terrorist attack, and it’s a terrorist attack in Libya, and it’s just 56 days before an election.

You can live with a protest about a video. That won’t hurt you. But a terrorist attack will. So you can’t be square with the American people. You tell your family it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. You can tell the president of Libya it’s a terrorist attack, but not the American people. And you can tell the Egyptian prime minister it’s a terrorist attack, but you can’t tell your own people the truth.

Madam Secretary, Americans can live with the fact that good people sometimes give their lives for this country. They don’t like it. They mourn for those families. They pray for those families.

But they can live with it. But what they can’t take, what they can’t live with, is when their government’s not square with them.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

GOWDY: Madam Secretary, you’re welcome to answer the question, if you would like to.

CLINTON: Well, I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book, Hard Choices. I’d be glad to send it to you, Congressman, because I think the insinuations that you are making do a grave disservice to the hard work that people in the State Department, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the White House did during the course of some very confusing and difficult days.

There is no doubt in my mind that we did the best we could with the information that we had at the time. And if you’d actually go back and read what I said that night…

JORDAN: I have.

CLINTON: … I was very — I was very careful in saying that some have sought to justify. In fact, the man that has been arrested as one of the ringleaders of what happened in Benghazi, Ahmed Abu Khattala, is reported to have said it was the video that motivated him.

None of us can speak to the individual motivations of those terrorists who overran our compound and who attacked our CIA annex. There were probably a number of different motivations.

I think the intelligence community, which took the lead on trying to sort this out, as they should have, went through a series of interpretations and analysis. And we were all guided by that.

CLINTON: We were not making up the intelligence. We were trying to get it, make sense of it, and then to share it.

When I was speaking to the Egyptian prime minister or in the other two examples you showed, we had been told by Ansar al-Sharia that they took credit for it. It wasn’t until about 24 or more hours later, that they retracted taking credit for it.

JORDAN: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: We also knew, Congressman, because my responsibility was what was happening throughout the region, I needed to be talking about the video, because I needed to put other governments and other people on notice that we were not going to let them get away with attacking us, as they did in Tunis, is they did in Khartoum.

And in Tunis there were thousands of protesters who were there only because of the video, breaching the calls of our embassy, burning down the American school. I was calling everybody in the Tunisian government I could get, and finally, President Marzouki sent his presidential guard to break it up. There were — is example after example. That’s what I was trying to do, during those very desperate and difficult hours.

JORDAN: Secretary Clinton — if I could, Mr. Chairman — Secretary Clinton, you said my insinuation. I’m not insinuating anything. I’m reading what you said. Plain language. We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. That’s as plain as it can get; that’s vastly different than vicious behavior justified by Internet material.

Why didn’t you just speak plain to the American people?

CLINTON: I did. If you look at my statement as opposed to what I was saying to the Egyptian prime minister, I did state clearly, and I said it again in more detail the next morning, as did the president.

I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, Congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were. And the facts, as the Democratic members have pointed out in their most recent collection of them, support this process that was going on, where the intelligence community was pulling together information.

And it’s very much harder to do it these days than it used to be, because you have to monitor social media, for goodness’s sakes. That’s where the Ansar al-Sharia claim was placed. The intelligence committee did the best job they could, and we all did our best job to try to figure out what was going on, and then to convey that to the American people.

GOWDY: The gentleman’s time has expired. The chair recognizes the gentleman from California, Mr. Schiff.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Madam secretary, We’re almost at the end of the first round of questions. I’ll have an opportunity, then the chairman will, before we have a break, just to let you know where we are in the scheme of things.

So, I want to take a moment to think about what we’ve covered in this round. In particular, a comment on where this began, with the chairman’s statement.

The chairman said at the outset of the hearing that the American people are entitled to the truth, the truth about what happened in Benghazi, the truth about the security there, the truth about what happened after the attack.

The implication of this, of course, is that the American premium don’t know the truth, that this is the first investigation we have ever had. The reality is, we’ve had eight investigations. We’ve gone through this endlessly.

And if we look at the documentary record, we have the ARB report. We have the report of the Armed Services Committee, led by Republican Buck McKeon, which debunked the stand down order allegation. We have the report of the committee on government reform.

We have the report of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We have the report of the house Foreign Affairs Committee. We have the GOP conference’s own report. We have the report of the Intelligence Committee on which I serve.

Now, bear in mind, these aren’t with their accompanying exhibits or the classified stuff, because it would be up through the ceiling if I included them.

This is the report of our committee. This is what $4.7 million of taxpayer money buy you. This is what 17 months of investigation have shown.

Now, the chairman said, and he’s a very good lawyer and a good former prosecutor, we have a lot of former prosecutors here on the panel. He gave you a great recitation of the number of witnesses and the number of documents. There are too many good prosecutors on this panel not to know that when a lawyer describes the metrics of the success of an investigation by the sheer number of people they’ve talked to or the volume of documents, it says nothing about the substance of what they’ve learned, that there’s a problem.

And the reality is that after 17 months, we have nothing new to tell the families. We have nothing new to tell the American people. We have discovered nothing that alters the core conclusions of the eight investigations that went on before. Now, my colleagues have been saying quite often this week, with amazing regularity, that this is a fact-centric investigation. And I agree, so I would like to talk about president facts which are centric to this investigation, because while the American people are entitled to the truth about Benghazi they’re also entitled to the truth about our committee.

Fact: what gave rise to your appearance today was many months ago, a group called the Stop Hillary PAC which aired an offensive ad during the Democratic debate showing the tombstone of Ambassador Stevens, among other things, delivered 264,000 signatures demanding you appear before us.

Fact: it was the next day the majority approached us to have you come before this committee. Fact: after The New York times issued its story in March, this committee canceled all other hearing hearings except for a hearing with a witness named Clinton.

Fact: we abandoned our plans to bring in the secretary of Defense and the head of the CIA. Fact: we haven’t had a single hearing from the Department of Defense — with the Department of Defense in 17 months.

Fact: of the 70,000 pages of documents obtained by the Select Committee, the only documents that the chairman has chose on the release publicly are your e-mails with Sidney Blumenthal.

Fact: of the 32 press releases that have been issued since March of this year, 27 of them are about you, or the State Department and five are about everything else.

Fact: as recently as last week, the chairman issued a 13-page letter which is alleges you risked it had lives of people by sending an e-mail that contained the name of a classified CIA source. Fact: CIA told us there was nothing in that e-mail that was classified, nor was the name of that person, who is well known to many.

The chairman has said that this will be the final, definitive report. One thing that I think we can tell already — there will be nothing final about this report. Wherever we finish, if ever we finish, the problem we’ve had as a committee, is we don’t know what we’re looking for.

But there won’t be a final conclusion. There won’t be anything definitive about the work of this committee, because unlike the Accountability Review Board that operated in a non-partisan way, it’s unlikely the majority here will even consult with us on what their final report looks like.

Those who want to believe the worst will believe the worst. Those that want to believe that this is a partisan exercise will believe it. As I said from the beginning of the investigation, the only way this committee will add any value to what’s gone on before is if we can find a way to work together and reach a common conclusion.

But it’s plain that’s not their object. The chairman might say, ignore the words of our Republican leadership, ignore the words of our Republican members, ignore the words of our own GOP investigator. Judge us by our actions. But it is the actions of the committee that are the most damning of all, because they have been singly focused on you.

Let me ask you briefly, because I want to expand on just the — what I think is the core theory here. I want to give you a chance to respond to it.

You know, as a prosecutor, we’re taught every case should have a core theory, and the evidence and the witnesses go back to that core theory. And I’ve wrestled as I’ve listened to my colleagues today, as I have over 17 months. What is the core theory of their case? What are they trying to convey?

And I have to say I think it’s confusing. I think the core theory is this — that you deliberately interfered with security in Benghazi and that resulted in people dying. I think that is the case they want to make, and notwithstanding how many investigations we’ve had that have found absolutely no merit to that, that is the impression they wish to give.

Well, I have to say, I’m a little confused today because my colleague pointed to an e-mail suggesting that you weren’t aware we had a presence in Benghazi, so if you weren’t aware we had a presence I don’t know how you could have interfered with the security there.

But nonetheless, I do think that’s what they’re aiming at. I know the ambassador was someone you helped pick. I know the ambassador was a friend of yours, and I wonder if you would like to comment on what it’s like to be the subject of an allegation that you deliberately interfered with security that cost the life of a friend.

CLINTON: Well, Congressman, it’s a very personally painful accusation. It has been rejected and disproven by non-partisan, dispassionate investigators. But nevertheless, having it continued to be bandied around is deeply distressing to me.

You know, I’ve — I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.

And so, when I took responsibility, I took it as a challenge and an obligation to make sure, before I left the State Department, that what we could learn — as I’m sure my predecessors did after Beirut and after Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and after all the other attacks on our facilities, I’m sure all of them — Republican and Democrat alike — especially where there was loss of American life — said, “OK, what must we do better?

“How do we protect the men and women that we send without weapons, without support from the military, into some of the most dangerous places in the world?”

And so I will continue to speak out and do everything I can from whatever position I’m in to honor the memory of those we lost and to work as hard as I know to try to create more understanding and cooperation between the State Department, our diplomats, our development professionals from USAID and the Congress so that the Congress is a partner with us, as was the case in previous times.

I would like us to get back to those times, Congressman. Whereas I think one of you said, Beirut, we lost far more Americans, not once but twice within a year. There was no partisan effort. People rose above politics.

A Democratic Congress worked with a Republican administration to say, “what do we need to learn?” Out of that came the legislation for the Accountability Review Board.

Similarly, after we lost more Americans in the bombings in east Africa, again, Republicans and Democrats worked together, said, “what do we need to do better?”

So I’m — I’m an optimist, Congressman. I’m hoping that that will be the outcome of this and every other effort, so that we really do honor not only those we lost, but all those who, right as we speak, are serving in dangerous places, representing the values and the interests of the American people.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Madam Secretary.

GOWDY: The gentleman from California yields back. I’m going to address a couple things that he said and then recognize myself. Because he invoked the family members of the four (ph), Madam Secretary, and partially this will be for your benefit also. But I want to specifically address the family members that are here.

There is no theory of the prosecution, Mr. Schiff, because there is no prosecution. There’s a very big difference between a prosecution, where you already have reached a conclusion and you’re just trying to prove it to people.

This is an investigation, which is why it’s so sad that nowhere in that stack that you just put up there were the e-mails of Secretary Clinton, the e-mails of the ambassador, 50,000 — 50,000 pages worth of documents, eyewitnesses.

That’s the real tragedy. To the family and the friends. When you’re told that there have been seven previous investigations and an ARB, you should immediately ask, “why did you miss so many witnesses? Why did you miss so many documents?”

This is not a prosecution, Mr. Schiff. You and I are both familiar with them. I’ve reached no conclusions, and I would advise you to not reach any conclusions, either, until we reach the end.

There are 20 more witnesses, so I’ll agree not to reach any conclusions if you’ll do the same.

With that, Madam Secretary, regardless of where he ranked in the order of advisers, it is undisputed that a significant number of your e-mails were to or from a Sidney Blumenthal.

Now, he did not work for the State Department. He didn’t work for the U.S. government at all. He wanted to work for the State Department, but the White House said no to him.

Do you recall who specifically at the White House rejected Sidney Blumenthal?

CLINTON: No, I do not.

GOWDY: After he was turned down for a job at the State Department by the White House, he went to work where?

CLINTON: I think he had a number of consulting contracts with different entities.

GOWDY: Well, if he had a number of them, do you recall any of them?

CLINTON: I know that he did some work for my husband.

GOWDY: Well, he worked for the Clinton Foundation.

CLINTON: That’s — that’s correct.

GOWDY: OK. He worked for Media Matters.

CLINTON: I — I’m sure he did.

GOWDY: He worked for Correct the Record.

CLINTON: I’m sure he did.

GOWDY: When you were asked about Sidney Blumenthal you said he was an old friend who sent you unsolicited e-mails, which you passed in some instances because you wanted to hear from people outside what you called the bubble.

We will ignore for a second whether or not Sidney Blumenthal is outside the bubble, but I do want to ask you about a couple of those other comments, because what you left out was that he was an old friend who knew absolutely nothing about Libya, was critical of President Obama and others that you work with, loved to send you political and image advice, had business interests in Libya, which he not only alerted you to, but solicited your help for.

And you often forwarded his e-mails, but usually only after you redacted out any identifier, so nobody knew where the information was coming from.

What does the word unsolicited mean to you?

CLINTON: It means that I did not ask him to send me the information that he sent me, and as I have previously stated, some of it I found interesting, some of it I do not. Some of it I forwarded, some of it I do not.

I did not know anything about any business interest. I thought that, just as I said previously, newspaper articles, journalists, of which he is one — a former journalist — had some interesting insights. And so, you know, we took them on board and evaluated them, and some were helpful and others were not.

GOWDY: We’re going to get to all the points you just made, but I want to start with your — your public comment that these e-mails were unsolicited.

You wrote to him, Another keeper, thanks and please keep them coming. Greetings from Kabul and thanks for keeping this stuff coming. Any other info about it? What are you hearing now? Got it, we’ll follow up tomorrow. Anything else to convey?

Now, that one is interesting because that was the very e-mail where Mr. Blumenthal was asking you to intervene on behalf of a business deal that he was pursuing in Libya.

What did you mean by What are you hearing now?

CLINTON: I have no idea, Congressman.

They started out unsolicited and, as I said, some were of interest. I passed them on, and some were not. And so he continued to provide me information that was made available to him.

GOWDY: I — I don’t want to parse words and — and I don’t want to be hypertechnical, because it’s not a huge point, but it is an important point. You didn’t say they started off unsolicited. You said they were — you said they were unsolicited.

CLINTON: Well, they were unsolicited. But obviously, I did respond to some of them.

GOWDY: Well, anything else…

CLINTON: … And I’m sure that encouraged him.

GOWDY: … Anything else to convey? What are you hearing now? I’m going to Paris tomorrow night, will meet with TNC (ph) leaders, so this and additional info useful. Still don’t have electricity or BlackBerry coverage post-Iran, so I’ve had to resort to my new iPad. Let me know if you received this.

We’ll talk about the new iPad in a little bit. Here’s another one.

This report is in part a response to your questions. That’s an e-mail from him to you. This is — this report is, in part, a response to your questions. There will be further information in the next day.

If you’re the one asking him for information, how does that square with the definition of unsolicited? CLINTON: I said it began that way, Mr. Chairman, and I will add that both Chris Stevens and Gene Cretz (ph) found some of the information interesting — far more than I could, because they knew some of the characters who were being mentioned, and they were the ones — the kind of persons with the expertise — that I asked to evaluate to see whether there was any useful information.

GOWDY: We’re gonna get to that in a second, now. Before you give Mr. Blumenthal too much credit, you agree he didn’t write a single one of those cables or memos he sent you.

CLINTON: I’m sorry, what?

GOWDY: He didn’t write a single one of those cables or memos.

CLINTON: I — I don’t know who wrote them. He’s the one who sent them to me.

GOWDY: Would you be surprised to know not a single one of those was from him?

CLINTON: I don’t know where he got the information that he was sending to me.

GOWDY: Did you ask? Did you — did you ask?

You’re sending me very specific detailed intelligence, what is your source? That seems like a pretty good question.

CLINTON: Well, I — I did learn later that he was talking to or sharing information from former American Intelligence Official.

GOWDY: By the name of? Who wrote those cables?

CLINTON: I don’t recall — I don’t know, Mr. chairman.

GOWDY: You had this information passed on to others, but, at least on one occasion, you as a Ms. Abenine (ph) can you print without any identifiers?

Why would you want his name removed?

CLINTON: Because I thought that it would be more important to just look at the substance, and to make a determination as to whether or not there was anything to it.

GOWDY: Well, don’t people have a right to know the source of the information so they can determine credibility?

CLINTON: But he wasn’t, as you just said, the source of the information…

GOWDY: But you didn’t know that, Madam Secretary. And that’s what you just said.

CLINTON: No, no, Mr. chairman, I said that I knew — I knew that he didn’t have the sources to provide that information. I knew he was getting it from somewhere else, whether they — he knew a lot of journalists…

GOWDY: Did — did you ask where?

CLINTON: … He knew others in Washington. It could have been a variety of people.

GOWDY: If you’re gonna — if you’re going to determine credibility, don’t you want to know the source?

CLINTON: Well, it wasn’t credibility so much as trying to follow the threads that were mentioned about individuals. And, as I already stated, some of it was useful and some of it was not.

GOWDY: Well, did the president know that Mr. Blumenthal was advising you?

CLINTON: He wasn’t advising me. And, you know, Mr. chairman…

GOWDY: Did he know that he was your most prolific e-mailer that we have found on the subjects of Libya and Benghazi?

CLINTON: That’s because I didn’t do most of my work about Libya…

GOWDY: That’s fair.

CLINTON: … On e-mail.

GOWDY: I’m not challenging that, Madam Secretary. I am not challenging that.

All I’m telling you is that documents show he was your most prolific e-mailer on Libya and Benghazi. And my question to you is, did the president — the same White House that said you can’t handle him, and can’t hire him — did he know that he was advising you?

CLINTON: He was not advising me, and I have no reason to have ever mentioned that or know that the president knew that.

GOWDY: All right. I want to draw your attention to an e-mail about Libya from Mr. Blumenthal to you dated April 2011. It will be Exhibit 67.

And this is — this is informative. “Should we pass this on,” and in parentheticals, “unidentified to the White House?”

If you were gonna pass something on to the White House, why would you take off the identifiers?

CLINTON: Because it was important to evaluate the information, and from a lot of intelligence that I have certainly reviewed over the years, you often don’t have the source of the intelligence. You look at the intelligence, and you try to determine whether or not it is credible. Whether it can be followed up on. GOWDY: Well, I’m gonna accept the fact that you and I come from different backgrounds, because I can tell you that an unsourced comment could never be uttered in any courtroom. You have to have the…

CLINTON: But we’re not talking about courtrooms, Mr. chairman. We’re talking about intelligence.

GOWDY: No, we’re talking about credibility and the ability to assess who a source is, and whether or not that source has ever been to Libya, knows anything about Libya, or has business interests in Libya — all of which would be important if you were going to determine the credibility, which I think is why you probably took his information off of what you sent to the White House.

But here’s another possible explanation. It may give us a sense of why, maybe the White House didn’t want you to hire him in the first place.

In one e-mail he wrote this about the president’s Secretary of Defense: “I infer gate (ph) problem as losing an internal debate. Tyler…” And by the way, Tyler Drumheller (ph), that’s who actually authored the cables that you got from Mr. Blumenthal.

“… Tyler knows him well and says he’s a mean, vicious, little…” I’m not gonna say the word, but he did.

This is an e-mail from Blumenthal to you about the president’ Security of Defense.

And here’s another Blumenthal e-mail to you about the president’s national security adviser. “Frankly, Tom Donelan’s (ph) babbling rhetoric about narratives on a phone briefing of reporters on March the 10th has inspired derision among foreign — serious foreign policy analysts both here and abroad.”

And here’s another from, what you say is your old friend Sidney Blumenthal. This is a quote from him. “I would say Obama…” — and by the way, he left the president part out. “I would say Obama appears to be intent on seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. He and his political cronies in the White House and Chicago are, to say the least, unenthusiastic about regime change in Libya. Obama’s lukewarm and self-contradicting statements have produced what is, at least for the moment, operational paralysis.”

GOWDY: I think, that may give us a better understanding of why the White House may have told you, you cannot hire him.

Blumenthal could not get hired by our government, didn’t pass any background check at all, had no role with our government, had never been to Libya, had no expertise in Libya, was critical of the president and others that you worked with, shared polling data with you on the intervention in Libya, gave you political advice on how to take credit for Libya, all the while working for The Clinton Foundation and some pseudo news entities.

And Madam Secretary, he had unfettered access to you. And he used that access, at least on one occasion, to ask you to intervene on behalf of a business venture.

Do you recall that?

CLINTON: You know, Mr. Chairman, if you don’t have any friends who say unkind things privately I congratulate you. But from my perspective…


GOWDY: I’d like to think I’d correct them.

CLINTON: … I don’t know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of the deaths of four Americans.


GOWDY: I’ll be happy to help you understand that, madam secretary.

CLINTON: But I want to reiterate what I said to Congresswoman Sanchez. These were originally unsolicited. You’ve just said that perhaps the main, if not the exclusive author, was a former intelligence agent for our country, who rose to the highest levels of the CIA and who was given credit for being one of the very few who pointed out that the intelligence used by the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq was wrong.

So I think that, you know, the sharing of information from an old friend that I did not take at face value, that I sent on to those who were experts, is something that, you know, makes sense.

But it was certainly not in any way the primary source of or the predominant understanding that we had of what was going on in Libya and what we needed to be doing.

GOWDY: Well, Madam Secretary, I’m out of time and we’ll pick this back up the next round but I’ll go ahead and let you know ahead of time why it’s relevant.

It’s relevant because our ambassador was asked to read and respond to Sidney Blumenthal’s drivel. It was sent to him to read and react to, in some instances on the very same day he was asking for security. So I think it is eminently fair to ask why Sidney Blumenthal had unfettered access to you, Madam Secretary, with whatever he wanted to talk about.

And there’s not a single solitary e-mail to or from you to or from Ambassador Stevens. I think that that is fair and we’ll take that up.

CUMMINGS: Will the gentleman yield?

Will the gentleman yield?

GOWDY: Sure.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, you’ve made several inaccurate statements over the past month as you have tried to defend against multiple Republican admissions that the Select Committee has been wasting millions of tax dollars to damage Secretary Clinton’s bid for president.

On Sunday, you made another inaccurate statement during your appearance on “Face the Nation” and it’s being taken up here. And this is the relevance.

Here’s what you said, and I quote, “There are other folks who may have equities in her e-mails and there may be other entities who are evaluating her e-mails. But my interest — my interest in them is solely making sure that I get everything I’m entitled to so that I can do my job. The rest of it, classification, The Clinton Foundation, you name it, I have zero interest in it, which is why you haven’t seen me send a subpoena related to it or interview a single person, other than Brian Fabiano (ph), because I need to know that the record is complete. And I’m going back to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”


GOWDY: I’m waiting…

CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, let me finish.

GOWDY: I’ve been very patient.

CUMMINGS: I’m coming, just wait.

GOWDY: I’m waiting on the inaccurate statement.

CUMMINGS: I’m getting there.

Mr. Chairman…

GOWDY: Well, we got to take a break.

CUMMINGS: Well, it’s not going to take a long. You took up four minutes over so let me have three.

GOWDY: I’ve let everybody go over, including you, Mr. Congressman.

CUMMINGS: Thank you very much.

You issued a subpoena to Sidney Blumenthal on May 19th, 2015, compelling him to appear for a deposition on June 16, 2015. You issued this subpoena unilaterally without giving the Select Committee members the opportunity to debate or vote on it.

You sent two armed marshals to serve the subpoena on Mr. Blumenthal’s wife at their home without having ever sent him a request to participate voluntarily, which he would have done.

Then, Mr. Chairman, you personally attended Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition; you person personally asked him about The Clinton Foundation and you personally directed your staff to ask questions about The Clinton Foundation, which they did more than 50 times.

Now these facts directly contradict the statements you made on national television.


GOWDY: No, that’s — no, sir, with all due respect, they do not. We’re — we just heard e-mail after e-mail after e-mail about Libya and Benghazi that Sidney Blumenthal sent to the secretary of state. I don’t care if he sent it by Morse code, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, the fact that he happened to send it by e-mail is irrelevant.

What is relevant is that he was sending information to the secretary of state. That is what’s relevant. Now, with respect to the subpoena, if he’d bothered to answer the telephone calls of our committee, he wouldn’t have needed a subpoena.

CUMMINGS: Will the gentleman yield?

GOWDY: I’ll be happy to but you need to make sure the entire record is correct.

CUMMINGS: Yes. And that’s exactly what I want to do.

GOWDY: Well, then, go ahead.

CUMMINGS: I’m about to tell you.

I move that we put into the record the entire transcript of Sidney Blumenthal. We’re going to release the e-mails; let’s do the transcript. That way the world can see it.

(UNKNOWN): I second that motion.

GOWDY: Well, we didn’t — we didn’t…

CUMMINGS: That motion has been seconded.

GOWDY: Well, we’re not going to take that up at a hearing. We’ll take that up…


CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, I have consulted with the parliamentarian and they have informed us that we have a right to record a vote on that — on that motion. We want — you know, you can ask for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Well, that’s what we want to have. You can put that — let the world see it.

GOWDY: Why is it that you only want Mr. Blumenthal’s transcript released?

Why don’t you…

CUMMINGS: I’d like to have all of them released.

GOWDY: The survivors?

Even their names?

You want that?

CUMMINGS: No, you…

GOWDY: You want that released?

CUMMINGS: Well, let me tell you something, right now…

GOWDY: The only one you’ve asked for is Sidney Blumenthal.

That’s the only one you’ve asked for, that and Ms. Mills.

(UNKNOWN): Cheryl Mills, Cheryl Mills.

CUMMINGS: That’s not true.

GOWDY: That’s two out of 54.

(UNKNOWN): The chairman asked for a recorded vote?

GOWDY: You want to ask for some facts…

CUMMINGS: I ask for a recorded vote on the — on the Blumenthal — you said from the beginning we want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Why don’t we just put the entire transcript out there and let the world see it?

What do you have to hide?

SCHIFF (?): These are the only e-mails that you have released and in fairness to Mr. Blumenthal and to the American people, in the interest of a complete record, if you’re going to release his e-mails, release his transcript, where he has a chance to give the context of those e-mails.

GOWDY: Well, you keep referring to Blumenthal e-mails. I would hasten to remind both of you the only reason we have Blumenthal e- mails is because he e-mailed the secretary of state. Those are her e- mails. That’s why they were released. They’re not Blumenthal’s e- mails. And she wanted all of her e-mails released. She’s been saying since March I want the entire world to see my e-mails.

Well, Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails are part of that.

So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll be happy to talk to the parliamentarian because the parliamentarian told me that your motion actually would not be in order for a hearing. But at the latest we’ll take a vote and the first we are back after this week we’ll have a business meeting, we can take up Mr. Blumenthal’s transcript. We can take up what ever other transcripts you want.

And while we’re there, we can also take up the 20-some odd outstanding discovery requests that we have to different executive branch entities.

Why don’t we just take all of it up then?

SCHIFF: Mr. Chairman, the allegations that have been made against him are refuted by his own testimony, in the interest of not having…

GOWDY: That’s your opinion, Adam.

