Full Text Political Transcripts January 14, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Final Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The Honor of Serving You as President

Source: WH, 1-14-17

WASHINGTON, DC — This week, President Obama delivered his final weekly address thanking the American people for making him a better President and a better man. Over the past eight years, we have seen the goodness, resilience, and hope of the American people. We’ve seen what’s possible when we come together in the hard, but vital work of self-government – but we can’t take our democracy for granted. Our success as a Nation depends on our participation. It’s up to all of us to be guardians of our democracy, and to embrace the task of continually trying to improve our Nation. Despite our differences, we all share the same title: Citizen. And that is why President Obama looks forward to working by your side, as a citizen, for all of his remaining days.

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Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
January 14, 2017

This week, I traveled to Chicago to deliver my final farewell address to the nation, following in the tradition of Presidents before me.  It was an opportunity to say thank you.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Over the course of these eight years, I have seen the goodness, the resilience, and the hope of the American people.  I’ve seen neighbors looking out for each other as we rescued our economy from the worst crisis of our lifetimes.  I’ve hugged cancer survivors who finally know the security of affordable health care.  I’ve seen communities like Joplin rebuild from disaster, and cities like Boston show the world that no terrorist will ever break the American spirit.

I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in a Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve learned from students who are building robots and curing diseases and who will change the world in ways we can’t even imagine.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for our refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That’s what’s possible when we come together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government.   But we can’t take our democracy for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the work of citizenship.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, then grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.

Our success depends on our participation, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings.  It falls on each of us to be guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.

It has been the honor of my life to serve you as President.  Eight years later, I am even more optimistic about our country’s promise.  And I look forward to working along your side, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.

Thanks, everybody.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 7, 2017: President Barack Obama’s Farewell Address to the Nation Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: President Obama’s Farewell Address to the Nation

Source: WH, 1-7-17

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama discussed his upcoming farewell address to the nation. In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead. Next week, the President will return to his hometown of Chicago to say a grateful farewell to the nation. This will mark the first time that a President has returned to his hometown to deliver such a speech. The President has said that the running thread through his career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together, things change for the better. This belief is at the heart of the American experiment in self-government – and it gives purpose to new generations. Through his address, the President will thank his supporters, celebrate the ways we have changed this country for the better these past eight years, and offer his vision on where we all go from here. The President will deliver his farewell address at 9:00 PM EST on Tuesday, January 10, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois. To tune in on Tuesday, visit WhiteHouse.gov/live.

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
January 7, 2017

Since the days of George Washington, presidents have delivered some form of final message while in office – a farewell address to the American people.

On Tuesday night, in Chicago, I’ll deliver mine.  I chose Chicago not only because it’s my hometown – where I met my wife and we started a family – but also because it’s really where my career in public service began.

The running thread through my career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better.

That’s the belief at the heart of this precious American experiment in self-government.  It’s what gives work and purpose to each new generation.

It’s easy to lose sight of that truth in the day-to-day back-and-forth of Washington and our minute-to-minute news cycles.  But remember that America is a story told over a longer time horizon, in fits and starts, punctuated at times by hardship, but ultimately written by generations of citizens who’ve somehow worked together, without fanfare, to form a more perfect union.

Over the past eight years, we’ve added our own new chapter to that story.

Together, we’ve turned an economy that was shrinking and losing jobs into one that’s growing and creating jobs, with poverty falling, incomes rising, and wages that have jumped faster over the past few years than at any time in the past four decades.

Together, we’ve achieved what eluded politicians of both parties for a century – we’ve moved 20 million more Americans from uninsured to insured, ended the days of discrimination against the up to half of Americans who have a preexisting condition, and secured new rights and protections for everybody with health insurance.

 

Full Text Political Transcripts January 6, 2017: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Michelle Obama’s Final Remarks as First Lady

Source: Time, 1-6-17

OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) What’s going on? (Applause.) Thank you all so much. You guys, that’s a command — rest yourselves. (Laughter.) We’re almost at the end. (Laughter.) Hello, everyone. And, may I say for the last time officially, welcome to the White House. Yes! (Applause.) Well, we are beyond thrilled to have you all here to celebrate the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year, as well as all of our State Counselors of the Year. These are the fine women, and a few good men — (laughter) — one good man — who are on this stage, and they represent schools from across this country.

And I want to start by thanking Terri for that wonderful introduction and her right-on-the-spot remarks. I’m going to say a lot more about Terri in a few minutes, but first I want to take a moment to acknowledge a few people who are here.

First, our outstanding Secretary of Education, John King. (Applause.) As well as our former Education Secretary, Arne Duncan. (Applause.) I want to take this time to thank you both publicly for your dedication and leadership and friendship. We couldn’t do this without the support of the Department of Education under both of your leadership. So I’m grateful to you personally, and very proud of all that you’ve done for this country.

I also want to acknowledge a few other special guests we have in the audience. We’ve got a pretty awesome crew. As one of my staff said, “You roll pretty deep.” (Laughter.) I’m like, well, yeah, we have a few good friends. We have with us today Ted Allen, La La Anthony, Connie Britton, Andy Cohen — yeah, Andy Cohen is here — (laughter) — Carla Hall, Coach Jim Harbaugh and his beautiful wife, who’s a lot better looking than him — (laughter) — Lana Parrilla, my buddy Jay Pharoah, Kelly Rowland, Usher —

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Woo!

MRS. OBAMA: Keep it down. (Laughter.) Keep it together, ladies. Wale is here. And of course, Allison Williams and her mom are here.

And all these folks are here because they’re using their star power to inspire our young people. And I’m so grateful to all of you for stepping up in so many ways on so many occasions. I feel like I’ve pestered you over these years, asking time and time again, “Well, where are you going to be?” “I’m going to be in New York.” “Can you come? Can you come here? Can you do this? Can you take that? Can you ask for that? Can you come? Can we rap? Can we sing?” (Laughter.) So thank you all so much. It really means the world to this initiative to have such powerful, respected and admired individuals speaking on behalf of this issue. So congratulations on the work that you’ve done, and we’re going to keep working.

And today, I especially want to recognize all these — extraordinary leadership team that was behind Reach Higher from day one. And this isn’t on the script so they don’t know this. I want to take time to personally acknowledge a couple of people. Executive Director Eric Waldo. (Applause.) Where is Eric? He’s in the — you’ve got to step out. (Applause.) Eric is acting like he’s a ham, but he likes the spotlight. (Laughter.) He’s acting a little shy. I want to recognize our Deputy Director, Stephanie Sprow. Stephanie. (Applause.) And he’s really not going to like this because he tries to pretend like he doesn’t exist at all, but our Senior Advisor, Greg Darnieder. (Applause.) There you go. Greg has been a leader in education his entire life. I’ve known him since I was a little organizer person. And it’s just been just a joy to work with you all. These individuals, they are brilliant. They are creative. They have worked miracles with hardly any staff or budget to speak of — which is how we roll in the First Lady’s Office. (Laughter.) And I am so proud and so, so grateful to you all for everything that you’ve done. So let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to recognize all of you who are here in this audience. We have our educators, our leaders, our young people who have been with us since we launched Reach Higher back in 2014. Now, when we first came up with this idea, we had one clear goal in mind: We wanted to make higher education cool. We wanted to change the conversation around what it means and what it takes to be a success in this country. Because let’s be honest, if we’re always shining the spotlight on professional athletes or recording artists or Hollywood celebrities, if those are the only achievements we celebrate, then why would we ever think kids would see college as a priority?

So we decided to flip the script and shine a big, bright spotlight on all things educational. For example, we made College Signing Day a national event. We wanted to mimic all the drama and excitement traditionally reserved for those few amazing football and basketball players choosing their college and university teams. We wanted to focus that same level of energy and attention on kids going to college because of their academic achievements. Because as a nation, that’s where the spotlight should also be — on kids who work hard in school and do the right thing when no one is watching, many beating daunting odds.

Next, we launched Better Make Room. It’s a social media campaign to give young people the support and inspiration they need to actually complete higher education. And to really drive that message home, you may recall that I debuted my music career — (laughter) — rapping with Jay about getting some knowledge by going to college. (Laughter and applause.)

We are also very proud of all that this administration has done to make higher education more affordable. We doubled investments in Pell grants and college tax credits. We expanded income-based loan repayment options for tens of millions of students. We made it easier to apply for financial aid. We created a College Scorecard to help students make good decisions about higher education. And we provided new funding and support for school counselors. (Applause.) Altogether, we made in this administration the largest investment in higher education since the G.I. Bill. (Applause.) And today, the high school graduation rate is at a record high, and more young people than ever before are going to college.

And we know that school counselors like all of the folks standing with me on this stage have played a critical role in helping us get there. In fact, a recent study showed that students who met with a school counselor to talk about financial aid or college were three times more likely to attend college, and they were nearly seven times more likely to apply for financial aid.

So our school counselors are truly among the heroes of the Reach Higher story. And that’s why we created this event two years ago, because we thought that they should finally get some recognition. (Applause.) We wanted everyone to know about the difference that these phenomenal men and women have been making in the lives of our young people every day. And our 2017 School Counselor of the Year, Terri Tchorzynski, is a perfect example.

As you heard, Terri works at the Calhoun Area Career Center, a career and technical education school in Michigan. And here’s what Terri’s principal said about her in his letter of recommendation. He said, “Once she identifies a systemic need, she works tirelessly to address it.”

So when students at Terri’s school reported feeling unprepared to apply for higher education, Terri sprang into action to create a school-wide, top-to-bottom college-readiness effort. Under Terri’s leadership, more students than ever before attended workshops on resume writing, FAFSA completion — yes, I can now say FAFSA — (laughter) — and interview preparation. I can barely say it. (Laughter.) They did career and personal — personality assessments. They helped plan a special college week. And they organized a Military Day, hosting recruiters from all branches of our armed forces. And because of these efforts, today, 75 percent of Calhoun’s seniors now complete key college application steps, and Terri’s school has won state and national recognition.

And all of this is just one small part of what Terri does for her students each day. I can go on and on about all the time she spends one-on-one with students, helping them figure out their life path. Terri told us — as you heard, she told us about one of those students, so we reached out to Kyra. And here’s what Kyra had to say in her own words. Kyra wrote that “Mrs. Tchorzynski has helped me grow to love myself. She helped me with my doubts and insecurities.” She said, my life has changed “for the better in all aspects.” Kyra said, “She held my hand through my hardest times.” She said, “Mrs. Tchorzynski is my lifesaver.” That’s what Kyra said. (Laughter.)

And this is what each of you do every single day. You see the promise in each of your students. You believe in them even when they can’t believe in themselves, and you work tirelessly to help them be who they were truly meant to be. And you do it all in the face of some overwhelming challenges — tight budgets, impossible student- counselor ratios — yeah, amen — (laughter) — endless demands on your time.

You all come in early, you stay late. You reach into your own pockets — and see, we’ve got the amen corner. (Laughter.) You stick with students in their darkest moments, when they’re most anxious and afraid. And if anyone is dealing with a college [high school] senior or junior, you know what this feels like. These men and women show them that those kids matter; that they have something to offer; that no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents have, no matter what they look like or who they love or how they worship or what language they speak at home, they have a place in this country.

And as I end my time in the White House, I can think of no better message to send our young people in my last official remarks as First Lady. So for all the young people in this room and those who are watching, know that this country belongs to you — to all of you, from every background and walk of life. If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition — the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth.

If your family doesn’t have much money, I want you to remember that in this country, plenty of folks, including me and my husband — we started out with very little. But with a lot of hard work and a good education, anything is possible — even becoming President. That’s what the American Dream is all about. (Applause.)

If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too. In fact, that’s why people first came to this country — to worship freely. And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh — these religions are teaching our young people about justice, and compassion, and honesty. So I want our young people to continue to learn and practice those values with pride. You see, our glorious diversity — our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds — that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are. (Applause.) So the young people here and the young people out there: Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t matter, or like you don’t have a place in our American story — because you do. And you have a right to be exactly who you are. But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Right now, you need to be preparing yourself to add your voice to our national conversation. You need to prepare yourself to be informed and engaged as a citizen, to serve and to lead, to stand up for our proud American values and to honor them in your daily lives. And that means getting the best education possible so you can think critically, so you can express yourself clearly, so you can get a good job and support yourself and your family, so you can be a positive force in your communities.

And when you encounter obstacles — because I guarantee you, you will, and many of you already have — when you are struggling and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember something that my husband and I have talked about since we first started this journey nearly a decade ago, something that has carried us through every moment in this White House and every moment of our lives, and that is the power of hope — the belief that something better is always possible if you’re willing to work for it and fight for it.

It is our fundamental belief in the power of hope that has allowed us to rise above the voices of doubt and division, of anger and fear that we have faced in our own lives and in the life of this country. Our hope that if we work hard enough and believe in ourselves, then we can be whatever we dream, regardless of the limitations that others may place on us. The hope that when people see us for who we truly are, maybe, just maybe they, too, will be inspired to rise to their best possible selves.

That is the hope of students like Kyra who fight to discover their gifts and share them with the world. It’s the hope of school counselors like Terri and all these folks up here who guide those students every step of the way, refusing to give up on even a single young person. Shoot, it’s the hope of my — folks like my dad who got up every day to do his job at the city water plant; the hope that one day, his kids would go to college and have opportunities he never dreamed of.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people. Because that is what moves this country forward every single day — our hope for the future and the hard work that hope inspires.

So that’s my final message to young people as First Lady. It is simple. (Applause.) I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong. So don’t be afraid — you hear me, young people? Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise. Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.

And that is true I know for every person who are here — is here today, and for educators and advocates all across this nation who get up every day and work their hearts out to lift up our young people. And I am so grateful to all of you for your passion and your dedication and all the hard work on behalf of our next generation. And I can think of no better way to end my time as First Lady than celebrating with all of you.

So I want to close today by simply saying thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids and for our country. Being your First Lady has been the greatest honor of my life, and I hope I’ve made you proud.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 31, 2016: President Barack Obama’s New Years Weekly Address

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: Working Together to Keep America Moving Forward

Source: WH, 12-31-16

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, President Obama reflected on the significant progress we’ve made since he took office in 2009. Over the past eight years, we’ve turned the recession into recovery; 20 million more Americans have health insurance; we’ve brought 165,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan; we took out Osama bin Laden; and we brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save the planet for our kids. The President reminded us that this extraordinary progress wasn’t inevitable – it was the result of tough choices, and the hard work and resilience of the American people. It will take all of us working together to sustain and build on all that we’ve achieved – that’s how we keep America moving forward.

The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov at 6:00AM EDT, December 31, 2016.

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Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address
The White House
December 31, 2016

Happy New Year, everybody.  At a time when we turn the page on one year and look ahead to the future, I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for everything you’ve done to make America stronger these past eight years.

Just eight years ago, as I prepared to take office, our economy teetered on the brink of depression.  Nearly 800,000 Americans were losing their jobs each month.  In some communities, nearly one in five folks were out of work.  Almost 180,000 troops were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden was still at large.  And on challenges from health care to climate change, we’d been kicking the can down the road for way too long.

Eight years later, you’ve told a different story.  We’ve turned recession into recovery.  Our businesses have created 15.6 million new jobs since early 2010 – and we’ve put more people back to work than all other major advanced economies combined.  A resurgent auto industry has added nearly 700,000 jobs, and is producing more cars than ever.  Poverty is falling.  Incomes are rising.  In fact, last year, folks’ typical household income rose by $2,800, that’s the single biggest increase on record, and folks at the bottom and middle saw bigger gains than those at the top.

Twenty million more Americans know the financial security of health insurance.  Our kids’ high school graduation rate is at an all-time high.  We’ve brought 165,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and took out Osama bin Laden.  Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids.  Almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago.  And marriage equality is finally a reality from coast to coast.

We’ve made extraordinary progress as a country these past eight years.  And here’s the thing: none of it was inevitable.  It was the result of tough choices we made, and the result of your hard work and resilience.  And to keep America moving forward is a task that falls to all of us.  Sustaining and building on all we’ve achieved – from helping more young people afford a higher education, to ending discrimination based on preexisting conditions, to tightening rules on Wall Street, to protecting this planet for our kids – that’s going to take all of us working together.  Because that’s always been our story – the story of ordinary people coming together in the hard, slow, sometimes frustrating, but always vital work of self-government.

It’s been the privilege of my life to serve as your President.  And as I prepare to take on the even more important role of citizen, know that I will be there with you every step of the way to ensure that this country forever strives to live up to the incredible promise of our founding – that all of us are created equal, and all of us deserve every chance to live out our dreams.  And from the Obama family to yours – have a happy and blessed 2017.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s last end-of-year press conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s last end-of-year news conference

Source: WaPo, 12-16-16

OBAMA: All right, everybody. Good afternoon. This is the most wonderful press conference of the year. I have got a list of who has been naughty and nice to call on. But let me first make a couple of quick points and then I will take your questions.

Typically I use this year-end press conference to review how far we have come over the course of the year. Today, understandably, I’m going to talk a little bit about how far we have come over the past eight years.

As I was preparing to take office, the unemployment rate was on its way to 10 percent. Today it is at 4.6 percent, the lowest in nearly a decade. We’ve seen the longest streak of job growth on record, and wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past 40.

When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today we have covered more than 20 million of them. For the first time in our history, more than 90 percent of Americans are insured.

In fact, yesterday was the biggest day ever for health care.gov, more than 670,000 Americans signed up to get covered, and more are signing up by the day.

We’ve cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half, doubled production of renewable energy, enacted the most sweeping reforms since FDR to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing main street ever again.

None of these actions stifled growth as critics are predicted. Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled.

Since I signed Obamacare into law, our businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs, and the economy undoubtedly more durable than it was in the days when we relied on oil from unstable nations and banks took risky bets with your money.

Add it all up, and last year the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost 50 years, while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record. In fact, income gains were actually larger for households at the bottom and the middle than for those at the top.

And we have done all this while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds, and protecting vital investments that grow the middle class.

In foreign policy, when I came into office we were in the midst of two wars. Now nearly 180,000 troops are down to 15,000. Bin Laden, rather than being at large, has been taken off the battlefield, along with thousands of other terrorists.

Over the past eight years no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed an attack on our homeland that was directed from overseas. Through diplomacy, we have ensured Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon without going to war with Iran.

We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba. And we have brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could very well save this planet for our kids.

And almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago. In other words, by so many measures our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. It is a situation that I’m proud to leave for my successor. And it’s thanks to the American people, to the hard work that you have put in, the sacrifices you have made for your families and your communities, the businesses that you started or invested in, and the way you looked out for one another. And I could not be prouder to be your president.

Of course, to tout this progress does not mean that we are not mindful of how much more there is to do. In this season in particular, we are reminded that there are people who are still hungry, people who are still homeless, people who still have trouble paying the bills or finding work after being laid off.

There are communities that are still mourning those who have been stolen from us by senseless gun violence, and parents who still are wondering how to protect their kids.

OBAMA: And after I leave office I intend to continue to work with organizations and citizens doing good across the country on these and other pressing issues to build on the progress that we have made.

Around the world as well, there are hotspots where disputes have been intractable, conflicts have flared up, and people, innocent people are suffering as result, and nowhere is this more terribly true than in the city of Aleppo. For years, we’ve worked to stop the civil war in Syria and alleviate human suffering. It has been one of the hardest issues that I’ve faced as president.

The world as we speak is united in horror at the savage assaults by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies on the city of Aleppo. We have seen a deliberate strategy of surrounding, besieging and starving innocent civilians. We’ve seen relentless targeting of humanitarian workers and medical personnel, entire and neighbors reduced to rubble and dust. There are continuing reports of civilians being executed. These are all horrific violations of international law.

Responsibility for this brutality lies in one place alone, with the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, and this blood and these atrocities are on their hands. We all know what needs to happen. There needs to be an impartial international observer force in Aleppo that can help coordinate an orderly evacuation through say corridors. There has to be full access for humanitarian aid, even as the United States continues to be the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. And beyond that, there needs to be a broader cease-fire that can serve as the basis for a political rather than a military solution.

That’s what the United States is gonna continue to push for, both with our partners and through multilateral institutions like the U.N.

Regretfully, but unsurprisingly, Russia has repeatedly blocked the Security Council from taking action on these issues, so we’re gonna keep pressing the Security Council to help improve the delivery of humanitarian aid to those who are in such desperate need and ensure accountability, including continuing to monitor any potential use of chemical weapons in Syria.

And we’re gonna work in the U.N. General Assembly as well, both on accountability and to advance a political settlement because it should be clear that although you may achieve tactical victories, over the long-term, the Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy. That’s why we’ll continue to press for a transition to a more representative government, and that’s why the world must not avert our eyes to the terrible events that are unfolding.

The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to obfuscate the truth. The world should not be fooled and the world will not forget.

So even in a season where the incredible blessings that we know as Americans are all around us, even as we enjoy family and friends and are reminded of how lucky we are, we should also be reminded that to be an American involves bearing burdens and meeting obligations to others. American values and American ideals are what will lead the way to a safer and more prosperous 2017, both here and abroad. And by the way, you (ph) embody those values and ideals like our brave men and women in uniform and their families.

So I just want to close by wishing all of them a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

With that, I will take some questions, and I’m gonna start with Josh Lederman of A.P.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

There’s a perception that you’re letting President Putin get away with interfering in the U.S. election and that a response that nobody knows about (inaudible) don’t cut it. Are you prepared to call out President Putin by name for ordering (inaudible)? And do you agree with Hillary Clinton now says, that the hacking was actually partially responsible for her loss?

And is your administration open to correlate with Trump and his team on this issues, tarnishing (ph) the smooth transition of power that you have promised?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, with respect to the transition, I think they would be the first to acknowledge that we have done everything we can to make sure that they are successful, as I promised, and that will continue. And it’s just been a few days since I last talked to the president-elect about a whole range of transition issues. That cooperation’s gonna continue.

OBAMA: There hasn’t been a lot of squabbling. What we’ve simply said is the facts, which are that based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC and that as a consequence, it is important for us to review all elements of that and make sure that we are preventing that kind of interference through cyber attacks in the future. That should be a bipartisan issue, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

And my hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don’t have a potential foreign influence in our election process. I don’t think any American wants that. And that shouldn’t be a source of an argument.

I think that part of the challenge is that it gets caught up in the carryover from election season. And I think it is very important for us to distinguish between the politics of the election and the need for us as a country, both from a national security perspective but also in terms of the integrity of our election system and our democracy to make sure that we don’t create a political football here.

Now, with respect to how this thing unfolded last year, let’s just go through the facts pretty quickly. At the beginning of the summer, were alerted to the possibility that the DNC has been hacked. And I made (ph) an order, law enforcement, as well as our intelligence teams to find out everything about it, investigate it thoroughly to brief the potential victims of this hacking, to brief on a bipartisan basis the leaders of both the House and the Senate and the relevant intelligence committees.

And once we had clarity and certainty around what in fact had happened, we publicly announced that in fact Russia had hacked into the DNC. And at that time, we did not attribute motives or you know any interpretations of why they had done so.