SCHIFF: Well, if you disagree, then release the transcripts.


GOWDY: What allegation, Adam?

SCHIFF: Why conceal the transcripts?

Even if the motion were not in order, you have to power to release them.

GOWDY: I’ll tell you why, because I’m not going to release one transcript of someone who knows nothing about Libya by his own admission while people who risk their lives — you have no interest in their story getting out. You don’t want the — you don’t want the 18 D.S. agents, you don’t want the CIA agents.

The only transcripts you want released are Ms. Mills and Sidney Blumenthal’s. So we’ll take all of this up… SCHIFF: And the only person you are interested in asking about during her entire questioning was Sidney Blumenthal. If you’re so interested in him, release the transcript. You selectively released his e-mails, they’re the only witness you’ve done that for. So you’re asking why are we only ask asking for his transcript?

GOWDY: I’m going to ask the gentleman from California to please do a better job of characterizing. These are not Sidney Blumenthal’s e-mails. These are Secretary Clinton’s e-mails. And I’ll tell you what, if you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait until the next round.

With that, we’re adjourned.

The second session:

GOWDY: The hearing will come back to order.

Madam Secretary, with your indulgence, we will take up one little house keeping matter.

The question is on the motion of the gentleman to include the document in the record. The Chair opposes the motion.

Those in favor of the motion may signify by — so by saying aye.

Those opposed by no.

CUMMINGS(?): Roll call, Mr. Chairman.

CLERK: Mr. Chairman, I ask for a recorded vote.

GOWDY: A recorded vote has been — has been requested.

Chairman’s says — the Chairman’s vote — what?


GOWDY: Yeah, I’m sorry. Secretary, call the roll.

CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland?


CLERK: Mr. Westmoreland votes no.

Mr. Jordan?


UNKNOWN: Mr. Who? I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear.

CLERK: Sorry, Mr. Jordan.


CLERK: Mr. Jordan votes no. Mr. Roskam?.


CLERK: Mr. Roskam votes no.

Mr. Pompeo?


CLERK: My. Pompeo votes no.

Mrs. Roby?


CLERK: Mrs. Roby votes no.

Mrs. Brooks?


CLERK: Mrs. Brooks votes no.

Mr. Cummings?


CLERK: Mr. Cummings votes yes.

Mr. Smith?


CLERK: Mr. Smith votes aye.

Mr. Schiff?


CLERK: Mr. Schiff votes aye.

Ms. Sanchez?


CLERK: Ms. Sanchez votes aye.

Ms. Duckworth?


CLERK: Ms. Duckworth votes aye.

GOWDY: The clerk will report.

CLERK: And Mr. Gowdy.


CLERK: Mr. Gowdy votes no. Yeas five, no’s eight.

GOWDY: And the motion is not agreed to. Madame Secretary…

CLERK: My apologies, sir. It was seven.

GOWDY: Motion’s still not agreed to. Even South Carolina math can figure that out.

Madame Secretary, before we broke, there was a question asked that I thought was a fair question, which is why was I talking about Mr. Blumenthal’s e-mails.

I do think that’s a fair question. I think it’s an equally it fair question to ask why you were reading Mr. Blumenthal’s e-mails? I think both are fair. So, I want to go to June of 2012, which is an interesting time period to look at. It’s started. Charlene Lamb was an employee of the State Department and she sent an e-mail, which you may be familiar with, tab 56, I’m not going to read it, but it’s the tab 56, where she described Benghazi as a soft target, attacks on Americans not staffed adequately. It’s a very haunting e-mail to read.

It was actually three months to the day when our four fellow citizens were killed. And that is on June the 7th, 2012. Also on June the 7th 2012, your deputy chief of staff, Mr. Jake Sullivan is e- mailing Ambassador Stevens, asking the ambassador to look at a memo Sidney Blumenthal sent you. And in fact, Mr. Sullivan writes for Ambassador Chris, checking in with you on this report, “any reactions?”

All right, that is on exactly the same day that I believe our ambassador papers were accepted in Libya. It’s the day after an IED attack on our compound and Chris Stevens is being asked to read and react to an e-mail by Sidney Blumenthal from your deputy chief of staff.

Now, this is what he’s writing on the 7th, this is after he’s been turned down on a request for more security. This is our ambassador, “Appreciate you giving this proposal, even if the conclusion was not the favorable for us. We’d be interested in pursuing the other avenue you suggest, high threat trained agents. Best, Chris.”

So, I have this contrast in my mind. A ambassador newly in place. It’s a day after an attack on our facility. Your deputy chief of staff is sending him an e-mail from Sidney Blumenthal, asking him to take time to read and react to it. And then to the best of my recollection, that’s forwarded to you.

So help us understand how Sidney Blumenthal had that kind of access to you, Madame Secretary, but ambassador did not.

CLINTON: Mr. Chairman, because I think that your question does help to clarify matters.

Chris Stevens e-mailed regularly with Jake Sullivan one of my closest aides in the State Department. He could have e-mailed to Mr. Sullivan knowing that it would have been immediately responded to on any issue that was of concern to him, and he did not raise issues about security on that day or other days.

And I think it’s important to recognize that when an ambassador is at post overseas, especially as experienced a diplomat as Chris Stevens, he knows where to pull the levers, where to go for information, where to register concerns.

And I think he did exactly as one might have expected. He dealt with security issues through dealing with the security professionals who were the ones making the assessments. And I think that Ambassador Stevens understood completely that that is where the experts were, and that is where anything he requested or anything he was questioning should be directed.

GOWDY: Speaking of experts, who is Victoria Nuland?

CLINTON: A very experience diplomat. She served as our Ambassador to NATO, appointed by President George W. Bush. She served as one of the advisers as a Foreign Service Officer delegated to the White House for Vice President Cheney. She served as the spokesperson for the State Department during my tenure, and she is currently the Assistant Secretary for Europe under Secretary Kerry.

GOWDY: She wrote this to the Ambassador on June 13, 2012, that is a week after the facility was attacked. It is only a handful of days after he was turned down on a request — specific request for more security.

“Chris, I know you have your hands full, but we’d like your advice about public massaging on the state of violence in Libya over the past 10 days.”

So she’s asking him for help with public massaging. Jake Sullivan (ph), which is the other half of the question that I don’t think we got to. I — I understand that Chris Stevens was a rule follower. I understand that. I’ve got no qualms. My question was, actually, not why Chris Stevens didn’t contact you, but why did Jake Sullivan (ph) send Chris Stevens a Sidney Blumenthal e-mail to read and react to? On a day after the facility was attacked, the same day he was denied a request for more security. And instead of e-mail traffic back and forth about security, it’s read and react to a Blumenthal e-mail.

CLINTON: Well, I think any ambassador, if one were sitting before the committee, would say that they handled a lot of incoming information and requests.

Some of it was about what was happening in-country, some of about it was about what was happening back in the United States. And Chris felt strongly that the United States needed to remain in and committed to Libya.

So he was concerned that there might be a — a feeling on the part of some, either in the State Department or elsewhere in the Government, that we shouldn’t be in Libya. And he was adamantly in favor of us staying in Libya.

So part of what the discussion with him and — and Jake Sullivan (ph) and others was, you know, how do we best convey what the stakes the United States has in staying involved in Libya would be? And I thought that was, you know, very much in keeping with both his assessment and his experience.

GOWDY: Well, I appreciate your perspective, Madame Secretary.

Let me share with you my perspective. And if you need to take time to read a note, I’m happy to pause.

CLINTON: No, I’m just being reminded, which I think is important that remember, Chris spent the vast majority of his time in Tripoli, not in Benghazi. So a lot of what he was looking at is how you deal with not only those in authority positions in Libya, who were based in Tripoli at that time, but also representatives of other governments and the like.

And I think it is fair to say that anytime you’re trying to figure out what’s the best argument to make, especially if you’re someone like Chris Stevens trying to put together and make the best argument about why the United States should remain committed to Libya and others, as well, he’s going to engage in conversations about that.

GOWDY: Well, with respect, Madame Secretary, no matter what city he was in in Libya, having to stop and provide public massaging advice to your press shop, and having to read and respond to an e-mail sent by Sidney Blumenthal, it doesn’t matter what town you’re in. He needed security help.

He didn’t need help messaging the violence. He needed help actually with the violence. You…

CLINTON: No… GOWDY: … Have said several times this morning that you had people and processes in place. And I want to ask you about an e-mail that was sent to you by another one of your aids, Ms. Huma Abedin (ph). That would be Exhibit number 70 (ph) in your folder.

She e-mailed you that the Libyan people needed medicine, gasoline, diesel and milk. Do you know how long it took you to respond to that e-mail?

CLINTON: Well, I responded to it very quickly.

GOWDY: Yeah. 4 minutes.

My question, and I think it’s a fair one, is the Libyan people had their needs responded to directly by you in 4 minutes. And there is no record of our security folks ever even making it to your inbox.

So if you had people and processes in place for security, did you not also have people and processes in place for medicine, gasoline, diesel, milk?

CLINTON: You know, Mr. chairman, I’ve said it before, I will say it again, I’ll say it as many times as is necessary to respond.

Chris Stevens communicated regularly with the members of my staff. He did not raise security with the members of my staff. I communicated with him about certain issues. He did not raise security with me. He raised security with the security professionals.

Now, I know that’s not the answer you want to hear because it’s being asked in many different ways by committee members. But those are the facts, Mr. Chairman. Ambassadors in the field are engaged in many different tasks. They are basically our chief representative of the president of the United States, so they deal with everything from, you know, foreign aid to security to dealing with the personal requests for visas that come from people in the country they are assigned to.

And Chris Stevens had regular contact with members of my staff and he did not raise security issues. Now, some of it may have been because despite what was implied earlier, there was a good back and forth about security. And many of the requests that came from Embassy Tripoli, both for Tripoli and for Benghazi, were acted on affirmatively. Others were not.

That is what an ambassador, especially in a diplomat as experienced as Chris Stevens, would expect, that it would be unlikely to be able to get every one of your requests immediately answered positively.

So, yes, he had regular contact with my aides. He did not raise security with me. And the security questions and requests were handled by the security professionals.

GOWDY: Madam Secretary, with all due respect, those are two separate issues. Who Chris Stevens had access to is one issue. Who had access to you and for what is another issue, because you have said you had people and processes in place.

You also have people and processes in place for people who want to send you meaningless political advice. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to inquire about milk and diesel fuel and gasoline. You also have people and processes in place for people who want to provide insults towards folks you work with in the administration.

All of that made it directly into your in-box, Madam Secretary. That is my question. My question is: How did you decide when to invoke a people and process and who just got to come straight to you? Because it looked like certain things got straight to your in box, and the request for more security did not.

And while you’re answering that, I want to inform and instruct why I’m asking it. You have mentioned the ARB on a number of occasions again today. This was not the first ARB. We had one after Kenya and Tanzania. And that ARB could not have been more specific. The secretary of state should personally review the security situation of our embassy facilities.

That ARB put the responsibility squarely on you. So with respect to that previous ARB recommendation, and in contrast, what did make your in box versus what did not, did you personally review our security situation as the previous ARB required?

CLINTON: Well, let me see if I can answer the many parts of your — of your question, Mr. Chairman.

Yes, personal e-mail came to my personal account. Work-related e-mail did as well. And I also relied on a number of my aides and staff members, as well as experienced Foreign Service officers and civil servants who were similarly engaged in gathering information and sharing it.

And as I said and I will repeat, Chris Stevens communicated with a number of people that I worked with on a daily basis in the State Department. So far as I know, he did not raise any issue of security with any of those people. He raised it where he knew it would be properly addressed. If he had raised it with me, I would be here telling you he had. He did not.

And so I think it’s important to try to separate out the various elements of your question, Mr. Chairman, and I will do my best to continue to try to answer your questions. But I have said before and I will repeat again, Sid Blumenthal was not my adviser official or unofficial about Libya. He was not involved in any of the meetings, conversations, other efforts to obtain information in order to act on it.

On occasion, I did forward what he sent me to make sure that it was in the mix. So if it was useful, it could be put to use. And I believe in response to the e-mail you pointed our originally from Ambassador Stevens, he actually said it rang true and it was worth looking into.

So I think it’s important that we separate out the fact that Mr. Blumenthal was not my adviser. He was not an official of the United States government. He was not passing on official information. He, like a number of my friends who would hand me a newspaper article, would buttonhole me at a reception and say “what about this” or “what about that” — were trying to be helpful. Some of it was. A lot of it wasn’t.

GOWDY: The chair will not recognize the gentlelady from California, Ms. Sanchez. SANCHEZ: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton, I listened very carefully when Chairman Gowdy was questioning you in the first round of questioning. I have to say I was kind of surprised. We waited more than a year to finally get you up here to testify. We spent almost $5 million and we interviewed about 54 witnesses.

And when the chairman finally got his chance to question you, he asked you — he quibbled, actually — over the definition of the word “unsolicited.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, then he doubled-down on this idea that Sidney Blumenthal was your primary adviser on Libya, a claim that we heard The Washington Post awarded four Pinocchios.

He said on Sunday on national television that he had zero interest in the Clinton Foundation and other topics, but then he just spent his full time, the full questioning time in the first round asking you about the Clinton Foundation, media matters, and other topics that don’t really have anything to do with the attack that occurred in Benghazi. And my own sense of incredulity was really, really — is this why we’ve asked you to come to testify about that?

The overwhelming sense that I get from the Republican side of the aisle is they seem to be arguing somehow that Sidney Blumenthal had access to you, while Ambassador Stevens did not. Do you — do you think that that’s an accurate statement?

CLINTON: Of course not, Congresswoman. You know, you didn’t need my e-mail address to get my attention. In fact, most of the work I did, as I said this morning, had nothing to do with my e-mails. It had to do with the kind of meetings and materials that were provided to me through those who were responsible for making decisions on a whole range of issues.

And as I just told the chairman, if Ambassador Stevens had grave concerns that he wanted raised with me, he certainly knew how to do that.

SANCHEZ: He could speak to your office or your staff?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Or you directly on the telephone?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Did he ever ask you for your personal e-mail address and you turned him down (inaudible)?

CLINTON: No, he did not.

SANCHEZ: The other thing that I’m hearing from the other side of the aisle is they’re arguing that there was this, you know, security was, you know, it was sort of decomposing in eastern Libya. And that no security improvements were ever made to the Benghazi outpost. That’s not a true statement, is it? CLINTON: No, it is not.

SANCHEZ: In fact, there were many security enhancements that were asked for that were actually made, although there were others that were — other requests that were made that were not fulfilled. Is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

SANCHEZ: OK. The other line of questioning that sort of surprises me is that over the course of this investigation, Republicans have repeatedly asked why the U.S. was still in Benghazi on the night of the attacks. During the select committee’s first hearing, which was more than a year ago, the chairman posed the following question: “We know the risk of being in Benghazi. Can you tell us what our policy was in Libya that overcame those risks? In other words, why were we there?”

And the Accountability Review Board had already answered that question. It explained that Benghazi was the largest city and historical power center in eastern Libya. It further went on to say although the rebel-led Transitional National Council declared that Tripoli would continue to be the capital of post-Gadhafi Libya, many of the influential players in the TNC remained based in Benghazi.

And the ARB went on to explain that Ambassador Stevens advocated for a U.S. presence in Benghazi and his status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy and his expertise on Benghazi in particular caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.

Secretary Clinton, do you agree? Was Ambassador Stevens a leading expert on Libya policy? And did you also give his opinions a lot of weight and respect?

CLINTON: Yes, I did, Congresswoman.

SANCHEZ: Do you recall Ambassador Stevens advocating from the ground up for continued U.S. presence specifically in Benghazi?

CLINTON: Yes, he did.

SANCHEZ: In fact, Ambassador Stevens’s e-mails, many of which this committee has had for more than a year, confirm what you’ve just stated.

Mr. Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent to enter this document into the record, and it’s being passed out to the members of the committee.

GOWDY: Without objection.

SANCHEZ: Secretary Clinton, I understand this e-mail is not one that you have seen before as it was not addressed or sent to you, is that correct?

CLINTON: That’s correct.

SANCHEZ: In the e-mail before you, then-Special Envoy Stevens wrote this proposal for continued presence in Benghazi at Embassy Tripoli — as Embassy Tripoli was reopened following the fall of Gadhafi. He suggested two potential models. Option A was a slimmed- down compound and Option B was a virtual presence with zero full-time State Department staff in Benghazi.

Special Envoy Stevens sent this e-mail to Gene Cretz, then the ambassador to Libya, his deputy chief of mission and the director of the Office of Mahgreb Affairs. At the time, these career diplomats had a combined 83 years of foreign service experience. Would the recommendation of this team be given a fair amount of weight within the Department?

CLINTON: Yes, it would.

SANCHEZ: And is that the way that it should work that the views of experienced diplomats should count in decision making?

CLINTON: They certainly did to me, and I think that should be the practice.

SANCHEZ: In the same e-mail, Special Envoy Stevens states, quote, “my personal recommendation would be Option A,” which was the option for a slimmed-down compound. He then notes a few of his key rationales for wanting to stay. In an earlier September 6th, 2011 e- mail advocating for a continued Benghazi presence, Special Envoy Stevens provided more reasons including the opportunity to, quote, “monitor political trends and public sentiment regarding the new Libya. The revolution began in eastern Libya and the view of these 2 million inhabitants will certainly influence events going forward.”

Secretary Clinton, do you agree with Ambassador Stevens’ view that there were important reasons to have a presence in Benghazi despite the risks?

CLINTON: Yes, I do.

SANCHEZ: Other documents show that Ambassador Stevens continued to advocate for a continued U.S. presence once he became ambassador to Libya. In fact, at the end of August, just two week before the attacks, he was working on a proposal for a permanent presence. As that proposal explained, quote, “a permanent branch office in Benghazi to provide a permanent platform to protect U.S. national security interests in the region and to promote a stronger healthier and more vibrant bilateral relationship with the new, free and democratic Libya.”

While Ambassador Stevens took seriously the significant security incidents in Benghazi that occurred in June, he never decided that the risk outweighed the benefit and he never recommended closing the post in Benghazi. He worked with his counterparts to try to manage that risk as best they could.

In its report, the Benghazi Accountability Review Board found, quote, “the total elimination of risk is a non starter for U.S. diplomacy given the need for the U.S. government to be present in places where stability and security are often most profoundly lacking and host government support is sometimes minimal to nonexistent.”

Secretary Clinton, this is such a difficult issue, the balancing of interests. From your perspective as a former senator and secretary of State, how do you best ensure that we are striking the right balance going forward?

CLINTON: Well, Congresswoman, thank you for that question because I do think that’s what we should be talking about, and several of you have posed similar questions.

I think you do start with the best expert and experienced advice that you can get from across our government. And as you rightly point out, Chris Stevens never recommended that we close Benghazi, he advocated for keeping Benghazi open. And as you rightly referred to this e-mail for a particular configuration that would fulfill the needs of our country being represented there.

Obviously, you have to constantly do this balancing act that I referred to earlier today, and most times we get it right. In fact, the vast majority of times, we get it right. With Benghazi, the CIA did not have any plans to close their facility. The opinion of those with the greatest understanding of our mission, our diplomatic mission in Benghazi was exactly the same, that we should not close down, we should not leave Benghazi. And it’s, you know, obviously something that you have to be constantly evaluating in all of these difficult unstable spots around the world.

But I appreciate your bringing to the committee’s attention the — you know, the strong opinion of the man who knew the most and was on the ground and who understood what we were trying to achieve in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens.

SANCHEZ: And was it your understanding that he certainly understood the risk of being there?

CLINTON: He definitely understood the risks, yes.

SANCHEZ: Thank you. I yield back.

GOWDY: The gentlelady yields back. The chair will now recognize the gentlelady from Indiana, Ms. Brooks.

BROOKS: Secretary Clinton, I’d like to ask you a bit about your decision making and the discussions you had as it related to how long the Benghazi mission itself was going to last.

I’m putting up a map just because most of us really don’t know much about Libya, don’t know much about the geography of Libya. And as we’ve talked about these various communities, I don’t think most people really realized. So I want to share with you that — we know from my last round that Chris Stevens went into Benghazi in April of 2011, and I want to talk to you about what happened the rest of that year. And just because there was a lot going on, I thought it would be helpful to have this map.

So by mid-July, our government formally recognized the TNC as the official government of Libya, replacing the Gadhafi regime. And TNC was based in Benghazi at that time. And in August, after the Gadhafi government fell, Gadhafi went over into — he left Tripoli where Gadhafi been headquartered, and he went into hiding in Sirte.

Now once that happened, the TNC moved their Benghazi headquarters over to Tripoli, and then in September, we re-opened our embassy in Tripoli and Ambassador Cretz returned; he had been evacuated previously. And Chris Stevens stayed in Benghazi. Does that sound like an accurate summary of the summer of 2011?

CLINTON: It does sound accurate, except I’m not sure exactly the duration of Ambassador Stevens’ presence in Benghazi during those months.

BROOKS: Well, that leads to my next question. What was your plan for the mission in the fall of 2011 and going forward? What were the discussions you had and who did you have those discussions with about the mission of Benghazi going forward in 2011?

CLINTON: Well, as you may have heard, Congresswoman, the e-mail that Congresswoman Sanchez introduced into the record was from the fall of 2011. And there was quite a discussion going on between officials in the State Department, in the intelligence community, in both Washington and Libya about the path forward.

The Transitional National Council had been based in Benghazi, and there was a dispute even within the Libyans themselves as to whether they would split the government, whether the government would be located predominantly but not exclusively in Tripoli or as some were hoping predominantly but not exclusively in Benghazi. So this was all a very live subject that was being debated both in Libya and with respect to what our response would be in Washington.

So we, at Chris Stevens’ strong urging and that of other of our experienced diplomats, wanted to maintain a presence in Benghazi in some form. We re-opened our embassy in Tripoli which had been the historical capital certainly under Gadhafi. But this was a constant discussion about what we should do when and where, and I think that’s why this e-mail from Chris Stevens about his recommendations is so informative.

BROOKS: Well, thank you and I’ll get to that in just a moment. But I have to ask you, I assume that your chief of staff Cheryl Mills was intimately involved in these discussions with you and with your top staff. She’s one of your staff as you were referring to them, is that right?

CLINTON: Well, she covered a broad range of issues. I’m sure she was involved in some of the discussions, but she had many other responsibilities, so I can’t say all of them.

BROOKS: I’d like to refer to you an update on Tripoli operations provided to Cheryl Mills on September 14th. And at the top of that two-page memo, assumptions for Benghazi in September were gradual winding down of operations over the next six months, transition to Tripoli only — transition to Tripoli only by January 2012, no consulate. No consulate meant no consulate in Benghazi. This was in September.

Would that be fair and accurate? And would you — were you in that briefing with Ms. Mills, or did she brief you about the fact that in September the gameplan was to shut down Benghazi?

CLINTON: Well, I think you have to look at that in context, Congresswoman. There was not an active plan for a consulate in Benghazi at any point during this period. That is not what the compound in Benghazi was. It was a temporary facility placed there to help us make a determination as to what we would need going forward in Benghazi…

BROOKS: Excuse me, madam secretary.

CLINTON: There was a strong argument that Chris Stevens and others made that they hoped eventually there might be a consulate, but there was never an agreement to have a consulate.

BROOKS: And, in fact, it had been deemed a consulate, it would have had a different level of security, is that correct, than a temporary mission compound, is that accurate?

CLINTON: Well, we have…

BROOKS: Is that accurate, that consulates have certain levels of security. There are standards, there are protocols. When it is a consulate, it gets a certain level of security.

CLINTON: That is the hoped-for outcome. That is not what happens in the beginning in many places, especially the hot spots and the conflict areas where a consulate is stood up.

BROOKS: Can you talk with me about the decision, then — there is a briefing with respect to — after the closing, rather, of the consulate in Benghazi by January of 2012. We know it didn’t close. It did not close. You went to Tripoli in October of 2011. Ambassador Cretz was still there. How about Chris Stevens? Did Chris Stevens come over from Benghazi to see you when you went for the big trip in October ’11?

CLINTON: I don’t recall. I don’t recall if he did or not. This was — this — this was about Ambassador Cretz, and Ambassador Cretz was the person that we were meeting with at that time.

BROOKS: What was your purpose for meeting with Ambassador Cretz if Chris Stevens was your expert in Libya?

CLINTON: Ambassador Cretz was an expert as well. Ambassador Cretz was our ambassador. You remember, as I mentioned to you before, he had been our ambassador, and then because he reported very accurately about what he observed regarding Gadhafi and Gadhafi’s henchmen, when Wikileaks disclosed internal U.S. government cables and Gene Cretz’s cables were publicized talking very critically about Gadhafi he was then subjected to threats and then we took him out. We did not close the embassy at that time.

So, he had returned to finish out his time and we were in the process of moving him to another assignment and nominating Chris Stevens to replace him.

BROOKS: But you didn’t, during that one trip to Libya, you didn’t talk to Chris Stevens, best of your recollection at that time?

CLINTON: While I was in Libya, I don’t recall that. Of course we consulted with him in respect to planning the trip, as to who we would meet with, what we would ask for.

We were trying very hard to get people in positions of authority at that time in Libya to let us work with them on everything from border security to collecting weapons and trying to disarm the militias. We had a lot of business we were doing with them.

BROOKS: So going back to Miss Sanchez’s e-mail with respect from John Stevens to Miss Polysheck (ph), it talks about Option A, as you’ve pointed out, slimming down the compound, and so he weighed in on — in October he was weighing in on whether or not the compound should stay open.

But I’d like to direct your attention to an e-mail that’s at tab four, dated December 15th from Chris Stevens.

And I might add for the record, we do not, still to this day, have all of Chris Stevens e-mails. We received 1,300 more this week. We received most of them last week. We don’t have the universe yet of Ambassador Stevens e-mails.

But he e-mailed to a reporting officer who we know was in Benghazi still. He wrote, “Interesting. Has security improved in Benghazi in recent weeks? Also curious what you guys decided to do regarding future of the compound. He was in Washington, D.C., or back in the States during that time, and in December Ambassador Stevens, your soon-to-be ambassador, didn’t know what was going to happen with the compound in Benghazi, how is that possible?

Updates coming …



Full Text Obama Presidency October 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference Transcript



Press Conference by the President

Source: WH, 10-2-15

State Dining Room

3:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to take a couple of questions from the press.  But first, a few additional pieces of business.

First of all, we learned today that our businesses created another 118,000 new jobs in September, which means that we now have had 67 straight months of job creation; 13.2 million new jobs in all — and an unemployment rate that has fallen from a high of 10 percent down to 5.1 percent.  These long-term trends are obviously good news, particularly for every American waking up each morning and heading off to a new job.

But we would be doing even better if we didn’t have to keep on dealing with unnecessary crises in Congress every few months. And this is especially important right now, because although the American economy has been chugging along at a steady pace, much of the global economy is softening.  We’ve seen an impact on our exports, which was a major driver of growth for us particularly at the beginning of the recovery.  And so our own growth could slow if Congress does not do away with some of the counterproductive austerity measures that they have put in place, and if Congress does not avoid the kind of manufactured crises that shatter consumer confidence and could disrupt an already skittish global economy.

On Wednesday, more than half of Republicans voted to shut down the government for the second time in two years.  The good news is that there were enough votes in both parties to pass a last-minute bill to keep the government open and operating for another 10 weeks before we can get a more long-term solution.  But keep in mind that gimmick only sets up another potential manufactured crisis just two weeks before Christmas.

And I’ve said this before, I want to repeat it — this is not the way the United States should be operating.

Oftentimes I hear from folks up on Capitol Hill, “the need for American leadership,” “the need for America to be number one.”  Well, you know what, around the globe, part of what makes us a leader is when we govern effectively and we keep our own house in order, and we pass budgets, and we can engage in long-term planning, and we can invest in the things that are important for the future.  That’s U.S. leadership.

When we fail to do that, we diminish U.S. leadership.  It’s not how we are supposed to operate.  And we can’t just keep on kicking down the road without solving any problems or doing any long-term planning for the future.  That’s true for our military; that’s true for our domestic programs.  The American people, American families deserve better.  And we can grow faster and the economy can improve if Congress acts with dispatch.  It will get worse if they don’t.

That’s why I want to be very clear:  I will not sign another shortsighted spending bill like the one Congress sent me this week.  We purchased ourselves 10 additional weeks; we need to use them effectively.

Keep in mind that a few years ago, both parties put in place harmful automatic cuts that make no distinction between spending we don’t need and spending we do.  We can revisit the history of how that happened — I have some rather grim memories of it.  But the notion was that even as we were bringing down the deficit, we would come up with a sustainable, smart, long-term approach to investing in the things that we need.  That didn’t happen.  And so now these cuts that have been maintained have been keeping our economy from growing faster.  It’s time to undo them.  If we don’t, then we will have to fund our economic and national security priorities in 2016 at the same levels that we did in 2006.

Now, understand, during that decade, between 2006 and 2016, our economy has grown by 12 percent.  Our population has grown by 8 percent.  New threats have emerged; new opportunities have appeared.  We can’t fund our country the way we did 10 years ago because we have greater demands — with an aging population, with kids who need schools, with roads that need to be fixed, with a military on which we are placing extraordinary demands.

And we can’t cut our way to prosperity.  Other countries have tried it and it has not worked.  We’ve grown faster than they have because we did not pursue these blind, unthinking cuts to necessary investments for our growth.  And by the way, because we’ve grown faster than them, we’ve brought our deficits down faster than they have.

I want to repeat this because the public apparently never believes it.  Since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  The deficit has not been going up; it has been coming down — precipitously.  We’ve cut our deficits by two-thirds.  They’re below the average deficits over the past 40 years.

So the bottom line is, Congress has to do its job.  It can’t flirt with another shutdown.  It should pass a serious budget.  And if they do, and get rid of some of these mindless cuts, even as we’re still prudent about maintaining the spending that we need but not spending we don’t need and is not working, their own non-partisan budget office estimates we’re going to add an extra half-million jobs to our economy next year alone.  We can immediately put half a million more people back to work if we just have a more sensible budget.

And in these negotiations, nobody is going to get everything they want.  We have to work together, though, even if we disagree, in order to do the people’s business.  At some point we have to want to govern, and not just play politics or play to various political bases.  At some point, we need to pass bills so that we can rebuild our roads, and keep our kids learning, and our military strong, and help people prepare for and recover from disasters.  That is Congress’s most basic job.  That’s what our government is supposed to do — serve the American people.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’ll start with Julie Pace of AP.

Hang in there, kids.  (Laughter.)

Q    It will be over soon.  Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been several developments in Syria that I wanted to ask you about, starting with Russia’s involvement.  You met with President Putin earlier this week, and I wonder if you think he was honest with you about his intentions in Syria.  If Russia is targeting groups beyond the Islamic State, including U.S.-aligned groups, does the U.S. military have an obligation to protect them?  And on the situation in Syria more broadly, there have obviously been failures in the U.S. train-and-equip program.  Do you believe that that program can be fixed or do you have to look at other options?  Would you, in particular, be willing to reconsider a no-fly zone, which several presidential candidates, including your former Secretary of State, are now calling for?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first and foremost, let’s understand what’s happening in Syria and how we got here.  What started off as peaceful protests against Assad, the president, evolved into a civil war because Assad met those protests with unimaginable brutality.  And so this is not a conflict between the United States and any party in Syria; this is a conflict between the Syrian people and a brutal, ruthless dictator.

Point number two is that the reason Assad is still in power is because Russia and Iran have supported him throughout this process.  And in that sense, what Russia is doing now is not particularly different from what they had been doing in the past — they’re just more overt about it.  They’ve been propping up a regime that is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the Syrian population because they’ve seen that he has been willing to drop barrel bombs on children and on villages indiscriminately, and has been more concerned about clinging to power than the state of his country.

So in my discussions with President Putin, I was very clear that the only way to solve the problem in Syria is to have a political transition that is inclusive — that keeps the state intact, that keeps the military intact, that maintains cohesion, but that is inclusive — and the only way to accomplish that is for Mr. Assad to transition, because you cannot rehabilitate him in the eyes of Syrians.  This is not a judgment I’m making; it is a judgment that the overwhelming majority of Syrians make.

And I said to Mr. Putin that I’d be prepared to work with him if he is willing to broker with his partners, Mr. Assad and Iran, a political transition — we can bring the rest of the world community to a brokered solution — but that a military solution alone, an attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire.  And it won’t work.  And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.

I also said to him that it is true that the United States and Russia and the entire world have a common interest in destroying ISIL.  But what was very clear — and regardless of what Mr. Putin said — was that he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Mr. Assad go.  From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.  And that’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s one that I reject.

So where we are now is that we are having technical conversations about de-confliction so that we’re not seeing U.S. and American firefights in the air.  But beyond that, we’re very clear in sticking to our belief and our policy that the problem here is Assad and the brutality that he has inflicted on the Syrian people, and that it has to stop.  And in order for it to stop, we’re prepared to work with all the parties concerned.  But we are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad’s behavior.

Keep in mind also, from a practical perspective, the moderate opposition in Syria is one that if we’re ever going to have to have a political transition, we need.  And the Russian policy is driving those folks underground or creating a situation in which they are de-capacitated, and it’s only strengthening ISIL.  And that’s not good for anybody.

In terms of our support of opposition groups inside of Syria, I made very clear early on that the United States couldn’t impose a military solution on Syria either, but that it was in our interest to make sure that we were engaged with moderate opposition inside of Syria because eventually Syria will fall, the Assad regime will fall, and we have to have somebody who we’re working with that we can help pick up the pieces and stitch back together a cohesive, coherent country.  And so we will continue to support them.

The training-and-equip program was a specific initiative by the Defense Department to see if we could get some of that moderate opposition to focus attention on ISIL in the eastern portion of the country.  And I’m the first one to acknowledge it has not worked the way it was supposed to, Julie.  And I think that the Department of Defense would say the same thing.  And part of the reason, frankly, is because when we tried to get them to just focus on ISIL, the response we’d get back is, how can we focus on ISIL when every single day we’re having barrel bombs and attacks from the regime?  And so it’s been hard to get them to reprioritize, looking east, when they’ve got bombs coming at them from the west.

So what we’re doing with the train-and-equip is looking at where we have had success — for example, working with some of the Kurdish community in the east that pushed ISIL out — seeing if we can build on that.  But what we’re also going to continue to do is to have contacts with and work with opposition that, rightly, believes that in the absence of some change of government inside of Syria we’re going to continue to see civil war, and that is going to turbocharge ISIL recruitment and jihadist recruitment, and we’re going to continue to have problems.

Now, last point I just want to make about this — because sometimes the conversation here in the Beltway differs from the conversation internationally.  Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness, because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling.  And it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money; now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots.  And the notion that he put forward a plan and that somehow the international community sees that as viable because there is a vacuum there — I didn’t see, after he made that speech in the United Nations, suddenly the 60-nation coalition that we have start lining up behind him.

Iran and Assad make up Mr. Putin’s coalition at the moment. The rest of the world makes up ours.  So I don’t think people are fooled by the current strategy.  It does not mean that we could not see Mr. Putin begin to recognize that it is in their interest to broker a political settlement.  And as I said in New York, we’re prepared to work with the Russians and the Iranians, as well as our partners who are part of the anti-ISIL coalition to come up with that political transition.  And nobody pretends that it’s going to be easy, but I think it is still possible.  And so we will maintain lines of communication.

But we are not going to be able to get those negotiations going if there is not a recognition that there’s got to be a change in government.  We’re not going to go back to the status quo ante.  And the kinds of airstrikes against moderate opposition that Russia is engaging in is going to be counterproductive.  It’s going to move us farther away rather than towards the ultimate solution that we’re all — that we all should be looking for.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Julie, throughout this process, I think people have constantly looked for an easy, low-cost answer — whether it’s we should have sent more rifles in early and somehow then everything would have been okay; or if I had taken that shot even after Assad offered to give up his chemical weapons, then immediately things would have folded, or the Assad regime would have folded, and we would have suddenly seen a peaceful Syria.

This is a hugely, difficult, complex problem.  And I would have hoped that we would have learned that from Afghanistan and Iraq, where we have devoted enormous time and effort and resources with the very best people and have given the Afghan people and the Iraqi people an opportunity for democracy.  But it’s still hard, as we saw this week in Afghanistan.  That’s not by virtue of a lack of effort on our part, or a lack of commitment.  We’ve still got 10,000 folks in Afghanistan.  We’re still spending billions of dollar supporting that government, and it’s still tough.

So when I make a decision about the level of military involvement that we’re prepared to engage in, in Syria, I have to make a judgment based on, once we start something we’ve got to finish it, and we’ve got to do it well.  And do we, in fact, have the resources and the capacity to make a serious impact — understanding that we’ve still got to go after ISIL in Iraq; we still have to support the training of an Iraqi military that is weaker than any of us perceived; that we still have business to do in Afghanistan.  And so I push — and have consistently over the last four, five years sought out a wide range of opinions about steps that we can take potentially to move Syria in a better direction.

I am under no illusions about what an incredible humanitarian catastrophe this is, and the hardships that we’re seeing, and the refugees that are traveling in very dangerous circumstances and now creating real political problems among our allies in Europe, and the heartbreaking images of children drowned trying to escape war, and the potential impact of such a destabilized country on our allies in the region.  But what we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.  And we will find ourselves either doing just a little bit and not making a difference, and losing credibility that way, or finding ourselves drawn in deeper and deeper into a situation that we can’t sustain.

And when I hear people offering up half-baked ideas as if they are solutions, or trying to downplay the challenges involved in this situation — what I’d like to see people ask is, specifically, precisely, what exactly would you do, and how would you fund it, and how would you sustain it?  And typically, what you get is a bunch of mumbo jumbo.

So these are hard challenges.  They are ones that we are going to continue to pursue.  The topline message that I want everybody to understand is we are going to continue to go after ISIL.  We are going to continue to reach out to a moderate opposition.  We reject Russia’s theory that everybody opposed to Assad is a terrorist.  We think that is self-defeating.  It will get them into a quagmire.  It will be used as a further recruitment tool for foreign fighters.

We will work with the international community and our coalition to relieve the humanitarian pressure.  On refugees, we are working with the Turks and others to see what we can do along the border to make things safer for people.  But ultimately, we’re going to have to find a way for a political transition if we’re going to solve Syria.

Jon Karl.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.


Q    Back in July you said that the gun issue has been the most frustrating of your presidency, and we certainly heard that frustration from you last night.


Q    So in the last 15 months of your presidency, do you intend to do anything differently to get Congress to act or to do something about this gun violence problem?

And I have to get you to respond to something that Jeb Bush just said, and to be fair to Governor Bush I want to read it directly.  Asked about the drive to take action in light of what happened in Oregon, he said, “Look, stuff happens.  There’s always a crisis.  And the impulse is always to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”  How would you react to Governor Bush?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t even think I have to react to that one.  (Laughter.)  I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments, based on the fact that every couple of months, we have a mass shooting, and in terms of — and they can decide whether they consider that “stuff happening”.

In terms of what I can do, I’ve asked my team — as I have in the past — to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place?  But as I said last night, this will not change until the politics change and the behavior of elected officials changes.

And so the main thing I’m going to do is I’m going to talk about this on a regular basis, and I will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.

The reason that Congress does not support even the modest gun safety laws that we proposed after Sandy Hook is not because the majority of the American people don’t support it.  I mean, normally, politicians are responsive to the views of the electorate.  Here you’ve got the majority of the American people think it’s the right thing to do.  Background checks, other common-sense steps that would maybe save some lives couldn’t even get a full vote.  And why is that?  It’s because of politics.  It’s because interest groups fund campaigns, feed people fear. And in fairness, it’s not just in the Republican Party — although the Republican Party is just uniformly opposed to all gun safety laws.  And unless we change that political dynamic, we’re not going to be able to make a big dent in this problem.

For example, you’ll hear people talk about the problem is not guns, it’s mental illness.  Well, if you talk to people who study this problem, it is true that the majority of these mass shooters are angry young men, but there are hundreds of millions of angry young men around the world — tens of millions of angry young men.  Most of them don’t shoot.  It doesn’t help us just to identify — and the majority of people who have mental illnesses are not shooters.  So we can’t sort through and identify ahead of time who might take actions like this.  The only thing we can do is make sure that they can’t have an entire arsenal when something snaps in them.

And if we’re going to do something about that, the politics has to change.  The politics has to change.  And the people who are troubled by this have to be as intense and as organized and as adamant about this issue as folks on the other side who are absolutists and think that any gun safety measures are somehow an assault on freedom, or communistic — or a plot by me to takeover and stay in power forever or something.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there are all kinds of crackpot conspiracy theories that float around there — some of which, by the way, are ratified by elected officials in the other party on occasion.

So we’ve got to change the politics of this.  And that requires people to feel — not just feel deeply — because I get a lot of letters after this happens — “do something!”  Well, okay, here’s what you need to do.  You have to make sure that anybody who you are voting for is on the right side of this issue.  And if they’re not, even if they’re great on other stuff, for a couple of election cycles you’ve got to vote against them, and let them know precisely why you’re voting against them.  And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter because that’s what is happening on the other side.

And that’s going to take some time.  I mean, the NRA has had a good start.  They’ve been at this a long time, they’ve perfected what they do.  You’ve got to give them credit — they’re very effective, because they don’t represent the majority of the American people but they know how to stir up fear; they know how to stir up their base; they know how to raise money; they know how to scare politicians; they know how to organize campaigns.  And the American people are going to have to match them in their sense of urgency if we’re actually going to stop this.

Which isn’t to say stopping all violence.  We’re not going to stop all violence.  Violence exists around the world, sadly.  Part of original sin.  But our homicide rates are just a lot higher than other places — that, by the way, have the same levels of violence.  It’s just you can’t kill as many people when you don’t have easy access to these kinds of weapons.

And I’m deeply saddened about what happened yesterday.  But Arne is going back to Chicago — let’s not forget, this is happening every single day in forgotten neighborhoods around the country.  Every single day.  Kids are just running for their lives, trying to get to school.  Broderick, when we were down in New Orleans, sitting down with a group of young men, when we were talking about Katrina, and I’ve got two young men next to me, both of them had been shot multiple times.  They were barely 20.

So we got to make a decision.  If we think that’s normal, then we have to own it.  I don’t think it’s normal.  I think it’s abnormal.  I think we should change it.  But I can’t do it by myself.

So the main thing I’m going to do, Jon, is talk about it.  And hope that over time I’m changing enough minds — along with other leaders around the country — that we start finally seeing some action.  I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight.

Cheryl Bolen.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  To go back to your opening remarks, you said that you won’t sign another short-term CR.  But as you know, yesterday Secretary Lew announced that the government’s borrowing authority would run out around November 5th.  Would you recommend negotiating an increase in the debt ceiling as part of these budget negotiations on spending caps?  And also does the Speaker’s race complicate these negotiations?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure the Speaker’s race complicates these negotiations.  (Laughter.)  That was a rhetorical question. (Laughter.)  It will complicate the negotiations.  But when it comes to the debt ceiling, we’re not going back there.

Maybe it’s been a while, so let me just refresh everybody’s memory.  Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more, it simply authorizes us to pay the bills that we have already incurred.  It is the way for the United States to maintain its good credit rating — the full faith and credit of the United States.

Historically, we do not mess with it.  If it gets messed with, it would have profound implications for the global economy and could put our financial system in the kind of tailspin that we saw back in 2007-2008.  It’s just a bad thing to do.  So we’re not going to negotiate on that.  It has to get done in the next five weeks.  So even though the continuing resolution to keep the government open lasts for 10 weeks, we have to get the debt ceiling raised in five.  You’ve got a shorter timetable to get that done.

But here’s the bottom line:  Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, myself, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid — we’ve all spoken and talked about trying to negotiate a budget agreement.  And, yes, Speaker Boehner’s decision to step down complicates it.  But I do think that there is still a path for us to come up with a reasonable agreement that raises the spending caps above sequester to make sure that we can properly finance both our defense and nondefense needs, that maintains a prudent control of our deficits, and that we can do that in short order.  It’s not that complicated.  The math is the math.

And what I’ve encouraged is that we get started on that work immediately, and we push through over the next several weeks — and try to leave out extraneous issues that may prevent us from getting a budget agreement.

I know, for example, that there are many Republicans who are exercised about Planned Parenthood.  And I deeply disagree with them on that issue, and I think that it’s mischaracterized what Planned Parenthood does.  But I understand that they feel strongly about it, and I respect that.  But you can’t have an issue like that potentially wreck the entire U.S. economy — any more than I should hold the entire budget hostage to my desire to do something about gun violence.  I feel just as strongly about that and I think I’ve got better evidence for it.  But the notion that I would threaten the Republicans that unless they passed gun safety measures that would stop mass shootings I’m going to shut down the government and not sign an increase in the debt ceiling would be irresponsible of me.  And the American people, rightly, would reject that.

Well, same is true for them.  There are some fights that we fight individually.  They want to defund Planned Parenthood, there’s a way to do it.  Pass a law, override my veto.  That’s true across a whole bunch of issues that they disagree with me on, and that’s how democracy works.  I got no problem with that.

But you have to govern.  And I’m hoping that the next Speaker understands that the problem Speaker Boehner had or Mitch McConnell had in not dismantling Obamacare, or not eliminating the Department of Education, or not deporting every immigrant in this country was not because Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell didn’t care about conservative principles.  It had to do with the fact that they can’t do it in our system of government, which requires compromise.  Just like I can’t do everything I want in passing an immigration bill, or passing a gun safety bill.  And that doesn’t mean, then, I throw a tantrum and try to wreck the economy, and put hardworking Americans who are just now able to dig themselves out of a massive recession, put them in harm’s way.  Wrong thing to do.

Peter Alexander.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You addressed — I want to follow up on Jon’s questions about the issue that’s obviously deeply personal and moving to you — that is the gun issue.  Apart from Congress’s inaction, apart from the desire for new laws and, beyond that, apart from the gun lobby, as you noted, the pattern is that these perpetrators are angry, aggrieved, oftentimes mentally ill young men.  Is there something that you can do with the bully pulpit, with your moral authority, with your remaining time in office to help reach these individuals who believe that gun violence is the way out?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I think I can continue to speak to the American people as a whole and hopefully model for them basic social norms about rejecting violence, and cooperation and caring for other people.  But there are a lot of young men out there.  And having been one myself once, I can tell you that us being able to identify or pinpoint who might have problems is extraordinarily difficult.

So I think we, as a culture, should continuously think about how we can nurture our kids, protect our kids, talk to them about conflict resolution, discourage violence.  And I think there are poor communities where, rather than mass shootings, you’re seeing just normal interactions that used to be settled by a fistfight settled with guns where maybe intervention programs and mentorship and things like that can work.  That’s the kind of thing that we’re trying to encourage through My Brother’s Keeper.

But when it comes to reaching every disaffected young man, 99 percent of — or 99.9 percent of whom will hopefully grow out of it — I don’t think that there’s a silver bullet there.  The way we are going to solve this problem is that when they act out, when they are disturbed, when that particular individual has a problem, that they can’t easily access weapons that can perpetrate mass violence on a lot of people.

Because that’s what other countries do.  Again, I want to emphasize this.  There’s no showing that somehow we are inherently more violent than any other advanced nation, or that young men are inherently more violent in our nation than they are in other nations.  I will say young men inherently are more violent than the rest of the population, but there’s no sense that somehow this is — it’s something in the American character that is creating this.  Levels of violence are on par between the United States and other advanced countries.  What is different is homicide rates and gun violence rates and mass shooting rates.  So it’s not that the behavior or the impulses are necessarily different as much as it is that they have access to more powerful weapons.

Julia Edwards.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You just said that you reject President Putin’s approach to Syria and his attacks on moderate opposition forces.  You said it was a recipe for disaster.  But what are you willing to do to stop President Putin and protect moderate opposition fighters?  Would you consider imposing sanctions against Russia?  Would you go so far as to equip moderate rebels with anti-aircraft weapons to protect them from Russian air attacks?  And how do you respond to critics who say Putin is outsmarting you, that he took a measure of you in Ukraine and he felt he could get away with it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, I’ve heard it all before.  (Laughter.) I’ve got to say I’m always struck by the degree to which not just critics but I think people buy this narrative.

Let’s think about this.  So when I came into office seven and a half years ago, America had precipitated the worst financial crisis in history, dragged the entire world into a massive recession.  We were involved in two wars with almost no coalition support.  U.S. — world opinion about the United States was at a nadir — we were just barely above Russia at that time, and I think potentially slightly below China’s.  And we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month, and so on and so forth.

And today, we’re the strongest large advanced economy in the world — probably one of the few bright spots in the world economy.  Our approval ratings have gone up.  We are more active on more international issues and forge international responses to everything from Ebola to countering ISIL.

Meanwhile, Mr. Putin comes into office at a time when the economy had been growing and they were trying to pivot to a more diversified economy, and as a consequence of these brilliant moves, their economy is contracting 4 percent this year.  They are isolated in the world community, subject to sanctions that are not just applied by us but by what used to be some of their closest trading partners.  Their main allies in the Middle East were Libya and Syria — Mr. Gaddafi and Mr. Assad — and those countries are falling apart.  And he’s now just had to send in troops and aircraft in order to prop up this regime, at the risk of alienating the entire Sunni world.

So what was the question again?  (Laughter.)

No, but I think it’s really interesting to understand.  Russia is not stronger as a consequence of what they’ve been doing.  They get attention.  The sanctions against Ukraine are still in place.  And what I’ve consistently offered — from a position of strength, because the United States is not subject to sanctions and we’re not contracting 4 percent a year — what I’ve offered is a pathway whereby they can get back onto a path of growth and do right by their people.

So Mr. Putin’s actions have been successful only insofar as it’s boosted his poll ratings inside of Russia — which may be why the beltway is so impressed, because that tends to be the measure of success.  Of course, it’s easier to do when you’ve got a state-controlled media.

But this is not a smart, strategic move on Russia’s part.  And what Russia has now done is not only committed its own troops into a situation in which the overwhelming majority of the Syrian population sees it now as an enemy, but the Sunni population throughout the Middle East is going to see it as a supporter, an endorser, of those barrel bombs landing on kids — at a time when Russia has a significant Muslim population inside of its own borders that it needs to worry about.

So I want Russia to be successful.  This is not a contest between the United States and Russia.  It is in our interest for Russia to be a responsible, effective actor on the international stage that can share burdens with us, along with China, along with Europe, along with Japan, along with other countries — because the problems we have are big.  So I’m hopeful that Mr. Putin, having made this doubling-down of the support he has provided to Mr. Assad, recognizes that this is not going to be a good long-term strategy and that he works instead to bring about a political settlement.

Just as I hope that they can resolve the issues with Ukraine in a way that recognizes Russian equities but upholds the basic principle of sovereignty and independence that the Ukrainian people should enjoy like everybody else.  But until that time, we’re going to continue to have tensions and we’re going to continue to have differences.

But we’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia.  That would be bad strategy on our part.  This is a battle between Russia, Iran, and Assad against the overwhelming majority of the Syrian people.  Our battle is with ISIL, and our battle is with the entire international community to resolve the conflict in a way that can end the bloodshed and end the refugee crisis, and allow people to be at home, work, grow food, shelter their children, send those kids to school.  That’s the side we’re on.

This is not some superpower chessboard contest.  And anybody who frames it in that way isn’t paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chessboard.

All right, last question.  Major Garrett.

Q    Mr. President, good to see you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good to see you.

Q    And for the children there, I promise I won’t take too long.  So you’ve been very patient.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve been boring them to death, I guarantee it.  (Laughter.)  But there have been times where I’ve snagged rebounds for Ryan when he is shooting three-pointers so he has got to put up with this.  (Laughter.)

Q    Understood.  Mr. President, I wonder if you could tell the country to what degree you were changed or moved by what you discussed in private with Pope Francis?  What do you think his visit might have meant for the country long term?  And for Democrats who might already be wondering, is it too late for Joe Biden to decide whether or not to run for President?  And lastly, just to clarify, to what degree did Hillary Clinton’s endorsement just yesterday of a no-fly zone put her in a category of embracing a half-baked answer on Syria that borders on mumbo jumbo?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the latter issue, on the last question that you asked, Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems.  She was obviously my Secretary of State.  But I also think that there’s a difference between running for President and being President, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment.  And that’s what I’ll continue to apply as long as I’m here.  And if and when she’s President, then she’ll make those judgments.  And she’s been there enough that she knows that these are tough calls but that —

Q    — that she should know better?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, that’s not what I said.  That’s perhaps what you said.  What I’m saying is, is that we all want to try to relieve the suffering in Syria, but my job is to make sure that whatever we do we are doing in a way that serves the national security interests of the American people; that doesn’t lead to us getting into things that we can’t get out of or that we cannot do effectively; and as much as possible, that we’re working with international partners.