We didn’t discuss what the effects of it might be. We simply let people know — the public know just as we had let members of Congress know that this had happened.

And as a consequence, all of you wrote a lot of stories about both what had happened and then you interpreted why that might have happened and what effect it was going to have on the election outcomes. We did not — and the reason we did not was because in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, at a time when my primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election process was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens. I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were playing this thing straight, that we weren’t trying to advantage one side or another. But what we were trying to do was let people know that this had taken place.

And so if you started seeing effects on the election, if you were trying to measure why this was happening and how you should consume the information that was being leaked, that you might want to take this into account. And that’s exactly how we should have handled it.

Imagine if we had done the opposite, it would become immediately just one more political scrum. And part of the goal here was to make sure that we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place — at a time, by the way, when the president-elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election.

And finally, I think it’s worth pointing out, that the information was already out. It was in the hands of Wikileaks, so that was going to come out no matter what.

What I was concerned about in particular was making sure that that wasn’t compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself.

And so in early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that did not happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not.

And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks through Wikileaks had already occurred.

So when I look back in terms of how we handled it, I think we handled it the way it should have been handled. We allowed law enforcement and the intelligence community to do its job without political influence.

We briefed all relevant parties involved in terms of what was taking place. When we had a consensus around what had happened, we announced it, not through the White House, not through me, but rather through the intelligence communities that had actually carried out these investigations.

And then we allowed you and the American public to make an assessment as to how to weigh that going into the election.

And the truth is, is that there was nobody here who did not have some sense of what kind of effect it might have. I am finding it a little curious that everybody is suddenly acting surprised that this looked like it was disadvantaging Hillary Clinton, because you guys wrote about it every day, every single leak about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip, including John Podesta’s risotto recipe.

This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage. So I do think it is worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.

What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations which, as I’ve said publicly before, were not particularly sophisticated. This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.

They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it.

And then it just took off. And that concerns me, and it should concern all of us. But the truth of the matter is, is that everybody had the information. It was out there, and we handled it the way we should have.

Now, moving forward, I think there are a couple of issues that this raises. Number one is just the constant challenge that we are going to have with cyber security throughout our economy and throughout our society.

We are a digitalized culture. And there’s hacking going on every single day. There is not a company, there is not a major organization, there is not a financial institution, there is not a branch of our government were somebody is not going to be fishing for something or trying to penetrate or put in a virus or malware.

And this is why for the last eight years I have been obsessed with how do we continually upgrade our cyber security systems. And this particular concern around Russian hacking is part of a broader set of concerns about how do we deal with cyber issues being used in ways that can affect our infrastructure, affect the stability of our financial systems, and affect the integrity of our institutions like our election process.

I just received, a couple of weeks back, it wasn’t widely reported on, a report from our cyber-security commission that outlines a whole range of strategies to do a better job on this. But it’s difficult because it’s not all housed — the target of cyberattacks is not one entity, but it’s widely dispersed and a lot of it is private, like the DNC. You know, it’s not a branch of government. We can’t tell people what to do.

What we can do is inform them, get best practices. What we can also do is to on a bilateral basis warn other countries against these kinds of attacks, and we’ve done that in the past. So just as I told Russia to stop it and indicated there will be consequences when they do it, the Chinese have in the past engaged in cyberattacks directed at our companies to steal trade secrets and proprietary technology, and I had to have the same conversation with President Xi. And what we’ve seen is some evidence that they have reduced but not completely eliminated these activities, partly because they can use cutouts. One of the problems with the internet and cyber issues is there’s not always a return address, and by the time you catch up to it, you know, attributing what happened to a particular government can be difficult, not always provable in court, even tough our intelligence communities can make an assessment.

What we’ve also tried to do is to start creating some international norms about this to prevent some sort of cyber arms race because we obviously have offensive capabilities as well as defensive capabilities, and my approach is not a situation which everybody’s worse off because folks are constantly attacking each other back and forth, but putting some guardrails around behavior of nation states, including our adversaries, just so that they understand that whatever they do to us, we can potentially do to them.

We do have some special challenges because oftentimes, our economy is more digitalized. It is more vulnerable partly because we’re a wealthier nation and we’re more wired than some of these other countries and we have a more open society and engage in less control and censorship over what happens over the internet, which is also part of what makes us special.

Last point, and the reason I’m going on here is because I know that you guys have a lot of questions about this and I addressed all of you directly about this. With respect to response, my principal goal leading up to the election was making sure that the election itself went off without a hitch, that it was not tarnished and that it did not feed any sense in the public that somehow, tampering had taken place with the actual process of voting and we accomplished that. That does not mean that we are not going to respond, it simply meant that we had a set of priorities leading up to the election that were of the utmost importance.

Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you, but it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way. Some of it, we do publicly. Some of it, we will do in a way that they know but not everybody will. And I know that there have been folks out there who suggests somehow that if we went out there and made big announcements and thumped our chests about a bunch of stuff, that somehow that would potentially spook the Russians.

But keep in mind that we already have enormous numbers of sanctions against the Russians. The relationship between us and Russia has deteriorated, sadly, significantly over the last several years. And so how we approach an appropriate response that increases costs for them for behavior like this in the future but does not create problems for us is something that’s worth taking the time to think through and figure out. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

So, at a point in time where we’ve taken certain actions that we can divulge publicly, we will do so. There are times where the message will be directly received by the Russians and not publicized. And I should point out by the way, part of why the Russians have been effective on this is because they don’t go around announcing what they’re doing. It’s not like Putin’s gone around the world publicly saying, look what we did. Wasn’t that clever? He denies it.

So the idea that somehow public shaming is gonna be effective, I think doesn’t read the — the thought process in Russia very well. OK.

QUESTION: Did Clinton lose because of the hacking?

OBAMA: I’m gonna let all the political pundits in this town have a long discussion about what happened in the election. It was a fascinating election. So, you know, I’m sure there are gonna be a lot of books written about it. I’ve said what I think is important for the Democratic Party going forward, rather than try to parse every aspect of the election.

And I — I’ve said before, I couldn’t be prouder of Secretary Clinton, her outstanding service and she’s worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and I don’t think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the coverage of her and the issues was troubling, but having said that, what I’ve been most focused on — appropriate for the fact I am not going to be a politician in about — what is it, 32 days, 31, 34?

(LAUGHTER)

What I’ve said is that I can maybe give some counsel advice to the Democratic Party. And I think the — the — the thing we have to spend the most time on — because it’s the thing we have most control over — is, how do we make sure that we’re showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard?

And where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte- sipping, you know, politically correct, out-of-touch folks, we have to be in those communities. And I’ve seen that, when we are in those communities, it makes a difference. That’s how I became president. I became a U.S. Senator not just because I had a strong base in Chicago, but because I was driving downstate Illinois and going to fish fries and sitting in V.F.W. Halls and talking to farmers.

And I didn’t win every one of their votes, but they got a sense of what I was talking about, what I cared about, that I was for working people, that I was for the middle class, that the reason I was interested in strengthening unions and raising the minimum wage and rebuilding our infrastructure and making sure that parents had decent childcare and family leave, was because my own family’s history wasn’t that different from theirs even if I looked a little bit different. Same thing in Iowa.

And so the question is, how do we rebuild that party as a whole, so that there’s not a county in any state — I don’t care how red — where we don’t have a presence and we’re not making the argument, because I think we have a better argument. But that requires a lot of work. You know, it’s been something that I’ve been able to do successfully in my own campaigns.

OBAMA: It is not something I’ve been able to transfer to candidates in mid-terms and sort of build a sustaining organization around. That’s something I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House. And that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done, and I think there are gonna be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values, who are gonna be leading the charge in the years to come.

Michelle Kosinski (ph) of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This week we heard Hillary Clinton talk about how she thinks that the FBI director’s most recent announcement made a difference in the outcome of the election. And we also just heard in an op-ed her campaign chairman talk about something being deeply broken within the FBI.

He talked about thinking that the investigation early on was lackadaisical, in his words. So what do you think about those comments? Do you think there’s any truth to them? Do you think there’s a danger there that they’re calling into question the integrity of institutions in a similar way that Donald Trump’s team has done?

And the second part to that is that Donald Trump’s team repeatedly — I guess, given the indication that the investigation of the Russian hack as well as retaliation might not be such a priority once he’s in office.

So what do you think the risk is there? And are you going to talk to him directly about some of those comments he made?

OBAMA: Well, on the latter point, as I said before, the transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know, it’s bumpy. There are still feelings that are raw out there. There are people who are still thinking how things unfolded. And I get all that.

But when Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, then he has got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.

And I’ve said this before. I think there is a sobering process when you walk into the Oval Office. And, you know, I haven’t shared previously private conversations I’ve had with the president-elect. I will say that they have been cordial and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to ensure that regardless of our obvious deep disagreements about policy, maybe I can transmit some thoughts about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions, and he has listened.

I can’t say that he will end up implementing, but the conversations themselves have been cordial as opposed to defensive in any way. And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me as issues come up.

With respect to the FBI, I will tell you, I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents. I know Director Comey. They take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives.

And it is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work that they are doing and the political system. It’s one of the difficulties of democracy generally.

We have a system where we want our law enforcement investigators and our prosecutors to be free from politics, to be independent, to play it straight. But sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics and particularly in this hyper-partisan environment that we’ve been in, everything is suspect, everything you do one way or the other.

One thing that I have done is to be pretty scrupulous about not wading into investigation decisions or prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute. I have tried to be really strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement, free from my own judgments and political assessments, in some cases. And I don’t know why it would stop now.

Mike Dorney (ph) of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

On Aleppo, your views of (ph) what happens there, the responsibility of the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Assad regime (inaudible), but do you, as president of the United States, leader of the free world, feel any personal moral responsibility now at the end of your presidency for the carnage we’re all watching in Aleppo, which I’m sure disturbs you (inaudible)?

Secondly, also on Aleppo, you’ve again made clear your practical disagreements with (inaudible) and President-elect Trump has throughout his campaign, and he said again last night, that he wants to create safe zones in Syria. Do you feel like in this transition, you need to help him toward implementing that or is that not something you need to be doing?

OBAMA: Mike, I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced. I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I’m president of the United States, I feel responsible. I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn’t deserve to suffer. So that’s a starting point. There’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility.

That’s true, by the way, for our own country. When I came into office and people were losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their pensions, I felt responsible and I would go home at night and I would ask myself, was there something better that I could do or smarter that I could be that would make a difference in their lives, that would relieve their suffering and relieve their hardship.

So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings — if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings — where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.

OBAMA: Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.

So it may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world’s eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.

Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that’s going to arise.

Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.

And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Mike, I can’t have too much…

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but do you see, responsibility notwithstanding, moving in that direction or help President-elect Trump move in that direction?

OBAMA: I will help President Trump — President-elect Trump with any advice, counsel, information that we can provide so that he, once he’s sworn in, can make a decision.

Between now and then, these are decisions that I have to make based on the consultations that I have with our military and the people who have been working this every single day.

Peter Alexander (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Can you, given all the intelligence that we have now heard, assure the public this was once and for all a free and fair election? And specifically on Russia, do you feel any obligation now as they have been insisting that this isn’t the case to show the proof, as it were? They say, put your money where your mouth is and declassify some of the intelligence and the evidence that exists.

And more broadly, as it relates to Donald Trump on this very topic, are you concerned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, especially given some of the recent cabinet picks, including his selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who toasted Putin with champagne over oil deals together? Thank you.

OBAMA: I may be getting older because these multipart questions, I start losing track.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was our concern and will continue to be of concern going forward, that the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately.

We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with, so that assurance I can provide.

That doesn’t mean that we find every single, you know, potential probe of every single voting machine all across the country, but we paid a lot of attention to it. We worked with state officials, et cetera, and we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

And so that’s on that point. What was the second one?

QUESTION: Say more about declassification.

OBAMA: Declassification. Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done, and I think there are going to be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values who are going to be leading the charge in the years to come.

Michelle Kosinski (ph) of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This week we heard Hillary Clinton talk about how she thinks that the FBI director’s most recent announcement made a difference in the outcome of the election. And we also just heard in an op-ed her campaign chairman talk about something being deeply broken within the FBI.

He talked about thinking that the investigation early on was lackadaisical, in his words. So what do you think about those comments? Do you think there’s any truth to them? Do you think there’s a danger there that they’re calling into question the integrity of institutions in a similar way that Donald Trump’s team has done?

And the second part to that is that Donald Trump’s team repeatedly — I guess, given the indication that the investigation of the Russian hack as well as retaliation might not be such a priority once he’s in office.

So what do you think the risk is there? And are you going to talk to him directly about some of those comments he made?

OBAMA: Well, on the latter point, as I said before, the transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know, it’s bumpy. There are still feelings that are raw out there. There are people who are still thinking how things unfolded. And I get all that.

But when Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, then he has got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.

And I’ve said this before. I think there is a sobering process when you walk into the Oval Office. And, you know, I haven’t shared previously private conversations I’ve had with the president-elect. I will say that they have been cordial and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to ensure that regardless of our obvious deep disagreements about policy, maybe I can transmit some thoughts about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions, and he has listened.

I can’t say that he will end up implementing, but the conversations themselves have been cordial as opposed to defensive in any way. And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me as issues come up.

With respect to the FBI, I will tell you, I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents. I know Director Comey. They take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives.

And it is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work that they are doing and the political system. It’s one of the difficulties of democracy generally.

We have a system where we want our law enforcement investigators and our prosecutors to be free from politics, to be independent, to play it straight. But sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics and particularly in this hyper-partisan environment that we’ve been in, everything is suspect, everything you do one way or the other.

One thing that I have done is to be pretty scrupulous about not wading into investigation decisions or prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute. I have tried to be really strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement, free from my own judgments and political assessments, in some cases. And I don’t know why it would stop now.

Mike Dorney (ph) of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

On Aleppo, your views of (ph) what happens there, the responsibility of the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Assad regime (inaudible), but do you, as president of the United States, leader of the free world, feel any personal moral responsibility now at the end of your presidency for the carnage we’re all watching in Aleppo, which I’m sure disturbs you (inaudible)?

Secondly, also on Aleppo, you’ve again made clear your practical disagreements with (inaudible) and President-elect Trump has throughout his campaign, and he said again last night, that he wants to create safe zones in Syria. Do you feel like in this transition, you need to help him toward implementing that or is that not something you need to be doing?

OBAMA: Mike, I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced. I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I’m president of the United States, I feel responsible. I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn’t deserve to suffer. So that’s a starting point. There’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility.

That’s true, by the way, for our own country. When I came into office and people were losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their pensions, I felt responsible and I would go home at night and I would ask myself, was there something better that I could do or smarter that I could be that would make a difference in their lives, that would relieve their suffering and relieve their hardship.

So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings — if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings — where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.

OBAMA: Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to send in as many of their people or proxies to support the regime.

And in that circumstance, unless we were all in and willing to take over Syria, we were going to have problems. And everything else was tempting because we wanted to do something and it sounded like the right thing to do but it was going to be impossible to do this on the cheap. And in that circumstance, I have to make decision as president of the United States as to what is best — I’m sorry.

What’s going on? Somebody’s not feeling good. All right. Why don’t we have — we got — we can get our doctors back there to help out. Somebody want to go to my doctor’s office and just send them — all right. Where was I? So we couldn’t do it on the cheap. Now, it may be —

QUESTION: Can we get a doctor in here? Can that be arranged?

OBAMA: Can somebody help out, please, and get Doc Jackson in here? Somebody grabbing our doctor?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Of course. In the meantime, just give her a little room. Doctor will be here in a second. You guys know where the doctor’s office is? So just go through the palm doors. Its right — its right next to the map room. There he is. All right. There’s Doc Jackson. He’s all right. OK. The doctor — the doctor’s in the house.

So — And I don’t mean that — I mean that with all sincerity. I understand the impulse to want to do something, but ultimately what I’ve had to do is to think about, what can we sustain, what is realistic? And my first priority has to be, what’s the right thing to do for America? And it has been our view that the best thing to do has been to provide some support to the moderate opposition so that they could sustain themselves. And that you wouldn’t see anti-Assad regime sentiments just pouring into Al- Nusra and Al-Qaeda or ISIL that we engaged our international partners in order to put pressure on all the parties involved. And to try to resolve this through diplomatic and political means. I cannot claim that we’ve been successful. And so that’s something that, as is true with a lot of issues and problems around the world, I have to go to bed with every night.

But I continue to believe that it was the right approach given what realistically we could get done. Absent a decision, as I said, to go into much more significant way. And that, I think would not have been a sustainable or good for the American people because we had a whole host of other obligations that we also had to meet, wars we had already started and that were not yet finished.

With respect to the issue of safe zones , it is a continued problem, a continued challenge with safe zones is if you are setting up those zones on Syrian territory, then that requires some force that is willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.

So it may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world’s eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.

Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that’s going to arise.

Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.

And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Mike, I can’t have too much…

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but do you see, responsibility notwithstanding, moving in that direction or help President-elect Trump move in that direction?

OBAMA: I will help President Trump — President-elect Trump with any advice, counsel, information that we can provide so that he, once he’s sworn in, can make a decision.

Between now and then, these are decisions that I have to make based on the consultations that I have with our military and the people who have been working this every single day. Peter Alexander (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Can you, given all the intelligence that we have now heard, assure the public this was once and for all a free and fair election? And specifically on Russia, do you feel any obligation now as they have been insisting that this isn’t the case to show the proof, as it were? They say, put your money where your mouth is and declassify some of the intelligence and the evidence that exists.

And more broadly, as it relates to Donald Trump on this very topic, are you concerned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, especially given some of the recent cabinet picks, including his selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who toasted Putin with champagne over oil deals together? Thank you.

OBAMA: I may be getting older because these multipart questions, I start losing track.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was our concern and will continue to be of concern going forward, that the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately.

We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with, so that assurance I can provide.

That doesn’t mean that we find every single, you know, potential probe of every single voting machine all across the country, but we paid a lot of attention to it. We worked with state officials, et cetera, and we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

And so that’s on that point. What was the second one?

QUESTION: Say more about declassification.

OBAMA: Declassification. Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that does not compromise sources and methods. But I’ll be honest with you, when you are talking about cybersecurity, a lot of it is classified and we’re not going to provide it, because the way we catch folks is by knowing certain things about them that they may not want us to know and if we’re gonna monitor this stuff effectively going forward, we don’t want them to know that we know.

So, this is one of those situations where, unless the American people genuinely think that the professionals in the CIA, the FBI, our entire intelligence infrastructure, many of whom — by the way, served in previous administrations and who are Republicans — are less trustworthy than the Russians. Then people should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say.

This is part of what I meant when I said we’ve got to think what is happening to happening to our political culture here. The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate.

But they can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values. Mr. Putin can weaken us just like he’s trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like.

And what I worry about — more than anything — is the degree to which because of the fierceness because of the partisan battle, you start to see certain folks in the Republican Party and Republican voters suddenly finding a government and individuals who stand contrary to everything that we stand for as being OK, because that’s how much we dislike Democrats.

I mean, think about it. Some of the people who historically have been very critical of me for engaging with the Russians and having conversations with them, also endorsed the president-elect, even as he was saying that we should stop sanctioning Russia and being tough on them and work together with them against our common enemies.

It was very complimentary of Mr. Putin personally. Now that — that wasn’t news. The president-elect during the campaign said so. And some folks who had made a career out of being anti-Russian, didn’t say anything about it. And then after the election, suddenly they’re asking, oh, why didn’t you tell us that maybe the Russians were trying to help our candidate? Well, come on.

There was a survey some of you saw where — not this just one poll, but pretty credible source, 37 percent of Republican voters approve of Putin. Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave. And how did that happen? It happened in part because for too long, everything that happens in this town, everything that’s said is seen through the lens of does this help or hurt us relative to Democrats or relative to President Obama. And unless that changes, we’re going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence because we’ve lost track of what it is that we’re about and what we stand for.

With respect to the president-elect’s appointments, it is his prerogative, as I have always said, for him to appoint who he thinks can best carry out his foreign policy or his domestic policy. It is up to the Senate to advise and consent. There will be plenty of time for members of the Senate to go through the record of all his appointees and determine whether or not they’re appropriate for the job.

Martha (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to talk about Vladimir Putin again. Just to be clear, do you believe Vladimir Putin himself authorized the hack? And do you believe he authorized that to help Donald Trump?

And on the intelligence, one of the things Donald Trump cites is Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction and that they were never found. Can you say unequivocally that this was not China, that this was not a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed as Donald Trump says? And do these types of tweets and kinds of statements from Donald Trump embolden the Russians?

OBAMA: When the report comes out before I leave office, that will have drawn together all the threads, and so I don’t want to step on their work ahead of time. What I can tell you is that the intelligence that I’ve seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack.

QUESTION: Which hack?

OBAMA: The hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta.

Now, the — but again, I think this is exactly why I want the report out, so that everybody can review it. And this has been briefed and the evidence in closed session has been provided on a bipartisan basis, not just to me, it’s been provided to the leaders of the House and the Senate and the chairmen and ranking members of the relevant committees. And I think that what you’ve already seen is, at least some of the folks who’ve seen the evidence don’t dispute I think the basic assessment that the Russians carried this out.

QUESTION: But specifically, could (ph) you not say that…

OBAMA: Well, Martha, I think what I want to make sure of is that I give the intelligence community a chance to gather all the information.

But I’d make a larger point, which is, not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is a pretty hierarchical operation. Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States. We have said and I will confirm that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government and I will let you make that determination as to whether there are high-level Russian officials who go off rogue and decide to tamper with the U.S. election process without Vladimir Putin knowing about it.

QUESTION: So I wouldn’t be wrong in saying the president thinks Vladimir Putin authorized the hack?

OBAMA: Martha, I’ve given you what I’ve — what I’m gonna give you.

What was your second question?

QUESTION: Do the tweets and do the statements by — by Donald Trump embolden Russia?

OBAMA: As I said before, I think that the president-elect, you know, is still in transition mode from campaign to governance. I think he hasn’t gotten his whole team together yet. He still has campaign spokespersons sort of filling in and appearing on cable shows. And there is just a whole different attitude and vibe when you’re not in power as when you are in power.

So rather than me sort of characterize the appropriateness or inappropriateness of what he is doing at the moment, I think what we have to see is how will the president-elect operate and how will his team operate when they’ve been fully briefed on all these issues. They have their hands on all the levers of government. And they have got to start making decisions.

One way I do believe that the president-elect can approach this that would be unifying is to say that we welcome a bipartisan independent process that gives the American people an assurance not only that votes are counted properly, that the elections are fair and free, but that we have learned lessons about how internet propaganda from foreign countries can be released into the political bloodstream and that we have got strategies to deal with it for the future.

The more this can be non-partisan, the better served the American people are going to be, which is why I made the point earlier and I’m going to keep on repeating this point, our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is. That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable.

If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to some of the other stuff that folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.

To the extent that our political dialogue is such where everything is under suspicion, and everybody is corrupt, and everybody is doing things for partisan reasons, and all of our institutions are, you know, full of malevolent actors, if that’s the story line that is being put out there by whatever party is out of power, then when a foreign government introduces that same argument, with facts that are made up, voters who have been listening to that stuff for years, who have been getting that stuff every day from talk radio or other venues, they’re going to believe it.