And we’re going to continue to explore things that we can do to protect people and to deal with the humanitarian situation there, and to provide a space in which we can bring about the kind of political transition that’s going to be required to solve the problem.  And I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different — because she’s been right there next to me.

I love Joe Biden, and he’s got his own decisions to make, and I’ll leave it at that.  And in the meantime, he’s doing a great job as Vice President and has been really helpful on a whole bunch of issues.

Pope Francis I love.  He is a good man with a warm heart and a big moral imagination.  And I think he had such an impact in his visit here — as he has had around the world — because he cares so deeply about the least of these, and in that sensea expresses what I consider to be, as a Christian, the essence of Christianity.  And he’s got a good sense of humor.  (Laughter.)  Well, I can’t share all his jokes.  They were all clean.  (Laughter.)

And as I said in the introduction in the South Lawn when he appeared here at the White House, I think it’s really useful that he makes us uncomfortable in his gentle way; that he’s constantly prodding people’s consciences and asking everybody all across the political spectrum what more you can do to be kind, and to be helpful, and to love, and to sacrifice, and to serve.  And in that sense, I don’t think he’s somebody where we should be applying the typical American political measures — liberal and conservative, and left and right — I think he is speaking to all of our consciences, and we all have to then search ourselves to see if there are ways that we can do better.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It did.  I think that when I spend time with somebody like the Pontiff — and there are other individuals, some of whom are famous, some of whom are not, but who are good people and deeply moral — then it makes me want to be better, makes me want to do better.  And those people are great gifts to the world.  And sometimes they’re just a teacher in a classroom. And sometimes they’re your neighbor.  And sometimes they’re your mom, or your wife.  Sometimes they’re your kids.  But they can encourage you to be better.  That’s what we’re all trying to do.

And that’s part of the wonderful thing about Pope Francis, is the humility that he brings to do this.  His rejection of the absolutism that says I’m 100 percent right and you’re 100 percent wrong; but rather, we are all sinners and we are all children of God.  That’s a pretty good starting point for being better.

All right.  Thank you, guys, for your patience.  You can now go home.  (Laughter.)



4:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon Transcript



Statement by the President on the Shootings at Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

6:22 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s been another mass shooting in America — this time, in a community college in Oregon.

That means there are more American families — moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever.  That means there’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.

I’ve been to Roseburg, Oregon.  There are really good people there.  I want to thank all the first responders whose bravery likely saved some lives today.  Federal law enforcement has been on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Roseburg needs, for as long as they need.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives.  And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.

But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough.  It’s not enough.  It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel.  And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did.  And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be.  But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people.  We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.”  And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  That day!  Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine.  The conversation in the aftermath of it.  We’ve become numb to this.

We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston.  It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation.  Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out:  We need more guns, they’ll argue.  Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that?  There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true.  We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.  So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?  We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.  So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings.  Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours.  So we know there are ways to prevent it.

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue.  Well, this is something we should politicize.  It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic.  I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports.  This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you.  We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so.  And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths.  How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America.  We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.  When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer.  When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer.  When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities.  We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives.  So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up.  And that will require a change of politics on this issue.  And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.  If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up.  Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws.  And this is not something I can do by myself.  I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances.  But based on my experience as President, I can’t guarantee that.  And that’s terrible to say.  And it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today.  May He bring comfort to their families, and courage to the injured as they fight their way back.  And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.

Thank you.

6:35 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 28, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly Transcript



Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-28-15

United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York

10:18 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, it is worth reflecting on what, together, the members of this body have helped to achieve.

Out of the ashes of the Second World War, having witnessed the unthinkable power of the atomic age, the United States has worked with many nations in this Assembly to prevent a third world war — by forging alliances with old adversaries; by supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of any foreign power; and by building an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict over cooperation, an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people.

That is the work of seven decades.  That is the ideal that this body, at its best, has pursued.  Of course, there have been too many times when, collectively, we have fallen short of these ideals.  Over seven decades, terrible conflicts have claimed untold victims.  But we have pressed forward, slowly, steadily, to make a system of international rules and norms that are better and stronger and more consistent.

It is this international order that has underwritten unparalleled advances in human liberty and prosperity.  It is this collective endeavor that’s brought about diplomatic cooperation between the world’s major powers, and buttressed a global economy that has lifted more than a billion people from poverty.  It is these international principles that helped constrain bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.

This progress is real.  It can be documented in lives saved, and agreements forged, and diseases conquered, and in mouths fed. And yet, we come together today knowing that the march of human progress never travels in a straight line, that our work is far from complete; that dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world.

Today, we see the collapse of strongmen and fragile states breeding conflict, and driving innocent men, women and children across borders on an *epoch epic scale.  Brutal networks of terror have stepped into the vacuum.  Technologies that empower individuals are now also exploited by those who spread disinformation, or suppress dissent, or radicalize our youth.  Global capital flows have powered growth and investment, but also increased risk of contagion, weakened the bargaining power of workers, and accelerated inequality.

How should we respond to these trends?  There are those who argue that the ideals enshrined in the U.N. charter are unachievable or out of date — a legacy of a postwar era not suited to our own.  Effectively, they argue for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution: the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.

On this basis, we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law.  We see an erosion of the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to this institution’s mission; information is strictly controlled, the space for civil society restricted.  We’re told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder; that it’s the only way to stamp out terrorism, or prevent foreign meddling.  In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.

The increasing skepticism of our international order can also be found in the most advanced democracies.  We see greater polarization, more frequent gridlock; movements on the far right, and sometimes the left, that insist on stopping the trade that binds our fates to other nations, calling for the building of walls to keep out immigrants.  Most ominously, we see the fears of ordinary people being exploited through appeals to sectarianism, or tribalism, or racism, or anti-Semitism; appeals to a glorious past before the body politic was infected by those who look different, or worship God differently; a politics of us versus them.

The United States is not immune from this.  Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace.  We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force; that cooperation and diplomacy will not work.

As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning.  I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.

But I stand before you today believing in my core that we, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.  We cannot look backwards.  We live in an integrated world — one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success.  We cannot turn those forces of integration.  No nation in this Assembly can insulate itself from the threat of terrorism, or the risk of financial contagion; the flow of migrants, or the danger of a warming planet.  The disorder we see is not driven solely by competition between nations or any single ideology.  And if we cannot work together more effectively, we will all suffer the consequences.  That is true for the United States, as well.

No matter how powerful our military, how strong our economy, we understand the United States cannot solve the world’s problems alone.  In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.  Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.  And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.

Just as force alone cannot impose order internationally, I believe in my core that repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed.  The history of the last two decades proves that in today’s world, dictatorships are unstable. The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.  You can jail your opponents, but you can’t imprison ideas.  You can try to control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.  It is not a conspiracy of U.S.-backed NGOs that expose corruption and raise the expectations of people around the globe; it’s technology, social media, and the irreducible desire of people everywhere to make their own choices about how they are governed.

Indeed, I believe that in today’s world, the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory.   Lasting prosperity does not come solely from the ability to access and extract raw materials.  The strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity — and that, in turn, depends upon individual rights and good governance and personal security.  Internal repression and foreign aggression are both symptoms of the failure to provide this foundation.

A politics and solidarity that depend on demonizing others, that draws on religious sectarianism or narrow tribalism or jingoism may at times look like strength in the moment, but over time its weakness will be exposed.  And history tells us that the dark forces unleashed by this type of politics surely makes all of us less secure.  Our world has been there before.  We gain nothing from going back.

Instead, I believe that we must go forward in pursuit of our ideals, not abandon them at this critical time.  We must give expression to our best hopes, not our deepest fears.  This institution was founded because men and women who came before us had the foresight to know that our nations are more secure when we uphold basic laws and basic norms, and pursue a path of cooperation over conflict.  And strong nations, above all, have a responsibility to uphold this international order.

Let me give you a concrete example.  After I took office, I made clear that one of the principal achievements of this body — the nuclear non-proliferation regime — was endangered by Iran’s violation of the NPT.  On that basis, the Security Council tightened sanctions on the Iranian government, and many nations joined us to enforce them.  Together, we showed that laws and agreements mean something.

But we also understood that the goal of sanctions was not simply to punish Iran.  Our objective was to test whether Iran could change course, accept constraints, and allow the world to verify that its nuclear program will be peaceful.  For two years, the United States and our partners — including Russia, including China — stuck together in complex negotiations.  The result is a lasting, comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while allowing it to access peaceful energy.  And if this deal is fully implemented, the prohibition on nuclear weapons is strengthened, a potential war is averted, our world is safer.  That is the strength of the international system when it works the way it should.

That same fidelity to international order guides our responses to other challenges around the world.  Consider Russia’s annexation of Crimea and further aggression in eastern Ukraine.  America has few economic interests in Ukraine.  We recognize the deep and complex history between Russia and Ukraine.  But we cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated.  If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.  That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners impose on Russia.  It’s not a desire to return to a Cold War.

Now, within Russia, state-controlled media may describe these events as an example of a resurgent Russia — a view shared, by the way, by a number of U.S. politicians and commentators who have always been deeply skeptical of Russia, and seem to be convinced a new Cold War is, in fact, upon us.  And yet, look at the results.  The Ukrainian people are more interested than ever in aligning with Europe instead of Russia. Sanctions have led to capital flight, a contracting economy, a fallen ruble, and the emigration of more educated Russians.

Imagine if, instead, Russia had engaged in true diplomacy, and worked with Ukraine and the international community to ensure its interests were protected.  That would be better for Ukraine, but also better for Russia, and better for the world — which is why we continue to press for this crisis to be resolved in a way that allows a sovereign and democratic Ukraine to determine its future and control its territory.  Not because we want to isolate Russia — we don’t — but because we want a strong Russia that’s invested in working with us to strengthen the international system as a whole.

Similarly, in the South China Sea, the United States makes no claim on territory there.  We don’t adjudicate claims.  But like every nation gathered here, we have an interest in upholding the basic principles of freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce, and in resolving disputes through international law, not the law of force.  So we will defend these principles, while encouraging China and other claimants to resolve their differences peacefully.

I say this, recognizing that diplomacy is hard; that the outcomes are sometimes unsatisfying; that it’s rarely politically popular.  But I believe that leaders of large nations, in particular, have an obligation to take these risks — precisely because we are strong enough to protect our interests if, and when, diplomacy fails.

I also believe that to move forward in this new era, we have to be strong enough to acknowledge when what you’re doing is not working.  For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  We changed that.  We continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to stand up for human rights.  But we address these issues through diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties.  As these contacts yield progress, I’m confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.  (Applause.)  Change won’t come overnight to Cuba, but I’m confident that openness, not coercion, will support the reforms and better the life the Cuban people deserve, just as I believe that Cuba will find its success if it pursues cooperation with other nations.

Now, if it’s in the interest of major powers to uphold international standards, it is even more true for the rest of the community of nations.  Look around the world.  From Singapore to Colombia to Senegal, the facts shows that nations succeed when they pursue an inclusive peace and prosperity within their borders, and work cooperatively with countries beyond their borders.

That path is now available to a nation like Iran, which, as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies to advance its interests.  These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region, and isolates Iran from the promise of trade and commerce.  The Iranian people have a proud history, and are filled with extraordinary potential.  But chanting “Death to America” does not create jobs, or make Iran more secure.  If Iran chose a different path, that would be good for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people, and good for the world.

Of course, around the globe, we will continue to be confronted with nations who reject these lessons of history, places where civil strife, border disputes, and sectarian wars bring about terrorist enclaves and humanitarian disasters.  Where order has completely broken down, we must act, but we will be stronger when we act together.

In such efforts, the United States will always do our part. We will do so mindful of the lessons of the past — not just the lessons of Iraq, but also the example of Libya, where we joined an international coalition under a U.N. mandate to prevent a slaughter.  Even as we helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant, our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind.  We’re grateful to the United Nations for its efforts to forge a unity government.  We will help any legitimate Libyan government as it works to bring the country together.  But we also have to recognize that we must work more effectively in the future, as an international community, to build capacity for states that are in distress, before they collapse.

And that’s why we should celebrate the fact that later today the United States will join with more than 50 countries to enlist new capabilities — infantry, intelligence, helicopters, hospitals, and tens of thousands of troops — to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping.  (Applause.)  These new capabilities can prevent mass killing, and ensure that peace agreements are more than words on paper.  But we have to do it together.  Together, we must strengthen our collective capacity to establish security where order has broken down, and to support those who seek a just and lasting peace.

Nowhere is our commitment to international order more tested than in Syria.  When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs — it breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all.  Likewise, when a terrorist group beheads captives, slaughters the innocent and enslaves women, that’s not a single nation’s national security problem — that is an assault on all humanity.

I’ve said before and I will repeat:  There is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIL, and the United States makes no apologies for using our military, as part of a broad coalition, to go after them.  We do so with a determination to ensure that there will never be a safe haven for terrorists who carry out these crimes.  And we have demonstrated over more than a decade of relentless pursuit of al Qaeda, we will not be outlasted by extremists.

But while military power is necessary, it is not sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria.  Lasting stability can only take hold when the people of Syria forge an agreement to live together peacefully.  The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict. But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.

Let’s remember how this started.  Assad reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that, in turn, created the environment for the current strife.  And so Assad and his allies cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing.  Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.  But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader, and an inclusive government that recognizes there must be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild.

We know that ISIL — which emerged out of the chaos of Iraq and Syria — depends on perpetual war to survive.  But we also know that they gain adherents because of a poisonous ideology.  So part of our job, together, is to work to reject such extremism that infects too many of our young people.  Part of that effort must be a continued rejection by Muslims of those who distort Islam to preach intolerance and promote violence, and it must also a rejection by non-Muslims of the ignorance that equates Islam with terror.  (Applause.)

This work will take time.  There are no easy answers to Syria.  And there are no simple answers to the changes that are taking place in much of the Middle East and North Africa.  But so many families need help right now; they don’t have time.  And that’s why the United States is increasing the number of refugees who we welcome within our borders.  That’s why we will continue to be the largest donor of assistance to support those refugees. And today we are launching new efforts to ensure that our people and our businesses, our universities and our NGOs can help as well — because in the faces of suffering families, our nation of immigrants sees ourselves.

Of course, in the old ways of thinking, the plight of the powerless, the plight of refugees, the plight of the marginalized did not matter.  They were on the periphery of the world’s concerns.  Today, our concern for them is driven not just by conscience, but should also be drive by self-interest.  For helping people who have been pushed to the margins of our world is not mere charity, it is a matter of collective security.  And the purpose of this institution is not merely to avoid conflict, it is to galvanize the collective action that makes life better on this planet.

The commitments we’ve made to the Sustainable Development Goals speak to this truth.  I believe that capitalism has been the greatest creator of wealth and opportunity that the world has ever known.  But from big cities to rural villages around the world, we also know that prosperity is still cruelly out of reach for too many.  As His Holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are stronger when we value the least among these, and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and our sons and our daughters.

We can roll back preventable disease and end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  We can stamp out pandemics that recognize no borders. That work may not be on television right now, but as we demonstrated in reversing the spread of Ebola, it can save more lives than anything else we can do.

Together, we can eradicate extreme poverty and erase barriers to opportunity.  But this requires a sustained commitment to our people — so farmers can feed more people; so entrepreneurs can start a business without paying a bribe; so young people have the skills they need to succeed in this modern, knowledge-based economy.

We can promote growth through trade that meets a higher standard.  And that’s what we’re doing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade agreement that encompasses nearly 40 percent of the global economy; an agreement that will open markets, while protecting the rights of workers and protecting the environment that enables development to be sustained.

We can roll back the pollution that we put in our skies, and help economies lift people out of poverty without condemning our children to the ravages of an ever-warming climate.  The same ingenuity that produced the Industrial Age and the Computer Age allows us to harness the potential of clean energy.  No country can escape the ravages of climate change.  And there is no stronger sign of leadership than putting future generations first.  The United States will work with every nation that is willing to do its part so that we can come together in Paris to decisively confront this challenge.

And finally, our vision for the future of this Assembly, my belief in moving forward rather than backwards, requires us to defend the democratic principles that allow societies to succeed. Let me start from a simple premise:  Catastrophes, like what we are seeing in Syria, do not take place in countries where there is genuine democracy and respect for the universal values this institution is supposed to defend.  (Applause.)

I recognize that democracy is going to take different forms in different parts of the world.  The very idea of a people governing themselves depends upon government giving expression to their unique culture, their unique history, their unique experiences.  But some universal truths are self-evident.  No person wants to be imprisoned for peaceful worship.  No woman should ever be abused with impunity, or a girl barred from going to school.  The freedom to peacefully petition those in power without fear of arbitrary laws — these are not ideas of one country or one culture.  They are fundamental to human progress. They are a cornerstone of this institution.

I realize that in many parts of the world there is a different view — a belief that strong leadership must tolerate no dissent.  I hear it not only from America’s adversaries, but privately at least I also hear it from some of our friends.  I disagree.  I believe a government that suppresses peaceful dissent is not showing strength; it is showing weakness and it is showing fear.  (Applause.)  History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble, but strong institutions built on the consent of the governed endure long after any one individual is gone.

That’s why our strongest leaders — from George Washington to Nelson Mandela — have elevated the importance of building strong, democratic institutions over a thirst for perpetual power.  Leaders who amend constitutions to stay in office only acknowledge that they failed to build a successful country for their people — because none of us last forever.  It tells us that power is something they cling to for its own sake, rather than for the betterment of those they purport to serve.

I understand democracy is frustrating.  Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect.  At times, it can even be dysfunctional.  But democracy — the constant struggle to extend rights to more of our people, to give more people a voice — is what allowed us to become the most powerful nation in the world. (Applause.)

It’s not simply a matter of principle; it’s not an abstraction.  Democracy — inclusive democracy — makes countries stronger.  When opposition parties can seek power peacefully through the ballot, a country draws upon new ideas.  When a free media can inform the public, corruption and abuse are exposed and can be rooted out.  When civil society thrives, communities can solve problems that governments cannot necessarily solve alone.  When immigrants are welcomed, countries are more productive and more vibrant.  When girls can go to school, and get a job, and pursue unlimited opportunity, that’s when a country realizes its full potential.  (Applause.)

That is what I believe is America’s greatest strength.  Not everybody in America agrees with me.  That’s part of democracy.  I believe that the fact that you can walk the streets of this city right now and pass churches and synagogues and temples and mosques, where people worship freely; the fact that our nation of immigrants mirrors the diversity of the world — you can find everybody from everywhere here in New York City — (applause) — the fact that, in this country, everybody can contribute, everybody can participate no matter who they are, or what they look like, or who they love — that’s what makes us strong.

And I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies.  And that is no accident.  We can be proud of our nations without defining ourselves in opposition to some other group.  We can be patriotic without demonizing someone else.  We can cherish our own identities — our religion, our ethnicity, our traditions — without putting others down.  Our systems are premised on the notion that absolute power will corrupt, but that people — ordinary people  — are fundamentally good; that they value family and friendship, faith and the dignity of hard work; and that with appropriate checks and balances, governments can reflect this goodness.

I believe that’s the future we must seek together.  To believe in the dignity of every individual, to believe we can bridge our differences, and choose cooperation over conflict — that is not weakness, that is strength.  (Applause.)  It is a practical necessity in this interconnected world.

And our people understand this.  Think of the Liberian doctor who went door-to-door to search for Ebola cases, and to tell families what to do if they show symptoms.  Think of the Iranian shopkeeper who said, after the nuclear deal, “God willing, now we’ll be able to offer many more goods at better prices.”  Think of the Americans who lowered the flag over our embassy in Havana in 1961 — the year I was born — and returned this summer to raise that flag back up.  (Applause.)  One of these men said of the Cuban people, “We could do things for them, and they could do things for us.  We loved them.”  For 50 years, we ignored that fact.

Think of the families leaving everything they’ve known behind, risking barren deserts and stormy waters just to find shelter; just to save their children.  One Syrian refugee who was greeted in Hamburg with warm greetings and shelter, said, “We feel there are still some people who love other people.”

The people of our United Nations are not as different as they are told.  They can be made to fear; they can be taught to hate — but they can also respond to hope.  History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case.  You can count on that.  But we are called upon to offer a different type of leadership — leadership strong enough to recognize that nations share common interests and people share a common humanity, and, yes, there are certain ideas and principles that are universal.

That’s what those who shaped the United Nations 70 years ago understood.  Let us carry forward that faith into the future — for it is the only way we can assure that future will be brighter for my children, and for yours.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

11:00 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Resignation Transcript



President Barack Obama’s Statement on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Resignation

Source: WH, 9-25-15

On John Boehner, I just heard the news as I was coming out of the meeting here, so it took me by surprise.  And I took the time prior to this press conference to call John directly and talk to him.

John Boehner is a good man.  He is a patriot.  He cares deeply about the House, an institution in which he served for a long time.  He cares about his constituents, and he cares about America.  We have obviously had a lot of disagreements, and politically we’re at different ends of the spectrum.  But I will tell you, he has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me.  He has kept his word when he made a commitment.  He is somebody who has been gracious.

And I think maybe most importantly, he’s somebody who understands that in government, in governance, you don’t get 100 percent of what you want, but you have to work with people who you disagree with — sometimes strongly — in order to do the people’s business.

I’m not going to prejudge who the next Speaker will be.  That’s something that will have to be worked through in the House.  And I will certainly reach out immediately to whoever is the new Speaker to see what his or her ideas are, and how we can make progress in the important issues that America faces.

The one thing I will say is that my hope is there’s a recognition on the part of the next Speaker — something I think John understood, even though at times it was challenging to bring his caucus along — that we can have significant differences on issues, but that doesn’t mean you shut down the government.  That doesn’t mean you risk the full faith and credit of the United States.  You don’t invite potential financial crises.  You build roads and pass transportation bills.  And you do the basic work of governance that ensures that our military is operating and that our national parks are open and that our kids are learning.

And there’s no weakness in that.  That’s what government is in our democracy.  You don’t get what you want 100 percent of the time.  And so sometimes you take half a loaf; sometimes you take a quarter loaf.  And that’s certainly something that I’ve learned here in this office.

So I’m looking forward to working with the next Speaker.  In the meantime, John is not going to leave for another 30 days, so hopefully he feels like getting as much stuff done as he possibly can.  And I’ll certainly be looking forward to working with him on that.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on House Speaker Boehner’s Resignation: ‘Country and Institution before Self’



McConnell on House Speaker Boehner: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Speaker Boehner:

“Grace under pressure.

“Country and institution before self.

“These are the first things that come to mind when I think of John Boehner.

“He is an ally. He is a friend. And he took over as Republican Leader at a difficult time for his party.

“When some said Republicans could never recover, he never gave up.

“When some gave in to defeatism, he kept up the fight.

“Because he did, Speaker Boehner was able to transform a broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920s.

“That’s a legacy few can match.

“He flew across the country more times than he can count to support members of his conference, and to recruit new members to the cause. As leader of a new majority, he turned the tide in Congress and brought conservative reform in many areas. He worked tirelessly to provide hope to those who dreamed of a better life and to middle-class families who struggled under the weight of this Administration.

“John knows what it’s like to struggle and to dream of something better. He’s lived it.

“That a young man from Reading, Ohio wielding a bar towel could one day wield the gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives — it reminds us of the continuing promise of this country.

“I know yesterday was an incredibly important event for the Speaker. It was his aim to bring the same spirit of grace that has always guided his life, to others. You only had to look out onto the Capitol lawn to see what he achieved. And that he chose this moment to make this decision, means he will be leaving us in a similar spirit.

“I know we’ll all have more to say in the weeks to come. But for now, thank you, my friend.”

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Press Conference Announcing Resignation Transcript



Speaker Boehner: “It’s Been An Honor To Serve”

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today held a news conference to discuss his decision to resign from the Speakership and his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  You can watch the entire news conference here.  Following are Boehner’s opening remarks:

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.  Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children.  We’re now on track to cut government spending by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years.    We’ve made the first real entitlement reform in nearly two decades.   And we’ve protected 99 percent of Americans from permanent tax increases.

“We’ve done all this with a Democrat in the White House.  So I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.

“But more than anything, my first job as Speaker is to protect the institution.  A lot of you now know that my plan was to step down at the end of last year.  I decided in November of 2010 when I was elected Speaker that serving two terms would have been plenty.  But in June of last year, when it became clear that the majority leader lost his election, I frankly didn’t believe it was right to leave at the end of last year.  So my goal was to leave at the end of this year.  So I planned, actually on my birthday, November 17th, to announce that I was leaving at the end of the year. 

“But it’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution.   So this morning, I informed my colleagues that I would resign from the Speakership and resign from Congress at the end of October. 

“Now, as you’ve often heard me say, this isn’t about me.   It’s about the people, it’s about the institution.  Just yesterday, we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world.  And I hope that we will all heed his call to live by the Golden Rule.  But last night, I had started to think about all this. Then this morning, I woke up, said my prayers, as I always do.  And I decided, you know, today’s the day I’m going to do this, as simple as that.

“That’s the code I’ve always lived by: if you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen.  And I know good things lie ahead for this House and this country.  I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m especially proud of my team.  This is my 25th year here, and I’ve succeeded in putting a staff together and a team together, many of which have been  with me for a long time.  Without a great staff, you can’t be a great member, and you certainly can’t be a great Speaker.

“I want to thank my family for putting up with this all these years. My poor girls, who are now 37 and 35. Their first campaign photo was in July of 1981, and so, they’ve had to endure all this.  It’s one thing for me to have to endure it. I’ve got thick skin. But, you know, the girls and my wife, they had to put up with a lot over the years.

“Let me express my gratitude to my constituents, who’ve sent me here 13 times over the last 25 years. You can’t get here without getting votes. But — I say this often. People ask me, what’s the greatest thing about being speaker, or about being an elected official? And I said, well, it’s the people you get to meet.  You know, I have met tens of thousands of people in my own congressional district that I would have not met, other than the fact I decided to ran for Congress.  Over the years, as I traveled on behalf of my colleagues and the party, I’ve met tens of thousands of additional people all over the country. And you meet rich people, you meet poor people, you meet interesting people. Probably a few boring ones along the way.

“But I can tell you that 99.9 percent of the people I meet on the road, anywhere, could not be — could not be nicer than they’ve been. It’s been — really, it’s been wonderful.

“It’s been an honor to serve in this institution.”

– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-it-s-been-honor-serve#sthash.ylte48wm.dpuf

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: House Speaker John Boehner’s Statement Announcing Resignation Transcript



Statement by House Speaker John Boehner

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement:

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished.

“The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30.

“Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District. God bless this great country that has given me – the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati – the chance to serve.”
– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/statement-house-speaker-john-boehner#sthash.RpczjQCa.dpuf

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Pope Francis’s Speech to the UN General Assembly Transcript



Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly

Source: WaPo, 9-25-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, delivered Friday in New York. 

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your kind words. Once again, following a tradition by which I feel honored, the Secretary General of the United Nations has invited the Pope to address this distinguished assembly of nations. In my own name, and that of the entire Catholic community, I wish to express to you, Mr Ban Ki-moon, my heartfelt gratitude. I greet the Heads of State and Heads of Government present, as well as the ambassadors, diplomats and political and technical officials accompanying them, the personnel of the United Nations engaged in this 70th Session of the General Assembly, the personnel of the various programs and agencies of the United Nations family, and all those who, in one way or another, take part in this meeting. Through you, I also greet the citizens of all the nations represented in this hall. I thank you, each and all, for your efforts in the service of mankind.

This is the fifth time that a Pope has visited the United Nations. I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors Paul VI, in1965, John Paul II, in 1979 and 1995, and my most recent predecessor, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in 2008. All of them expressed their great esteem for the Organization, which they considered the appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history, marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power. An essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities. I can only reiterate the appreciation expressed by my predecessors, in reaffirming the importance which the Catholic Church attaches to this Institution and the hope which she places in its activities.

The United Nations is presently celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The history of this organized community of states is one of important common achievements over a period of unusually fast-paced changes. Without claiming to be exhaustive, we can mention the codification and development of international law, the establishment of international norms regarding human rights, advances in humanitarian law, the resolution of numerous conflicts, operations of peace-keeping and reconciliation, and any number of other accomplishments in every area of international activity and endeavour. All these achievements are lights which help to dispel the darkness of the disorder caused by unrestrained ambitions and collective forms of selfishness. Certainly, many grave problems remain to be resolved, yet it is clear that, without all those interventions on the international level, mankind would not have been able to survive the unchecked use of its own possibilities. Every one of these political, juridical and technical advances is a path towards attaining the ideal of human fraternity and a means for its greater realization.

For this reason I pay homage to all those men and women whose loyalty and self-sacrifice have benefitted humanity as a whole in these past seventy years. In particular, I would recall today those who gave their lives for peace and reconciliation among peoples, from Dag Hammarskjöld to the many United Nations officials at every level who have been killed in the course of humanitarian missions, and missions of peace and reconciliation.

Beyond these achievements, the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.

The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power. Yet today’s world presents us with many false rights and – at the same time – broad sectors which are vulnerable, victims of power badly exercised: for example, the natural environment and the vast ranks of the excluded. These sectors are closely interconnected and made increasingly fragile by dominant political and economic relationships. That is why their rights must be forcefully affirmed, by working to protect the environment and by putting an end to exclusion.

First, it must be stated that a true “right of the environment” does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Man, for all his remarkable gifts, which “are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology” (Laudato Si’, 81), is at the same time a part of these spheres. He possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable. Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste”.

The dramatic reality this whole situation of exclusion and inequality, with its evident effects, has led me, in union with the entire Christian people and many others, to take stock of my grave responsibility in this regard and to speak out, together with all those who are seeking urgently-needed and effective solutions. The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

Solemn commitments, however, are not enough, even though they are a necessary step toward solutions. The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.

The number and complexity of the problems require that we possess technical instruments of verification. But this involves two risks. We can rest content with the bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals – goals, objectives and statistical indicators – or we can think that a single theoretical and aprioristic solution will provide an answer to all the challenges. It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.

For all this, the simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the new Agenda for development will be effective, practical and immediate access, on the part of all, to essential material and spiritual goods: housing, dignified and properly remunerated employment, adequate food and drinking water; religious freedom and, more generally, spiritual freedom and education. These pillars of integral human development have a common foundation, which is the right to life and, more generally, what we could call the right to existence of human nature itself.

The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species. The baneful consequences of an irresponsible mismanagement of the global economy, guided only by ambition for wealth and power, must serve as a summons to a forthright reflection on man: “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature” (BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011, cited in Laudato Si’, 6). Creation is compromised “where we ourselves have the final word… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves” (ID. Address to the Clergy of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008, cited ibid.). Consequently, the defence of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself, one which includes the natural difference between man and woman (cf. Laudato Si’, 155), and absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions (cf. ibid., 123, 136).

Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm. The experience of these seventy years since the founding of the United Nations in general, and in particular the experience of these first fifteen years of the third millennium, reveal both the effectiveness of the full application of international norms and the ineffectiveness of their lack of enforcement. When the Charter of the United Nations is respected and applied with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions, peaceful results will be obtained. When, on the other hand, the norm is considered simply as an instrument to be used whenever it proves favourable, and to be avoided when it is not, a true Pandora’s box is opened, releasing uncontrollable forces which gravely harm defenseless populations, the cultural milieu and even the biological environment.

The Preamble and the first Article of the Charter of the United Nations set forth the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between the nations. Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust”. There is urgent need to work for a world free of nuclear weapons, in full application of the non-proliferation Treaty, in letter and spirit, with the goal of a complete prohibition of these weapons.

The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

In this sense, hard evidence is not lacking of the negative effects of military and political interventions which are not coordinated between members of the international community. For this reason, while regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.

As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” and to protect innocent peoples.

Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. A corruption which has penetrated to different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life, and, in many cases, has given rise to a parallel structure which threatens the credibility of our institutions.

I began this speech recalling the visits of my predecessors. I would hope that my words will be taken above all as a continuation of the final words of the address of Pope Paul VI; although spoken almost exactly fifty years ago, they remain ever timely. “The hour has come when a pause, a moment of recollection, reflection, even of prayer, is absolutely needed so that we may think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today… For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science; if these are used well, they can help to solve a great number of the serious problems besetting mankind (Address to the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965). Among other things, human genius, well applied, will surely help to meet the grave challenges of ecological deterioration and of exclusion. As Paul VI said: “The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests” (ibid.).

The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good. To repeat the words of Paul VI, “the edifice of modern civilization has to be built on spiritual principles, for they are the only ones capable not only of supporting it, but of shedding light on it” (ibid.).

El Gaucho Martín Fierro, a classic of literature in my native land, says: “Brothers should stand by each other, because this is the first law; keep a true bond between you always, at every time – because if you fight among yourselves, you’ll be devoured by those outside”.

The contemporary world, so apparently connected, is experiencing a growing and steady social fragmentation, which places at risk “the foundations of social life” and consequently leads to “battles over conflicting interests” (Laudato Si’, 229).

The present time invites us to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society, so as to bear fruit in significant and positive historical events (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 223). We cannot permit ourselves to postpone “certain agendas” for the future. The future demands of us critical and global decisions in the face of world-wide conflicts which increase the number of the excluded and those in need.

The praiseworthy international juridical framework of the United Nations Organization and of all its activities, like any other human endeavour, can be improved, yet it remains necessary; at the same time it can be the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations. And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good. I pray to Almighty God that this will be the case, and I assure you of my support and my prayers, and the support and prayers of all the faithful of the Catholic Church, that this Institution, all its member States, and each of its officials, will always render an effective service to mankind, a service respectful of diversity and capable of bringing out, for sake of the common good, the best in each people and in every individual.

Upon all of you, and the peoples you represent, I invoke the blessing of the Most High, and all peace and prosperity. Thank you.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Pope Francis’ Address to Congress Transcript



Transcript: Pope Francis’s speech to Congress

Source: WaPo, 9-24-15

The following is the prepared text of Pope Francis’s address to a joint meeting of Congress, delivered Thursday in Washington. (Follow our liveblog for the latest)

Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful

source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems

are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement upon meeting Pope Francis before his address to Congress



WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today welcomed Pope Francis to the United States Capitol, where he became the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress.  After the Pope’s visit, Boehner issued the following statement:

“What a day.  What a moment for our country.  I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.  The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us.  With great blessings, of course, come great responsibility.  Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another.  Let us all go forth and live up to the words, God bless America.”

Full Text Political Transcripts September 23, 2015: Pope Francis Addresses President Barack Obama And Guests At White House Transcript



Pope Francis Addresses President Obama And Guests At White House (Full Transcript)

Source: Huffington Post, 9-23-15

Mr. President,

I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of all Americans. As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families. I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue, in which I hope to listen to, and share, many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.

During my visit I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles. I will also travel to Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families, to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this, a critical moment in the history of our civilization.

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our “common home”, we are living at a critical moment of history. We still have time to make the changes needed to bring about “a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’, 13). Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them. Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities and our societies. To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note and now is the time to honor it.

We know by faith that “the Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (Laudato Si’, 13). As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

The efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom. I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country. God bless America!

Full Text Political Transcripts September 22, 2015: President Barack Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis’ Remarks at Arrival Ceremony in Washington for US Trip Transcript



Remarks by President Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis at Arrival Ceremony

Source: WH, 9-22-15

South Lawn

9:32 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good morning.

AUDIENCE:  Good morning!  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  What a beautiful day the Lord has made.  Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  (Applause.)  I should explain that our backyard is not typically this crowded — (laughter) — but the size and spirit of today’s gathering is just a small reflection of the deep devotion of some 70 million American Catholics.  (Applause.)  It reflects, as well, the way that your message of love and hope has inspired so many people across our nation and around the world.  So on behalf of the American people, it is my great honor and privilege to welcome you to the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Today, we mark many firsts.  Your Holiness, you have been celebrated as the first Pope from the Americas.  (Applause.) This is your first visit to the United States.  (Applause.)  And you are also the first pontiff to share an encyclical through a Twitter account.  (Laughter.)

Holy Father, your visit not only allows us, in some small way, to reciprocate the extraordinary hospitality that you extended to me at the Vatican last year.  It also reveals how much all Americans, from every background and every faith, value the role that the Catholic Church plays in strengthening America.  (Applause.)  From my time working in impoverished neighborhoods with the Catholic Church in Chicago, to my travels as President, I’ve seen firsthand how, every single day, Catholic communities, priests, nuns, laity are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless, educating our children, and fortifying the faith that sustains so many.

And what is true in America is true around the world.  From the busy streets of Buenos Aires to the remote villages in Kenya, Catholic organizations serve the poor, minister to prisoners, build schools, build homes, operate orphanages and hospitals.  And just as the Church has stood with those struggling to break the chains of poverty, the Church so often has given voice and hope to those seeking to break the chains of violence and oppression.

And yet, I believe the excitement around your visit, Holy Father, must be attributed not only to your role as Pope, but to your unique qualities as a person.  (Applause.)  In your humility, your embrace of simplicity, in the gentleness of your words and the generosity of your spirit, we see a living example of Jesus’ teachings, a leader whose moral authority comes not just through words but also through deeds.  (Applause.)

You call on all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to put the “least of these” at the center of our concerns.  You remind us that in the eyes of God our measure as individuals, and our measure as a society, is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized — (applause) — to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity –- because we are all made in the image of God.  (Applause.)

You remind us that “the Lord’s most powerful message” is mercy.  And that means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart –- (applause) — from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life.  (Applause.)  It means showing compassion and love for the marginalized and the outcast, to those who have suffered, and those who have caused suffering and seek redemption.  You remind us of the costs of war, particularly on the powerless and defenseless, and urge us toward the imperative of peace.  (Applause.)

Holy Father, we are grateful for your invaluable support of our new beginning with the Cuban people — (applause) — which holds out the promise of better relations between our countries, greater cooperation across our hemisphere, and a better life for the Cuban people.  We thank you for your passionate voice against the deadly conflicts that ravage the lives of so many men, women and children, and your call for nations to resist the sirens of war and resolve disputes through diplomacy.

You remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely.  (Applause.)  Here in the United States, we cherish religious liberty.  It was the basis for so much of what brought us together.  And here in the United States, we cherish our religious liberty, but around the world, at this very moment, children of God, including Christians, are targeted and even killed because of their faith.  Believers are prevented from gathering at their places of worship.  The faithful are imprisoned, and churches are destroyed.  So we stand with you in defense of religious freedom and interfaith dialogue, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live out their faith free from fear and free from intimidation.  (Applause.)

And, Holy Father, you remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, God’s magnificent gift to us.  (Applause.)  We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate, and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.  (Applause.)

Your Holiness, in your words and deeds, you set a profound moral example.  And in these gentle but firm reminders of our obligations to God and to one another, you are shaking us out of complacency.  All of us may, at times, experience discomfort when we contemplate the distance between how we lead our daily lives and what we know to be true, what we know to be right.  But I believe such discomfort is a blessing, for it points to something better.  You shake our conscience from slumber; you call on us to rejoice in Good News, and give us confidence that we can come together in humility and service, and pursue a world that is more loving, more just, and more free.  Here at home and around the world, may our generation heed your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.”

For that great gift of hope, Holy Father, we thank you, and welcome you, with joy and gratitude, to the United States of America.  (Applause.)


AUDIENCE:  Good morning!

HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS:  Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for your welcome in the name of the all Americans.  As a son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.  (Applause.)

I look forward to these days of encounter and dialogue in which I hope to listen to and share many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.  During my visit, I will have the honor of addressing Congress, where I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles.  I will also travel to Philadelphia for the eighth World Meeting of Families to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this critical moment in the history of our civilization.  (Applause.)

Mr. President, together with their fellow citizens, American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.  (Applause.)  With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty.  (Applause.)  That freedom reminds one of America’s most precious possessions.  And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops, have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.  (Applause.)

Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution.  (Applause.)  Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation.  (Applause.)  When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment of history.  We still have time to make the change needed to bring about a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.  (Applause.)

Such change demands on our part a serious and responsible recognition not only of the kind of world we may be leaving to our children, but also to the millions of people living under a system which has overlooked them.  Our common home has been part of this group of the excluded, which cries out to heaven and which today powerfully strikes our homes, our cities, our societies.  To use a telling phrase of the Reverend Martin Luther King, we can say that we have defaulted on a promissory note, and now is the time to honor it.  (Applause.)
We know by faith that the Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity has the ability to work together in building our common home.  As Christians inspired by this certainty, we wish to commit ourselves to the conscious and responsible care of our common home.

Mr. President, the efforts which were recently made to mend broken relationships and to open new doors to cooperation within our human family represent positive steps along the path of reconciliation, justice and freedom.

I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development — (applause) — so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.

Mr. President, once again I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to these days in your country.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

9:53 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 20, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner Transcript



Remarks by the President at the Congressional Black Caucus 45th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner

Source: WH, 9-20-15

Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

9:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, CBC!  (Applause.)  I guess I get the fancier lectern here.  Everybody please have a seat.  Have a seat.  I know it’s late.  You’re ready for the after parties.  I should have ditched the speech and brought my playlist.  (Laughter.)  Everybody looks beautiful, handsome, wonderful.  Thank you, Don, for that introduction.  Thank you to the CBC Foundation.  And thank you to the members of the CBC.  (Applause.)

On the challenges of our times, from giving workers a raise to getting families health coverage; on the threats of our time, from climate change to nuclear proliferation — members of the CBC have been leaders moving America forward.  With your help, our businesses have created over 13 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  With your help, we’ve covered more than 16 million Americans with health insurance — many for the first time.  (Applause.)  Three years ago, Republicans said they’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent by 2017.  It’s down to 5.1 right now.  (Applause.)  You didn’t hear much about that at the debate on Monday — on Wednesday night.

The point is, though, none of this progress would have been possible without the CBC taking tough votes when it mattered most.  Whatever I’ve accomplished, the CBC has been there.  (Applause.)  I was proud to be a CBC member when I was in the Senate, and I’m proud to be your partner today.  But we’re not here just to celebrate — we’re here to keep going.  Because with the unemployment rate for African Americans still more than double than whites, with millions of families still working hard and still waiting to feel the recovery in their own lives, we know that the promise of this nation — where every single American, regardless of the circumstances in which they were born, regardless of what they look like, where they come from, has the chance to succeed — that promise is not yet fulfilled.

The good thing about America — the great project of America is that perfecting our union is never finished.  We’ve always got more work to do.  And tonight’s honorees remind us of that.  They remind us of the courage and sacrifices, the work that they’ve done — and not just at the national level, but in local communities all across the country.  We couldn’t be prouder of them.  The heroes of the Civil Rights Movement whom we lost last month remind us of the work that remains to be done.  American heroes like Louis Stokes, and Julian Bond, and Amelia Boynton Robinson.  (Applause.)

Ms. Robinson — as some of you know, earlier this year, my family and I joined many in Selma for the 50th anniversary of that march.  And as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I held Ms. Amelia’s hand.  And I thought about her and all the extraordinary women like her who were really the life force of the movement.  (Applause.)  Women were the foot soldiers.  Women strategized boycotts.  Women organized marches.  Even if they weren’t allowed to run the civil rights organizations on paper, behind the scenes they were the thinkers and the doers making things happen each and every day — (applause) — doing the work that nobody else wanted to do.  They couldn’t prophesize from the pulpits, but they led the charge from the pews.  They were no strangers to violence.  They were on the front lines.  So often they were subject to abuse, dehumanized, but kept on going, holding families together.  Mothers were beaten and gassed on Bloody Sunday.  Four little girls were murdered in a Birmingham church.  Women made the movement happen.

Of course, black women have been a part of every great movement in American history — (applause) — even if they weren’t always given a voice.  They helped plan the March on Washington, but were almost entirely absent from the program.  And when pressed, male organizers added a tribute highlighting six women — none of them who were asked to make a speech.  Daisy Bates introduced her fellow honorees in just 142 words, written by a man.  Of course, Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson sang.  But in a three-hour program, the men gave women just 142 words.  That may sound familiar to some of the women in the room here tonight.  The organizers even insisted on two separate parades — male leaders marching along the main route on Pennsylvania Avenue, and leaders like Dorothy Height and Rosa Parks relegated to Independence Avenue.  America’s most important march against segregation had its own version of separation.

Black women were central in the fight for women’s rights, from suffrage to the feminist movement — (applause) — and yet despite their leadership, too often they were also marginalized.  But they didn’t give up, they didn’t let up.  They were too fierce for that.  Black women have always understood the words of Pauli Murray — that “Hope is a song in a weary throat.”

It’s thanks to black women that we’ve come a long way since the days when a girl like Ruby Bridges couldn’t go to school.  When a woman like Amelia couldn’t cast her vote.  When we didn’t have a Congressional Black Caucus — and its 20 women members.  (Applause.)

So I’m focusing on women tonight because I want them to know how much we appreciate them, how much we admire them, how much we love them.  (Applause.)  And I want to talk about what more we have to do to provide full opportunity and equality for our black women and girls in America today.  (Applause.)

Because all of us are beneficiaries of a long line of strong black women who helped carry this country forward.  Their work to expand civil rights opened the doors of opportunity, not just for African Americans but for all women, for all of us — black and white, Latino and Asian, LGBT and straight, for our First Americans and our newest Americans.  And their contributions in every field — as scientists and entrepreneurs, educators, explorers — all made us stronger.  Of course, they’re also a majority of my household.  (Laughter and applause.)  So I care deeply about how they’re doing.

The good news is, despite structural barriers of race and gender, women and girls of color have made real progress in recent years.  The number of black women-owned businesses has skyrocketed.  (Applause.)  Black women have ascended the ranks of every industry.  Teen pregnancy rates among girls of color are down, while high school and four-year college graduation rates are up.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.

But there’s no denying that black women and girls still face real and persistent challenges.  The unemployment rate is over 8 percent for black women.  And they’re overrepresented in low-paying jobs; underrepresented in management.  They often lack access to economic necessities like paid leave and quality, affordable child care.  They often don’t get the same quality health care that they need, and have higher rates of certain chronic diseases — although that’s starting to change with Obamacare.  (Applause.)  It’s working, by the way, people.  Just in case — (laughter) — just in case you needed to know.

And then there are some of the challenges that are harder to see and harder to talk about — although Michelle, our outstanding, beautiful First Lady talks about these struggles.  (Applause.)  Michelle will tell stories about when she was younger, people telling her she shouldn’t aspire to go to the very best universities.  And she found herself thinking sometimes, “Well, maybe they’re right.”  Even after she earned two degrees from some of the best universities in America, she still faced the doubts that were rooted in deep social prejudice and stereotypes, worrying whether she was being too assertive, or too angry, or too tall.  (Applause.)  I like tall women.  (Laughter and applause.)

And those stereotypes and social pressures, they still affect our girls.  So we all have to be louder than the voices that are telling our girls they’re not good enough — (applause) — that they’ve got to look a certain way, or they’ve got to act a certain way, or set their goals at a certain level.  We’ve got to affirm their sense of self-worth, and make them feel visible and beautiful, and understood and loved.  (Applause.)  And I say this as a father who strives to do this at home, but I also say this as a citizen.  This is not just about my family or yours; it’s about who we are as a people, who we want to be, and how we can make sure that America is fulfilling its promise — because everybody is getting a chance, and everybody is told they’re important, and everybody is given opportunity.  And we got to do more than just say we care, or say we put a woman on ten-dollar bill, although that’s a good idea.  We’ve got to make sure they’re getting some ten-dollar bills; that they’re getting paid properly.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to let our actions do the talking.

It is an affront to the very idea of America when certain segments of our population don’t have access to the same opportunities as everybody else.  It makes a mockery of our economy when black women make 30 fewer cents for every dollar a white man earns.  (Applause.)  That adds up to thousands of dollars in missed income that determines whether a family can pay for a home, or pay for college for their kids, or save for retirement, or give their kids a better life.  And that’s not just a woman’s issue, that’s everybody’s issue.  I want Michelle getting paid at some point.  (Laughter and applause.)  We’ve got an outstanding former Secretary of State here who is also former First Lady, and I know she can relate to Michelle when she says, how come you get paid and I don’t?  (Laughter and applause.)  How did that work?  (Laughter.)

When women of color aren’t given the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, we all lose out on their talents; we’re not as good a country as we can be.  We might miss out on the next Mae Jemison or Ursula Burns or Serena Williams or Michelle Obama.  (Applause.)  We want everybody to be on the field.  We can’t afford to leave some folks off the field.

So we’re going to have to close those economic gaps so that hardworking women of all races, and black women in particular can support families, and strengthen communities, and contribute to our country’s success.  So that’s why my administration is investing in job training and apprenticeships, to help everybody, but particularly help more women earn better-paying jobs, and particularly in non-traditional careers.  It’s why we’re investing in getting more girls, and particularly girls of color interested in STEM fields — math and science and engineering — (applause) — and help more of them stay on track in school.

It’s why we’re going to continue to fight to eliminate the pay gap.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  It’s an all-American idea.  It’s very simple.  And that’s why we’re going to keep working to raise the minimum wage — because women disproportionately are the ones who are not getting paid what they’re worth.  That’s why we’re fighting to expand tax credits that help working parents make ends meet, closing tax loopholes for folks who don’t need tax loopholes to pay for.  It’s why we’re expanding paid leave to employees of federal contractors.  And that’s why Congress needs to expand paid leave for more hardworking Americans.  It’s good for our economy.  It’s the right thing to do.  No family should have to choose between taking care of a sick child or losing their job.  (Applause.)

And just as an aside, what’s not the right thing to do, what makes no sense at all, is Congress threatening to shut down the entire federal government if they can’t shut down women’s access to Planned Parenthood.  (Applause.)  That’s not a good idea.  Congress should be working on investing things that grow our economy and expand opportunity, and not get distracted and inflict the kind of self-inflicted wounds that we’ve seen before on our economy.  So that’s some of the things we need to do to help improve the economic standing of all women; to help all families feel more secure in a changing economy.

And before I go tonight, I also want to say something about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while, another profound barrier to opportunity in too many communities — and that is our criminal justice system.  (Applause.)

I spoke about this at length earlier this year at the NAACP, and I explained the long history of inequity in our criminal justice system.  We all know the statistics.  And this summer, because I wanted to highlight that there were human beings behind these statistics, I visited a prison in Oklahoma — the first President to ever visit a federal prison.  (Applause.)  And I sat down with the inmates, and I listened to their stories.  And one of the things that struck me was the crushing burden their incarceration has placed not just on their prospects for the future, but also for their families, the women in their lives, children being raised without a father in the home; the crushing regret these men felt over the children that they left behind.

Mass incarceration rips apart families.  It hollows out neighborhoods.  It perpetuates poverty.  We understand that in many of our communities, they’re under-policed.  The problem is not that we don’t want active, effective police work.  We want, and admire, and appreciate law enforcement.  We want them in our communities.  Crime hurts the African American community more than anybody.  But we want to make sure that it’s done well and it’s done right, and it’s done fairly and it’s done smart.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, in the coming months, I’m going to be working with many in Congress and many in the CBC to try to make progress on reform legislation that addresses unjust sentencing laws, and encourages diversion and prevention programs, catches our young people early and tries to put them on a better path, and then helps ex-offenders, after they’ve done their time, get on the right track.  It’s the right thing to do for America.  (Applause.)

And although in these discussions a lot of my focus has been on African American men and the work we’re doing with My Brother’s Keeper, we can’t forget the impact that the system has on women, as well.  The incarceration rate for black women is twice as high as the rate for white women.  Many women in prison, you come to discover, have been victims of homelessness and domestic violence, and in some cases human trafficking.  They’ve got high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.  And many have been sexually assaulted, both before they got to prison and then after they go to prison.  And we don’t often talk about how society treats black women and girls before they end up in prison.  They’re suspended at higher rates than white boys and all other girls.  And while boys face the school-to-prison pipeline, a lot of girls are facing a more sinister sexual abuse-to-prison pipeline.  (Applause.)  Victims of early sexual abuse are more likely to fail in school, which can lead to sexual exploitation, which can lead to prison.  So we’re focusing on boys, but we’re also investing in ways to change the odds for at-risk girls — to make sure that they are loved and valued, to give them a chance.

And that’s why we have to make a collective effort to address violence and abuse against women in all of our communities.  In every community, on every campus, we’ve got to be very clear:  Women who have been victims of rape or domestic abuse, who need help, should know that they can count on society and on law enforcement to treat them with love and care and sensitivity, and not skepticism.  (Applause.)