So if we want to really reduce foreign influence on our elections, then we had better think about how to make sure that our political process, our political dialogue is stronger than it has been.

Mark Langley (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

I wonder whether I could move you from Russia to China for a moment.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Your successor spoke by phone with the president of Taiwan the other day, and declared subsequently that he wasn’t sure why the United States needed to be bound by the One China Policy.

He suggested it could be used as a bargaining chip perhaps to get better terms on a trade deal or more cooperation on North Korea. There’s already evidence that tensions between the two sides have increased a bit, and just today, the Chinese have seized an underwater drone in the South China Sea.

Do you agree, as some do, that our China policy could use a fresh set of eyes and what’s the big deal about having a short phone call with the president of Taiwan? Or do you worry that these types of unorthodox approaches are setting us on a collision course with perhaps our biggest geopolitical adversary?

OBAMA: That’s a great question.

I’m somewhere in between. I think all of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes. I think one of the — I’ve said this before, I am very proud of the work I’ve done. I think I’m a better president now than when I started. But you know, if you’re here for eight years in the bubble, you start seeing things a certain way and you benefit from — the democracy benefits, America benefits from some new perspectives.

And I think it should be not just the prerogative, but the obligation of a new president to examine everything that’s been done and see what makes sense and what doesn’t. That’s what I have done when I came in and I’m assuming any new president’s gonna undertake those same exercises.

And given the importance of the relationship between United States and China, given how much is at stake in terms of the world economy, national security, our presence in the Asia-Pacific, China’s increasing role in international affairs, there’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and where there’s also the potential if that relationship breaks down or goes into full conflict mode that everybody is worse off. So I think it’s fine for him to take a look at it. What I have advised the president-elect is that across the board on foreign policy, you want to make sure that you’re doing it in a systematic, deliberate, intentional way.

And since there’s only one president at a time, my advice to him has been that before he starts having a lot of interactions with foreign governments other than the usual courtesy calls, that he should want to have his full team in place, that he should want his team to be fully briefed on what’s gone on in the past and where the potential pitfalls may be, where the opportunities are, what we’ve learned from eight years of experience so that as he’s then maybe taking foreign policy in a new direction, he’s got all the information to make good decisions, and by the way, that all of government is moving at the same time and singing from the same hymnal.

And with respect to China — and let’s just take the example of Taiwan, there has been a longstanding agreement essentially between China and the United States, and to some agree the Taiwanese, which is to not change the status quo. Taiwan operates differently than mainland China does. China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.

OBAMA: The Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they’re able to continue to function with some agree of autonomy, that they won’t charge forward and declare independence. And that status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and — of people who have a high agree of self-determination. What I understand for China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket.

The idea of One China is at the heart of their conception as a nation. And so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what the consequences because the Chinese will not treat that the way they’ll treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they issues around the South China Sea, where we’ve had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves.

And their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant. That doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to everything that’s been done in the past, but you have to think it through and have planned for potential reactions that they may engage in. All right. Isaac Dovere, Politico.

QUESTION: Thank you Mr. President. Two questions on where this all leaves us.

OBAMA: What leaves us? Where my presidency leaves us? It leaves us in a really good spot.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: If we make some good decisions going forward.

QUESTION: What do you say to the electors who are going to meet on Monday and are thinking of changing their votes? Do you think they should be given an intelligence briefing about the Russian activity or should they bear in mind everything you have said and have said already (ph)? Should they — should votes be bound by the state votes as they’ve gone? And long-term, do you think that there is need for Electoral College reform that was tied to the popular vote?

OBAMA: Sounded like two but really was one.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I love how these start. I’ve got two questions, but each one has four parts.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: On the Democratic Party, your labor secretary is running for — to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Is the vision that you’ve seen him putting forward what you think the party needs to be focused on? And what do you think about the complaint that say that the future democratic committee shouldn’t be a continuation of some of your political approach? Part of that is complaints that decisions that you have made as president and leader of the party has structurally weakened the DNC and the Democratic Party and they think that that has led to or has help lead to some of the losses in elections around the country. Do you regret any of those decisions?

OBAMA: I’ll take the second one first and say that Tom Perez has been, I believe one of the best secretaries of labor in our history. He is tireless. He is wicked smart. He has been able to work across the spectrum of you know, labor, business, activists. He has produced. I mean, if you look at his body of work on behalf of working people, what he’s pushed for in terms of making sure that workers get a fair deal, decent wages, better benefits, that their safety is protected on the job. He has been extraordinary.

Now others who have declared are also my friends and fine people as well. And the great thing is, I don’t have a vote in this. So – so – so we’ll let the process unfold, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. I described to you earlier what I think needs to happen, which is that the democratic party, whether that’s entirely through the DNC or through rebuilding of state parties, or some other arrangement, has to work at the grassroots level, has to be present in all 50 states, has to have a presence in counties.

Has to think about in that extension (ph) how are we speaking directly to voters.

I will say this, and I’m not going to engage in too much punditry. But that I could not be prouder of the coalition that I put together in my — each of my campaigns. Because it was inclusive and it drew in people who normally weren’t interested in politics and didn’t participate.

But I’d like to think — I think I can show that in those elections, I always cast a broad net. I always said first and foremost we’re Americans, that we have a common creed, that there’s more that we share than divides us. And I want to talk to everybody and get a chance to get everybody’s vote.

I still believe what I said in 2004 which is this red state-blue thing is a construct. Now it is a construct that has gotten more and more powerful for a whole lot of reasons from gerrymandering, to big money, to a way that the media is splintered.

And so people are just watching what reinforces their existing biases as opposed to having to listen to different points of view. So there are all kinds of reasons for it. But outside the realm of electoral politics, I still see people the way I saw them when I made that speech, full of contradictions and some regional differences but basically, folks care about their families.

They care about having meaningful work. They care about making sure their kids have more opportunity than they did. They want to be safe. They want to feel like things are fair.

And whoever leads the DNC and any candidate with the Democratic brand going forward, I want them to feel as if they can reach out and find that common ground and speak to all of America. And that requires some organization.

And you’re right that — and I said this in my earlier remarks, that what I was able to do during my campaigns, I wasn’t able to do during midterms. It’s not that we didn’t put in time and effort into it. I spent time and effort into it. But the coalition I put together didn’t always turn out to be transferable.

And the challenge is that — you know, some of that just has to do with the fact that when you are in the party in power and people are going through hard times like they were in 2010, they are going to punish to some degree the president’s party regardless of what organizational work is done.

Some of it has to do with just some deep standing traditional challenges for Democrats like during off-year elections the electorate is older and we do better with the younger electorate. But we know those things are true.

And I didn’t crack the code on that. And if other people have ideas about how to do that even better, I’m all for it.

So with respect to the electors, I’m not going to wade into that issue. Because, again, it’s the American people’s job and now electors’ job to decide my successor. It is not my job to decide my successor.

And I have provided people with a lot of information about what happened during the course of the election, but more importantly, the candidates themselves I think talked about their beliefs and their vision for America.

The president-elect I think has been very explicit what he cares about and what he believes in. And so it’s not in my hands now, it’s up to them.

QUESTION: what about long term about the Electoral College?

OBAMA: Long term with respect to the Electoral College, the Electoral College is a vestige, it’s a carry-over from an earlier vision of how our federal government was going to work that put a lot of premium on states, and it used to be that the Senate was not elected directly, it was through state legislatures. And it’s the same type of thinking that gives Wyoming two senators and — with about half a million people and California with 33 million get the same two.

So there’s — there are some structures in our political system as envisioned by the founders that sometimes are going to disadvantage Democrats, but the truth of the matter is is that if we have a strong message, if we’re speaking to what the American people care about, typically, the popular vote and the electoral college vote will align.

And I guess — I guess part of my overall message here as I leave for the holidays is that if we look for one explanation or one silver bullet or one easy fix for our politics, then we’re probably going to be disappointed. There are just a lot of factors in what’s happened, not just over the last few months, but over the last decade that has made both politics and governance more challenging. And I think everybody’s raised legitimate questions and legitimate concerns.

I do hope that we all just take some time, take a breath, that’s certainly what I’m going to advise Democrats, to just reflect a little bit more about how can we — how can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least some common set of facts? How can we have a conversation about policy that doesn’t demonize each another? How can we channel what I think is the basic decency and goodness of the American people so it reflects itself in our politics, as opposed to it being so polarized and so nasty that in some cases, you have voters and unelected officials who have more confidence and faith in a foreign adversary than they have in their neighbors?

And those go to some bigger issues. How is it that we have some voters or some elected officials who think that Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative and school nutrition program is a greater threat to democracy than, you know, our government going after the press if they’re issuing a story they don’t like? I mean, that’s — that’s an issue that I think, you know, we’ve got to — we’ve got to wrestle with. And we will.

People have asked me how you feel after the election and so forth and I say well, look, this is a clarifying moment. It’s a useful reminder that voting counts, politics counts. What the president- elect is going to be doing is gonna be very different than what I was doing and I think people will be able to compare and contrast and make judgments about what worked for the American people. And I hope that building off the progress we’ve made, that what the president-elect is proposing works.

What I can say with confidence is that what we’ve done works. That I can prove. I can show you where we were in 2008 and I can show you where we are now. And you can’t argue that we are not better off, we are.

And for that, I thank the American people and then more importantly I thank — well, not importantly, as importantly — I was going to say Josh Earnest…

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: … for doing such a great job. For that, I thank the American people, I thank the men and women in uniform who serve. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I’ve been overly sentimental. I will tell you that when I was doing my last Christmas party photo — I know many of you have participated in these, they’re pretty long.

Right at the end of the line, the President’s Marine Corps Band comes in, those who have been performing. And I take a picture with them. And that was the last time that I was going to take a picture with my Marine Corps Band after an event. And I got a little choked up.

Now I was in front of marines so I had to like tamp it down. But it was just one small example of all of the people who have contributed to our success. I am responsible for where we’ve screwed up, the successes are widely shared with all of the amazing people who have been part of this administration.

OK? Thank you, everybody. Mele Kalikimaka!

 

Full Text Political Transcripts December 31, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at My Brother’s Keeper National Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at My Brother’s Keeper National Summit

Source: WH, 12-14-16

South Court Auditorium

5:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello!  Everybody, please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House.

Thank you, Malachi, for the great introduction and being a great role model for the young people coming up behind you.  I was watching the introduction on the screen — he’s very telegenic.  (Laughter.)  We might have to run him for something at some point.  (Laughter.)  We’re so proud of you.

And I want to make sure that we introduce the other young men who are behind me, as well, because they’ve got equally compelling stories.  Devin Edwards, coming out of MBK Boston.  Devin, wave.  There you go.  (Applause.)  And as well as Bunker Hill Community College in Greater Boston.  Jerron Hawkins, Howard University.  (Applause.)  White House Mentorship and Leadership Program.  You already met Malachi.  Noah McQueen, Morehouse College.  (Applause.)  One of our mentors.  Luis Ramirez, MBK Oakland Career and Opportunity Fair.  (Applause.)  And Quamiir Trice, MBK Philadelphia.  Howard University.  (Applause.)

These young people behind me are proof that a little love, a little support allows them to achieve anything they can dream, anything they can conceive.  Since day one, my administration has been focused on creating opportunities for all people.  And by almost every measure, this country is better off than it was when I started.  (Applause.)  But what we’ve also long understood is that some communities have consistently had the odds stacked against them — and that’s especially true for boys and young men of color.

All of you know the statistics and the stories of young people who had the intelligence, the potential to do amazing things, but somehow slipped through the cracks.  And I’ve said this before — I see myself in these young people.  I grew up without a father.  There were times where I made poor choices, times where I was adrift.  The only difference between me and a lot of other young men is that I grew up in a more forgiving environment.  I had people who encouraged me and gave me a second chance.

That’s why Michelle and I have dedicated so much of our time to creating opportunities for young people.  We know this is not just an urban problem; it’s not just a people of color problem.  This is a national challenge — because if we’re going to stay ahead as a nation, we’re going to need the talent of every single American.  And even more than that, this is about who we are as a country, what our values are, whether we’re going to continue to be a place where if you work hard you can succeed, or whether we continue to see stagnation and diminishing mobility and the ladders of opportunity cut off for too many people.  The only way we live up to America‘s promise is if we value every single child, not just our own, and invest in every single child as if they’re our own.

It’s almost three years ago, we launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to give more of our young people the tools and the support that they need to stay on track for a bright future.  We knew this couldn’t just be a government initiative.  We knew that our concerns couldn’t be sporadic, just inflamed by the latest high-profile shooting or some other disturbance.  It has to be sustained, thought through.  Progress had to be measurable.

So we put out a call for action across the country.  And I’ve just got to say, the response was incredible.  Hundreds of you — mayors, tribal leaders, county executives have created MBK communities in all 50 states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico.  Businesses and foundations, many of whom are represented here today, are working across sectors and investing more than a billion dollars in proven pathways for young people.

In just a few years, the progress we’ve made is remarkable. So I just wanted to come by and say thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you for stepping up to the challenge.  Thank you for being great partners in this work.  Thank you for believing in our young people.

I also want to say thank you to the young men who are here and who came in from across the country, and many of whom are watching or may be listening, who’ve been part of this initiative.  I’ve had a chance to meet many of these young people.  Everybody on this stage, I’ve had significant conversations with.  I’ve heard their stories and I’ve seen young men like this grow into confident, capable, responsible men.  Many of you have overcome unbelievable obstacles — obstacles that most people never have to face.  It hasn’t always been easy, but look at the progress that you’ve inspired.  I could not be prouder of these young people and so many who are participating around the country.

And this is just the beginning.  We are going to keep these efforts going to invest in our young people, to break down barriers that keep them from getting ahead, and to make sure that they’ve got a chance to contribute.  And we’re going to need more of you to be mentors and role models and supporters for this next generation.  As they keep moving up in the world, then we’re going to call on them to reach back and invest in the folks who are coming behind them.

And that’s the final point I want to make.  My Brother’s Keeper was not about me, it was not about my presidency.  It’s not even just about Malachi and all these amazing young men behind me.  It’s about all of us working together.  Because ensuring that our young people can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them is the single most important task that we have as a nation.  It is the single most important thing we can do for our country’s future.  This is something I will be invested in for the rest of my life, and I look forward to continuing the journey with you.  (Applause.)

So to the young people who are here, thank you.  To folks who are investing and supporting this effort, thank you.  But we are just scratching the surface.

For every one of these young men, there are tens of thousands — hundreds of thousands who are not currently being reached.  And although it is important for us to poke and prod and push government at every level to make the investments that are necessary — to ensure our schools are properly funded and are teaching the kids what they need to learn, that we are investing and making sure that there are jobs available in communities so that people can see that there is a right path to go down that will result in them having a bright future; although there’s infrastructure that has to be built by the government to ensure that our young people can succeed and prosper in this 21st century economy — we can’t wait for government to do it for us.

We’ve got to make sure that we’re out there showing what works.  We’ve got to put our own time and energy and effort and money into the effort.  We have to be rigorous in measuring what works.  We can’t hang onto programs just because they’ve been around a long time.  We can’t be protective of programs that have not produced results for young people, even if they’ve produced some jobs for some folks running them.  (Laughter.)  And we have to make sure that we’re casting a wide net so that we’re not just cherry-picking some kids who probably have so much drive they’d make it anyway.  We’ve also got to go deep, including in the places like juvenile facilities and our prisons to make sure that some very still-young people are reachable.

So this is going to be a big project.  It is as a consequence of neglect over generations that so many of these challenges exist.  We shouldn’t expect that we’re going to solve these problems overnight, but we’ve got proof about what happens when, as Malachi said, you just give folks a little love and you act on that love.  And I’m looking forward to working with you to do that.

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

END
5:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 13, 2016: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at 21st Century Cures Act Bill Signing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at the 21st Century Cures Act Bill Signing

Source: WH, 12-13-16

South Court Auditorium

2:54 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, it’s a lousy club, but I’m proud of you.  We’re all proud of you.

Mr. President, my Senate colleagues, all the members of Congress who are here and worked so hard to get this bill done today, just let me say that last week I had the honor of presiding, probably for the last time in the United States Senate, over the Senate as, Mr. President, they moved to pass the 21st Century Cures Act.  And as I said, it’s probably one of the last times that I will get to preside over the Senate, and maybe one of the most important moments in my career.

On behalf of the administration, let me thank all the bipartisan leadership here.  I want to make this clear:  This bill would have never occurred, not for some of the — without the leading voices, Republican voices, in the House and the Senate, as well as Democrats.  It would have never, ever occurred.  And I hope this bodes well for what will come next year, that we’re back working together.  This is a consequential piece of legislation that was extremely important and cost a lot of money, and it was done in the lame duck session.

Without the true bipartisan support, this piece of legislation would have never occurred, and it’s going to help millions of people — millions of people.  As the President and I talked — he’ll talk about this in greater detail in a moment — the 21st Century Cures Act is going to harness America’s best minds of science, medicine and technology to tackle some of our biggest and most complex health challenges of today.

The bill commits $6.3 billion over seven years, dealing with opioid addition, precision medicine, and the BRAIN initiative, and mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease, and so much more.  But, Mr. President, if you’ll excuse as we both have just a done — a point of personal privilege, I want to thank my colleagues.  Of that $6.3 billion, $1.8 billion will go and be invested in cancer research and care.

When the President asked me last year at the State of the Union to head the Cancer Moonshoot, we said we were going to ask you all for significant funding increases at the NIH and the National Cancer Institute.  And you all stepped up again, Republicans and Democrats.  As part of the Moonshoot, we set up what’s called a Blue Ribbon Panel to review what should be the scientific priorities as we tackle this to try to end cancer as we know it.  We’ll try to do in the next five years what ordinarily would take ten years.

These priorities include investing in promising new therapies like immunotherapy, using the body’s own immune system to target and kill cancer cells; enhancing prevention and detection efforts in every community, regardless of the zip code in which you live; supporting research to improve outcomes for children with cancer, and putting us on a path to turn what is currently a devastating cancer diagnosis into either a chronic disease or an absolute cure.

And in the process, it will fundamentally, I believe, change the culture of our fight against cancer, and inject an overwhelmingly sense of the urgency, or, as the President often says, the urgency of now.  Because every single moment counts, as Senator Murray and everybody else who’s worked on this bill knows.  God willing, this bill will literally, not figuratively, literally save lives.

But most of all, what it does — just this mere signing today, Mr. President, as you know better than I do, gives millions of Americans hope.  There’s probably not one of you in this audience or anyone listening to this who hasn’t had a family member or friend or someone touched by cancer.

And I want to particularly thank my colleagues, Senator McConnell and Senator Reid, who moved, Mr. President, as you know, to name this section of the bill after our son, and Jill, who’s here with me today — our son, Beau.  (Applause.)  As we used to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege, Mr. President — and you know he loved you, and you were wonderful to Beau.  And he spent a year in Iraq, came back a decorated veteran, and he was attorney general of the state, and he never, ever, ever gave up — nor did we.

And we had access to some of the best doctors in the world, including the head of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at MD Anderson — became a great friend of ours — Dr. Al Yung.  Al, thank you for being here.  But, you know, as I said, we never gave up.  But Jill and I realized that we’re not the only family touched by cancer.  And so many are touched who don’t have nearly the support system we’ve had.  And, Mr. President, you lost your mother, and so many other families in here have lost someone to cancer.

And as I said, this legislation is going to give hope.  Every day, millions of people are praying — praying for hope, praying for time, praying that somehow something will happen just to extend their — they’re not even praying for cures most of the time.  Those of you who are doctors in the audience, how many times have you heard a patient say, Doc, can you just give just three more weeks so I can walk her down the aisle, or, just give me another two months, it’s my first grandbaby and I want see him or her born.  It’s all a matter of hours, days, weeks, months.

And what we’re doing here now is — this is going to accelerate exponentially, in my view, the kinds of efforts we can make right now, things that are at our disposal right now to extend life.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe President Obama and my colleagues in the Senate — as I said, both parties — were motivated by the same commitment that — after whom this Moonshot was named.  I mean, President Kennedy had talked about going to the moon.  The problem is, there was only one moon, and there’s 200-and-some cancers.  But here’s what he said.  Here’s what he said.  He said, we are unwilling to postpone.  We all here are unwilling to postpone — unwilling to postpone another minute, another day.  And doing what we know is within our grasp — it shows the government at its best, Mr. President, and it shows that our politics can still come together to do big, consequential things for the American people.  I see my friend, Senator Hatch, who I worked with for years and years, had stood up in this.  All junior senators, senior senators — everyone came together.

So Jill and I are proud to stand beside you, Mr. President, as you sign this last law of our administration.  I’m proud to have served with you, Mr. President.  And your absolute commitment to changing the way in which we deal with our health care system is going to make a big difference.  And this particular bill is going to allow people to live, live longer, and live healthier.  But, most of all, Mr. President, I think it gives people hope.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I always kid the President that when he asked me to join him on the ticket and my daughter came home at lunch — she’s social worker — and she said, did he call?  Did he call?  And I said, yes.  She said, you said yes, didn’t you, Daddy?  (Laughter.)  And I said, yes, of course I did.  And she said, this is wonderful.  She said, you know how you’re always quoting Seamus Heaney about hope and history rhyming?  And I said, yeah.  She said, this is hope and history.  I’m history, here’s hope.  (Laughter and applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Well, welcome to the White House, everyone.  It’s December, so it’s holiday time around here, and we thought it was a good occasion to have one more party.  And this is a celebration worth having.

I want to, first of all, thank Joe Biden and Jill Biden, and their entire family, who have been such extraordinary friends to us.  And what a fitting way for us to be able to signify our partnership as our time comes to an end together.  It makes me feel very good.

I want to thank David and Kate Grubb for sharing their family’s story.  As David said, we have a lot in common, and nothing more than the love of our children, our daughters.  When I first met them in Charleston, their story was, unfortunately, more common than we would have liked.  And I indicated a number of the people on this stage are people who have gone through tough times or have seen their loved ones suffer, either because of opioid addiction or because of cancer; who have bravely shared their story and channeled their passion into increasing the urgency all of us feel around this issue.

And so, more than anything, this is a testimony to them, and an extraordinary commemoration of those that they’ve loved.  So we’re very grateful to them.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We’re joined by a whole bunch of members of Congress here today.  And it is wonderful to see how well Democrats and Republicans in the closing days of this Congress came together around a common cause.  (Applause.)  And I think it indicates the power of this issue, and how deeply it touches every family across America.

Over the last eight years, one of my highest priorities as President has been to unleash the full force of American innovation to some of the biggest challenges that we face.  That meant restoring science to its rightful place.  It meant funding the research and development that’s always kept America on the cutting edge.  It’s meant investing in clean energy that’s created a steady stream of good jobs and helped America become the world’s leader in combatting climate change.  It meant investing in the medical breakthroughs that have the power to cure disease and help all of us live healthier, longer lives.