I want to repeat — because somehow this never shows up on Fox News.  (Laughter.)  I want to repeat — because I’ve said it a lot, unwaveringly, all the time:  Our law enforcement officers do outstanding work in an incredibly difficult and dangerous job.  They put their lives on the line for our safety.  (Applause.)  We appreciate them and we love them.  That’s why my Task Force on 21st Century Policing made a set of recommendations that I want to see implemented to improve their safety, as well as to make sure that our criminal justice system is being applied fairly.  Officers show uncommon bravery in our communities every single day.  They deserve our respect.  That includes women in law enforcement.  We need more of you, by the way.  We’ve got an outstanding chief law enforcement officer in our Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.  (Applause.)  We want all our young ladies to see what a great role model she is.

So I just want to repeat, because somehow this never gets on the TV:  There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly.  Do not make this as an either/or proposition.  This is a both/and proposition.  (Applause.)  We want to protect our police officers.  We’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly.  I hope I’m making that clear.  (Applause.)  I hope I’m making that clear.

We need to make sure the laws are applied evenly.  This is not a new problem.  It’s just that in recent months, in recent years, suddenly folks have videos and body cameras, and social media, and so it’s opened our eyes to these incidents.  And many of these incidents are subject to ongoing investigation, so I can’t comment on every specific one.  But we can’t avoid these tough conversations altogether.  That’s not going to help our police officers, the vast majority who do the right thing every day, by just pretending that these things aren’t happening.  That’s not going to help build trust between them and the communities in which they serve.

So these are hard issues, but I’m confident we’re going to move forward together for a system that is fairer and more just.  We’ve got good people on both sides of the aisle that are working with law enforcement and local communities to find a better way forward.  And as always, change will not happen overnight.  It won’t be easy.  But if our history has taught us anything, it’s taught us that when we come together, when we’re working with a sense of purpose, when we are listening to one another, when we assume the best in each other rather than the worst, then change happens.

Like every parent, I can’t help to see the world increasingly through my daughters’ eyes.  And on that day, when we were celebrating that incredible march in Selma, I had Ms. Amelia’s hand in one of my hands, but Michelle had Sasha’s hand, and my mother-in-law had Malia’s hand — and it was a chain across generations.  And I thought about all those women who came before us, who risked everything for life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so often without notice, so often without fanfare.  Their names never made the history books.  All those women who cleaned somebody else’s house, or looked after somebody else’s children, did somebody else’s laundry, and then got home and did it again, and then went to church and cooked — and then they were marching.  (Applause.)

And because of them, Michelle could cross that bridge.  And because of them, they brought them along, and Malia and Sasha can cross that bridge.  And that tells me that if we follow their example, we’re going to cross more bridges in the future.  If we keep moving forward, hand in hand, God willing, my daughters’ children will be able to cross that bridge in an America that’s more free, and more just, and more prosperous than the one that we inherited.  Your children will, too.

Thank you CBC.  God bless you.  God bless this country we love.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

10:06 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s remarks to the business roundtable urging against a government shutdown transcript



Remarks by the President to the Business Roundtable

Source: WH, 9-16-15

Business Roundtable Headquarters
Washington, D.C.

11:24 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Randall, and thank you to everybody here at the Business Roundtable for having me today.  I’m just going to say a few words and then hopefully spend a lot of time taking your questions.

Seven years ago today was one of the worst days in the history of our economy.  If you picked up the Wall Street Journal that morning, you read that the shocks from AIG and Lehman were spreading worldwide.  The day before, stocks had suffered their worst loss since 9/11.  In the months after, businesses would go bankrupt, millions of Americans would lose their jobs and their homes, and our economy would reach the brink of collapse.

That’s where we were when I became chief executive.  Here’s where we are today:  Businesses like yours have created more than 13 million new jobs over the past 66 months -– the longest streak of job growth on record.  The unemployment rate is lower than it’s been in over seven years.  There are more job openings right now than at any time in our history.  Housing has bounced back.  Household wealth is higher than it was before the recession.  We have made enormous strides in both traditional energy sources and clean energy sources while reducing our carbon emissions.  And our education system is actually making significant progress with significant gains in reducing the dropout rate, reading scores increasing, math scores increasing.  And, by the way, more than 16 million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before.

So this progress is a testament to American business and innovation.  It’s a testament to the workers that you employ.  But I’m going to take a little credit, too.  It’s a testament to some good policy decisions.  Soon after we took office, we passed the Recovery Act, rescued our auto industry, worked to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation for growth.  Other countries in some cases embraced austerity as an ideology without looking at the data and the facts, tried to cut their way out of recession.  The results speak for themselves.  America has come back from crisis faster than almost every other advanced nation on Earth.  And at a time of significant global volatility, we remain the world’s safest, smartest investment.

Of course, I will not be satisfied — and we as a country shouldn’t be satisfied — until more working families are feeling the recovery in their own lives.  But the fact is that what I’ve called middle-class economics has been good for business.  Corporate profits have hit an all-time high.  Slowing health care prices and plummeting energy costs have helped your bottom lines.  Manufacturing is growing at the fastest clip in about two decades.  Our workforce is more educated than ever before.  The stock market has more than doubled since 2009, and 2015 is on pace to be the year with the highest consumer confidence since 2004.  And America’s technological entrepreneurs have continued to make incredible products that are changing our lives rapidly.
Now, you wouldn’t know any of this if you were listening to the folks who are seeking this office that I occupy.  (Laughter.)  In the echo chamber that is presidential politics, everything is dark and everything is terrible.  They don’t seem to offer many solutions for the disasters that they perceive -– but they’re quick to tell you who to blame.

I’m here to say that there’s nothing particularly patriotic or American about talking down America, especially when we stand as one of the few sources of economic strength in the world.

Right now, we’ve got the chance to build on progress that we have made and that is acknowledged worldwide.  We have a chance to grow the economy even faster, create jobs even faster, lift people’s incomes and prospects even faster.  We just have to make some sensible choices.  And I’m going to focus on one particular example.  America’s next fiscal year is almost upon us, which means that Congress has about two weeks to pass a budget.  If they don’t, they will shut down America’s government for the second time in two years.

Democrats are ready to sit down and negotiate with Republicans right now, today, as we speak.  But it should be over legitimate questions of spending and revenue –- not unrelated ideological issues.  You’ll recall that two years ago Republicans shut down the government because they didn’t like Obamacare.  Today, some are suggesting the government should be shut down because they don’t like Planned Parenthood.  That’s not good sense and it’s not good business.  The notion that we’d play chicken with an $18 trillion economy and global markets that are already skittish all because of an issue around a women’s health provider that receives less than 20 cents out of every thousand dollars in the federal budget, that’s not good policymaking.

The last time Republicans shut down the government, it cost our economy billions of dollars; consumer confidence plummeted.  I don’t think anybody here thinks that’s going to be good for your business.

I’ve always believed what our first Republican President, a guy from my home state named Abraham Lincoln, believed –- that through government we should do together those things that we can’t do as well by ourselves.  Funding infrastructure projects.  Educating the best workforce in the world.  Investing in cutting-edge research and development so that businesses can take that research and take some risks to create new products and new services.  Setting basic rules for the marketplace that encourage innovation and fair competition that help a market-based economy thrive.  Creating a safety net that not only helps the most vulnerable in our society but also frees all of us to take risks and protect against life’s uncertainties.  And welcoming, rather than disparaging, the striving immigrants that have always been the source of continued renewal, economic vibrancy and dynamism in our economy.

So my hope is that Congress aims a little higher than just not shutting the government down.  That’s a good start, we’d like them to achieve that, but I think we can do better.  We can actually do some things to help the economy grow.  After the last shutdown, both parties came together and unwound some of the irrational cuts to our economy and military readiness that’s known as sequester.  That agreement expires in two weeks as well.  And for those of you who are not steeped in federal budget terminology, sequester basically are automatic topline cuts that don’t discriminate, don’t think through what are good investments and what is waste.  And if we don’t reverse the cuts that are currently in place, a lot of the drivers of growth that your companies depends on — research, job training, infrastructure, education for our workforce — they are going to be reduced effectively at a time when other countries around the world are racing to get ahead of us.  On the other hand, if Congress does reverse dome of these cuts, then our own budget office estimates it would add about half a million jobs to our economy next year alone, about 0.4 percent to GDP.

And keep in mind that we can afford it right now — all the things I said at the front in terms of the recovery that we’ve made.  We’ve also reduced the deficit by two-thirds.  Right now it’s about 2.8 percent of GDP.  We’ve reduced our deficit faster than some of those countries that pursued strict austerity policies and weren’t thinking about how to grow the economy.

And so we are well positioned without adding to the deficit.  I want to repeat — since I took office, we’ve cut the deficit by more than two-thirds.  And the good news is we might actually be moving beyond some of the stale debates we’ve been having about spending and revenue over the past several years if what economists and people who are knowledgeable about the federal budget are listened to as opposed by this being driven by short-term politics.

People in both parties, including some of the leading Republican candidates for President, have been putting out proposals.  Some I agree with, some I don’t.  I’ll give you one example, though.  You’ve got two leading candidates on the Republican side who have said that we should eliminate the carried interest loophole.  Now, there’s disagreement in this room around that.  But I will tell you that keeping this tax loophole, which leads to folks who are doing very well paying lower rates than their secretaries, is not in any demonstrable way improving our economy.

On the other hand, if we close the tax loophole, we could double the number of workers in America’s job training programs.  We could help another 4 million students afford college.  These are sensible choices that if you were running your business and you took a look at it, you’d make that decision.  Well, America should too.

And this is an example of how we can maintain fiscal responsibility while at the same time making the investments that we need to grow.

So the bottom line is this:  Seven years ago, if we had listened to some politicians who said we could only cut our way to prosperity, the fact is we’d be worse off today.  If we listen to them now, then we’re going to be worse off tomorrow.

I hope that you will talk to your friends in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike.  As Congress flirts with another shutdown, remind them of what is at stake.  We will have some disagreements sometimes.  I do not expect to get 100 percent of what I want in any conversation, including with my wife.  But I do expect us to stay focused on why we’re here, which is to help the American people and businesses like yours and your workers do better.  That’s our job.  We’re not supposed to be impeding progress.  We’re supposed to be advancing progress, accelerating it.

And if our leaders can put common sense over ideology and the good of the country before the good of the party, then we’ll do just fine.  Despite the perennial doom and gloom that I guess is inevitably part of a presidential campaign, America is winning right now.  America is great right now.  We can do even better.  But the reason that I’m so confident about our future is not because of our government or the size of our GDP or our military, but because everybody in this country that I meet — regardless of their station in life, their race, their religion, the region they live in — they do believe in a common creed that if people work hard in this country, they should be able to get ahead.  And I know that’s what you believe.  That’s the values that you try to instill in our companies, as well.  My hope is, is that that decency, that hard work, that common sense is going to be reflected here in Washington.

So with that, let me take some questions.  And I’m going to start with Randall, because since he volunteered for what I’m sure is a thankless job of being head of the — (laughter).

Q    I’ll get it going here.  I know there are a lot of other questions for you.  But Leader McConnell was just here a little earlier, and he gave us all a cause to exhale, talking about the budget and seemed confident that we would get a place where we would have a budget.  And in the context of that he spoke about how split government can actually provide opportunities for getting big things done that might be hard to get done otherwise.  And he caused a head-snapper with all of us when he gave you a very strong compliment over —

THE PRESIDENT:  My head is snapping.  (Laughter.)  What did I do?

Q    Trade Promotion Authority, and how you worked that and you worked it very aggressively.  And, by the way, all of us in here — Mike Froman, I don’t know if he’s here, and Jeff Zients are very complimentary of the work that was done there.

So now you have the authority to get a trade deal done.  It’s going to have to come back to Congress, and so forth.  Talk to us a little bit about your view of the opportunity to get the Trans-Pacific deal done.

THE PRESIDENT:  I am confident that we can get it done, and I believe we can get it done this year.  The trade ministers should be meeting again sometime in the next several weeks.  They have the opportunity to close the deal.  Most chapters have been completed at this point.  And I’m confident that it will, in fact, accomplish our central goal, which is to make sure that we’ve got a level playing field for American businesses and American workers in the fastest-growing region of the world.

There are going to be unprecedented protections for labor standards and environmental standards, but also for IP protection, also for making sure that when any company here makes an investment, that they’re not being disadvantaged but are instead being treated like domestic companies for commercial purposes.

And so the notion here is, is that we’ve got 11 nations who represent the fastest-growing, most populous part of the world buying into a high-standards trade deal that allows us and your companies on a consistent basis to compete.  And the good news is, is that with a lot of tough negotiating and a lot of pushing and pulling — mainly by Mr. Froman, but occasionally I get called in to lob a call into one of my counterparts — I think that we’re going to get this done.

Now, the key then, once we close the negotiations and we have an agreement, is to get TPP through Congress.  We got it through.  I will return the compliment of Mitch McConnell worked very hard and very creatively to get it done.  We should not assume, though, that because the authority was done, that we automatically are going to be able to get TPP done.

And I’ll be honest with you, the reason is that the politics around trade are tough.  And I said this even in the run-up to getting TPA authority.  A lot of Americans, when they think of trade, think of plants in their hometown or nearby shutting down and moving to Mexico or China, and American manufacturing and good-paying jobs being lost.  That’s the image of trade.

And the argument that I have made consistently to Democrats has been that there may have been some mistakes made in past trade agreements in not, for example, having enforceable labor and environmental provisions that put American companies that are doing the right thing at a disadvantage; that there weren’t enough safeguards for intellectual property and the abuses of state-owned enterprises and subsidies that companies may have been involved with.

But that’s the status quo now.  And if you want to correct those things, we’ve got to raise the bar.  I didn’t fully persuade all my Democratic colleagues, because the politics are tough.  And I was willing to take my case to the Democratic caucus and to talk to my friends in organized labor and say that we can’t look backwards, we’ve got to look forward.  We’re going to have to compete in these areas.

Here’s the concern politically, is that I think within the Republican Party some of the same impulses that are anti-immigration reform, some of the same impulses that see the entire world as a threat and we’ve got to wall ourselves off, some of those same impulses also start creeping into the trade debate.  And a party that traditionally was pro free trade now has a substantial element that may feel differently.

And so the BRT, I think — you know, you got to put Engler to work over there.  To their credit, both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner I think are on the right program here, but they’re going to need some help potentially with their membership, because the closer we get to political season, the tighter some of these votes get.  I will tell you this, though:  I am confident that if I’m presenting an agreement to Congress, that it will meet the commitment that I made that this would be the highest standard, most progressive trade deal in American history.  It will be good for American business and American workers.

Q    Hi, Mr. President.  Thank you for being with us.  I wanted to ask you about cybersecurity.  You put an executive order in place earlier this week because of the issues we have with information-sharing and with liabilities.  And we at the BRT are very supportive of the legislation that has passed the House and is now in progress in the Senate.  And I wanted to just get your thoughts on how you’re thinking about this, and also with the upcoming visit of the President of China about cybersecurity and our relationship with China.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is an issue that is not going away.  It is going to be more and more important, and it is going to be very challenging.  It’s challenging in part because the Internet itself, the architecture of it was not intended to carry trillions of dollars of transactions and everybody’s personal information.  It was designed for a couple of professors to trade academic papers.  And so the kind of security that we were looking for was not embedded into the DNA of the Internet.

And the vulnerabilities are significant and they are being exploited by not just state actors, but also non-state actors and criminal gangs at an accelerating pace.  So this is something that from a national security perspective and from a business perspective we’re going to have to continue to concentrate on.

One of the big issues that you mentioned, Maggie, that we’re focused on, is this encryption issue.  And there is a legitimate tension around this issue.  On the one hand, the stronger the encryption, the better we can potentially protect our data.  And so there’s an argument that says we want to turbocharge our encryption so that nobody can crack it.  On the other hand, if you have encryption that doesn’t have any way to get in there, we are now empowering ISIL, child pornographers, others to essentially be able to operate within a black box in ways that we’ve never experienced before during the telecommunications age.  And I’m not talking, by the way, about some of the controversies around NSA; I’m talking about the traditional FBI going to a judge, getting a warrant, showing probable cause, but still can’t get in.

So we’ve created a process around which to see if we can square the circle here and reconcile the need for greater and greater encryption and the legitimate needs of national security and law enforcement.

And I won’t say that we’ve cracked the code yet, but we’ve got some of the smartest folks not just in government but also in the private sector working together to try to resolve it.  And what’s interesting is even in the private sector, even in the tech community, people are on different sides of this thing.

With respect to China, this will probably be one of the biggest topics that I discuss with President Xi.  We have repeatedly said to the Chinese government that we understand traditional intelligence-gathering functions that all states, including us, engage in.  And we will do everything we can to stop you from getting state secrets or transcripts of a meeting that I’ve had, but we understand you’re going to be trying to do that.  That is fundamentally different from your government or its proxies engaging directly in industrial espionage and stealing trade secrets, stealing proprietary information from companies.  That we consider an act of aggression that has to stop.

And we are preparing a number of measures that will indicate to the Chinese that this is not just a matter of us being mildly upset, but is something that will put significant strains on the bilateral relationship if not resolved, and that we are prepared to some countervailing actions in order to get their attention.

My hope is, is that it gets resolved short of that, and ultimately the goal should be to have some basic international framework that won’t be perfect because there’s still going to be a lot of non-state actors and hackers who are very good, and we’re still going to have to have good defense and still have to be able to find the fingerprints of those and apprehend them, and stop networks that are engaged in cybercrime.

But among states, there has to be a framework that is analogous to what we’ve done with nuclear power because nobody stands to gain.  And, frankly, although the Chinese and Russians are close, we’re still the best at this.  And if we wanted to go on offense, a whole bunch of countries would have some significant problems.  And we don’t want to see the Internet weaponized in that way.  That requires I think some tough negotiations.  That won’t be a one-year process, but we’d like to see if we can — if we and the Chinese are able to coalesce around a process for negotiations, then I think we can bring a lot of other countries along.

Q    And we will work with you on that too.


Q    Thank you.


Q    Thank you for being here.  It’s also good to be reminded occasionally of some of the progress that we’ve made in like a complete sentence.  So I think thank you for that, as well.  And some recent ones — TPA is good; even the Iran deal, really good.  Health care standing up.  All good.  The place that we haven’t made a lot of progress but that’s really important for business and business progress is on tax and tax reform.

And what we’re getting to now is I think almost kind of like being backed in the corner.  So since you can’t get a grand deal, we’re starting to talk about sub-deals.  And the sub-deals in and of themselves are destructive, in the Business Roundtable’s view, to the grand deal, which is total tax reform or comprehensive tax reform.  So can you help us think about how we should negotiate this duality that we’re in right now?  And where do you think we’re going to end up?

THE PRESIDENT:  We put forward a proposal early on that I’m confident I could sell to this group.  Not everybody would be thrilled but I think I could argue that over time would be good for business, because essentially what we proposed was the traditional framework for tax reform:  close loopholes, lower rates.  We’d address international taxation in ways that currently put American businesses at a disadvantage and would allow for a repatriation, but would not simply empty out the Treasury and would generate enough revenue that we could actually also pay for some infrastructure.

And our hope was that we’d get some nibbles on the other side.  To his credit, Paul Ryan expressed real interest in discussions and negotiations.  But your previous speaker, Mitch McConnell, has said that he is not interested in getting tax reform — comprehensive tax reform of that sort done.

So there’s still work being done.  We’re still in conversations with Mr. Ryan.  And I know that Senator Schumer and others have still been working on the possibilities of a fairly robust package.  But ultimately you’re going to have to have the leader of the Senate majority party bought in to try to get this done.

I understand why tax reform is elusive — because those of us who believe in a simpler, fairer, more competitive tax framework in the abstract sometimes look at our bottom lines and say, I don’t know, that deduction is helping us pretty good here.  And even if this organization has been supportive, there are other business organizations in town that have some pretty strong influence over the Republican Party that haven’t been as wild on it, partly because their view is, is that the only kind of tax reform that’s acceptable is one that would also lower all rates, regardless of its effect on the deficit.  That’s just not something that is viable.

So we’re going to keep on working on it.  My suggestion would be that the BRT continue to encourage Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell to come up with an ambitious package.  And what I can assure you is, is that the White House will take it seriously.  We don’t expect that everything in our original package would go forward.

But the one thing that we couldn’t do — and I get concerned sometimes that what is labeled as tax reform ends up just being cuts, you’re not closing the loopholes, and as a consequence it’s a huge drain on the Treasury.  We then suddenly are accused of running up the deficit to help your tax rates, and we’re not doing enough to help grow the economy and help ordinary workers.  So that’s the one direction we can’t go in.

Yes, Tom.

Q    Thank you for being here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on energy policy.  I know we talk a lot about all of the above, but I think what’s really changing kind of in an unprecedented way here recently are technology revolutions that are occurring either in the production of energy, or perhaps, more importantly, in the use of energy, that gives Americans I think a way to play offense in what has been a set of unprecedented challenges.  What’s your thoughts on that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Tom, I think you described it well.  I am much more optimistic about our ability to get a handle around energy that is good for our economy, good for business, good for consumers, good for job creation, and maybe saves the planet in the process.  I’m much more optimistic about that now than I was when I started as President.

And a good example is just when you look at what’s happened with solar.  I mean, we’re not quite at Moore’s law yet, but the pace at which the unit costs for solar energy have gone down is stunning.  We’ve seen not quite the same pace, but similar progress around wind.  Our natural gas production is unprecedented.  And I have been very supportive of our natural gas production as being not only important to our economy but also geopolitically.  It’s a huge recipe for energy independence as long as we get it — the methane discharge issues — right.  And I think there are ways of doing that with sound science.  So that’s on the production side.

And, as you said, on the utilization side, all of you are — there’s not a company here that is not producing significantly more product with less energy than you were just 10 years ago, and certainly than you were 20 years ago.  Everybody here has seen the power of tracking utilization, identifying waste, and timing issues around when is energy expensive, when is energy cheap.  So there’s enormous progress on the commercial side.  And then individual households now with things like Nest or the equivalence, we’re able to fine-tune our energy usage in ways that we just haven’t seen before.

And then you’ve got the whole transportation sector in which we’ve continued to make significant progress in Detroit as well as upstarts like Tesla.  There are still some distribution network issues around the transportation revolution, although companies like UPS are doing a great job I think already experimenting with their fleets.  So that’s all good news.

I would say that the big challenge now, if we’re going to realize all the potential here, is to work with utilities so that they have a business model in which they’re making money while seeing this change in distribution patterns and grid, because I think that there’s still some legitimate economic issues there that have to be sorted through.  And it’s tricky because it’s a patchwork system; we don’t have one national grid, obviously.

The second thing is, investment in basic research needs to continue.  Battery technology is greatly improved, but we still haven’t seen all the breakthroughs that I think that we can make with battery technology that would make a huge difference in storage.  And that’s an exciting area for development.

And then I would urge the BRT and some of you individually, as companies have already done this, view the issue of climate change and the Paris Conference that’s going to be coming up at the end of this year as an opportunity rather than as a problem.  Because this is coming; it’s coming generationally.  If you talk to your kids or my kids, they are much more attuned to this issue.  Consumers are going to be caring about it more and more.  The environmental effects that we’re seeing — I’m going to be calling Jerry Brown later today just to talk about California wildfires.  Some of you may have read the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada — lowest it’s been in 200 years.  The flooding problems that we’re already seeing in places like South Florida; it’s just during high tide.  Suddenly billions of dollars of property is under water.

So this is coming.  And for us to be out ahead of it and to think about how our ingenuity and our science can solve these problems is going to give us a jump on everybody else.  So there is a pledge that some members of the BRT have organized around supporting a strong Paris agreement.  I would encourage you to sign up on that and look for opportunities on this.  And that includes companies that have been in the traditional fossil fuel area.  Because if you know how to do oil and gas well, you can figure out how to do solar well, you can figure out to make money doing it.  You can figure out how to create efficiencies that help your bottom line.

And what we’ve tried to do with the Clean Power Plan is to give states flexibility, understanding everybody has got a different energy mix.  So, down south, we approved the first nuclear plant in a generation, basically, because we think nuclear needs to be part of that package.  I’m a big believer that there are going to be different ways to skin the cat on this thing.  We just have to set a baseline in which all of us understand the direction we need to go.  Instead of us spending a lot of time fighting science, let’s go with science.  We usually do better when we’re on the side of facts and evidence and science.  Just as a general rule, that’s proved to be our strength as Americans.


Q    If I could just turn back to China for a second.  There are a lot of issues we’ve got to sort out, and you mentioned a couple of them — cybersecurity, their feelings about TPP, their own economy.  Their inward turn in the name of creating a consumer economy has had some protectionist elements that we don’t like.  I think, though — I think many in this room would like to see some kind of positive outcome from this summit, as well, that underlines our mutual benefit if we can figure out some of these things and find a way for the world’s two biggest economies to see a path forward as well as all the issues we’ve got.

Do you have a comment on the tone you’re going to try to set with the President, and roles that we could play in supporting both the — managing our relationship as well as finding a future for it?

THE PRESIDENT:  My tone with respect to China has been pretty consistent.  It doesn’t jump up and down depending on where the polls are.  My view is that China should be and will continue to be an economic competitor; that we need to make sure that we are reaching an understanding with them about our presence as a Pacific power, but that it is in our interest for China to continue what has been dubbed a “peaceful, orderly rise.”  I think that’s good for the world.

China is a big place with a lot of people.  And we’re better off if those people are eating and have shelter and are buying consumer goods, rather than starving and writhing on the streets.
And so what I’ve consistently communicated, first to President Hu when I came into office, now President Xi, is our goal is to have them as a partner in helping to maintain a set of international rules and norms that benefit everybody; that in fact, we’re what facilitated China’s rise.  They were essentially riding on our backs for the last 30 years because we were underwriting peace, security, the free flow of commerce, international rules in the financial sector.

And as they have matured, what we’ve said to them is, with power comes responsibility, so now you’ve got to step up.  You can’t act as if you are a third-world country and pursue protectionist policies, or engage in dumping, or not protect intellectual property at a time when we’re now — when you’re now the second and, eventually, probably the first-largest economy in the world.

You can’t simply pursue an export-driven strategy, because you’re too big.  You’re not going to be able to grow your economy at the same pace over the next 20 years that you did in the last 20 years.  Once your economy reaches a certain size, there’s not enough global market to absorb that, which means that you’ve got to start thinking about transparency within your own economy, and how are you setting up a safety net so that workers have some cushion, and in turn, are willing to spend money as opposed to stuffing it in a mattress.