So I started the 2016 State of the Union address by saying we might be able to surprise some cynics and deliver bipartisan action on the opioid epidemic.  And in that same speech, I put Joe in charge of mission control on a new Cancer Moonshot.  And today, with the 21st Century Cures Act, we are making good on both of those efforts.  We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health challenges of our time.

Joe has already indicated some of the scope of the bill, but let me repeat it, because it’s worth repeating.  First, this legislation is going to combat the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic that is ravaging too many families across the country.  This is an epidemic that can touch anybody — blue collar, white collar, college students, retirees, kids, moms, dads.  I’ve had the chance to meet people from every stage of recovery who are working hard to sustain the progress that they’re making.  And I’ve met parents like the Grubbs, who have worked tirelessly to help a child struggling with addiction.

It could not be clearer that those of us called upon to lead this country have a duty on their behalf, that we have to stand by them; that, all too often, they feel as if they’re fighting this fight alone instead of having the community gather around them and give them the resources and the access and the support that they need.

So today, I could not be prouder that this legislation takes up the charge I laid out in my budget to provide $1 billion in funding so that Americans who want treatment can get started on the path to recovery and don’t have to drive six hours to do it.  It is the right thing to do, and families are ready for the support.  (Applause.)

Second, the Cures Act provides a decade’s worth of support for two innovative initiatives from my administration.  The first is the BRAIN Initiative, which we believe will revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.  And when I sign this bill into law, we’ll give researchers new resources to help identify ways to treat, cure, and potentially prevent brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and more.

And we’re also going to support what we’ve called our Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort we started to use data to help modernize research and accelerate discoveries so that treatment and health care can be tailored specifically to individual patients.  This spring, with the help of this legislation, the National Institutes of Health plans to launch a groundbreaking research cohort, inviting Americans from across the country to participate to support the scientific breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Number three, the Cures Act improves mental health care.  (Applause.)  It includes bipartisan reforms to address serious mental illness.  It takes steps to make sure that mental health and substance-use disorders are treated fairly by insurance companies, building on the work of my Presidential Task Force.  And it reauthorizes, meaningfully, suicide prevention programs.  Many of these reforms align with my administration’s work to improve our criminal justice system, helping us enhance data collection and take steps so that we’re not unnecessarily incarcerating folks who actually need mental health assistance.

Fourth, we’re building on the FDA’s work to modernize clinical trial design so that we’re updating necessary rules and regulations to protect consumers so that they’re taking into account this genetic biotech age.  And we’re making sure that patients’ voices are incorporated into the drug development process.

And finally, the Cures Act invests in a breakthrough effort that we’ve been calling the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot.  And I think the Senate came up with a better name when they named it after Beau Biden.  (Applause.)

Joe said Beau loved me.  I loved him back.  And like many of you, I believe that the United States of America should be the country that ends cancer once and for all.  We’re already closer than a lot of folks think, and this bill will bring us even closer, investing in promising new therapies, developing vaccines, and improving cancer detection and prevention.  Ultimately, it will help us reach our goal of getting a decade’s worth of research in half the time.  And as Joe said, that time counts.

In this effort, Joe Biden has rallied not just Congress, but he has rallied a tremendous collection of researchers and doctors, philanthropists, patients.  He’s showing us that with the right investment and the ingenuity of the American people, to quote him, “there isn’t anything we can’t do.”  So I’d like everybody to just please join me in thanking what I consider to be the finest Vice President in history, Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  Go ahead and embarrass Joe.  Go ahead.  (Laughter and applause.)  Hey!

So we’re tackling cancer, brain disease, substance-use disorders, and more.  And none of this work would have been possible without bipartisan cooperation in both houses of Congress.  A lot of people were involved, but there are some folks who deserve a special shout-out.  That includes Senators Alexander and Senators Murphy.  (Applause.)  Representatives Upton, Pallone, and DeGette, and Green.  (Applause.)  And of course, we couldn’t have gotten across the finish line without the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, who are here — (applause) — as well as leaders from both houses, Speaker Ryan, Leaders McConnell and Reid, and Senator Patty Murray.  (Applause.)  Not to mention all the members of Congress who are sitting here that I can’t name, otherwise I’m going to be here too long and I will never sign the bill.  (Laughter.)  But you know who you are.

I want to thank all of you on behalf of the American people for this outstanding work.  These efforts build on the work that we’ve done to strengthen our healthcare system over the last eight years — covering preexisting conditions, expanding coverage for mental health and substance-use disorders, helping more than 20 million Americans know the security of health insurance.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it means they have access to some of the services that are needed.

I’m hopeful that in the years ahead, Congress keeps working together in a bipartisan fashion to move us forward rather than backward in support of the health of our people.  Because these are gains that have made a real difference for millions of Americans.

So this is a good day.  It’s a bittersweet day.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not easy for the Grubbs to come up here and talk about Jessie.  It’s not easy for Joe and Jill, I know, to talk about Beau.  Joe mentioned my mother, who died of cancer.  She was two and a half years younger than I am today when she passed away.

And so it’s not always easy to remember, but being able to honor those we’ve lost in this way and to know that we may be able to prevent other families from feeling that same loss, that makes it a good day.  And I’m confident that it will lead to better years and better lives for millions of Americans, the work that you’ve done.  That’s what we got sent here for.  And it’s not always what we do.  It’s a good day to see us doing our jobs.

So with that, I think it’s time for me to sign this bill into law.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

END
3:16 P.M. EST

Political Transcripts November 21, 2016: President-elect Donald Trump outlines his first 100 days

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION:

A Message from President-Elect Donald J. Trump

Source: Transition2017

“The President-elect shares an update on the Presidential Transition, an outline of some of his policy plans for the first 100 days, and his day one executive actions.”

Full Text Political Transcripts October 20, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech Defending the Affordable Care Act Obamacare

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 10-20-16

Miami Dade College
Miami, Florida

1:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, everybody have a seat.  Have a seat.  It is good to see all of you!  It’s good to be back at Miami-Dade!  (Applause.) One of my favorite institutions!  (Applause.)  Love this school.

I want to thank your longtime president and great friend, Eduardo J. Padrón.  (Applause.)  And to all the faculty and staff, and of course, most importantly, the students, for hosting me — I want to say how grateful I am.  I want to thank the wonderful elected officials who are here today.  I’m going to just point out two outstanding members of Congress — Debbie Wasserman Schultz — (applause) — and Ted Deutch.  (Applause.)

So this is one of my last visits here as President.  Now, once I’m not President —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Nooo —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, the good news is, once I’m no longer President I can come more often.  (Applause.)  Right now, usually I can only come to Florida when I’m working.  But when I’m out of office, I can come here for fun.  (Laughter.)

But the first thing I want to say is thank you for your support, and thank you for the opportunity and the privilege you’ve given me to serve these past eight years.  I remember standing just a few blocks north of here in the closing days of the 2008 campaign.  And at that point, we were already realizing that we were in the midst of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.  We didn’t know where the bottom would be.  We were still in the middle of two wars.  Over 150,000 of our troops were overseas.  But thanks to the hard work and the determination of the American people, when I come here today the story is different.

Working together, we’ve cut the unemployment rate in Florida by more than half.  Across the country, we turned years of job losses into the longest streak of job creation on record.  We slashed our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our production of renewable energy.  Incomes are rising again — they rose more last year than any time ever recorded.  Poverty is falling — fell more last year than any time since 1968.  Our graduation rates from high school are at record highs.  College enrollment is significantly higher than it was when we came into office.  Marriage equality is a reality in all 50 states.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been busy.  This is why I’ve got gray hair.  (Laughter.)  But we did one other thing.  We fought to make sure that in America, health care is not just a privilege, but a right for every single American.  And that’s what I want to talk about today.  (Applause.)  That’s what I want to talk about here today.

You’ve heard a lot about Obamacare, as it’s come to be known.  You heard a lot about it in the six and a half years since I signed it into law.  And some of the things you heard might even be true.  But one thing I want to start with is just reminding people why it is that we fought for health reform in the first place.  Because it was one of the key motivators in my campaign.

And it wasn’t just because rising health costs were eating into workers’ paychecks and straining budgets for businesses and for governments.  It wasn’t just because, before the law was passed, insurance companies could just drop your coverage because you got sick, right at the time you needed insurance most.

It was because of you.  It was because of the stories that I was hearing all around the country, and right here in Florida — hearing from people who had been forced to fight a broken health care system at the same time as they were fighting to get well.

It was about children like Zoe Lihn, who needed heart surgery when she was just 15 hours old — just a baby, just a infant.  And she was halfway to hitting her lifetime insurance cap before she was old enough to walk.  Her parents had no idea how they could possibly make sure that she continued to make progress.  And today, because of the Affordable Care Act, Zoe is in first grade and she’s loving martial arts.  And she’s got a bright future ahead of her.  (Applause.)

We fought so hard for health reform because of women like Amanda Heidel, who lives here in South Florida.  As a girl, she was diagnosed with diabetes — and that’s a disease with costs that can add up quickly if you don’t have insurance, can eat away at your dreams.  But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Amanda got to stay on her parents’ plan after college.  When she turned 26, Amanda went online, she shopped for an affordable health insurance plan that covered her medications.  Today, she’s pursuing a doctorate in psychology.  And Amanda said that the Affordable Care Act “has given me the security and freedom to choose how I live my life.”  The freedom and security to choose how I live my life.  That’s what this was all about.

Zoe and Amanda, the people who I get letters from every single day describing what it meant not to fear that if they got sick, or a member of their family got sick, if they, heaven forbid, were in an accident, that somehow they could lose everything.

So because of this law, because of Obamacare, another 20 million Americans now know the financial security of health insurance.  So do another 3 million children, thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act and the improvements, the enhancements that we made to the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  And the net result is that never in American history has the uninsured rate been lower than it is today.  Never.  (Applause.)  And that’s true across the board.  It’s dropped among women.  It’s dropped among Latinos and African Americans, every other demographic group.  It’s worked.

Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.  No law is.  And it’s true that a lot of the noise around the health care debate, ever since we tried to pass this law, has been nothing more than politics.  But we’ve also always known — and I have always said — that for all the good that the Affordable Care Act is doing right now — for as big a step forward as it was — it’s still just a first step.  It’s like building a starter home — or buying a starter home.  It’s a lot better than not having a home, but you hope that over time you make some improvements.

And in fact, since we first signed the law, we’ve already taken a number of steps to improve it.  And we can do even more  — but only if we put aside all the politics rhetoric, all the partisanship, and just be honest about what’s working, what needs fixing and how we fix it.

So that’s what I want to do today.  This isn’t kind of a rah-rah speech.  I might get into the details.  I hope you don’t mind.  (Laughter.)

So let’s start with a basic fact.  The majority of Americans do not — let me repeat — do not get health care through the Affordable Care Act.  Eighty percent or so of Americans get health care on the job, through their employer, or they get health care through Medicaid, or they get health care through Medicare.  And so for most Americans, the Affordable Care Act, Obama, has not affected your coverage — except to make it stronger.

Because of the law, you now have free preventive care.  Insurance companies have to offer that in whatever policy they sell.  Because of the law, you now have free checkups for women. Because of the law, you get free mammograms.  (Applause.)  Because of the law, it is harder for insurance companies to discriminate against you because you’re a woman when you get health insurance.  (Applause.)  Because of the law, doctors are finding better ways to perform heart surgeries and delivering healthier babies, and treating chronic disease, and reducing the number of people that, once they’re in the hospital, end up having to return to the hospital.

So you’re getting better quality even though you don’t know that Obamacare is doing it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thanks, Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks, Obama.  (Laughter and applause.)

Because of the law, your annual out-of-pocket spending is capped.  Seniors get discounts on their prescription drugs because of the law.  Young people can stay on their parents’ plan — just like Amanda did — because of the law.  (Applause.)  And Amanda was able to stay on her parents’ plan and then get insurance after she aged out, even though she has what used to be called a preexisting condition — because we made it illegal to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)

By the way, before this law, before Obamacare, health insurance rates for everybody — whether you got your insurance on the job, or you were buying it on your own — health insurance rates generally were going up really fast.  This law has actually slowed down the pace of health care inflation.  So, every year premiums have gone up, but they’ve gone up the slowest in 50 years since Obamacare was passed.  In fact, if your family gets insurance through your job, your family is paying, on average, about $3,600 less per year than you would be if the cost trends that had existed before the law were passed had continued.  Think about that.  That’s money in your pocket.

Now, some people may say, well, I’ve seen my copays go up, or my networks have changed.  But these are decisions that are made by your employers.  It’s not because of Obamacare.  They’re not determined by the Affordable Care Act.

So if the Affordable Care Act, if Obamacare hasn’t changed the coverage of the 80 percent of Americans who already had insurance, except to make it a better value, except to make it more reliable, how has the law impacted the other 15 or 20 percent of Americans who didn’t have health insurance through their job, or didn’t qualify for Medicaid, or didn’t qualify for Medicare?

Well, before the Affordable Care Act, frankly, you were probably out of luck.  Either you had to buy health insurance on your own, because you weren’t getting it through the job, and it was wildly expensive, and your premiums were going up all the time, and if you happened to get sick and use the insurance, the insurer the next year could drop you.  And if you had had an illness like cancer or diabetes, or some other chronic disease, you couldn’t buy new insurance because the insurance company’s attitude was, you know what, this is just going to cost us money, we don’t want to insure you.

So if you were trying to buy health insurance on your own, it was either hugely expensive or didn’t provide very effective coverage.  You might buy a policy thinking that it was going to cover you.  It was sort of like when I was young and I bought my first car, I had to buy car insurance.  And I won’t name the insurance company, but I bought the insurance because it was the law, and I got the cheapest one I could get, because I didn’t have any money — and it was a really beat-up car.  (Laughter.)  And I remember somebody rear-ends me, and I call up the insurance company, thinking maybe I can get some help, and they laughed at me.  They’re all like, what, are you kidding?  (Laughter.)  It didn’t provide any coverage other than essentially allowing me to drive.  (Laughter.)

Well, that’s what it was like for a lot of people who didn’t have health insurance on the job.  So that meant that a lot of people just didn’t bother getting health insurance at all.  And when they got sick, they’d have to go to the emergency room.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s true, too.

And so you’re relying on the emergency room, but the emergency room is the most expensive place to get care.  And because you weren’t insured, the hospital would have to give you the care for free, and they would have to then make up for those costs by charging everybody else more money.  So it wasn’t good for anybody.

So what the Affordable Care Act is designed to do is to help those people who were previously either uninsured or underinsured.  And it worked to help those people in two ways.

First, we gave states funding to expand Medicaid to cover more people.  In D.C. and the 31 states that took us up on that, more than 4 million people have coverage who didn’t have it before.  They now have health insurance.

Second, for people who made too much to qualify for Medicaid even after we expanded it, we set up what we call marketplaces on HealthCare.gov, so you could shop for a plan that fits your needs, and then we would give you tax credits to help you buy it.  And most people today can find a plan for less than $75 a month at the HealthCare.gov marketplace when you include the tax credits that government is giving you.  That means it’s less than your cellphone bill — because I know you guys are tweeting a lot — (laughter) — and texting and selfies.  (Laughter.)  And the good news is, is that most people who end up buying their coverage through the marketplaces, using these tax credits, are satisfied with their plans.

So not only did Obamacare do a lot of good for the 80-plus percent of Americans who already had health care, but now it gave a new affordable option to a lot of folks who never had options before.  All told, about another 10 percent of the country now have coverage.

The Affordable Care Act has done what it was designed to do: It gave us affordable health care.

So what’s the problem?  Why is there still such a fuss?  Well, part of the problem is the fact that a Democratic President named Barack Obama passed the law.  (Applause.)  And that’s just the truth.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I worked really, really hard to engage Republicans; took Republican ideas that originally they had praised; said, let’s work together to get this done.  And when they just refused to do anything, we said, all right, we’re going to have to do it with Democrats.  And that’s what we did.

And early on, Republicans just decided to oppose it.  And then they tried to scare people with all kinds of predictions — that it would be a job-killer; that it would force everyone into government-run insurance; that it would lead to rationing; that it would lead to death panels; that it would bankrupt the federal government.  You remember all this.  And despite the fact that all the bad things they predicted have not actually happened — despite the fact that we’ve created more jobs since the bill passed in consecutive months than any time on record — (applause) — despite the fact that the uninsured rate has gone down to its lowest levels ever, despite that fact that it’s actually cost less than anybody anticipated and has shown to be much less disruptive on existing plans that people get through their employers, despite the fact that it saved Medicare over $150 billion — which makes that program more secure — despite all this, it’s been hard, if not impossible, for any Republican to admit it.

They just can’t admit that a lot of good things have happened and the bad things they predicted didn’t happen.  So they just keep on repeating, we’re going to repeal it.  We’re going to repeal it, and we’re going to replace it with something better — even though, six and a half years later, they haven’t  — they still haven’t shown us what it is that they would do that would be better.

But — and this is actually the main reason I’m here — just because a lot of the Republican criticism has proven to be false and politically motivated doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate concerns about how the law is working now.  And the main issue has to do with the folks who still aren’t getting enough help.  Remember, I said 80 percent of people, even before the law passed, already had health insurance.  And then we expanded Medicaid, and we set up the marketplaces, and another 10 percent of people got health insurance.  Well, but that still leaves that last 10 percent.  And the fact that that last 10 percent still has difficulties is something that we’ve got to do something about.

Now, part of the reason for this is, as I already mentioned to you, not every state expanded Medicaid to its citizens, which means that some of the most vulnerable working families that the law was designed to help still haven’t gotten insurance.  As you may have heard, Florida is one of those states.  If your governor could put politics aside —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo — vote.  (Applause.)

If your governor would just put politics aside and do what’s right, then more than 700,000 Floridians would suddenly have access to coverage.  And, by the way, that would hold down costs for the rest of you, because there would be less uncompensated care in hospitals.  And it means that people who did sign up for the marketplace, who oftentimes may be sicker, qualify for Medicaid and so they’re not raising costs in the marketplace.

In fact, if the 19 states who so far have not expanded Medicaid would just do so, another 4 million people would have coverage right now all across the country.

So that’s step number one.  And that’s, by the way, just completely in the control of these governors.  They could be doing it — right now.  They could do it tomorrow.

Now, the second issue has to do with the marketplaces.  Although the marketplaces are working well in most of the states, there are some states where there’s still not enough competition between insurers.  So if you only have one insurer, they may decide we’re going to jack up rates because we can, because nobody else is offering a better price.

In those states where the governor or legislature is hostile to the ACA, it makes it harder to enroll people because the state is not actively participating in outreach.  And so, as a consequence, in those states enrollment in the plan — especially enrollment of young people — has lagged.

And what that means is that the insurance pool is smaller and it gets a higher percentage of older and sicker people who are signing up — because if you’re sick or you’re old, you’re more likely to say, well, I’m going to sign up, no matter what, because I know I’m going to need it; if you’re young and healthy like you guys, you say, eh, I’m fine, life is good — so you have more older and sicker people signing up, fewer younger and healthier people signing up, and that drives rates up, because the people who use health care most end up being in the insurance pool; people who use it least are not.

And then, in some cases, insurers just set their prices too low at the outset because they didn’t know what the insurance pool was going to look like, and then they started losing money.  And so now they’ve decided to significantly increase premiums in some states.

Now, it’s these premium increases in some of the states in the marketplace that sometimes attracts negative headlines.  Remember, these premium increases won’t impact most of the people who are buying insurance through the marketplace, because even when premiums go up, the tax credits go up to offset the increases.  So people who qualify for tax credits, they may not even notice their premiums went up because the tax credit is covered.

And keep in mind that these premium increases that some of you may have read about have no effect at all if you’re getting health insurance on the job, or through Medicaid or Medicare.  So for the 80 [percent]-plus people who already had health insurance, if your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare.  It’s because of your employer or your insurer — even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up.  It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.

But if you are one of the people who doesn’t get health care on the job, doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, doesn’t qualify for Medicare — doesn’t qualify for a tax credit to help you buy insurance,  because maybe you made just a little bit too much money under the law — these premium increases do make insurance less affordable.  And in some states, the premium increases are manageable.  Some are 2 percent or 8 percent, some 20 percent.  But we know there are some states that may see premiums go up by 50 percent or more.

And an extreme example is Arizona, where we expect benchmark premiums will more than double.  Part of this is because Arizona is one of those states that had really low average premiums — among the lowest in the country — so now insurance companies basically are trying to catch up, and they also don’t have a lot of competition there.  And meanwhile, in states like Florida, the failure to expand Medicaid contributes to higher marketplace premiums.  And then there are some other states that just because of the nature of their health care systems, or the fact that they’re rural and people are dispersed, so it’s harder to provide health care, more expensive — they have a tougher time controlling costs generally.

Again, the tax credits in the ACA will protect most consumers from the brunt of these premium increases.  And with the ability to shop around on HealthCare.gov — which works really well now — most people can find plans for prices even lower than this year’s prices.  But there are going to be people who are hurt by premium increases or a lack of competition and choice.  And I don’t want to see anybody left out without health insurance.  I don’t want to see any family having to choose between health insurance now or saving for retirement, or saving for their kids’ college education, or just paying their own bills.

So the question we should be asking is, what do we do about these growing pains in the Affordable Care Act, and how do we get the last 9 percent of Americans covered?  How do we reach those last 9 percent?  And how do we make sure that premiums are more stable going forward, and the marketplace insurance pools are more stable going forward?

Well, I can tell you what will not work.  Repealing the Affordable Care Act will not work.  (Applause.)  That’s a bad idea.  That will not solve the problem.  Because right off the bat, repeal would take away health care from 20 million people.  We’d go back where 80 percent of people had health insurance instead of 90 percent — right off the bat.  And all the reforms that everybody benefits from that I talked about — like young Americans being able to stay on their parents’ plans, or the rules that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people because of a preexisting condition like diabetes or cancer, or the rule now that you can’t charge somebody more just because they’re a woman — all those reforms would go away for everybody, because that’s part of Obamacare.

All the progress that we’ve made in controlling costs and improving how health care is delivered, progress that’s helped hold growth in the price of health care to the slowest rate in 50 years — all that goes away.  That’s what repeal means.  It would be bad for everybody.  And the majority of Americans, even if they don’t know that they’re benefitting from Obamacare, don’t want to see these benefits and protections taken away from their families now that they have them.  I guarantee you there are people who right now think they hate Obamacare.  And if somebody told them, all right, we’re repealing it, but now your kid who is on your plan is no longer on your plan, or now you’ve got a preexisting condition and you can’t buy health insurance — they’d be shocked.  They’d be — what do you mean?

So repeal is not the answer.  Here is what we can do instead to actually make the Affordable Care Act work even better than it’s working right now.  And I’ve already mentioned one.

Florida and every state should expand Medicaid.  (Applause.)  Cover more people.  It’s easy to do, and it could be done right now.  You’d cover 4 million more Americans, help drive down premiums for folks who buy insurance through the marketplace.  And, by the way, because the federal government pays for almost all of this expansion, you can’t use as an excuse that, well, the state can’t afford it — because the federal government is paying it.  States like Louisiana that just expanded Medicaid — you had a Republican governor replaced by a Democratic governor.  He said, I want that money.  Expanded Medicaid, and found not only does it insure more people, but it’s actually saved the state big money and makes people less dependent on expensive emergency room care.  So that’s step number one.