You’ve got to be concerned about environmental issues, because you can’t breathe in Beijing.  And that spills over for all of us.  And as a large country with a powerful military, you can’t go around pushing your little neighbors around just because you’re bigger, but you have to start abiding by a basic code of conduct and a set of rules, because ultimately, you will be advantaged by everybody following the rules.

And I think in some areas, the Chinese understand this; I think in other areas, they don’t.  I think in other areas, they still see themselves as the poor country that shouldn’t have any obligations internationally.  And in some cases, they still feel that when we call them on issues like their behavior in the South China Sea, or on intellectual property theft, that we are trying to contain them as opposed to us just wanting them to abide by the same rules that helped create an environment in which they can rise.

The good news is that our fates are sufficiently intertwined, that — and in many ways, they still need us a lot more than we need them; that I think that there are going to be continuing areas in which they move, as long as we don’t resort to the kind of loose talk and name-calling that I notice some of our presidential candidates engage in — people you know.  (Laughter.)  It tends not to be constructive.

So bottom line, though, is, Jim, I think this summit will be useful.  I think there are going to be a lot of outcomes around things like energy and climate change, around improvements in how they deal with investors that will show constructive progress.  I think our military-to-military conversations have been much better than they were when I began office.

The one thing I would suggest that the BRT can do — two things.  Number one — and I think I’ve said this to some of you in the past — when your companies have a problem in China and you want us to help, you have to let us help.  Don’t tell us on the side, we’ve got this problem, you need to look into it, but then — but leave our names out of it because we want to be punished kind of thing.

Typically, we are not effective with the Chinese unless we are able to present facts and evidence of a problem.  Otherwise, they’ll just stonewall and slow-walk issues.  So if we’re seeing problems in terms of the competitive environment there, in terms of protecting your IP, in terms of unfair competition that runs afoul of understanding the principles that have already been established, you’ve got to let us know and let us be your advocates.  That’s important.

The second thing I think everybody here should do is not fall into the same trap that we fell into around Japan in the 1980s, which is somehow China is taking over just like Japan was taking over, and we’re in inevitable decline.  This whole argument — I’m just going to go on a quick rant here for a second — (laughter) — this whole notion that somehow we’re getting out-competed, out-dealt, out-this, out-that, we’re losing, we’re in — nobody outside the United States understands what we’re talking about.  (Laughter.)

I mean we’ve got problems.  We’ve got issues.  Our biggest problem is gridlock in Washington and that’s just not making some sensible policies.  But overall, our cards are so much better than everybody else’s.  Our pool of quality businesses and talent, and our institutions, and our rule of law, and how we manage and adapt to new and changing circumstances, and our dominance in knowledge-based industries — nobody matches us.  And we attract — the best talent around the world still wants to come here if we’d just let them come.

So I think it’s important for business voices to point out every once in a while America is in the driver’s seat if we make some smart decisions.   And that’s not a partisan comment, that is just the facts.  There is not a country out there, including China, that wouldn’t look at us with envy right now.

And so our problem is not that China is going to out-negotiate us, or that Mr. Putin is sort of out-strategizing us.  Anybody taken a look at the Russian economy lately?  That’s not our problem.  Our problem is us, typically.  We engage in — and I’m being generous when I say “we,” — (laughter) — but we engage in self-inflicted wounds like this potential government shutdown.  It’s unnecessary.

I’ve got time for a couple more questions.  Good to see you.  How you doing?  How you doing, Ed?  How is everybody back home?

Q    Very good.


Q    Along that, in that same vein, looking earlier this summer, the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank authorization.

THE PRESIDENT:  Speaking of self-inflicted wounds.

Q    Understand.  And part of the ongoing discussion, debate here in Washington, the Senate has attached a reauthorization, as you know, to the transportation bill, which is now down at the House.  And on Monday the Roundtable sent a letter to the leadership on both sides in Congress pointing out really the benefits of reauthorization, that some of those get lost in this debate.  Because really, it’s been characterized as only benefitting a few companies, which ignores the thousands of people who are basically employed by our suppliers across the country, and the impact — positive impact that has, as well as it’s a net generator revenue for the governor — for the government.  And we have plans to have further discussions later today and this week with leadership in the House.

Do you have any — we had a good discussion with your team this morning.  Do you have any insights that you could share with us that would help us in getting that reauthorization?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is mind-boggling that this wasn’t reauthorized a year ago.  And it is this weird reversal in which the principle opponents are the tea party caucus in the Republican Party.

Somehow, Ex-Im Bank has become this cause célèbre of what some of the presidential candidates called “crony capitalism.”  And what’s ironic is obvious — I think some of you know the backstory.  There was I think a member of this organization that kind of started this whole thing because they were upset about some planes being sold to a competitor on a route, and suddenly this caught fire in the right wing Internet.  And it’s just hard to explain.

Look, Ed, I had a group of small businesses, ranging from, what, four people to a couple of hundred people, talking about how they use Ex-Im.  This is the only way that they can get into these markets.  And as you said, Ex-Im doesn’t cost the government.  This is not a money loser for us.  And I don’t have to tell Emil (ph) or Jim how important it is.  I keep on telling them I expect a gold watch from them because it seems like every time I take a foreign trip I’ve got to sell some turbine or plane.  (Laughter.)

And I was concerned about Jeff’s announcement that jobs that were here in the United States are now going to be overseas because we don’t get this done.  But that’s true for the supply chain; it’s also true for some smaller companies that use Ex-Im directly.  It’s not just that they’re part of the GE or Boeing supply chain, it’s that they’re selling tea to a country and this is the only mechanism they have to be able to make those sales.

The good news is McConnell and Boehner both say they want to get it done.  As you said, we’ve already shown there are sufficient votes for it in the Senate, and we actually think there are sufficient votes for it in the House.  I would concentrate your attention on House Republican caucus members.  And I think you have to flood the zone and let them know this is important.  And that includes, by the way, talking to individual members who, in their districts, potentially have companies that are being adversely affected as long as Ex-Im is frozen.

But my expectation is it gets done during the course of these budget negotiations.  And we’re going to push as hard as we can to get it, though.

Q    Mr. President, thank you for being here today.  One of the issues that we deal with and we talked about last time you were here was regulations.  And one of the areas that the Business Roundtable is very focused on these days is the ozone rule, which October 1, your administration will be coming out with a recommendation associated with that.

The Business Roundtable position is that we need to maintain the 75 parts-per-billion.  To lower that standard when technology doesn’t exist and when communities are already advancing toward the 75 goal — if you lower it to 70, it’s going to introduce another 200 counties in this country into non-attainment, which basically is a “we’re not open for business.”  And that’s our concern.  Do you have any thoughts on that, or what the administration’s plans are in that regard?

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s a lot of complicated technical issues involved in this, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.

Number one, we’re under a court order to do this.  So I think there may be a misperception that the EPA can do whatever it wants here.  There were lawsuits brought under the previous administration that continued into my administration.  We went before a judge.  We actually, I think properly, got some additional time, because there was the notion that we were going to lower standards a few years ago, and then immediately get new data and force everybody to lower them all over again.  And we said, let’s just do this one time in a sensible way so that people can plan.

But we’ve got some legal constraints.  This is not something that just popped out of my head full blown.  And so I always enjoy seeing the advertising for “Obama’s ozone plan.”  The ozone rules date back to when I was I think still in law school, before I had any gray hair.  And there are some fairly stringent statutory guidelines by which the EPA is supposed to evaluate the standards.  So the EPA is following the science and the statutes as best as it can.

We are mindful that in some cases, because of the nature of where pollutants are generated, where they blow, that this can create a really complicated situation for certain local jurisdictions and local communities, and some states and counties end up being hit worse than others.  And we’re trying to work with those states and those communities as best we can taking in their concerns into account.

So I guess the bottom line is this is — you can legitimately go after me on the clean power plant rule because we — that was hatched by us, and I believe that we need to deal with climate change and — so we can have a lengthy debate about that.

And on ozone, this is an existing statute and an existing mechanism, and we are charged with implementing it based on the science that’s presented to us.  And that’s what we’re trying to do, but we’re taking this input into account.  I recognize some of the concerns.

I will say this — last point I’ll make on this.  Even with the costs associated with implementing the ozone rule, when you do a cost-benefit, the amount of lives saved, asthma averted and so forth is still substantially higher than the costs.  Now, that doesn’t necessarily resolve all the concerns that people may have about local costs being borne, whereas the savings are spread out more broadly.  And those are legitimate economic issues that have to be considered.  And the EPA has been listening to I think every stakeholder there.

But I think what you’ll see in the analysis overall is — we don’t issue a regulation where the costs are not lower than the benefits.  And if you look at the regulations we’ve generally put forward, the costs are substantially lower than the benefits that are generated.


Q    Yes, thank you, Mr. President.  Many of us are interested in Cuba.  And the opening there has been positive.  There is a lot of issues to get to full normal relations.  Just how do you see that path happening?  And what’s the future of that in your opinion?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight transformation, but I am convinced that by re-engaging Cuba, re-engaging the Cuban people, that we are creating the environment in which a generational change and transition will take place in that country.  And already you’re seeing conversations taking place about how is Cuba going to accommodate an influx of tourists, and how do they think about the Internet and open communications in order to be able to participate in the modern economy?

And that inevitably then leads to questions about can you hire — can a company hire a Cuban directly, a foreign investor, as opposed to going through the government?  And over time, that creates space for personal freedom and I think a long-term political transition.

For now, what we’ve said is that we will step by step look for areas and opportunities within our authorities.  As long as Congress still has the embargo in place, there are certain things we can’t do.  But there are certain things we can do, for example, on telecommunications, and we’re looking for opportunities there.

And we will also continue to press the Cuban government around issues of political freedom.  And when His Holiness the Pope comes, he’s going to be visiting Cuba.  That I think is going to be an opportunity for more interesting conversations inside of Cuba.

My biggest suggestion would be for the BRT just to start having a conversation on a bipartisan basis about lifting the embargo.  It doesn’t necessarily have to happen — or even should happen all in one fell swoop.  But I think if you look at the economic opportunities that are presented, they’re significant.  And it doesn’t make much sense that a country 90 miles off the shore of Florida that is not at this point a significant threat to us, and that has shown itself willing to at least look beyond its borders for the first time — even if it’s still scared of what it might bring — it doesn’t make sense for us to keep sticking to the old ways of doing business.

I’ll actually take one more question, and then I’ll come around and say hi to everybody.  So anybody else?  Yes, go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, again, thank you.  And I know a topic near to your heart has been education for young folks, and you’ve spent a lot of time on this.  And many of us have done things private-public partnerships.  And you recently made a comment about computer science for all high school kids, which I think is an important point, because technology is such a broad topic.  It will infiltrate all jobs in the future.

So maybe a chance to make some comments about how you envision something like that actually taking root over the long term that we could make some progress with it — on scale.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to commend Ginni and IBM because you guys have done some terrific work.  Anybody who wants some inspiration, go to the high school that IBM is participating in in Brooklyn where kids — a collaboration between the public school system, the city colleges of New York, the CUNY system and IBM.

And you’ve got kids from — most of them, parents never went to college.  A lot of them immigrant kids.  And they are marching through STEM education, pre-engineering education.  They’re getting essentially college credits by the time they’re sophomore or juniors in high school.  They’re able to save money because in five years in high school, they come out with an associate’s degree.  They then either are transferring to a four-year university with those credits, or they’re starting to work with IBM because they’ve been apprenticing and the curriculum design has given them confidence that if they do well, they’re going to be able to get a job.

That model is something that we’re actually looking to try to duplicate all across the country.  And the good news, as I mentioned at the top, is because of the strong work that Arne Duncan has done, the strong work that a lot of governors and local communities have done to increase accountability, creativity, have high expectations for kids, bust through some of the old bureaucratic obstacles.

We are seeing highest reading scores, highest math scores, highest graduation rates.  And part of our goal here is to improve STEM education generally.  A critical element of that is understanding this computer age that these kids are immersed.  And I don’t want them just to know how to use their phone to play video games; I want them to know how that phone works, and potentially code it and program it.

And what’s remarkable — I’m about the age where — I think my high school just had, like, the first coding class when I was maybe in seventh or eighth grade.  But this is what — you had, like, those cards, and it was — and the punch cards.  And now, the way these — the tools and resources that are available for kids starting in first, second grade — we have these science fairs and these little Girl Scout troops come in and they’ve coded, they’ve designed their own games, and — or simulations of entire towns with people and all kinds of scenarios that they’ve figured out.

And so it’s actually something that they naturally gravitate to.  We just have to start early.  It’s almost like a foreign language, where rather than try to catch kids when they’re in tenth, eleventh, twelfth grade, they get part of the broader curriculum and incorporate it into how you’re teaching math and how you’re teaching science and how you’re teaching social studies.  That seems to be the way in which kids get most engaged.

So we’re doing a lot of work with many of you individually as companies on this STEM education issue.  We hope that you will continue to participate.  You’ve been great partners on that front.

I’ll just say in closing, it’s always a pleasure to be here.  I want to just reiterate, as we enter into the silly season of politics, that the primary thing that is holding back a lot of potential growth, jobs, improved bottom lines, greater stability is well within our control right now, and are things that traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support — Ex-Im Bank, getting TPP done, financing and executing on an infrastructure policy.  I’ve had conversations with folks like Larry Fink and others about if we’re open to looking at new, creative ways of financing it, but the notion that we’re not doing that right now makes absolutely no sense — investing in research and development.

These are not partisan issues.  There are some areas where there have traditionally been legitimate arguments between Democrats and Republicans.  There are some issues — like on environmental regulations, or financial regulations, where Jamie and I may disagree, or Nick and I may disagree.  And we can have those arguments, and we probably won’t convince each other on some of these things.

But what I’m looking at is the low-hanging fruit that are no-brainers and that nobody here would argue with.  And the notion that we’re not doing them right now because — primarily because a faction within one of our parties has gone off the rails and sees a conspiracy around everything, or simply is opposed to anything I propose even if they used to propose it, that’s a problem.

And I think it’s very important for all of you to just step back and take a look at it, because you still have influence on at least some of those folks.  And challenge them.  Why wouldn’t we do things that everybody knows make sense?

Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

12:34 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability transcript



Remarks by the President at Town Hall on College Access and Affordability

Source: WH, 9-14-15

North High School
Des Moines, Iowa

4:06 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Everybody give it up for Russhaun!  (Applause.)  Hello, Iowa! (Applause.)  Well, it is good to be back in Iowa.  (Applause.)  I was missing you guys.  (Applause.) Go, Polar Bears!  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Des Moines.  You know, I landed at the airport and saw the Hampton Inn there that I — I must have stayed there like a hundred days. (Laughter.)  I’m sure I’ve got some points or something.  I could get a couple free nights at the Hampton Inn.  (Laughter.)

Everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  Relax.  And I know it’s September, so I know you guys are all about to be flooded with ads and calls from a bunch of folks who want this job.  (Laughter.)  I just can’t imagine what kind of person would put themselves through something like this.  (Laughter.)  Although I noticed — I didn’t know Russhaun was on the ballot.  During the introduction, he was all like, “the next President of the United States.”

We could not be prouder of Russhaun, not just for the introduction, but for the inspiring story that he’s told.  I think it’s an example of what our young people can do when they put their minds to it.

I want to thank your principal, Mike Vukovich.  Where’s Mike?  (Applause.)  There he is.  Your Superintendent is here — Tom Ahart is here.  Where’s Tom?  (Applause.)  Your Mayor, Frank Cownie is here, who is a great friend.  Where’s Frank?  He was here.  He had to go to a City Council meeting.  He’s missing out on the fun.  Iowa Attorney General and great friend of mine, Tom Miller.  (Applause.)  Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, great supporter. (Applause.)  And, of course, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for letting me crash his bus tour.  (Applause.)

So I’m not going to give a long speech, because we want to spend most of the time taking questions from all of you.  But I just want to explain that we came to North High School because you guys have done some great things over the past few years — making sure more students have laptops and iPads, more AP classes, improving test scores.  And so you’ve become a great example for the whole country of what’s possible.  (Applause.)

So we thought we’d come to pay you a visit, talk with some of the students here in Des Moines and your parents.  Because I know that there’s nothing that high schoolers love more than being in public with their moms and dads.  (Laughter.)  I know that — that’s what Malia and Sasha tell me all the time.  (Laughter.)

It was seven years ago this week that a financial crisis on Wall Street ended up ushering in some really hard years on Main Street.  But thanks to the incredible resilience and grit and hard work of the American people, we’ve bounced back.  We’ve created 13.1 million new private sector jobs over the past five and a half years.  We’ve helped more than 16 million people have the security of health insurance, many of them for the first time.  Our high school graduation rate is the highest that it has ever been.  (Applause.)  And I should point out, by the way, if you want to see the best graduation rate in America, it’s right here in Iowa.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been investing in things that help to grow the middle class and help provide opportunity for every young person. But no 21st century economy — nobody in a 21st century economy is going to be able to do what they want to do with their lives unless they’ve got a great education.  That’s just the truth.  By 2020, two in three job openings are going to require some form of post-high school education — whether it’s a four-year university, or a community college, or a tech school.  And it’s an investment that pays off.

Now, partly it pays off — and Russhaun mentioned this — because it empowers you.  It gives you a sense of who you are, and your hopes and your dreams.  It helps to sharpen how you see the world, and empowers you in all sorts of ways.  But it also has some pretty practical ramifications.  Compared to a high school diploma, a degree from a two-year school could earn you an extra $10,000 a year -– a four-year degree could earn you a million dollars more over the course of your lifetime.  That’s how important education is in today’s economy.

And here’s the thing — just as higher education has never been more important, let’s face it, it’s never been more expensive.  And that’s why Arne and I have been working to try to make college and post-high school education more affordable.  We’ve increased scholarships.  We reformed our student loan system that funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into big banks — we said, let’s cut out the middleman, let’s put that money directly to students.  We created a new tax credit of up to $2,500 to help working families pay for tuition and books and fees.  We’re helping people cap their federal student loan payments at 10 percent of their income.  So if you want to be a teacher, or you want to be a social worker, or some other profession that may not make a huge amount of money, you can still do that, knowing that you’re not going to go — you’re still going to be able to afford to support yourself and your family while doing it.  And we’re fighting for two years of free community college for any student that’s willing to work for it. (Applause.)

The bottom line is, is that no young person in America should be priced out of college.  They should not be priced out of an education.

And I know that finding the right school for you, the best school for you is a tough process.  Malia is going through it right now.  You guys are juggling deadlines and applications and personal statements.  And some of you, in the back of your mind, are asking yourselves what you plan for a career and what you want to do with your life.

I think we should make that process easier.  So a couple of things that we’ve done that we’re announcing over the course of this week during Arne’s bus tour — we’ve introduced something called College Scorecard.  Right now, a lot of families don’t have all the information they need to choose the right school.  And a lot of the college ranking systems that you see, they reward schools just for spending more money, or for rejecting more students.  And I think that’s the wrong focus.  I think that our colleges should be focusing on affordability and on serving students and providing them good value.

So we’ve pulled together all sorts of data on college costs and value; we created this College Scorecard.  And you can scroll through it to see which schools are more likely to graduate their students, are more likely to result in good jobs for the students, more likely to make sure that those students can pay off their student loans — and you can then use that information to make choices that are right for your future and right for your budget.

And you guys can go to CollegeScorecard.ED.gov.  CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — and we’ve already got half a million visits since we launched this thing on Saturday.  So it’s a valuable tool for students and parents as you’re trying to make a decision about which school to go to.

We’re also simplifying the financial aid process to give you more time as you make a decision.  Right now, about two million students don’t claim the financial aid that they’re eligible for. And part of it is it’s just complicated and time-consuming.  And so those young people are leaving money on the table.  And there may be some young people here who are not aware of all the financial help you can get.  So what we’ve done is we’ve shortened the federal student aid form — it’s called FAFSA — down to about 20 minutes.  It used to be about two, three times as long.

And because only Congress has the power to eliminate certain requirements, we’re asking them to simplify it even further.  The good news is it’s got some good bipartisan support.  In fact, we’ve got a Congressman here from Virginia who traveled with us

— Congressman Bobby Scott — where’s Bobby?  There he is way in the back there.  (Applause.)  And he’s working — he’s a Democrat — he’s working with Republicans to see if we can further shorten and make this form simpler.

Today, I’m also announcing that beginning next year, families will be able to fill out FAFSA even earlier — starting on October 1st, right around the time that college applications ramp up.  That means you won’t have to wait for months for your W-2s to arrive before you can get started, so you can get a jump on the college application process.  You’ll know sooner how much aid you qualify for; you’ll have more time to evaluate your options.  And we’re also working with colleges and universities and scholarship programs to align their application and their financial aid processes with this new FAFSA start date.

So all these steps taken together should help hundreds of thousands more students pay for college.  And I know that’s important to you.

I’m going to end my opening remarks with a story from somebody who couldn’t be here today, but graduated from here last year, and his name is Neico Greene.  (Applause.)  You might remember Neico from the Polar Bear basketball team.  (Applause.) And the reason that I want to tell his story is for the past few years, Neico was homeless.  As a junior and senior, he was grateful to mostly stay with his coach or his counselor.  But before that, he spent nights in shelters and in church basements, or in hotels with his mom — sometimes sleeping next to drug addicts or worse.  And this is something Neico wrote.  He said, “I’ve seen some terrible things… but I’m thankful for what I’ve been through because it’s taught me to be strong.”

And being strong meant studying.  It meant keeping his eye on college.  Applying for — and winning — some scholarships.  Last year, he filled out his FAFSA, found out he qualified for thousands of dollars of federal and state aid.  Today, Neico is a freshman at Graceland University.  He’s studying accounting.  He’s still playing ball, hoping to make enough money one day to build a career and give back to the mom that he loves.  (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here.  That’s what this is about — the students like Neico and Russhaun.  Students like many of you who want to take that next step and have big dreams.  We want you to know that we’re there to help you achieve those dreams.  We want to make sure that we’re giving every student who’s willing to put in the effort all the tools that they need in order to succeed.

That’s not just good for the students, by the way.  That’s also good for America.  Because this country was built on the notion that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is — if you’re willing to work hard, you can make it.  And education is the key to making that future possible.  That’s how we grow this country.  That’s how we make it successful.  And that’s the incredible project, the great experiment in democracy that all of you are part of.

So, with that, Arne and I are looking forward to taking your questions.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

All right.  So here’s how this is going to work.  You raise your hand and I’ll call on you.  We’re going to go girl, boy, girl, boy — to make it fair.  (Laughter.)  There should be people in the audience with microphones, so wait until they get there.  And introduce yourself.  Try to keep your question short enough that we can get as many questions in as possible.

And contrary to what Arne said, he’s going to get all the tough questions and I just want the easy ones.  (Laughter.)  All right.  So let’s see who wants to go first?  All right, well, this young lady, she shot her hand up quick.  Right here.  We need a microphone up here.  All right.

Q    Hi, my name is Angelica (ph).  And my question is for your — it’s what do you believe the role of a teacher should be?

THE PRESIDENT:  What do I believe the role of teacher should be?  That’s a great question.  When I think about my own life — some of you may know, my dad left when I was very young, so I really didn’t know him.  So I was raised by a single mom.  And we didn’t have a lot when we were coming up, although my mom had this great love of learning.  But she was a teenager when she had me; she was 18.  And she was still going to school and working at the same time as she was raising me and then my sister.

She was my first great teacher.  And what she taught me was compassion, caring about other people, but she also taught me to be curious.  And when I think back to all the great teachers that I’ve had, it’s not so much the facts that they’ve taught me — because I can get those from books — but it has been teachers who are able to spark in me a sense of curiosity, like, well, how does that work?  Why is that the way it is?  Somebody who has helped me want to learn more.  That, to me, is the role of a great teacher.  Somebody who can teach you to be so interested in the subject that you then start over time teaching yourself.

And I’ll bet there are a lot of great teachers here.  Part of the challenge I think for being a teacher is, is that sometimes students don’t always appreciate good teachers, let’s face it.  Because I think sometimes we think education is something that you just receive from somebody else.  It’s passive.  They just kind of pour knowledge in here.  But in fact, good teaching is a conversation that you’re having with somebody where they’re giving you not just answers but also asking you questions, and helping your brain get a workout and try to learn how to figure things out yourself.

And also, I think great teachers are somebody who’s got — who have — are people who have confidence in you and have high expectations for you, and they see something in you where they get a sense of, you know what, you’re important, and you can do amazing things.  And when you feel that from a teacher, that a teacher really thinks you’ve got something in you that’s worth saying or writing or — those are the teachers that you remember. Those are the teachers that inspire you.

What do you think, Arne?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll be quick.  I think it’s a really, really good answer.  The only thing I would add is I think great teachers see things in students that they don’t even see in themselves, and pull things out of you.  And someone like Russhaun, who talked publicly, mom was locked up — lots of folks could look at you and say, well, that’s where he’s going to go.  Other teachers see him as a student body president, as a future teacher, as a future leader in the community.

So those amazing teachers see things in us as kids.  Those are the teachers I remember from my childhood, who saw things in me that I didn’t even recognize myself and helped to bring that to life.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Great question.  All right.  I think it’s a guy’s turn now.  Let’s see.  That gentleman right back there, around the corner there.

Q    Hi, my name is Dennis.  I have a senior here at North High School.  (Laughter.)  What’s so funny?

THE PRESIDENT:  Are you the dad that’s embarrassing —

Q    Maybe.

THE PRESIDENT:  Your daughter is just like, oh, dad, god.

Q    Well, it’s a give-and-take; they embarrass me, I’m going to embarrass them.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen, I’m right there with you.  (Laughter.)

Q    Okay.  In your opinion, of all the next presidential candidates that are in line, which ones have the best ideas for education reform to make it more affordable and accessible?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I — (laughter and applause) — I’m going to beg off this question a little bit.  I promise you I’m generally going to give you straight answers.  On this one, I’m going to wiggle around a little bit.  (Laughter.)  Right now, I’m going to try to stay out of the campaign season until it — partly because I can’t keep track of all the candidates.  (Laughter.)  So I’ll wait until it’s winnowed down a little bit before I have an opinion.

But here’s what I can say — that a society’s values are reflected in where we put our time, our effort, our money.  It is not sufficient for us to say we care about education if we aren’t actually putting resources into education.  (Applause.)

Now, both Arne and I have gotten some guff sometimes from even within our own party because we’ve said that money alone is not enough; that it’s important for us, if a school isn’t teaching consistently kids so that they can achieve, then we’ve got to change how we do things, in collaboration with teachers and principals and parents and students.  We’ve got to figure out how do we make it work better.