Step number two.  Since overall health care costs have turned out to be significantly lower than everyone expected since we passed Obamacare, since that’s saved the federal government billions of dollars, we should use some of that money, some of those savings to now provide more tax credits for more middle-income families, for more young adults to help them buy insurance.  It will make their premiums more affordable.  And that’s not just good for them — it’s good for everybody.  Because when more people are in the marketplace, everybody will benefit from lower premiums.  Healthier people, younger people start joining the pool; premiums generally go down.  That would be number two.

The third thing we should do is add what’s called a public plan fallback — (applause) — to give folks more options in those places where there are just not enough insurers to compete.  And that’s especially important in some rural communities and rural states and counties.  If you live in L.A. right now, then it’s working fine.  There are a lot of insurers because it’s a big market, there are a lot of providers.  But if you’re in some remote areas, or you’re near some small towns, it may be that the economics of it just don’t work unless the government is providing an option to make it affordable.  And, by the way, this is not complicated.  Basically, you would just wait and see — if the private insurers are competing for business, then you don’t have to trigger a public option.  But if no private insurers are providing affordable insurance in an area, then the government would step in with a quality plan that people can afford.

And, by the way, this is not a radical idea.  This idea is modeled on something that Republicans championed under George Bush for the Medicare Part D drug benefit program.  It was fine when it was their idea.  The fact that they’re now opposed to it as some socialist scheme is not being consistent, it’s being partisan.

And finally, we should continue to encourage innovation by the states.  What the Affordable Care Act says is, here’s how we propose you insure your populations, but you, the state, can figure out a different way to accomplish the same goal — providing affordable, comprehensive coverage for the same number of residents at the same cost — then go right ahead.  There may be more than one way to skin a cat.  Maybe you’ve got an idea we haven’t thought of.  Just show us, don’t talk about it.  Show us what the plan looks like.

Republicans who claim to care about your health insurance choices and your premiums, but then offer nothing and block common-sense solutions like the ones that I propose to improve them — that’s not right.  And my message to them has been and will continue to be:  Work with us.  Make the system better.  Help the people you serve.  We’re open to good ideas, but they’ve got to be real ideas — not just slogans, not just votes to repeal.  And they’ve got to pass basic muster.  You can’t say, well, if we just do — if we just plant some magic beans — (laughter) — then everybody will have health insurance.  No, we’ve got to have health care economists and experts look at it and see if the thing would actually work.

So that’s where we are.  Number one, Obamacare is helping millions of people right now.  The uninsured rate has never been lower.  It’s helping everybody who already has health insurance, because it makes their policies better.  Number two, there are still too many hardworking people who are not being reached by the law.  Number three, if we tweak the program to reach those people who are not currently benefitting from the law, it will be good for them and it will be good for the country.  Number four, if we repeal this law wholesale that will hurt the people who don’t have coverage right now.  It will hurt the 20 million who are already getting help through the law.  And it will hurt the country as a whole.

So this should be an easy choice.  All it does — all it requires is putting aside ideology, and in good faith trying to implement the law of the land.  And what we’ve learned, by the way, is that when governors and state legislators expand Medicaid for their citizens and they hold insurance companies accountable, and they’re honest with uninsured people about their options, and they’re working with us on outreach, then the marketplace works the way it’s supposed to.  And when they don’t, the marketplaces tend to have more problems.  And that shouldn’t be surprising.  If state leaders purposely try to make something not work, then it’s not going to run as smoothly as if they were trying to make it work.  Common sense.  You don’t even have to go to Miami Dade to figure that out.  (Laughter.)

The point is, now is not the time to move backwards on health care reform.  Now is the time to move forward.  The problems that may have arisen from the Affordable Care Act is not because government is too involved in the process.  The problem is, is that we have not reached everybody and pulled them in.  And think about it.  When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone and it had a few bugs, what do they do?  They fix it.  They upgrade — unless it catches fire, and they just — (laughter) — then they pull it off the market.  But you don’t go back to using a rotary phone.  (Laughter.)  You don’t say, well, we’re repealing smartphones — we’re just going to do the dial-up thing.  (Laughter.)  That’s not what you do.

Well, the same basic principle applies here.  We’re not going to go back to discriminating against Americans with preexisting conditions.  We’re not going to go back to a time when people’s coverage was dropped when they got sick.  We’re not going to go back to a situation where we’re reinstating lifetime limits in the fine print so that you think you have insurance, and then you get really sick or you kid gets really sick, and you hit the limit that the insurance company set, and next thing you know they’re not covering you anymore, and you got to figure out how you come up with another $100,000 or $200,000 to make sure that your child lives.  We’re not going to go back to that.

I hear Republicans in Congress object, and they’ll say, no, no, no, no, we’ll keep those parts of Obamacare that are popular; we’ll just repeal everything else.  Well, it turns out that the sum of those parts that are popular in Obamacare is Obamacare.  (Applause.)  It’s just people don’t always know it.  And repealing it would make the majority of Americans worse off when it comes to health care.

And as I said, part of this is just — you know, health care is complicated.  Think about this speech — it’s been pretty long, and you’re just — you’re thinking, wow, I just want to take a picture with the President or something.  (Laughter.)  So it’s hard to get people focused on the facts.  And even reporters who have covered this stuff — and they do a good job; they’re trying to follow all the debate.  But a lot of times they just report, “Premium increases.”  And everybody thinks, wow, my insurance rates are going up, it must be Obama’s fault — even though you don’t get health insurance through Obamacare, you get it through your job, and even though your increases have gone up a lot slower.  Or suddenly you’re paying a bigger copay, and, ah, thanks Obama.  (Laughter.)  Well, no, I had nothing to do with that.

So part of it is this is complicated, the way it gets reported.  There’s a lot of hysteria around anything that happens.  And what we need to do is just focus on this very specific problem — how do we make sure that more people are getting coverage, and folks right now who are not getting tax credits, aren’t getting Medicaid, how do we help them, how do we reach them.  And we can do it.

Instead of repealing the law, I believe the next President and the next Congress should take what we’ve learned over the past six years and in a serious way analyze it, figure out what it is that needs to get done, and make the Affordable Care Act better and cover even more people.  But understand, no President can do it alone.  We will need Republicans in Congress and in state governments to act responsibly and put politics aside.  Because I want to remind you, a lot of the Affordable Care Act is built on Republican ideas.

In fact, Bernie Sanders is still mad at me because we didn’t get single-payer passed.  Now, we couldn’t get single-payer passed, and I wanted to make sure that we helped as many people as possible, given the political constraints.  And so we adopted a system that Republicans should like; it’s based on a competitive, market-based system in which people have to a responsibility for themselves by buy insurance.

And maybe now that I’m leaving office, maybe Republicans can stop with the 60-something repeal votes they’ve taken, and stop pretending that they have a serious alternative, and stop pretending that all the terrible things they said would happen have actually happened, when they have not, and just work with the next President to smooth out the kinks.

Because it turns out, no major social innovation in America has ever worked perfectly at the start.  Social Security didn’t. Its benefits were stingy at first.  It left out a whole lot of Americans.  The same was true for Medicare.  The same was true for Medicaid.  The same was true for the prescription drug law.  But what happened was, every year, people of goodwill from both parties tried to make it better.  And that’s what we need to do right now.

And I promise, if Republicans have good ideas to provide more coverage for folks like Amanda, I will be all for it.  I don’t care whose idea it is, I just want it to work.  They can even change the name of the law to ReaganCare.  (Laughter.) Or they can call it Paul Ryan Care.  I don’t care — (laughter) — about credit, I just want it to work because I care about the American people and making sure they’ve got health insurance.

But that brings me to my final point, and that is change does not typically come from the top down, it always comes from the bottom up.  The Affordable Care Act was passed because the American people mobilized, not just to get me elected, but to keep the pressure on me to actually do something about health care and to put pressure on members of Congress to do something about it.  And that’s how change happens in America.  It doesn’t happen on its own.  It doesn’t happen from on high.  It happens from the bottom up.  And breaking gridlock will come only when the American people demand it.

So that’s why I’m here.  Only you can break this stalemate, but educating the public on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and then pressing your elected officials to do the right this and supporting elected officials who are doing the right things.

And this is one of the reasons why I’m so proud of what Miami-Dade College is doing, because it’s making sure that students and faculty, and people throughout this community know about the law, know about how to sign up for health care, and then actually helps people sign up.  And I’m incredibly proud of the leadership Joe Peña and the entire team in encouraging people to sign up.

Thanks to them, Miami-Dade has been hosting enrollment office hours and workshops, even on nights and weekends.  Right here on the Wolfson campus, and on all the Miami-Dade campuses, you can go for a free one-on-one session where a trained expert can walk you through the process and answer any questions you have — and then help you sign up for health care right there and then.  Joe says he doesn’t have a conversation without making sure people know how to get covered.  The more young and healthy people like you who do the smart thing and sign up, then the better it’s going to work for everybody.

And the good news is, in a few days, you can do just that because Open enrollment, the time when you can start signing up, begins on November 1.  And you just need to go to HealthCare.gov, which works really well now.  (Laughter.)

And campuses will be competing to come up with the most creative ways to reach people and get them signed up — and I’m pretty sure that Miami-Dade can set the standard for the rest of the country.  ‘Cause that’s how you do.  (Applause.)  That’s how you do.

So much has changed since I campaigned here in Miami eight Octobers ago.  But one thing has not: this is more than just about health care.  It’s about the character of our country.  It’s about whether we look out for one another.  It’s about whether the wealthiest nation on earth is going to make sure that nobody suffers.  Nobody loses everything they have saved, everything they have worked for because they’re sick.  You stood up for the idea that no American should have to go without the health care they need.

And it’s still true today.  And we’ve proven together that people who love this country can change it — 20 million people out there will testify.  I get letters every day, just saying thank you because it’s made a difference in their lives.  And what true then is true now.  We still need you.  Our work to expand opportunity to all and make our union more perfect is never finished — but the more we work, and organize, and advocate, and fight, the closer we get.

So I hope you are going to be busy this November signing folks up.  But more importantly, I hope, for all the young people here, you never stop working for a better America.  And even though I won’t be President, I’ll keep working right alongside you.

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

END
2:40 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts October 17, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Education and Record High School Graduation Rates

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

 

Remarks by the President on Education

Source: WH, 10-17-16

Benjamin Banneker Academic High School
Washington, D.C.

11:21 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Bulldogs!  (Applause.)  Good to see you guys.  How’s everybody doing?  You all look good.  You look good.  (Applause.)  Hey!  How’s everybody?

Well, it is so nice to see you guys.  Everybody have a seat, though.  Have a seat.  I know you’ve been waiting here a while.  Good thing you all had your phones with you.  (Applause.)  As the father of two teenage daughters, I know the whole time you were just like, “And then he said — girl, I couldn’t believe it.”  (Laughter.)

Anyway, it’s so good to see you.  (Applause.)  A couple of people I want to acknowledge.  First of all, I want to thank our Secretary of Education, who has done outstanding work, John King is in the house.  (Applause.)  And then, my great friend and former Education Secretary and multiple winner of the three-on-three contest, as well as at the NBA All-Star Game — he can ball — Arne Duncan.  (Applause.)  We’ve got your mayor, Muriel Bowser is here.  Give her a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Your representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton.  (Applause.)  And we are so grateful not only for their service to the country, but the amazing work they’re doing with their philanthropic work and America’s Promise, Colin and Alma Powell.  (Applause.)

So, by now you’ve settled into the new year.  Right?  Adjusted to classes.  You’re preparing for Spirit Week.  (Applause.)  Learning how to ballroom dance.  (Laughter.)  I remember having to do that.  Getting the nerve to text that cute girl or boy in your English class.  (Laughter.)  I don’t remember that; we did not have texts.  We had to send little notes.  And then we used to actually have to go up to somebody if we liked them and talk to them.  So that may happen to you someday.  (Laughter.)  Seniors are looking at colleges, taking tests, filling out all the forms.  (Applause.)  Malia just went through this, so I know how tough this is for you and for the parents.

But as I’m winding down my presidency — I was so impressed with Banneker the last time I was here in 2011 that I wanted to come back — (applause) — because you’re an example of a school that’s doing things the right way.  And I believe that if you’re going to be able to do whatever you want to do in your lives –- if you want to become a teacher, or a doctor, or start a business, or develop the next great app, or be President — then you’ve got to have great education.

We live in a global economy.  And when you graduate, you’re no longer going to be competing just with somebody here in D.C. for a great job.  You’re competing with somebody on the other side of the world, in China or in India, because jobs can go wherever they want because of the Internet and because of technology.  And the best jobs are going to go to the people who are the best educated — whether in India or China, or anywhere in the world.

So when I took office almost eight years ago, we knew that our education system was falling short when it came to preparing young people like you for that reality.  Our public schools had been the envy of the world, but the world caught up.  And we started getting outpaced when it came to math and science education.  And African American and Latino students, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, too often lagged behind our white classmates — something called the achievement gap that, by one estimate, costs us hundreds of billions of dollars a year.  And we were behind other developed countries when it came to the number of young people who were getting a higher education.  So I said, when I first came into office, by 2020 I want us to be number one again.  I want us to be number one across the board.

So we got to work, making real changes to improve the chances for all of our young people, from the time they’re born all the way through until they got a career.  And the good news is that we’ve made real progress.  So I just wanted to talk to you about the progress we’ve made, because you are the reason we’ve made progress — some outstanding young people all across the country.

We recently learned that America’s high school graduation rate went up to 83 percent, which is the highest on record.  That’s good news.  (Applause.)  More African American and Latino students are graduating than ever before.  (Applause.)  Right here in D.C., in just five years, the graduation rate in the District of Columbia public schools went from just 53 percent to 69 percent.  (Applause.)  So D.C.’s graduation rates grew faster than any other place in the country this year — this past year.  That’s something to be really proud of.  (Applause.)

Now, of course, here at Banneker, you graduated 100 percent of your seniors last year.  (Applause.)  One hundred percent.  It’s been a while since I did math, but 100 percent is good.  (Laughter.)  You can’t do better than that.  So what all these numbers mean is that more schools across D.C. and across the country are starting to catch up to what you guys are doing here, at this school.

Now, some of the changes we made were hard, and some of them were controversial.  We expected more from our teachers and our students.  But the hard work that people have put in across the country has started to pay off.

And I just want to talk to you a little bit about some of the things that we did.  It starts with our youngest learners.  High-quality early education is one of the best investments we can make, which is why we’ve added over 60,000 children to Head Start.  We called for high-quality preschool for every four-year-old in America.  And when I took office, only 38 states offered access to state-funded preschool.  Today, it’s up to 46. We’re trying to get those last holdouts to do the right thing.   And, by the way, the District of Columbia leads the nation with the highest share of children — nearly 9 out of 10 — in high-quality preschool.  And that’s a big achievement.  (Applause.)

We launched then a competition called Race to the Top, which inspired states to set higher, better standards so that we could out-teach and out-compete other nations, and make sure that we’ve got high expectations for our students.  D.C. was one of the winners of this competition.  It upgraded standards, upgraded curriculum, worked to help teachers build their skills.  And that, in part, is why D.C. has done so well.

We realized that in today’s world, when you all have a computer in your pocket in those phones, then you need to learn not just how to use a phone, you need to learn computer science.  So we’re working with private and philanthropic partners to bring high schools into the 21st century and give you a more personalized and real-world experience.  We’re bringing in high-speed internet into schools and libraries, reaching 20 million more students and helping teachers with digital learning.  And coding isn’t, by the way, just for boys in Silicon Valley, so we’re investing more in getting girls and young women and young people of color and low-income students into science and engineering and technology and math.  (Applause.)

And because we know that nothing is more important than a great teacher — and you’ve got some great teachers here, as well as a great principal at Banneker — (applause) — we have focused on preparing and developing and supporting and rewarding excellent educators.  You all know how hard they work.  They stay up late grading your assignments.  That’s why you got all those marks all over your papers.  They pull sometimes money out of their own pockets to make that lesson extra special.  And I promise you, the teachers here and the teachers around the country, they’re not doing it for the pay — because teachers, unfortunately, still aren’t paid as much as they should be.  They’re not doing it for the glory.  They’re doing it because they love you, and they believe in you, and they want to help you succeed.

So teachers deserve more than just our gratitude — they deserve our full support.  And we’ve got to make their lives easier, which is why we enacted a law to fix No Child Left Behind, which gives teachers more flexibility to spend more time teaching creatively than just spending all their time teaching to a test.  Give your teachers a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  They deserve it.

So we’ve made real progress, but here’s the thing — and I think all of you know this because you go to this great school

— a high school education these days is not enough.  By 2020, two out of three job openings require some form of higher education.  Now, that doesn’t always mean a four-year college degree, but it does mean — whether it’s a four-year university, or a community college, or some sort of training program — you’ve got to get a little bit more than just what you’re getting in high school.

It used to be that a high school job might be enough because you could go into a factory or even go into an office and just do some repetitive work, and if you were willing to work hard you could make a decent living.  But the problem is repetitive work now is done by machines.  And that’s just going to be more and more true.  So in order for you to succeed in the marketplace, you’ve got to be able to think creatively; you’ve got to be able to work with a team; you’ve got to be able to work with a machine and figure out how to make it tailored for the specific requirements of your business and your job.  All those things require some more sophisticated thinking than just sitting there and just doing the same thing over and over again.  And that’s why you’ve got to have more than just a high school education.

And if you doubt that, I just want to give you some statistics.  Compared to a high school diploma, just getting a degree from a two-year school, going to a community college and getting an associate’s degree could earn you more than $300,000 over the course of your lifetime.  And a four-year degree earns you a million dollars more than if you just had a high school degree.  Think about that.  A million dollars — that’s real money.

So one of the things that we’re trying to do is to make it easier for you to access free money for college — to figure out how you can pay for your college without having a mountain of debt.  And the key thing, as you know here at Banneker, but I want all the students around the country to do this — and Michelle and I and others have been really emphasizing this — is to fill out your FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

How many people — how many seniors here have already filled out their FAFSA forms?  (Applause.)  All right.  How many seniors here have not filled out their FAFSA forms?  Fess up now.  (Laughter.)  You sure?  All right, I just want to make sure now.  And, juniors, you can start getting ready now.

Because what the FAFSA does is it puts you in the running for scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs, all to help you pay for college.  And we’ve made it simpler than ever.  And it’s available right now at FAFSA.gov — FAFSA.gov. And since this is one of the most important investments of your life, next year’s FAFSA is also going to direct you to something we created, called our College Scorecard.

Now, here’s what this is.  It gives you comprehensive information on every college in America.  Now, some of you who have started applying for colleges, you know about these college rankings, right?  It’s like, oh, this is the best school.  And some of that information is useful; some of it not so much.  But unlike traditional rankings that focus on which school has the fanciest dorm or the nicest football stadiums, or is the most expensive or the most exclusive, what our College Scorecard does is it focuses on some of the things that really matter for your future.  Things like how many students actually graduate from the school — because it’s not enough just to enroll in college; you’ve got to graduate from college.  How much money do their alumni earn?  What percentage of their students can pay back their loans?  And what we’ve done is we’ve worked with companies like Google to put this information right at your fingertips.

So for a decision this important, we want you to be able to comparison shop to figure out how do you get the best value for your money, just like if you were buying something on Amazon.  If you were buying a car or you’re buying a phone or you’re buying anything, especially if it’s a pretty big purchase, you want to know ahead of time, is this legit.  And what this does is makes you think about what your options are.

Now, you’ve got some great counselors here.  Obviously, you should work with them.  But not every student may be going to a school like Banneker that has as many good counselors to think about their college education.  And using this College Scorecard is going to be helpful for them to do a little comparison shopping.  Because you don’t want to go to the school just because it’s the closest one, and it turns out it’s more expensive and doesn’t do as good of a job as if you were willing to maybe travel someplace else, and it turns out that you could get the financial aid you need to go to a school that’s more suited toward your needs.

So we also reformed, by the way, the student loan system.  When I came into office, you had tens of billions of dollars that were going to big banks, serving as middlemen for your student loans.  We said, well, let’s cut out the banks.  Let’s give the money directly to the students so they can afford college and we can make the loans cheaper, and we can expand Pell grants.

And now, what we’re trying to do is to push to make two years of community college free for every responsible student all across the country.  All across the country.  (Applause.)  And we’re starting to work with colleges and universities around the country to bring down the cost of college so that at the end of four years of college you’re not saddled with a whole bunch of debt — because nobody should be priced out of a higher education.  (Applause.)

So bottom line is:  higher graduation rates, higher college attendance rates, more money for Pell grants and work to make sure that the interest rate on student loans haven’t gone up; working to expand early childhood education and preschool; continuing to watch and work with states as they try to implement reforms to make K-12 better; holding colleges more accountable for giving information so that students can make good decisions.  We’ve made a lot of progress.  We have made a lot of progress in terms of making sure that young people across the country get the kind of great education that you’re getting here at Banneker.  And I am really proud of what we’ve accomplished.  I’m proud of what the District of Columbia has accomplished.

But I just want to be honest with you:  We’ve still got more work to do.  So as I go, I’m giving you kind of a final report card, transcript on what more we’ve got to get done.

There are still too many states that are cutting back on public education.  And part of the reason tuition is going up is because states aren’t putting as much money into state education, universities, community colleges as they used to.  That’s why, if you’re 18, by the way, you’ve got to vote to make sure that the folks who represent you actually deliver.  (Applause.)

We’ve still got too many states that have not really worked in a serious way to raise standards and improve performance.  In too many school districts, we still have schools that, despite the heroic efforts of a lot of great teachers, are not fully preparing our kids for success because they just don’t have the resources to do it or the structure to do it.  We’ve still got too many high schools where a third of their students do not earn their diplomas on time.

For too many students in America, zip code still determines how far they’ll go.  And that’s not acceptable.  Some of you probably have friends or family who are just as smart or talented or as capable as you, but they didn’t have the same support or the right opportunities or didn’t get in the right school, and so now don’t have the same shot at success.  Am I right?  Because I know that’s true in our family.  Michelle and I, we’ve got cousins and friends who we’ve known since they were shorties, little kids — (laughter) — and they — we know how smart they are because they were just as smart as we were, but just the luck of the draw was they didn’t get the same chance as we did.  And that’s not right.

So that’s why I started something called My Brother’s Keeper initiative, because what we want to do is help more young people, especially kids of color, get mentorships and the resources and the guidance they need to succeed.  And I’m going to stay involved with that even after I’m done being President.  (Applause.)  Because we all have a part to play in making sure every single child has every single opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.

That’s what Banneker is all about.  That’s what you can see in somebody like Ifunaya.  I mean, that’s an incredible young lady who’s going to succeed because she has an incredible school in addition to an incredible family.  (Applause.)  And so we’re so proud of her.

There’s another person I want to just call out — Amari McDuffie.  Where’s Amari?  Where’s Amari?  There she is right there, right in front.  (Applause.)  So, hey, Amari.  I’m going to talk about you for a second.  (Laughter.)