So a lot of the initiatives we’ve had in terms of increased accountability and encouraging more creativity and empowering teachers more, those don’t cost money.  But what we also know is that if science labs don’t have the right equipment, then it’s harder to teach science.  If kids don’t have access to broadband and laptops in their classrooms, then they’re at a disadvantage to those kids who do.  If you’ve got a school that doesn’t have enough counselors, and so, come time to apply for college, there aren’t enough counselors to go around and kids aren’t getting the best advice that they need, then they may end up selling themselves short in terms of their ability to go to college.

So resources do matter.  And part of the reason I’m making this point — so that when you’re evaluating candidates, you pay attention to this — is we’re going to be having a major debate in Congress coming up, because the budget is supposed to be done by the end of this month.  And so far, Congress has not come up with a budget.  And there are some in the other party who are comfortable with keeping in place something called sequester, which is going to be — is going to result in significant cuts over the next several years in the amount of federal support for education.  And that’s going to force then either layoffs, or kids not getting the kinds of support that they need.  It will have an effect on the education of students.

So I just want everybody to be clear, without endorsing any particular candidate’s ideas, that if somebody is running for President and they say they want to be the “education president,” it means two things.  One is that you care about every student doing well, not just some — because whoever is President is the President for all people, not just some people.  That’s point number one.  (Applause.)  And point number two is, is that you’ve got to be willing to provide the resources, particularly for communities that may not have as much of a property tax base so they can’t always raise money on their own in order to help their students achieve.

All right?  Anything you want to add on that?  (Applause.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, without getting into this candidate or that — you’ve got about two dozen to choose from, and they all want your vote.  Four questions I’d like you to ask every candidate, Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal — it doesn’t matter.

One:  What are you willing to do to have more children have access to high-quality early childhood education?  That’s the best investment we can make.  (Applause.)  Two:  What are you going to do to continue to increase our nation’s high school graduation rate?  And we’re very proud, it’s at an all-time high, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.

Three:  What are you going to do to make sure high school graduates are truly college and career ready, and not having to take remedial classes in college,; that they’ve been taught to high standards?  And fourth, we need to lead the world in college graduation rates again.  We were first a generation ago; today, we’re 12th.  Other countries have passed us by.

So if every candidate you ask, what are your concrete goals for those four things, and then what resources — to the President’s point — are you willing to put behind that, our country would be a much stronger place.

THE PRESIDENT:  And not to be a tag team here, here’s one last thing.  Because — I’m sorry, what was your name?  Angelica asked a terrific question about what does it mean to be a great teacher.  If you hear a candidate say that the big problem with education is teachers, you should not vote for that person.  (Applause.)  Because it is a hard job.  And it is the most important job we’ve got.  And folks who go into teaching don’t go into it for the money.  (Laughter.)  They go into it because they are passionate about kids.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some bad teachers, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hold teachers to high standards as well, and continue to work in terms of professional development and recruitment and retention of great teachers.  And there have been times where Arne and I have had some disagreements with the teachers’ unions on certain issues because we want to encourage experimentation.  But the bottom line, though, is, is that you can measure how good a school is by whether or not it is respecting and engaging teachers in the classroom so that they are professionals and they feel good about what they’re doing, and they’re given freedom and they’re not just being forced to teach to a test.

And it is very important for us, then, to make sure that — if what we hear is just a bunch of teacher-bashing, I can’t tell you who to vote for, but — at least not right now.  Later I will.  (Laughter.)  But I can tell you who to vote against, and that is somebody who decides that somehow teachers don’t deserve the kind of respect and decent pay that they deserve.  (Applause.)

All right.  Let’s see.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  Yes, you right there in the brown sweater right there.  Go ahead.  That’s fine.

Q    I’m Elena Hicks (ph), and I’m a senior at Roosevelt and an intern at the Hillary Clinton campaign.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, okay.  I guess I know who you’re voting for.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes.  And this was a standards question, but I’ll make it more general.  Do you think it’s possible or realistic for there to be free tuition for college in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that it is absolutely realistic for us to, first of all, have the first two years of community college free, because it’s in my budget and I know how to pay for it.  (Applause.)  And it would — and essentially if you close up some corporate tax loopholes that aren’t growing the economy and are just kind of a boondoggle, you take that money, you can then help every state do what Tennessee is already doing — because Tennessee is already making community colleges free for the first two years.

And what that does, then, is, first of all, it helps young people who may not right now want to go get a four-year college education but know that they still need some sort of technical training, or they want to get an associate’s degree.  Right away, that whole group, they now know they can get their education for free as long as they’re working hard.  But for those who are thinking about a four-year college education, they can also get their first two-years at the community college, then transfer those credits to a four-year college, and they’ve just cut their overall college costs in half.  So it would be good for everybody, whether you’re going two years or four years.

Now, if we can get that done, then I think we can start building from there.  In the meantime, I do want to make sure, though, that everybody understands what we were talking about in terms of FAFSA.  You have to fill out this form.  And we are making it easier for you to do.  You have no excuse.  Parents who are here, even if you didn’t go to college, you need to nag your kids to make sure that this FAFSA form gets filled out so that people — so that you know the student aid that you may be entitled to.

My grandma, she didn’t go to college, even though she was probably the smartest person I knew, but she did know that you had to go to college and that you had to fill out this form.  So I want everybody here to make sure that you stay focused on that, because there’s more help already than a lot of people are aware of.  And this College Scorecard that we talked about — CollegeScorecard.ED.gov — what that does is it allows you to take a look at the schools to find out, do they graduate their students; how much debt do they have; are they generally getting a job after they graduate.

So we’re not, like, just ranking, here’s the most prestigious school; we’re giving you some news you can use here in evaluating whether the schools that you’re applying to actually deliver on their commitment.  Because a lot of times, the students who get big student loans debt after they graduate, it’s because they didn’t think through where they should go, what should they be studying, what resources are available.  And we want you to on the front end to have as much information as possible in order to make a good choice.

Arne, anything to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Very, very quickly, quick test.  That FAFSA form the President talked about — how much in grants and loans do we give out each year?  Any guesses at the federal level?


SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much is a lot?

THE PRESIDENT:  See, I didn’t test you.  (Laughter.)  You notice this.  That’s the head of the Education Department.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  How much?  30,000?  Any other thoughts?  Yes, sir.  What’s that?  Total — How much?  $30 billion?  Any other guesses?  All right, so very quickly, we give out $150 billion in grants and loans each year.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s real money.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  And the President said we’ve got a long way to go, we want to do more, trying to make community colleges free.  But we don’t care whether your family has money or don’t have money, or whether your family has gone to college or not, or where you live.  If you work hard — $150 billion.  It’s the only form — 20 minutes, half an hour — the only form you’re ever going to fill out in your life that’s going to give you access to $150 billion.  So I just want to emphasize this point.  You have to fill that out.

THE PRESIDENT:  Got to fill it out.  (Laughter.)  All right? A’ight.  (Laughter.)  This gentleman back here.  I don’t want to neglect the folks in the back here.

Q    How are you doing, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  How are you, sir?

Q    Good, good.  My name is Rudolph Dawson and I’m a graduate of Fort Valley State University in Georgia.  My concern is that the Historically Black schools like Fort Valley State, a lot of the pressure is being put on them in terms of they’re not getting the budget they need to continue to educate people like myself.  They are not getting the programs that they need to attract students that want the higher pay.  And it’s to me — what can you do, or what can your administration do, or the next administration do to right the wrong that’s been done in the past?  And it’s continued to be done to these universities.  Fort Valley State is also a land-grant college and they haven’t been getting all the money they needed for agriculture like the University of Georgia.  I’d like to see some changes there.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, first of all, for those of you — because some of you — we’ve got a lot of young people here so just to give you a little bit of history, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities arose at a time when obviously a lot of schools were segregated.  And so African American students couldn’t attend a lot of the traditional state colleges and universities that had been set up.

And many of them went on to become incredible educational institutions that produced some of our greatest thinkers.  So Morehouse College, Howard, Spelman — all across the country, particularly in the South, a lot of these Historically Black Colleges and Universities were really the nurturer of an African American middle class — many of whom then went on to become the civil rights pioneers that helped to lead to Dr. King and to the Civil Rights Movement and to all the history that I think you’re aware of.

A lot of those schools are still doing well.  Some of them have gotten smaller and are struggling, partly because of — good news — University of Georgia isn’t segregated anymore, for example, so it’s good that African American students or Latino students have more diverse options.  But they still serve an important role.  And so working with people like Congressman Bobby Scott and others, we’ve continued to provide some support to those schools.

But one thing that Arne and I have been doing is saying to these Historically Black Colleges and Universities, you’ve also got to step up your game in terms of graduation rates, because there are some of those schools, just like non-historically black colleges and universities, who take in a lot of students but don’t always graduate those students.  And those students end up being stuck with debt and it’s not a good deal for them.

So we’re working together.  We’ve got a whole task force and commission that’s just devoted to working with these schools to make sure that they’ve got the resources they need to continue to perform a really important function, but that they’re also stepping up their game so that kids who attend these universities and colleges, they’re graduating on time and are able to then pursue the kind of careers that they need.

I think it’s a young lady’s turn now.  Oh, you know what, I need to go up top.  That young lady in the striped shirt right there.  I can barely see, but that’s what happens when you get older, young people.  (Laughter.)  First time I came to Iowa, I had no gray hair.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t.  Look at me now.  (Laughter.)

Q    Hi, my name is Abba.  I’m currently a junior at Lincoln High School here on the South Side of Des Moines.  My question to you is — I know you don’t want to get involved with the presidential race at the moment, but a candidate has said that they want to cut government spending to politically biased colleges, and I was wondering if, say, that would hurt the education system for those who depend on that, or would it better the education as a whole?

THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, I didn’t hear this candidate say that.  I have no idea what that means.  (Laughter.)  I suspect he doesn’t either.  (Laughter and applause.)

Look, the purpose of college is not just, as I said before, to transmit skills.  It’s also to widen your horizons; to make you a better citizen; to help you to evaluate information; to help you make your way through the world; to help you be more creative.  The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide, and people are having arguments, and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time, people learn from each other, because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.

Arne, I’m sure, has the same experience that I did, which is when I went to college, suddenly there were some folks who didn’t think at all like me.  And if I had an opinion about something, they’d look at me and say, well, that’s stupid.  And then they’d describe how they saw the world.  And they might have had a different sense of politics, or they might have a different view about poverty, or they might have a different perspective on race, and sometimes their views would be infuriating to me.  But it was because there was this space where you could interact with people who didn’t agree with you and had different backgrounds that I then started testing my own assumptions.  And sometimes I changed my mind.  Sometimes I realized, you know what, maybe I’ve been too narrow-minded.  Maybe I didn’t take this into account.  Maybe I should see this person’s perspective.

So that’s what college, in part, is all about.  The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought or idea or perspective or philosophy, that that person would be — that they wouldn’t get funding runs contrary to everything we believe about education.  (Applause.)  I mean, I guess that might work in the Soviet Union, but it doesn’t work here.  That’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Now, one thing I do want to point out is it’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem.  Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side.  And that’s a problem, too.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about this.  I’ve heard I’ve of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative.  Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.  And I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree with that either.  I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of views.  (Applause.)

I think that you should be able to — anybody should — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them.  But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.  That’s not the way we learn, either.

What do you think, Arne?


THE PRESIDENT:  He said, amen.  (Laughter.)

Let’s see.  I think it’s a guy’s turn.  This gentleman here in the tie, you had your hand up a couple times.  Yes, I didn’t want you to feel neglected.  You almost gave up and I wanted to make sure to call on you.  Hold on a second.  Wait for the mic.

Q    My name is James Quinn.  This is my wife, Tatiana, and our daughter, Victoria.  We’ve been saving for her college education for 10 years, and over that time, the federal deductibility of 529 contributions has gone away, even though we can still get that deduction from Iowa income taxes.  It would be nice to see a little reward for saving, rather than just making borrowing money get easier.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to let Arne hit this one because he’s an expert on our various savings programs.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Yes.  I’ll just say, as a parent with two kids not quite this age, my wife and I are putting money actively into 529s to try to save.  And getting the federal government to support that more or encourage that would be fantastic.  And again, this is something we have to work with Congress to do the right thing.

But for families who are saving — we have some families now starting kindergarten, first grade, saving every year, just a little bit, to help their kids to go to college.  We need to incentivize that and reward that.  It’s a great point.

THE PRESIDENT:  There was a time when the deductibility with student loans was more significant than it is today.  Whenever you make something tax-deductible, that means that there’s less money going into the Treasury.  That, then, means that either somebody has got to pay for it with other taxes, or the deficit grows, or we spend less on something else.

And this is part of why this argument, this debate that’s going on right now in Congress about lifting the sequester is so important.  It’s a Washington term — I hate the term — but essentially what Congress did was it said, all right, we’re just going to lop off spending at this level for the next decade.  The problem is, of course, the population is going up, the economy is growing, and so even though the deficit right now has been cut by two-thirds since I came into office — which is — (applause) — you wouldn’t know that listening to some of the candidates around here, but it has.

If, in fact, sequester stays in place, not only our ability to spend for education or to help families with student loans, but also things like early childhood education, Head Start programs, Pell grants — all those things can end up being adversely affected.

And this is one thing that I would just ask everybody to consider.  When you hear budget debates, I know your eyes kind of glaze over, but the federal budget, that’s really where we express our values.  And a lot of times people say, well, we should just cut government spending because there’s all this waste.  But, in fact, the vast majority of government spending is for Social Security, it’s for Medicare, it’s for Medicaid, it’s for helping vulnerable populations, and it’s for defense.  And not a lot is left over for helping middle-class families, for example, send their kids to college, or to save.

And if you have this ceiling, this artificial cap, without take into account a growing population and more young people going to college, then you end up with a situation in which fewer people are getting help.  And that’s why it’s important for us to lift this artificial cap.  And it’s also why it’s important for us to close some of these tax loopholes that are going to either the very wealthy or to corporations that really don’t need them, because they’re doing just fine and they’re not having a problem financing their college education — their kids’ college educations.  (Applause.)

All right.  It’s a young lady’s turn.  All right.  I will go — I’m going to go to this young lady because originally I called on her first and then — but we got mixed up.  Go ahead.  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Rosalie (ph) and I go to Roosevelt High School.  Hopefully, my question is not too difficult.  And it’s what is your best advice for Malia as she goes off to college?

THE PRESIDENT:  My best advice to Malia.  Now, this is assuming that Malia would listen to my advice.  (Laughter.)  She’s very much like her mother at this point.  (Laughter.)  She’s got her own mind.

One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college.  There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there, and it’s important I think for everybody here to understand you can find a college or university that gives you a great education, and just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.  So one is, lower the stress levels in terms of just having to get into one particular school.  I think that’s important.

The second piece of advice I have is keep your grades up until you get in, and after that, make sure you pass.  (Laughter.)  Because it’s important that you kind of run through the tape in your senior year and not start feeling a little slack.  I don’t worry about that with her; she’s a hard worker.

And then the third thing is really the advice that I already mentioned, which is be open to new experiences when you go to college.  Don’t go to college just to duplicate the same experience you had in high school.  Don’t make your decision based on, well, where are all my friends going so that I can do the exact same things with the exact same friends that I did in high school.  The whole point is for you to push yourself out of your comfort level, meet people you haven’t met before, take classes that you hadn’t thought of before.  Stretch yourself. Because this is the time to do it, when you’re young.  Seek out new experiences.

Because I think when you do that, you may discover you may think that you wanted to do one thing; it may turn out you wanted to do — that you wanted to do something completely different, and you have an amazing talent for something completely different, but you just haven’t been exposed to it yet.  You’ve got to know what it is that’s out there, and that requires you to do some things differently than you’ve been doing in high school.

So, Arne, anything you wanted to add on that?

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just quickly, particularly for the seniors, please don’t apply to one school — sort of what the President said — apply to four, five, six, seven schools.  It’s amazing to me how many young people just apply to one school.  And it might be the best fit for you, but keep your options open. So look at what’s out there — close to home, less close to home, whatever it might be — apply to a bunch of places.

And a final thing, just to emphasize, the goal is not to go to college; the goal is to graduate.  And so, figure out where you’re going to go and graduate.  It might take you three years, it might take you four, it might take you five.  But the big thing we need all of you — not to just go, not to attend, but to walk across those stages four or five years from now with that diploma in hand.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Gentleman right here.  Here, you can use my mic.

Q    All right.  (Laughter.)  Thanks, Mr. President.  I’m an elementary school principal here in Des Moines public schools, and one of the things that we really value is the diversity that we have within our community.  And I’m really curious to hear from you and Secretary Duncan the value that you see that diversity brings to a young person’s education.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great question.  How long have you been a principal?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Five years?

Q    Five years.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s outstanding.  We’re getting old, though, man, because I thought he was a student.  (Laughter.)  He’s the principal.  He’s not even just a teacher, he’s a principal.  (Laughter.)  Well, thank you for the great work you’re doing.

To some degree, I’ve already answered this question.  The value of diversity is getting to know and understand people who are different from you, because that’s the world you will be living in and working in.  And it’s actually really interesting  — they’ve been showing through a variety of studies that people who can understand and connect with a wide range of people, that that ends up being as important a skill, if not more important a skill, than just about anything else in terms of your career success, whatever the field.

It also, by the way, is part of what makes our democracy work.  I was having a discussion about this earlier today.  Our democracy is premised on an assumption that even if somebody is not just like me, that they’re a good person and a generous person, and that we have things in common, and that we can work things out, and if we have a disagreement then we can have an argument based on facts and evidence.  And I might sometimes lose the argument, I don’t persuade as many people, and then — that’s how voting works, and majorities are formed, and they change. That’s how our democracy is supposed to work.

And I think that starts early.  Because when you’ve got diversity in schools, then you’re less likely as an adult to start thinking, well, that person, they’re not like me, or those persons, they don’t have the same values, or they don’t care as much about their kids, or — and then democracy starts breaking down, because then everything is a fight to the death because there’s no sense that we can actually bridge our differences and disagree without being disagreeable, and find common ground.

So it’s not only good for your career, but it’s also good for our country.  The same goes — the same holds true, by the way, as part of diversity — studies show that organizations that have women in decision-making positions function better than those who don’t.  (Applause.)  Seriously.  That if you look at corporate boards, actually you can correlate their performance with the number of women that they’ve got on those boards.  So it also is valuable for us to make sure that not only is there diversity, but that in leadership positions, different voices are heard.

So, Arne, anything you want to add to that?

Good.  So keep it up.  (Applause.)

Young lady right there.  Yes, you.  Right there.  Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll call on you first and then I’ll get back to you.  I’m sorry.  The mic is already there.  I promise you’ll be the next.

Q    Hi.  My name is Heidi.  I’m a junior here at North High School.  And actually, I have, like, two questions.  One is one for my friend — he’s very shy, he can’t speak up.  We are part of a group called Upward Bound, and we work through Simpson College.  There’s been stories of our budget being cut, and we want to know what the government can — help us and work with us for that.

And my other question is, in your professional opinion, how much is visual arts an importance to our school, and how are you going to save it?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Why don’t I — I’ll take the first — I’ll take the question on visual arts, you talk about Upward Bound.  Arne, go ahead.

SECRETARY DUNCAN:  Just very quickly, it really goes back to what the President talked about.  It’s not just Upward Bound that’s at risk; it’s Pell grants that are at risk, early childhood education.  Folks in Congress want to zero that out of the budget.  I think it’s so important that all of us as students and as educators to not pit this program against the other, but to hold folks in Washington accountable for investing in education.

As the President said, we want to make sure we’re getting results.  It’s not blindly investing.  But there are lots of things in our budget — Upward Bound being a piece of it — that honestly are in pretty significant danger right now.  And the President is fighting very hard.  We have some folks backing us, but the others that just sort of see these things as somehow extras.  And I think it’s so important that as young people, as voters, as family, your voices be heard.

He cannot by himself prevent these cuts.  That’s not how our democracy works.  And so we’ll hold us accountable.  We’ll continue to push very, very hard.  That’s why we’re out traveling the country all the time.  But we need voters’ voices being heard, saying, we need Upward Bound programs, we need TRIO, we need early childhood, we need after-school programs, we need the arts.  And you can talk about the arts, as well.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, I mean, the arts are what make life worthwhile, right?  (Applause.)  You need food and shelter and all that good stuff, but the things that make you laugh, cry, connect, love — so much of that is communicated through the arts.

And I don’t want our young people to think that the arts are just something that you sit there passively and watch on a TV screen.  I want everybody, even if you’re not a great artist, to have the experience of making art, and have the experience of making music.  Because that’s part of what makes for a well-rounded education.

We also know that young people learn better if they’re not just looking at a textbook and multiple text quizzes all day long, and that it breaks up the monotony and it gives expression to different sides of themselves — that that’s good for the overall educational experience.

So I think visual arts, music, it’s all important.  And we should not be depriving young people of those experiences.  And they’re not extras.  They’re central to who we are.  Part of what makes us human is our ability to make art, to represent what’s inside of us in ways that surprise and delight people.  And I don’t want us to start thinking that that’s somehow something we can just push aside.

Now, I want you to be able to read and be able to do your algebra, too.  But I don’t know where we got this idea we’ve got to choose between those two things.  We’ve got to be able to do them all.  And it used to be standard practice.  There was no debate, even in the smallest town in a poor community or a rural community.  There was always the art teacher and the math teacher — or the art teacher and the music teacher, and nobody assumed somehow that that was an extra.  That was part of it, just like having a sports program was part of it.  (Applause.)  And that’s part of what a well-rounded education is all about.

But it does cost some money.  And that’s something that I want to emphasize — that you can’t do all this stuff on the cheap all the time.

How many more questions — how much more time we got?  Only one?  I’m going to take two.  (Laughter.)  All right.  I’m going to get to you because I promised I was going to — I’ll tell you, it’s a guy’s turn.  This guy right there.  (Applause.)  All right.

Q    All right.  I’ve got two short questions.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Marcus Carter.  And I’m a senior.  And out of all the schools in Iowa, why did you come here?  And after this, can I get a picture with you?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, Marcus, I’m going to answer your first question.  Second question, though, if I start taking a picture with you — look at this crowd right here.  (Laughter.)  We’d be taking a lot of selfies.  So I’m imposing the no-selfie rule, although I’ll definitely try to shake as many hands as possible.

We came here because some really good work is being done here.  And I think that your teachers, your principal, the superintendent deserve credit for the improvements that have been made.  (Applause.)  I want Arne to address this, because Arne travels to schools all across the country.  And sometimes we get so focused on what’s not working that we forget to lift up what is working.  And when a school is doing a good job, I’m sure the principal and superintendent, the teachers here feel like they want to do even more and do even better.  But when we’ve made progress, we’ve got to acknowledge that, because that makes us feel encouraged and hopeful that we can continue to make even more strides.


SECRETARY DUNCAN:  I’ll just say a couple quick things.  It’s not a coincidence that we’re here, but this is a school that historically struggled, had some hard times.  And new leadership, new expectations — the President talked about technology here, talked a much better sense of culture, different ways to discipline.  But the thing I always go back to — I don’t know if my numbers are exact — I think a couple years ago you had two AP classes, and now you have 15.  (Applause.)  And to go from two to 15 is a really big deal.

But what I always say is the students here aren’t seven times as smart as four years ago; it’s just higher expectations, a different sense of belief among adults about what’s possible.  And so we try and highlight places that haven’t always been successful but are trying to do the right thing and move in the right direction.

As the President said, no one is satisfied.  You guys are still hungry, you’re still trying to get better.  But that’s real progress.  That’s adults saying, kids, students, young people deserve the opportunity to take college classes in high school, deserve to go to a safe school, deserve the technology.  I think there are lots of lessons other schools could learn from the progress you’re making here at North High School.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  I promised I was going to call on this young lady last.  Go ahead.

Q    Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  What’s your name?

Q    My name is Tanya from North High School.  And my question is, if you legalize college — or free two-year college, is everyone, including illegal students with a good GPA able to get this benefit?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, right now, the way — no, this is an important question, and I know this is a debate that’s been taking place among some of the presidential candidates.  Right now, the way that the federal student loan programs work is that undocumented students are not eligible for these loan programs.  That’s how the law is currently.  And it is my view that — well, two things I want to say.

First, if you fall in that category, you should still fill out the FAFSA, because it may be that states or universities or colleges may have private scholarships or other mechanisms.  So it doesn’t automatically mean that you may not qualify for some benefits.  So it’s still important for you to kind of — because that’s a standard form that’s used by everybody.

But this raises the broader question that I’ve been talking about now for a couple of years, and that is that for young people who came here, their parents may have brought them here and they now are Americans, kids by every other criteria except for a piece of paper — they may be your classmates, they may be your friends, they may be your neighbors — the notion that somehow we would not welcome their desire to be full-fledged parts of this community and this country, and to contribute and to serve makes absolutely no sense.  (Applause.)

And this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that’s out there in our politics right now is contrary to who we are.  (Applause.)  Because unless you are a Native American, your family came from someplace else.  (Applause.)  And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and we have been working — and I’ve been pushing Congress to make sure that we have strong borders and we are keeping everybody moving through legal processes — don’t pretend that somehow 100 years ago the immigration process was all smooth and strict and — that’s not how it worked.

There are a whole bunch of folks who came here from all over Europe and all throughout Asia and all throughout Central America and all — and certainly who came from Africa, who it wasn’t some orderly process where all the rules applied and everything was strict, and I came the right way.  That’s not how it worked.

So the notion that now, suddenly, that one generation or two generations, or even four or five generations removed, that suddenly we are treating new immigrants as if they’re the problem, when your grandparents were treated like the problem, or your great-grandparents were treated like the problem, or were considered somehow unworthy or uneducated or unwashed — no.  That’s not who we are.  It’s not who we are.

We can have a legitimate debate about how to set up an immigration system that is fair and orderly and lawful.  And I think the people who came here illegally should have the consequences of paying a fine and getting registered, and all kinds of steps that they should have to take in order to get right with the law.  But when I hear folks talking as if somehow these kids are different from my kids, or less worthy in the eyes of God, that somehow they are less worthy of our respect and consideration and care — I think that’s un-American.  I do not believe that.  I think it is wrong.  (Applause.)  And I think we should do better.  Because that’s how America was made — by us caring about all our kids.

Thank you, everybody.  I love you guys.  (Applause.)


5:16 P.M. CDT



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