So Amari was born with a heart and a lung condition.  And sometimes she had to miss a lot of school because of her illness.  And you know, Banneker is a pretty rigorous school, so she was worried about staying on top of her work.  But everybody in this family rallied around her and made sure she was keeping up.  Her history teacher, Mr. Goldfarb — where’s Mr. Goldfarb?  (Applause.)  Is he here or did he cut assembly?  (Laughter.)  So Mr. Goldfarb came to visit her when Amari was in the hospital for weeks, brought a card from the whole class.  And so Amari, she was talking about the support everybody here gave her, and she said, “I believed in myself because my teachers believed in me.”

And that’s the kind of community that we want in every school — where you’re looking out for each other and you’re taking care of one another.  And so now Amari plans to be a doctor so she can help kids who had illnesses like hers.  And that’s what’s possible — (applause) — that’s what’s possible when we’re all committed to each other’s success; when we understand that no matter what you look like, where you come from, what faith you are, whether you’re a boy or a girl — that you should have great opportunities to succeed.  And that requires you to put effort into it.

Michelle and I talk a lot because we travel around the world and sometimes we forget that there are places around the world where people have so little but the kids are so hungry for an education.  And they don’t even have an actual roof over their head in some of their schools.  And so even if you’re really poor in this country, you can succeed if you want to invest in the teachers and the community, and everybody raises standards and believes in each other.  And that’s what we want all of America to believe, in every kid — because there’s magic in each and every one of you.  And we just have to help you unleash it and nurture it and realize it.

And, by the way, it’s because of young people like you that I leave the presidency never more optimistic than I am right now, because I’ve met so many young people around the country whose energy, and excitement, and how you treat each other, with respect.  That gives me a lot of confidence, a lot of faith for our country.

So I know you guys are going to keep on working hard.  You’re going to keep making our communities proud.  If us adults do our part and we stay focused on making sure every school is as great as this one, and that every young person has those same opportunities, and everybody has a teacher like Mr. Goldfarb looking out for them, I’ve got no doubt that we’re going to continue to build a country where everybody has the chance to make of their lives what they will.  And that’s what America is all about.

All right.  Proud of you, Bulldogs.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  Fill out those FAFSA forms!  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:46 A.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 September 3, 2016: GOP Nominee Donald Trump’s speech to African American Church in Detroit Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Donald Trump’s speech to African American Church in Detroit

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 August 31, 2016: GOP Nominee Donald Trump’s speech on Immigration Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Donald Trump’s Speech on Immigration

Source: Time, 8-31-16

TRUMP: Wow. Thank you. That’s a lot of people, Phoenix, that’s a lot of people.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Phoenix. I am so glad to be back in Arizona.

(APPLAUSE)

The state that has a very, very special place in my heart. I love people of Arizona and together we are going to win the White House in November.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, you know this is where it all began for me. Remember that massive crowd also. So, I said let’s go and have some fun tonight. We’re going to Arizona, OK?

This will be a little bit different. This won’t be a rally speech, per se. Instead, I’m going to deliver a detailed policy address on one of the greatest challenges facing our country today, illegal immigration.

(APPLAUSE)

I’ve just landed having returned from a very important and special meeting with the President of Mexico, a man I like and respect very much. And a man who truly loves his country, Mexico.

And, by the way, just like I am a man who loves my country, the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

We agree on the importance of ending the illegal flow of drugs, cash, guns, and people across our border, and to put the cartels out of business.

(APPLAUSE)

We also discussed the great contributions of Mexican-American citizens to our two countries, my love for the people of Mexico, and the leadership and friendship between Mexico and the United States. It was a thoughtful and substantive conversation and it will go on for awhile. And, in the end we’re all going to win. Both countries, we’re all going to win.

This is the first of what I expect will be many, many conversations. And, in a Trump administration we’re going to go about creating a new relationship between our two countries, but it’s going to be a fair relationship. We want fairness.

(APPLAUSE)

But to fix our immigration system, we must change our leadership in Washington and we must change it quickly. Sadly, sadly there is no other way. The truth is our immigration system is worse than anybody ever realized. But the facts aren’t known because the media won’t report on them. The politicians won’t talk about them and the special interests spend a lot of money trying to cover them up because they are making an absolute fortune. That’s the way it is.

Today, on a very complicated and very difficult subject, you will get the truth. The fundamental problem with the immigration system in our country is that it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists and powerful, powerful politicians. It’s all you can do. Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me tell you who it does not serve. It does not serve you the American people. Doesn’t serve you. When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following, amnesty, open borders, lower wages. Immigration reform should mean something else entirely. It should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. But if we’re going to make our immigration system work, then we have to be prepared to talk honestly and without fear about these important and very sensitive issues. For instance, we have to listen to the concerns that working people, our forgotten working people, have over the record pace of immigration and it’s impact on their jobs, wages, housing, schools, tax bills and general living conditions.

These are valid concerns expressed by decent and patriotic citizens from all backgrounds, all over. We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. Sometimes it’s just not going to work out. It’s our right, as a sovereign nation to chose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us. (APPLAUSE)

Then there is the issue of security. Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders and enforce our laws like they have to be enforced. I have met with many of the great parents who lost their children to sanctuary cities and open borders. So many people, so many, many people. So sad. They will be joining me on this stage in a little while and I look forward to introducing, these are amazing, amazing people.

Countless Americans who have died in recent years would be alive today if not for the open border policies of this administration and the administration that causes this horrible, horrible thought process, called Hillary Clinton.

This includes incredible Americans like 21 year old Sarah Root. The man who killed her arrived at the border, entered Federal custody and then was released into the U.S., think of it, into the U.S. community under the policies of the White House Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Weak, weak policies. Weak and foolish policies.

He was released again after the crime, and now he’s out there at large. Sarah had graduated from college with a 4.0, top student in her class one day before her death.

Also among the victims of the Obama-Clinton open-border policy was Grant Ronnebeck, a 21-year-old convenience store clerk and a really good guy from Mesa, Arizona. A lot of you have known about Grant.

He was murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member previously convicted of burglary, who had also been released from federal custody, and they knew it was going to happen again.

Another victim is Kate Steinle. Gunned down in the sanctuary city of San Francisco, by an illegal immigrant, deported five previous times. And they knew he was no good.

Then there is the case of 90-year-old Earl Olander, who was brutally beaten and left to bleed to death in his home, 90 years old and defenseless. The perpetrators were illegal immigrants with criminal records a mile long, who did not meet Obama administration standards for removal. And they knew it was going to happen.

In California, a 64-year-old Air Force veteran, a great woman, according to everybody that knew her, Marilyn Pharis, was sexually assaulted and beaten to death with a hammer. Her killer had been arrested on multiple occasions but was never, ever deported, despite the fact that everybody wanted him out.

A 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office found that illegal immigrants and other non-citizens, in our prisons and jails together, had around 25,000 homicide arrests to their names, 25,000.

On top of that, illegal immigration costs our country more than $113 billion a year. And this is what we get. For the money we are going to spend on illegal immigration over the next 10 years, we could provide 1 million at-risk students with a school voucher, which so many people are wanting.

While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, many, many, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers with less education, who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they can ever possibly pay back.

And they’re hurting a lot of our people that cannot get jobs under any circumstances.

But these facts are never reported. Instead, the media and my opponent discuss one thing and only one thing, the needs of people living here illegally. In many cases, by the way, they’re treated better than our vets.

Not going to happen anymore, folks. November 8th. Not going to happen anymore.

(APPLAUSE)

CROWD: Trump! Trump! Trump!

The truth is, the central issue is not the needs of the 11 million illegal immigrants or however many there may be — and honestly we’ve been hearing that number for years. It’s always 11 million. Our government has no idea. It could be 3 million. It could be 30 million. They have no idea what the number is.

Frankly our government has no idea what they’re doing on many, many fronts, folks.

(APPLAUSE)

But whatever the number, that’s never really been the central issue. It will never be a central issue. It doesn’t matter from that standpoint. Anyone who tells you that the core issue is the needs of those living here illegally has simply spent too much time in Washington.

(APPLAUSE)

Only the out of touch media elites think the biggest problems facing America — you know this, this is what they talk about, facing American society today is that there are 11 million illegal immigrants who don’t have legal status. And, they also think the biggest thing, and you know this, it’s not nuclear, and it’s not ISIS, it’s not Russia, it’s not China, it’s global warming.

To all the politicians, donors, and special interests, hear these words from me and all of you today. There is only one core issue in the immigration debate, and that issue is the well being of the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

Nothing even comes a close second. Hillary Clinton, for instance, talks constantly about her fears that families will be separated, but she’s not talking about the American families who have been permanently separated from their loved ones because of a preventable homicide, because of a preventable death, because of murder.

No, she’s only talking about families who come here in violation of the law. We will treat everyone living or residing in our country with great dignity. So important.

We will be fair, just, and compassionate to all, but our greatest compassion must be for our American citizens.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have engaged in gross dereliction of duty by surrendering the safety of the American people to open borders, and you know it better than anybody right here in Arizona. You know it.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton support sanctuary cities. They support catch and release on the border. they support visa overstays. They support the release of dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, criminals from detention. And, they support unconstitutional executive amnesty.

Hillary Clinton has pledged amnesty in her first 100 days, and her plan will provide Obamacare, Social Security, and Medicare for illegal immigrants, breaking the federal budget.

On top of that she promises uncontrolled, low-skilled immigration that continues to reduce jobs and wages for American workers, and especially for African-American and Hispanic workers within our country. Our citizens.

Most incredibly, because to me this is unbelievable, we have no idea who these people are, where they come from. I always say Trojan Horse. Watch what’s going to happen, folks. It’s not going to be pretty.

This includes her plan to bring in 620,000 new refugees from Syria and that region over a short period of time. And even yesterday, when you were watching the news, you saw thousands and thousands of people coming in from Syria. What is wrong with our politicians, our leaders if we can call them that. What the hell are we doing?

(APPLAUSE)

Hard to believe. Hard to believe. Now that you’ve heard about Hillary Clinton’s plan, about which she has not answered a single question, let me tell you about my plan. And do you notice – –

(APPLAUSE)

And do you notice all the time for weeks and weeks of debating my plan, debating, talking about it, what about this, what about that. They never even mentioned her plan on immigration because she doesn’t want to get into the quagmire. It’s a tough one, she doesn’t know what she’s doing except open borders and let everybody come in and destroy our country by the way.

(APPLAUSE)

While Hillary Clinton meets only with donors and lobbyists, my plan was crafted with the input from Federal Immigration offices, very great people. Among the top immigration experts anywhere in this country, who represent workers, not corporations, very important to us.

I also worked with lawmakers, who’ve led on this issue on behalf of American citizens for many years. And most importantly I’ve met with the people directly impacted by these policies. So important.

Number one, are you ready? Are you ready?

(APPLAUSE)

We will build a great wall along the southern border.

(APPLAUSE) And Mexico will pay for the wall.

(APPLAUSE)

One hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it. And they’re great people and great leaders but they’re going to pay for the wall. On day one, we will begin working on intangible, physical, tall, power, beautiful southern border wall.

(APPLAUSE)

We will use the best technology, including above and below ground sensors that’s the tunnels. Remember that, above and below.

(APPLAUSE)

Above and below ground sensors. Towers, aerial surveillance and manpower to supplement the wall, find and dislocate tunnels and keep out criminal cartels and Mexico you know that, will work with us. I really believe it. Mexico will work with us. I absolutely believe it. And especially after meeting with their wonderful, wonderful president today. I really believe they want to solve this problem along with us, and I’m sure they will.

(APPLAUSE)

Number two, we are going to end catch and release. We catch them, oh go ahead. We catch them, go ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

Under my administration, anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country and back to the country from which they came.

And they’ll be brought great distances. We’re not dropping them right across. They learned that. President Eisenhower. They’d drop them across, right across, and they’d come back. And across.

Then when they flew them to a long distance, all of a sudden that was the end. We will take them great distances. But we will take them to the country where they came from, OK?

Number three. Number three, this is the one, I think it’s so great. It’s hard to believe, people don’t even talk about it. Zero tolerance for criminal aliens. Zero. Zero.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Zero. They don’t come in here. They don’t come in here.

According to federal data, there are at least 2 million, 2 million, think of it, criminal aliens now inside of our country, 2 million people criminal aliens. We will begin moving them out day one. As soon as I take office. Day one. In joint operation with local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Now, just so you understand, the police, who we all respect — say hello to the police. Boy, they don’t get the credit they deserve. I can tell you. They’re great people. But the police and law enforcement, they know who these people are.

They live with these people. They get mocked by these people. They can’t do anything about these people, and they want to. They know who these people are. Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: And you can call it deported if you want. The press doesn’t like that term. You can call it whatever the hell you want. They’re gone.

Beyond the 2 million, and there are vast numbers of additional criminal illegal immigrants who have fled, but their days have run out in this country. The crime will stop. They’re going to be gone. It will be over.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: They’re going out. They’re going out fast.

Moving forward. We will issue detainers for illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime whatsoever, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings if we even have to do that.

We will terminate the Obama administration’s deadly, and it is deadly, non-enforcement policies that allow thousands of criminal aliens to freely roam our streets, walk around, do whatever they want to do, crime all over the place.

That’s over. That’s over, folks. That’s over.

Since 2013 alone, the Obama administration has allowed 300,000 criminal aliens to return back into United States communities. These are individuals encountered or identified by ICE, but who were not detained or processed for deportation because it wouldn’t have been politically correct.

My plan also includes cooperating closely with local jurisdictions to remove criminal aliens immediately. We will restore the highly successful Secure Communities Program. Good program. We will expand and revitalize the popular 287(g) partnerships, which will help to identify hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens in local jails that we don’t even know about.

Both of these programs have been recklessly gutted by this administration. And those were programs that worked.

This is yet one more area where we are headed in a totally opposite direction. There’s no common sense, there’s no brain power in our administration by our leader, or our leaders. None, none, none.

On my first day in office I am also going to ask Congress to pass Kate’s Law, named for Kate Steinle.

(APPLAUSE)

To ensure that criminal aliens convicted of illegal reentry receive strong mandatory minimum sentences. Strong.

And then we get them out.

Another reform I’m proposing is the passage of legislation named for Detective Michael Davis and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver, to law enforcement officers recently killed by a previously deported illegal immigrant.

The Davis-Oliver bill will enhance cooperation with state and local authorities to ensure that criminal immigrants and terrorists are swiftly, really swiftly, identified and removed. And they will go face, believe me. They’re going to go.

We’re going to triple the number of ICE deportation officers.

(APPLAUSE)

Within ICE I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice just like Hillary Clinton has evaded justice, OK?

(APPLAUSE)

Maybe they’ll be able to deport her.

(APPLAUSE)

The local police who know every one of these criminals, and they know each and every one by name, by crime, where they live, they will work so fast. And our local police will be so happy that they don’t have to be abused by these thugs anymore. There’s no great mystery to it, they’ve put up with it for years, and no finally we will turn the tables and law enforcement and our police will be allowed to clear up this dangerous and threatening mess.

We’re also going to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents.

(APPLAUSE)

Who gave me their endorsement, 16,500 gave me their endorsement.

And put more of them on the border instead of behind desks which is good. We will expand the number of border patrol stations significantly.

I’ve had a chance to spend time with these incredible law enforcement officers, and I want to take a moment to thank them. What they do is incredible.

(APPLAUSE)

And getting their endorsement means so much to me. More to me really than I can say. Means so much. First time they’ve ever endorsed a presidential candidate.

Number four, block funding for sanctuary cities. We block the funding. No more funds.

(APPLAUSE)

We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.

Number five, cancel unconstitutional executive orders and enforce all immigration laws.

(APPLAUSE)

We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately five million illegal immigrants, five million.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

TRUMP: And how about all the millions that are waiting on line, going through the process legally? So unfair.

Hillary Clinton has pledged to keep both of these illegal amnesty programs, including the 2014 amnesty which has been blocked by the United States Supreme Court. Great.

Clinton has also pledged to add a third executive amnesty. And by the way, folks, she will be a disaster for our country, a disaster in so many other ways.

And don’t forget the Supreme Court of the United States. Don’t forget that when you go to vote on November 8. And don’t forget your Second Amendment. And don’t forget the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

(APPLAUSE)

And don’t forget building up our depleted military. And don’t forget taking care of our vets. Don’t forget our vets. They have been forgotten.

(APPLAUSE)

Clinton’s plan would trigger a constitutional crisis unlike almost anything we have ever seen before. In effect, she would be abolishing the lawmaking powers of Congress in order to write her own laws from the Oval Office. And you see what bad judgment she has. She has seriously bad judgment.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

TRUMP: Can you imagine? In a Trump administration all immigration laws will be enforced, will be enforced. As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike this administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement. And ICE and Border Patrol officers will be allowed to do their jobs the way their jobs are supposed to be done.

(APPLAUSE)

Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country. Otherwise we don’t have a country.

Our enforcement priorities will include removing criminals, gang members, security threats, visa overstays, public charges. That is those relying on public welfare or straining the safety net along with millions of recent illegal arrivals and overstays who’ve come here under this current corrupt administration.

(APPLAUSE)

Number six, we are going to suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur.

(APPLAUSE)

According to data provided by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, and the national interest between 9/11 and the end of 2014, at least 380 foreign born individuals were convicted in terror cases inside the United States. And even right now the largest number of people are under investigation for exactly this that we’ve ever had in the history of our country.

Our country is a mess. We don’t even know what to look for anymore, folks. Our country has to straighten out. And we have to straighten out fast.

The number is likely higher. But the administration refuses to provide this information, even to Congress. As soon as I enter office I am going to ask the Department of State, which has been brutalized by Hillary Clinton, brutalized.

(AUDIENCE BOOS)

Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to begin a comprehensive review of these cases in order to develop a list of regions and countries from which immigration must be suspended until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put in place.

I call it extreme vetting right? Extreme vetting. I want extreme. It’s going to be so tough, and if somebody comes in that’s fine but they’re going to be good. It’s extreme.

And if people don’t like it, we’ve got have a country folks. Got to have a country. Countries in which immigration will be suspended would include places like Syria and Libya. And we are going to stop the tens of thousands of people coming in from Syria. We have no idea who they are, where they come from. There’s no documentation. There’s no paperwork. It’s going to end badly folks. It’s going to end very, very badly.

For the price of resettling, one refugee in the United States, 12 could be resettled in a safe zone in their home region. Which I agree with 100 percent. We have to build safe zones and we’ll get the money from Gulf states. We don’t want to put up the money. We owe almost $20 trillion. Doubled since Obama took office, our national debt.

But we will get the money from Gulf states and others. We’ll supervise it. We’ll build safe zones which is something that I think all of us want to see.

Another reform, involves new screening tests for all applicants that include, and this is so important, especially if you get the right people. And we will get the right people. An ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. We’re very proud of our country. Aren’t we? Really? With all it’s going through, we’re very proud of our country. For instance, in the last five years, we’ve admitted nearly 100,000 immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan. And these two countries according to Pew Research, a majority of residents say that the barbaric practice of honor killings against women are often or sometimes justified. That’s what they say.

(APPLAUSE) That’s what they say. They’re justified. Right? And we’re admitting them to our country. Applicants will be asked their views about honor killings, about respect for women and gays and minorities. Attitudes on radical Islam, which our President refuses to say and many other topics as part of this vetting procedure. And if we have the right people doing it, believe me, very, very few will slip through the cracks. Hopefully, none.

(APPLAUSE)

Number seven, we will insure that other countries take their people back when they order them deported.

(APPLAUSE)

There are at least 23 countries that refuse to take their people back after they’ve been ordered to leave the United States. Including large numbers of violent criminals, they won’t take them back. So we say, OK, we’ll keep them. Not going to happen with me, not going to happen with me.

(APPLAUSE)

Due to a Supreme Court decision, if these violent offenders cannot be sent home, our law enforcement officers have to release them into your communities.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, the results are horrific, horrific. There are often terrible consequences, such as Casey Chadwick’s tragic death in Connecticut just last year. Yet despite the existence of a law that commands the Secretary of State to stop issuing visas to these countries.

Secretary Hillary Clinton ignored this law and refused to use this powerful tool to bring nations into compliance. And, they would comply if we would act properly.

In other words, if we had leaders that knew what they were doing, which we don’t.

The result of her misconduct was the release of thousands and thousands of dangerous criminal aliens who should have been sent home to their countries. Instead we have them all over the place. Probably a couple in this room as a matter of fact, but I hope not.

According to a report for the Boston Globe from the year 2008 to 2014 nearly 13,000 criminal aliens were released back into U.S. communities because their home countries would not, under any circumstances, take them back. Hard to believe with the power we have. Hard to believe.

We’re like the big bully that keeps getting beat up. You ever see that? The big bully that keeps getting beat up.

These 13,000 release occurred on Hillary Clinton’s watch. She had the power and the duty to stop it cold, and she decided she would not do it.

And, Arizona knows better than most exactly what I’m talking about.

(APPLAUSE)

Those released include individuals convicted of killings, sexual assaults, and some of the most heinous crimes imaginable.

The Boston Globe writes that a Globe review of 323 criminals released in New England from 2008 to 2012 found that as many as 30 percent committed new offenses, including rape, attempted murder, and child molestation. We take them, we take them.

Number eight, we will finally complete the biometric entry-exit visa tracking system which we need desperately. For years Congress has required biometric entry-exit visa tracking systems, but it has never been completed. The politicians are all talk, no action, never happens. Never happens.

Hillary Clinton, all talk. Unfortunately when there is action it’s always the wrong decision. You ever notice? In my administration we will ensure that this system is in place. And, I will tell you, it will be on land, it will be on sea, it will be in air. We will have a proper tracking system.

Approximately half of new illegal immigrants came on temporary visas and then never, ever left. Why should the? Nobody’s telling them to leave. Stay as long as you want, we’ll take care of you.

Beyond violating our laws, visa overstays, pose — and they really are a big problem, pose a substantial threat to national security. The 9/11 Commission said that this tracking system would be a high priority and would have assisted law enforcement and intelligence officials in august and September in 2001 in conducting a search for two of the 9/11 hijackers that were in the United States expired visas.

And, you know what that would have meant, what that could have meant. Wouldn’t that have been wonderful, right? What that could have meant?

Last year alone nearly half a million individuals overstayed their temporary visas. Removing these overstays will be a top priority of my administration.

(APPLAUSE)

If people around the world believe they can just come on a temporary visa and never, ever leave, the Obama-Clinton policy, that’s what it is, then we have a completely open border, and we no longer have a country.

We must send a message that visa expiration dates will be strongly enforced.

Number nine, we will turn off the jobs and benefits magnet.

We will ensure that E-Verify is used to the fullest extent possible under existing law, and we will work with Congress to strengthen and expand its use across the country.

Immigration law doesn’t exist for the purpose of keeping criminals out. It exists to protect all aspects of American life. The work site, the welfare office, the education system, and everything else.

That is why immigration limits are established in the first place. If we only enforced the laws against crime, then we have an open border to the entire world. We will enforce all of our immigration laws.

(APPLAUSE)

And the same goes for government benefits. The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that 62 percent of households headed by illegal immigrants use some form of cash or non-cash welfare programs like food stamps or housing assistance.

Tremendous costs, by the way, to our country. Tremendous costs. This directly violates the federal public charge law designed to protect the United States Treasury. Those who abuse our welfare system will be priorities for immediate removal.

(APPLAUSE)

Number 10, we will reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, the forgotten people. Workers. We’re going to take care of our workers.

And by the way, and by the way, we’re going to make great trade deals. We’re going to renegotiate trade deals. We’re going to bring our jobs back home. We’re going to bring our jobs back home.

We have the most incompetently worked trade deals ever negotiated probably in the history of the world, and that starts with NAFTA. And now they want to go TPP, one of the great disasters.

We’re going to bring our jobs back home. And if companies want to leave Arizona and if they want to leave other states, there’s going to be a lot of trouble for them. It’s not going to be so easy. There will be consequence. Remember that. There will be consequence. They’re not going to be leaving, go to another country, make the product, sell it into the United States, and all we end up with is no taxes and total unemployment. It’s not going to happen. There will be consequences.

(APPLAUSE)

We’ve admitted 59 million immigrants to the United States between 1965 and 2015. Many of these arrivals have greatly enriched our country. So true. But we now have an obligation to them and to their children to control future immigration as we are following, if you think, previous immigration waves.

We’ve had some big waves. And tremendously positive things have happened. Incredible things have happened. To ensure assimilation we want to ensure that it works. Assimilation, an important word. Integration and upward mobility.

(APPLAUSE)

Within just a few years immigration as a share of national population is set to break all historical records. The time has come for a new immigration commission to develop a new set of reforms to our legal immigration system in order to achieve the following goals.

To keep immigration levels measured by population share within historical norms. To select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in U.S. society and their ability to be financially self- sufficient.

(APPLAUSE)

We take anybody. Come on in, anybody. Just come on in. Not anymore.

You know, folks, it’s called a two-way street. It is a two-way street, right? We need a system that serves our needs, not the needs of others. Remember, under a Trump administration it’s called America first. Remember that.

To choose immigrants based on merit. Merit, skill, and proficiency. Doesn’t that sound nice? And to establish new immigration controls to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first. And that in particular African- American and Latino workers who are being shut out in this process so unfairly.

(APPLAUSE)

And Hillary Clinton is going to do nothing for the African- American worker, the Latino worker. She’s going to do nothing. Give me your vote, she says, on November eighth. And then she’ll say, so long, see you in four years. That’s what it is.

She is going to do nothing. And just look at the past. She’s done nothing. She’s been there for 35 years. She’s done nothing. And I say what do you have to lose? Choose me. Watch how good we’re going to do together. Watch.

(APPLAUSE)

You watch. We want people to come into our country, but they have to come into our country legally and properly vetted, and in a manner that serves the national interest. We’ve been living under outdated immigration rules from decades ago. They’re decades and decades old.

To avoid this happening in the future, I believe we should sunset our visa laws so that Congress is forced to periodically revise and revisit them to bring them up to date. They’re archaic. They’re ancient. We wouldn’t put our entire federal budget on auto pilot for decades, so why should we do the same for the very, very complex subject of immigration?

So let’s now talk about the big picture. These 10 steps, if rigorously followed and enforced, will accomplish more in a matter of months than our politicians have accomplished on this issue in the last 50 years. It’s going to happen, folks. Because I am proudly not a politician, because I am not behold to any special interest, I’ve spent a lot of money on my campaign, I’ll tell you. I write those checks. Nobody owns Trump.

I will get this done for you and for your family. We’ll do it right. You’ll be proud of our country again. We’ll do it right. We will accomplish all of the steps outlined above. And, when we do, peace and law and justice and prosperity will prevail. Crime will go down. Border crossings will plummet. Gangs will disappear.

And the gangs are all over the place. And welfare use will decrease. We will have a peace dividend to spend on rebuilding America, beginning with our American inner cities. We’re going to rebuild them, for once and for all.

For those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only. To return home and apply for reentry like everybody else, under the rules of the new legal immigration system that I have outlined above. Those who have left to seek entry —

CROWD: Trump! Trump! Trump!

Thank you.

CROWD: Trump! Trump! Trump!

Thank you. Thank you. Those who have left to seek entry under this new system — and it will be an efficient system — will not be awarded surplus visas, but will have to apply for entry under the immigration caps or limits that will be established in the future.

We will break the cycle of amnesty and illegal immigration. We will break the cycle. There will be no amnesty.

(APPLAUSE)

Our message to the world will be this. You cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country. Can’t do it.

(APPLAUSE)

This declaration alone will help stop the crisis of illegal crossings and illegal overstays, very importantly. People will know that you can’t just smuggle in, hunker down and wait to be legalized. It’s not going to work that way. Those days are over.

(APPLAUSE)

Importantly, in several years when we have accomplished all of our enforcement and deportation goals and truly ended illegal immigration for good, including the construction of a great wall, which we will have built in record time. And at a reasonable cost, which you never hear from the government.

(APPLAUSE)

And the establishment of our new lawful immigration system then and only then will we be in a position to consider the appropriate disposition of those individuals who remain.

That discussion can take place only in an atmosphere in which illegal immigration is a memory of the past, no longer with us, allowing us to weigh the different options available based on the new circumstances at the time.

(APPLAUSE)

Right now, however, we’re in the middle of a jobs crisis, a border crisis and a terrorism crisis like never before. All energies of the federal government and the legislative process must now be focused on immigration security. That is the only conversation we should be having at this time, immigration security. Cut it off.

Whether it’s dangerous materials being smuggled across the border, terrorists entering on visas or Americans losing their jobs to foreign workers, these are the problems we must now focus on fixing. And the media needs to begin demanding to hear Hillary Clinton’s answer on how her policies will affect Americans and their security.

(APPLAUSE)

These are matters of life and death for our country and its people, and we deserve answers from Hillary Clinton. And do you notice, she doesn’t answer.

AUDIENCE: No!

TRUMP: She didn’t go to Louisiana. She didn’t go to Mexico. She was invited.

She doesn’t have the strength or the stamina to make America great again. Believe me.

(APPLAUSE)

What we do know, despite the lack of media curiosity, is that Hillary Clinton promises a radical amnesty combined with a radical reduction in immigration enforcement. Just ask the Border Patrol about Hillary Clinton. You won’t like what you’re hearing.

The result will be millions more illegal immigrants; thousands of more violent, horrible crimes; and total chaos and lawlessness. That’s what’s going to happen, as sure as you’re standing there.

TRUMP: This election, and I believe this, is our last chance to secure the border, stop illegal immigration and reform our laws to make your life better. I really believe this is it. This is our last time. November 8. November 8. You got to get out and vote on November 8.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s our last chance. It’s our last chance. And that includes Supreme Court justices and Second Amendment. Remember that.

So I want to remind everyone what we’re fighting for and who we are fighting for.

I am going to ask — these are really special people that I’ve gotten to know. I’m going to ask all of the “Angel Moms” to come join me on the stage right now.

These are amazing women.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: These are amazing people.

(APPLAUSE)

CROWD: USA! USA! USA!

TRUMP: I’ve become friends with so many. But Jamiel Shaw, incredible guy, lost his son so violently. Say just a few words about your child.

(UNKNOWN): My son Ronald da Silva (ph) was murdered April 27, 2002 by an illegal alien who had been previously deported. And what so — makes me so outrageous is that we came here legally.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. I totally support you. You have my vote.

TRUMP: Thank you, thank you.

(UNKNOWN): God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: You know what? Name your child and come right by. Go ahead.

(UNKNOWN): Laura Wilkerson. And my son was Joshua Wilkerson. He was murdered by an illegal in 2010. And I personally support Mr. Trump for our next president.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): My name is Ruth Johnston Martin (ph). My husband was shot by an illegal alien. He fought the good fight but he took his last breath in 2002. And I support this man who’s going to change this country for the better. God bless you.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): My name Maureen Maloney (ph), and our son Matthew Denise (ph) was 23 years old when he was dragged a quarter of a mile to his death by an illegal alien, while horrified witnesses were banging on the truck trying to stop him.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): Our son Matthew Denise, if Donald Trump were president in 2011, our son Matthew Denise and other Americans would be alive today.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): Thank you. My name is Kathy Woods (ph). My son Steve (ph), a high school senior, 17 years old, went to the beach after a high school football game. A local gang came along, nine members. The cars were battered to — like war in Beirut. And all I can say is they murdered him and if Mr. Trump had been in office then the border would have been secure and our children would not be dead today.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): Hi. My name is Brenda Sparks (ph), and my son is named Eric Zapeda (ph). He was raised by a legal immigrant from Honduras only to be murdered by an illegal in 2011. His murderer never did a second in handcuffs or jail. Got away with killing an American. So I’m voting for trump. And by the way, so is my mother.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): My name is Dee Angle (ph). My cousin Rebecca Ann Johnston (ph), known as Becky, was murdered on January the 1st, 1989 in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Thank you. And if you don’t vote Trump, we won’t have a country. Trump all the way.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): I’m Shannon Estes (ph). And my daughter Shaley Estes (ph), 22 years old, was murdered here in Phoenix last July 24 by a Russian who overstayed his visa. And vote Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): I’m Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of Sergeant Brandon Mendoza, who was killed in a violent head-on collision in Mesa.

Thank you.

I want to thank Phoenix for the support you’ve always given me, and I want to tell you what. I’m supporting the man who will — who is the only man who is going to save our country, and what we our going to be leaving our children.

(APPLAUSE)

(UNKNOWN): I’m Steve Ronnebeck, father of Grant Ronnebeck, 21 years old. Killed January 22, 2015 by an illegal immigrant who shot him in the face. I truly believe that Mr. Trump is going to change things. He’s going to fight for my family, and he’s going to fight for America.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: These are amazing people, and I am not asking for their endorsement, believe me that. I just think I’ve gotten to know so many of them, and many more, from our group. But they are incredible people and what they’re going through is incredible, and there’s just no reason for it. Let’s give them a really tremendous hand.

(APPLAUSE)

That’s tough stuff, I will tell you. That is tough stuff. Incredible people.

So, now is the time for these voices to be heard. Now is the time for the media to begin asking questions on their behalf. Now is the time for all of us as one country, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative to band together to deliver justice, and safety, and security for all Americans.

Let’s fix this horrible, horrible, problem. It can be fixed quickly. Let’s our secure our border.

(APPLAUSE)

Let’s stop the drugs and the crime from pouring into our country. Let’s protect our social security and Medicare. Let’s get unemployed Americans off the welfare and back to work in their own country.

This has been an incredible evening. We’re going to remember this evening. November 8, we have to get everybody. This is such an important state. November 8 we have to get everybody to go out and vote.

We’re going to bring — thank you, thank you. We’re going to take our country back, folks. This is a movement. We’re going to take our country back.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

This is an incredible movement. The world is talking about it. The world is talking about it and by the way, if you haven’t been looking to what’s been happening at the polls over the last three or four days I think you should start looking. You should start looking.

(APPLAUSE)

Together we can save American lives, American jobs, and American futures. Together we can save America itself. Join me in this mission, we’re going to make America great again.

Thank you. I love you. God bless you, everybody. God bless you. God bless you, thank you.

 

 

Full Text Campaign Buzz 2016 August 31, 2016: GOP Nominee Donald Trump’s Press Conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

Donald Trump’s Press Conference with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

 

Politics August 23, 2016: Obama finally tours flood-ravaged Louisiana over a week too late

HEADLINE NEWS

Headline_News

POLITICS

Obama finally tours flood-ravaged Louisiana over a week too late

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 

 

Over a week after heavy rainstorms flooded Louisiana, President Barack Obama finally toured the most damaged areas. On Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, Obama visited Baton Rouge, Louisiana, saying his tour “is not a photo-op.” Obama waited until he finished his two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts to tour the damage after much criticism locally in Louisiana and by Republicans particularly GOP nominee Donald Trump, who toured Louisiana last Friday, Aug. 20 with his vice presidential running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

President Obama arrived in Louisiana at “11:45 a.m. Central time,” where he was met by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, his wife, Donna, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, and Sen. David Vitter, at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. He first visited Castle Place neighborhood, which had been affected badly by the floods. There Obama met and spoke with residents, rescuers and officials. The flooding caused 13 deaths, 106,000 households “registered for assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency,” and 60,000 homes were damaged. Afterward, the president met with the families of shooting victims Alton Sterling and the Baton Rouge Police Department.

After his tour, President Obama delivered some remarks. The president expressed, “I come here first and foremost to say that the prayers of the entire nation are with everybody who lost loved ones. We are heartbroken by the loss of life. There are also still people who are desperately trying to track down friends and family we are going to keep on helping them every way that we can.”

Continuing Obama said, “Sometimes when these kinds of things happen it can seem too much to bear but what I want the people of Louisiana to know is that you’re not alone on this. Even after the TV cameras leave. The whole country is going to continue to support you and help you until we get folks back in their homes and lives are rebuilt.”
President Obama also praised FEMA’s response, which they already spent $127 million on the tragedy. Obama said FEMA’s help is not enough, “Now, federal assistance alone won’t be enough to make people’s lives whole again so I’m asking every American to do what you can to help get families and local businesses back on their feet.”

The president also jabbed Trump for criticizing him because he did not cut his vacation short to tour the damage earlier. Obama expressed, “So let me just remind folks: sometimes once the floodwaters pass, people’s attention spans pass. This is not a one-off. This is not a photo-op issue. This is how do you make sure that a month from now, three months from now, six months from now people still are getting the help that they need.”

Trump toured the damage with his running mate Mike Pence on Friday, where the GOP nominee donated an 18-wheeler of supplies. Trump was still criticizing the president this past weekend after the White House announced the president’s Tuesday visit. Trump told Fox News, “Tuesday’s too late. Hop into the plane and go down and go to Louisiana and see what’s going on, because it’s a mess.”

The president has been widely criticized for not cutting his vacation short to visit the worst flooding in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Instead, Obama was golfing and fundraising for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who also did not visit Louisiana’s flooding victims. Both had been critical of then President George W. Bush when he flew over and did stop during Hurricane Katrina, and took three days to visit the devastation.

Obama took over a week, but the White House deflected the criticism by pointing out the president declared an emergency on Aug. 14, when aid kicked in and Obama received briefings in the interim. The White House was also defensive attacking Trump for saying the same thing Obama did back in 2007 when he was a Democratic candidate running for president. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One the “President is used to people trying to score political points even in situations where they shouldn’t.”

Clinton, who fiercely attacked Bush when she was a New York Senator running for the Democratic nomination in 2007, this time went after Trump for actually visiting the victims in a timely manner. Clinton issued a statement saying, “This month’s floods in Louisiana are a crisis that demand a national response. I am committed to visiting communities affected by these floods, at a time when the presence of a political campaign will not disrupt the response, to discuss how we can and will rebuild together.”

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Immigration Orders

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS

President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Immigration

Source: WH, 6-23-16

 

Full Text Political Transcripts June 23, 2016: Supreme Court reject President Barack Obama’s Immigration Executive Orders in United States v. Texas Opinion

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN:

United States v. Texas

Monday, April 18

15-674 United States v. Texas Transcript Audio

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES No. 15–674 UNITED STATES, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. TEXAS, ET AL. ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT [June 23, 2016] PER CURIAM. The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.

Full Text Political Transcripts February 28, 2016: Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the Academy Awards

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the Vice President at the Academy Awards

Source: WH, 2-28-16

Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center
Los Angeles, California

8:11 P.M. PST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hey, Matt, how are you?  (Laughter.)  (Applause.)  No, no, no, no, thank you.  I’m the least qualified man here tonight.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

Good evening.  Good evening, and thank you very much.  Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men — on and off college campuses — are still victims of sexual abuse.  And tonight I’m asking you to join millions of Americans, including me, President Obama, the thousands of students I’ve met on college campuses, and the artists here tonight to take the pledge — a pledge that says:  I will intervene in situations when consent has not or cannot be given.

Let’s change the culture.  (Applause.)  We must and we can change the culture so that no abused woman or man, like the survivors you will see tonight, ever feel they have to ask themselves, what did I do?  They did nothing wrong.  (Applause.)

So, folks, I really mean this.  I’m sincere.  Take the pledge.  Go look at, visit ItsOnUs.org.

Now, performing her Oscar-nominated song, “Til It happens to you,” written with Diane Warren, for the film “The Hunting Ground,” welcome my friend and a courageous lady herself, Lady Gaga.  (Applause.)

END
8:13 P.M. PST

Full Text Political Transcripts February 10, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in Address to the Illinois General Assembly

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in Address to the Illinois General Assembly

Source: WH, 2-10-16

15

1:03 P.M. CST

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

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the General Assembly, my fellow Illinoisans:  It’s actually kind of fun to start a speech like that twice in one month.  (Laughter.)

What an incredible privilege it is to address this chamber. And to Governor Rauner, Senator Durbin, members of Congress, Speaker Madigan, Former Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Langfelder and the people of Springfield — thank you for such a warm welcome as I come back home.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  It’s good to be home.  (Applause.)  Thank you, guys. Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  It is great to see so many old friends like John Cullerton and Emil Jones.  I miss you guys.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Miss you!  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s great to be in the State Capitol.  Being here today calls to mind the first time I spoke on the Senate floor, almost 20 years ago.  And I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference.  Just to stand in that magnificent chamber was enough to fill me up with a heightened sense of purpose.

And I probably needed a little dose of reality when I first arrived.  So one day, I rose to speak about a bill.  And I thought I’d made some compelling points, with irrefutable logic. (Laughter.)  And I was about to sit down, feeling pretty good about myself, when Pate Philip sauntered over to my desk.  Now, there are some young people here, so for those of you who don’t remember, Pate Philip was the Senate Majority Leader at the time. He was a Marine, and big shock of white hair, chomped on a cigar; was so politically incorrect that you don’t even know how to describe it.  (Laughter.)  But he always treated me well.  And he came by and he slapped me on the back, he said, “Kid, that was a pretty good speech.  In fact, I think you changed a lot of minds. But you didn’t change any votes.”  (Laughter.)  Then he singled, and they gaveled, and we got blown out.  (Laughter.)

So that was my first lesson in humility.  The next came when I presented my own first bill.  It was a simple piece of legislation that would make it a lot easier for Illinois manufacturers to hire graduating community college students.  I didn’t know any serious opposition, so I asked for a vote.  And what I got was a good hazing.  I assume that this custom still exists.  (Applause and laughter.)

So a senior colleague put the vote on hold to ask, “Could you correctly pronounce your name for me?  I’m having a little trouble with it.”  “Obama,” I said.  “Is that Irish?” he asked.  (Laughter.)  And being in my early 30s at the time, I was a little cocky — I said, “It will be when I run countywide.”  (Laughter.)  “That was a good joke,” he said, but he wasn’t amused.  “This bill is still going to die.”

And he went on to complain that my predecessor’s name was easier to pronounce than mine, that I didn’t have cookies at my desk like she did, how would I ever expect to get any votes without having cookies on my desk.  “I definitely urge a no vote,” he said, “whatever your name is.”  (Laughter.)

And for the next several minutes, the Senate debated on whether I should add an apostrophe to my name for the Irish, or whether the fact that “Obama” ends in a vowel meant I actually belonged to the Italians — (laughter) — and just how many trees had had to die to print this terrible, miserable bill, anyway.

And I was chastened.  And I said, “If I survive this event, I will be eternally grateful and consider this a highlight of my legal and legislative career.”  And I asked for a vote.  And initially the tote board showed that it was going down, but at the last minute it flipped and my bill passed.  But I was duly reminded that I was a freshman in the minority.  And I want to thank all my former colleagues in both chambers for not letting me forget it.

To be a rookie in the minority party, as I was, is not much fun in any legislature.  We were called “mushrooms” — because we were kept in the dark and fed a lot of manure.  (Laughter.)  But one benefit of being in such a position — not being invited into the meetings where the big deals were being made — is that I had a lot of time to get to know my colleagues.  And many of us were away from our families, and so we became friends.

We went to fish fries together.  We’d go to union halls.  We’d play in golf scrambles.  We had a great bipartisan poker game at the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association.  Boro Relijie would host, and folks like Dave Luechtefeld and Terry Link, others would join in.  We’d eat downstairs — and I can’t say I miss the horseshoes.  (Laughter.)  But away from the glare of TV, or the tweets, or the GIFs of today’s media, what we discovered was that despite our surface differences — Democrats and Republicans, downstate hog farmers, inner-city African Americans, suburban businesspeople, Latinos from Pilsen or Little Village — despite those differences, we actually had a lot in common.  We cared about our communities.  We cared about our families.  We cared about America.

We fought hard for our positions.  I don’t want to be nostalgic here — we voted against each other all the time.  And party lines held most of the time.  But those relationships, that trust we’d built meant that we came at each debate assuming the best in one another and not the worst.

I was reminiscing with Christine Radogno — we came in in the same class.  And we were on opposite sides of most issues, but I always trusted her and believed that she was a good person. And if we had a bill that we might be able to work together on, it was a pleasure to work with her on.  Or Dave Syverson, who — we worked together on the Public Health and Welfare Committee, and we got some important work done that made a difference in people’s lives.

And we didn’t call each other idiots or fascists who were trying to destroy America.  Because then we’d have to explain why we were playing poker or having a drink with an idiot or a fascist who was trying to destroy America.  (Laughter.)

And that respect gave us room for progress.  And after I’d served here for six years, my party finally gained the majority. Emil Jones became the President of the Senate.  And by then, I had made some friends across the aisle — like Kirk Dillard, who I believe is here today, and we were able to pass the first serious ethics reform in 25 years.  And working closely with law enforcement, who knew by then that we cared about cops and sheriffs and prosecutors.  And working with folks like John Cullerton, we passed Illinois’ first racial profiling law, which was good for police officers and minority communities.

And because someone like my friend, John Bouman, who worked at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, helped us build coalitions across the state, including with business, and was able to then reach out to Republicans, we were able to increase tax credits for the working poor and expand health insurance to children in need.

And we wouldn’t bend on our most deeply held principles, but we were willing to forge compromises in pursuit of a larger goal. We were practical when we needed to be.  We could fight like heck on one issue and then shake hands on the next.  Somebody like Jesse White was able to travel around the state and people didn’t even know what party he was necessarily from because he brought so much joy with the tumblers and the work that they were doing.

So I want you to know that this is why I’ve always believed so deeply in a better kind of politics, in part because of what I learned here in this legislature.  Because of what I learned traveling across the state, visiting some of your districts, before I was running statewide, before I was a U.S. senator; learning all the corners of this state — this most-representative of states.  A state of small towns and rich farmland, and the world’s greatest city.  A microcosm of America, where Democrats and Republicans and independents, and good people of every ethnicity and every faith shared certain bedrock values.

I just saw a story the other day showing that if you rank all 50 states across categories like education levels and household incomes, and race and religion, the one state that most closely mirrors America as a whole is Illinois, this state.

And I learned by talking to your constituents that if you were willing to listen, it was possible to bridge a lot of differences.  I learned that most Americans aren’t following the ins and outs of the legislature carefully, but they instinctively know that issues are more complicated than rehearsed sound bites; that they play differently in different parts of the state and in the country.  They understand the difference between realism and idealism; the difference between responsibility and recklessness. They had the maturity to know what can and cannot be compromised, and to admit the possibility that the other side just might have a point.

And it convinced me that if we just approached our national politics the same way the American people approach their daily lives –- at the workplace, at the Little League game; at church or the synagogue — with common sense, and a commitment to fair play and basic courtesy, that there is no problem that we couldn’t solve together.

And that was the vision that guided me when I first ran for the United States Senate.  That’s the vision I shared when I said we are more than just a collection of red states and blue states, but we are the United States of America.  And that vision is why, nine years ago today, on the steps of the Old State Capitol just a few blocks from here, I announced my candidacy for President.

Now, over these nine years, I want you to know my faith in the generosity and the fundamental goodness of the American people has been rewarded and affirmed over and over and over again.  I’ve seen it in the determination of autoworkers who had been laid off but were sure that they could once again be part of a great, iconic Americans industry.  I’ve seen it in the single mom who goes back to school even as she’s working and looking after her kids because she wants a better life for that next generation.  I’ve seen it the vision and risk-taking of small businessmen.  I’ve seen it time and time again in the courage of our troops.

But it’s been noted often by pundits that the tone of our politics hasn’t gotten better since I was inaugurated, in fact it’s gotten worse; that there’s still this yawning gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics.  Which is why, in my final State of the Union address, and in the one before that, I had to acknowledge that one of my few regrets is my inability to reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics.  I was able to be part of that here and yet couldn’t translate it the way I wanted to into our politics in Washington.

And people ask me why I’ve devoted so much time to this topic.  And I tell them it’s not just because I’m President, and the polarization and the gridlock are frustrating to me.  The fact is we’ve gotten a heck of a lot done these past seven years, despite the gridlock.  We saved the economy from a depression.  We brought back an auto industry from the brink of collapse.  We helped our businesses create 14 million new jobs over the past six years.  We cut the unemployment rate from 10 percent to 4.9 percent.  We covered nearly 18 million more Americans with health insurance.  We ignited a clean energy revolution.  We got bin Laden.  We brought the vast majority of our troops home to their families.  (Applause.)  We got a lot done.  We’re still getting a lot done.

And our political system helped make these things possible, and the list could go on.  There’s no doubt America is better off today than when I took office.  (Applause.)  I didn’t want this to be a State of Union speech where we have the standing up and the sitting down.  (Laughter.)  Come on, guys, you know better than that.  (Laughter and applause.)  No, no, no, I’ve got a serious point to make here.  I’ve got a serious point to make here because this is part of the issue, right?  We have an importation of our politics nationally, and on cable and talk radio, and it seeps into everything.

The point I’m trying to make is I care about fixing our politics not only because I’m the President today, or because some of my initiatives have been blocked by Congress — that happens to every President, happens to every governor, happens to everybody who participates — anybody who participates in a democracy.  You’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want all the time.

The reason this is important to me is, next year I’ll still hold the most important title of all, and that’s the title of citizen.  And as an American citizen, I understand that our progress is not inevitable — our progress has never been inevitable.  It must be fought for, and won by all of us, with the kind of patriotism that our fellow Illinoisan, Adlai Stevenson, once described not as a “short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”  It requires citizenship and a sense that we are one.

And today that kind of citizenship is threatened by a poisonous political climate that pushes people away from participating in our public life.  It turns folks off.  It discourages them, makes them cynical.  And when that happens, more powerful and extreme voices fill the void.  When that happens, progress stalls.  And that’s how we end up with only a handful of lobbyists setting the agenda.  That’s how we end up with policies that are detached from what working families face every day.  That’s how we end up with the well-connected who publicly demand that government stay out of their business but then whisper in its ear for special treatment.

That’s how our political system gets consumed by small things when we are a people that are called to do great things — to give everybody a shot in a changing economy; to keep America safe and strong in an uncertain world; to repair our climate before it threatens everything we leave for our kids.

So that’s what’s on my mind as I come back to Illinois today.  This is what will be a focus of mine over the course of this year and beyond:  What can we do, all of us, together, to try to make our politics better?  And I speak to both sides on this.  As all of you know, it could be better, and all of you would feel prouder of the work you do if it was better.

So, first, let’s put to rest a couple of myths about our politics.  One is the myth that the problems with our politics are new.  They are not.  American politics has never been particularly gentle or high-minded — especially not during times of great change.

As I mentioned when I visited a mosque in Maryland last week, Thomas Jefferson’s opponent tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim.  So I’m in good company.  (Laughter.) But that’s nothing compared to the newspaper which warned that if Jefferson were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”  (Laughter.)  His Vice President, Aaron Burr, literally killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel.  (Laughter.)  I don’t even want to tell you what Andrew Jackson’s opponents said about his mamma.  (Laughter.)  Lincoln, himself, was routinely called “weak, wishy-washy,” a “yahoo,” “an unshapely man,” “the obscene ape of Illinois,” and, my favorite — a “facetious pettifogger.”  I don’t know what that means — (laughter) –but it sounds insulting.

So, comparatively speaking, today is not that bad — as long as you’ve got a thick skin.  (Laughter.)  As Harold Washington once said:  “Politics ain’t beanbag.”  It’s tough.  And that’s okay.

There’s also the notion sometimes that our politics are broken because politicians are significantly more corrupt or beholden to big money than they used to be.  There’s no doubt that lobbyists still have easier access to the halls of power than the average American.  There’s a lot of work that we need to do to make sure that the system works for ordinary people and not just the well-connected.  That’s true at the federal level; that’s true at the state level.  Folks aren’t entirely wrong when they feel as if the system too often is rigged and does not address their interests.

But, relative to the past, listen, I’m confident we’ve got enough rules and checks to prevent anyone in my Cabinet from siphoning whiskey tax revenue into their own pockets like President Grant’s administration did.  Until FDR went after the ward bosses of Tammany Hall, they controlled judges and politicians as they pleased — patronage, bribery, and money laundering.  It’s not as easy as it was to whip up tens of thousands of phantom votes, whether in Chicago or South Texas.

From the Teapot Dome to Watergate, history tells us we should always be vigilant and demand that our public servants follow the highest ethical standards.  But the truth is that the kind of corruption that is blatant, of the sort that we saw in the past, is much less likely in today’s politics.  And the Justice Department and the media work hard to keep it that way.  And that’s a very good thing.  So we don’t want to romanticize the past and think somehow it’s a difference in the people being elected.

And it also isn’t true that today’s issues are inherently more polarizing than the past.  I remember, we endured four years of Civil War that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.  This country was divided on a fundamental question.

Before Pearl Harbor, entering into World War II was a highly charged debate.  The fault lines of Vietnam, the culture wars of the ‘60s — they still echo into our politics a half-century later.

We’ve been arguing since our founding over the proper size and role of government; the meaning of individual freedom and equality; over war and peace, and the best way to give all of our citizens opportunity.  And these are important debates that everybody should join, with all the rigor that a free people require.

My point is, the problem is not that politicians are worse, the problem is not that the issues are tougher.  And so it’s important for us to understand that the situation we find ourselves in today is not somehow unique or hopeless.  We’ve always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck.  And when that happens, we have to find a new way of doing business.

We’re in one of those moments.  We’ve got to build a better politics — one that’s less of a spectacle and more of a battle of ideas; one that’s less of a business and more of a mission; one that understands the success of the American experiment rests on our willingness to engage all our citizens in this work.

And that starts by acknowledging that we do have a problem. And we all know it.  What’s different today is the nature and the extent of the polarization.  How ideologically divided the parties are is brought about by some of the same long-term trends in our politics and our culture.  The parties themselves have become more homogenous than ever.  A great sorting has taken place that drove Southern conservatives out of the Democratic Party, Northern moderates out of the Republican Party, so you don’t have within each party as much diversity of views.

And you’ve got a fractured media.  Some folks watch FOX News; some folks read the Huffington Post.  And very often, what’s profitable is the most sensational conflict and the most incendiary sound bites.  And we can choose our own facts.  We don’t have a common basis for what’s true and what’s not.  I mean, if I listened to some of these conservative pundits, I wouldn’t vote for me either.  I sound like a scary guy.  (Laughter.)

You’ve got advocacy groups that, frankly, sometimes benefit from keeping their members agitated as much as possible, assured of the righteousness of their cause.  Unlimited dark money — money that nobody knows where it’s coming from, who’s paying — drowns out ordinary voices.  And far too many of us surrender our voices entirely by choosing not to vote.  And this polarization is pervasive and it seeps into our society to the point where surveys even suggest that many Americans wouldn’t want their kids to date someone from another political party.  Now, some of us don’t want our kids dating, period.  But that’s a losing battle. (Laughter.)

But this isn’t just an abstract problem for political scientists.  This has real impact on whether or not we can get things done together.  This has a real impact on whether families are able to support themselves, or whether the homeless are getting shelter on a cold day.  It makes a difference as to the quality of the education that kids are getting.  This is not an abstraction.

But so often, these debates, particularly in Washington but increasingly in state legislatures, become abstractions.  It’s as if there are no people involved, it’s just cardboard cutouts and caricatures of positions.  It encourages the kind of ideological fealty that rejects any compromise as a form of weakness.  And in a big, complicated democracy like ours, if we can’t compromise, by definition, we can’t govern ourselves.

Look, I am a progressive Democrat.  I am proud of that.  I make no bones about it.  (Applause.)   I’m going to make another point here.  I believe that people should have access to health care.  I believe they should have access to a good public education.  I believe that workers deserve a higher minimum wage. I believe that collective bargaining is critical to the prospects of the middle class, and that pensions are vital to retirement, as long as they’re funded responsibly.  (Applause.)

Hold on a second.  Hold on a second.  (Applause.)  Sit down, Democrats.  Sit down.  Sit down — just for a second.  I appreciate that, but I want to make this larger point.  (Laughter.)

I believe we’re judged by how we care for the poor and the vulnerable.  I believe that in order to live up to our ideals, we have to continually fight discrimination in all its forms.   (Applause.)  I believe in science, and the science behind things like climate change, and that a transition to cleaner sources of energy will help preserve the planet for future generations.  (Applause.)

I believe in a tough, smart foreign policy that says America will never hesitate to protect our people and our allies, but that we should use every element of our power and never rush to war.

Those are the things I believe.  But here’s the point I want to make.  I believe that there are a lot of Republicans who share many of these same values, even though they may disagree with me on the means to achieve them.  I think sometimes my Republican colleagues make constructive points about outdated regulations that may need to be changed, or programs that even though well-intended, didn’t always work the way they were supposed to.

And where I’ve got an opportunity to find some common ground, that doesn’t make me a sellout to my own party.  (Applause.)  That applies — (laughter) — well, we’ll talk later, Duncan.  (Applause.)  This is what happens, everybody starts cherry-picking.  (Laughter.)  One thing I’ve learned is folks don’t change.  (Laughter.)

So trying to find common ground doesn’t make me less of a Democrat or less of a progressive.  It means I’m trying to get stuff done.

And the same applies to a Republican who, heaven forbid, might agree with me on a particular issue — or if I said America is great, decided to stand during a State of Union.  It’s not a controversial proposition.  (Laughter.)  You’re not going to get in trouble.  (Applause.)

But the fact that that’s hard to do is a testament to how difficult our politics has become.  Because folks are worried, well, I’m going to get yelled at by you, or this blogger is going to write that, or this talk show host is going to talk about me, and suddenly I’ve got to challenger, and calling me a RINO or a not a real progressive.

So when I hear voices in either party boast of their refusal to compromise as an accomplishment in and of itself, I’m not impressed.  All that does is prevent what most Americans would consider actual accomplishments — like fixing roads, educating kids, passing budgets, cleaning our environment, making our streets safe.  (Applause.)

It cuts both ways, guys.  See, suddenly everybody is standing.  This is fascinating to watch.  (Laughter.)  The point is, it cuts both ways.

Our Founders trusted us with the keys to this system of self-government.  Our politics is the place where we try to make this incredible machinery work; where we come together to settle our differences and solve big problems, do big things together that we could not possibly do alone.  And our Founders anchored all this in a visionary Constitution that separates power and demands compromise, precisely to prevent one party, or one wing of a party, or one faction, or some powerful interests from getting 100 percent of its way.

So when either side makes blanket promises to their base that it can’t possibly meet — tax cuts without cuts to services — “everything will be fine, but we won’t spend any money” — war without shared sacrifice — “we’re going to be tough, but don’t worry, it will be fine” — union bashing or corporate bashing without acknowledging that both workers and businesses make our economy run — that kind of politics means that the supporters will be perennially disappointed.  It only adds to folks’ sense that the system is rigged.  It’s one of the reasons why we see these big electoral swings every few years.  It’s why people are so cynical.

Now, I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this.  These trends will not change overnight.  If I did, I would have already done them through an executive action.  (Laughter and applause.) That was just a joke, guys.  Relax.  (Laughter.)   A sense of humor is also helpful.

But I do want to offer some steps that we can take that I believe would help reform our institutions and move our system in a way that helps reflect our better selves.  And these aren’t particularly original, but I just want to go ahead and mention them.

First is to take, or at least reduce, some of the corrosive influence of money in our politics.  (Applause.)

Now, this year, just over 150 families — 150 families — have spent as much on the presidential race as the rest of America combined.  Today, a couple of billionaires in one state can push their agenda, dump dark money into every state — nobody knows where it’s coming from — mostly used on these dark ads, everybody is kind of dark and the worst picture possible.  (Laughter.)  And there’s some ominous voice talking about how they’re destroying the country.

And they spend this money based on some ideological preference that really is disconnected to the realities of how people live.  They’re not that concerned about the particulars of what’s happening in a union hall in Galesburg, and what folks are going through trying to find a job.  They’re not particularly familiar with what’s happening at a VFW post.  (Phone rings.)  Somebody’s phone is on.  (Laughter.)  In Carbondale.  They haven’t heard personally from farmers outside of the Quads and what they’re going through.  Those are the voices that should be outweighing a handful of folks with a lot of money.  I’m not saying the folks with a lot of money should have no voice; I’m saying they shouldn’t be able to drown out everybody else’s.

And that’s why I disagree with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  (Applause.)  I don’t believe that money is speech, or that political spending should have no limits, or that it shouldn’t be disclosed.  I still support a constitutional amendment to set reasonable limits on financial influence in America’s elections.

But amending the Constitution is an extremely challenging and time-consuming process — as it should be.  So we’re going to have to come up with more immediate ways to reduce the influence of money in politics.  There are a lot of good proposals out there, and we have to work to find ones that can gain some bipartisan support — because a handful of families and hidden interests shouldn’t be able to bankroll elections in the greatest democracy on Earth.

The second step towards a better politics is rethinking the way that we draw our congressional districts.  (Applause.)  Now, let me point this out — I want to point this out, because this is another case of cherry-picking here.  (Laughter.)  This tends to be popular in states where Democrats have been drawing the lines among Republicans, and less popular among Republicans where they control drawing the lines.  (Applause.)  So let’s be very clear here — nobody has got clean hands on this thing.  Nobody has got clean hands on this thing.

The fact is, today technology allows parties in power to precision-draw constituencies so that the opposition’s supporters are packed into as few districts as possible.  That’s why our districts are shaped like earmuffs or spaghetti.  (Laughter.)  It’s also how one party can get more seats even when it gets fewer votes.

And while this gerrymandering may insulate some incumbents from a serious challenge from the other party, it also means that the main thing those incumbents are worried about are challengers from the most extreme voices in their own party.  That’s what’s happened in Congress.  You wonder why Congress doesn’t work?  The House of Representatives there, there may be a handful — less than 10 percent — of districts that are even competitive at this point.  So if you’re a Republican, all you’re worried about is what somebody to your right is saying about you, because you know you’re not going to lose a general election.  Same is true for a lot of Democrats.  So our debates move away from the middle, where most Americans are, towards the far ends of the spectrum.  And that polarizes us further.

Now, this is something we have the power to fix.  And once the next census rolls around and we have the most up-to-date picture of America’s population, we should change the way our districts are drawn.  In America, politicians should not pick their voters; voters should pick their politicians.  (Applause.) And this needs to be done across the nation, not just in a select few states.  It should be done everywhere.  (Applause.)

Now, the more Americans use their voice and participate, the less captive our politics will be to narrow constituencies.  No matter how much undisclosed money is spent, no matter how many negative ads are run, no matter how unrepresentative a district is drawn, if everybody voted, if a far larger number of people voted, that would overcome in many ways some of these other institutional barriers.  It would make our politics better.

And that’s why a third step towards a better politics is making voting easier, not harder; and modernizing it for the way that we live now.  (Applause.)

Now, this shouldn’t be controversial, guys.  You liked the redistricting thing, but not letting people vote.  I should get some applause on that, too.  (Applause.)

Listen, three years ago, I set up a bipartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.  It had the election lawyers from my campaign and from Mitt Romney’s campaign.  They got together outside of the context of immediate politics.  And I actually want to thank this assembly for moving to adopt some of its recommendations.  Thanks to the good work of my dear friend, Senator Don Harmon, and many of you, there’s a new law going into effect this year that will allow Illinoisans to register and vote at the polls on Election Day.  (Applause.)  It expands early voting — something that makes it a lot easier for working folks and busy parents to go vote.

Think about it.  If you’re a single mom, and you’ve got to take public transportation to punch a clock, work round the clock, get home, cook dinner on a Tuesday in bad weather — that’s tough.  Why would we want to make it so that she couldn’t do it on a Saturday or a Sunday?  (Applause.)  How is that advancing our democracy?

So this law will make a difference.  I’m proud of my home state for helping to lead the way.

And we know this works.  In 2012 and 2014, the states with the highest voter turnout all had same-day registration.  So today, I ask every state in America to join us — reduce these barriers to voting.  Make it easier for your constituents to get out and vote.

And I’d encourage this assembly to take the next step.  Senator Manar and Representative Gabel have bills that would automatically register every eligible citizen to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.  That will protect the fundamental right of everybody.  Democrats, Republicans, independents, seniors, folks with disabilities, the men and women of our military — it would make sure that it was easier for them to vote and have their vote counted.

And as one of your constituents, I think you should pass that legislation right away.  (Applause.)  I think the Governor should sign it without delay.  (Applause.)  Let’s make the Land of Lincoln a leader in voter participation.  That’s something we should be proud to do.  (Applause.)  Let’s set the pace — encourage other states across the country to follow our lead, making automatic voter registration the new norm across America.

Now, just during the course of this talk, it’s been interesting to watch the dynamics, obviously.  (Laughter.)  In part because so much of our politics now is just designed for short-term, tactical gain.  If you think that having more voters will hurt you on Election Day, then suddenly you’re not interested in participation.  And if you think that the gerrymandering is helping you instead of hurting you, then you’re not for those proposals.

We get trapped in these things.  We know better.  If we were setting up a set of rules ahead of time, and you didn’t know where you stood, which party you were going to be in, if you didn’t have all the data and the poll numbers to tell you what’s going to give you an edge or not, you’d set up a system that was fair.  You’d encourage everybody to be part of it.  That’s what we learned in our civics books.  That’s how it should work.

The fact that we can’t do that, that brings me to my last point, which is, even as we change the way system works, we also have a responsibility to change the way that we, as elected officials and as citizens, work together.  Because this democracy only works when we get both right — when the system is fair, but also when we build a culture that is trying to make it work.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about something a friend of mine, Deval Patrick, once said to his constituents when he was governor of Massachusetts.  He said, “Insist from us and from each other a modicum of civility as the condition for serving you.”  This is what he told voters.  “Insist on us having a modicum of civility.”

I think that’s something that all of us, as Americans, have to insist from each other.  Our children are watching what we do. They don’t just learn it in school, they learn it by watching us — the way we conduct ourselves, the way we treat each other.  If we lie about each other, they learn it’s okay to lie.  If we make up facts and ignore science, then they just think it’s just their opinion that matters.  If they see us insulting each other like school kids, then they think, well, I guess that’s how people are supposed to behave.  The way we respect — or don’t — each other as citizens will determine whether or not the hard, frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government continues.

I’ve got daughters that are getting older now, and one of the most important things about being a parent I think is them just seeing what you do not when you’re out in public, not when you’re dealing with somebody important, but just how do you do — how do you treat people generally.  And it makes me much more mindful.  I want to live up to their expectations.

And in that same way, I want this democracy to live up to the people’s expectations.  We can’t move forward if all we do is tear each other down.  And the political incentives, as they are today, too often rewards that kind of behavior.  That’s what gets attention.  So it will require some courage just to act the way our parents taught us to act.  It shouldn’t, but in this political environment apparently it does.  We’ve got to insist to do better from each other, for each other.

Rather than reward those who’d disenfranchise any segment of America, we’ve got to insist that everybody arm themselves with information, and facts, and that they vote.  If 99 percent of us voted, it wouldn’t matter how much the 1 percent spends on our elections.  (Applause.)

Rather than reward the most extreme voices, or the most divisive language, or who is best at launching schoolyard taunts, we should insist on a higher form of discourse in our common life, one based on empathy and respect, — which does not mean you abandon principle.  It doesn’t mean you’re not tough.

Rather than paint those who disagree with us as motivated by malice, to suggest that any of us lack patriotism — we can insist, as Lincoln did, that we are not enemies, but friends; that our fellow Americans are not only entitled to a different point of view, but that they love this country as much as we do.

Rather than reward a 24/7 media that so often thrives on sensationalism and conflict, we have to stand up and insist, no, reason matters, facts matter; issues are complicated.  When folks just make stuff up, they can’t go unchallenged.  And that’s true for Democrats if you hear a Democratic make something up, and that’s true for a Republican if you see a Republican cross that line.

Rather than accept the notion that compromise is a sellout to one side, we’ve got to insist on the opposite — that it can be a genuine victory that means progress for all sides.  And rather than preventing our kids from dating people in other parties — well, I may have issues about dating, generally –(laughter) — but we can trust that we’ve raised our kids to do the right thing, and to look at the qualities of people’s character, not some label attached to them.

And maybe, most of all, whenever someone begins to grow cynical about our politics, or believes that their actions can’t make a difference or it’s not worth participating in, we’ve got to insist, even against all evidence to the contrary, that in fact they can make a difference.  And in this job of being a citizen of the United States of America, that’s a big deal.  It’s something we should revere and take seriously.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t always the giant that we think of today.  He lacked formal schooling.  His businesses and his law practices often struggled.  After just one term in Congress, his opposition to the Mexican-American War damaged his reputation so badly he did not run for reelection.  He was denounced as a traitor, a demagogue, an enemy sympathizer.  He returned to his law practice and admitted he was losing interest in politics entirely.

And then something happened that shook his conscience.  Congress effectively overturned the Missouri Compromise, that flawed and fragile law that had prohibited slavery in the North and legalized it in the South, but left the question ultimately unsettled.  And stunned by this news, Lincoln said he’d been roused “as he had never been before” over what it meant for America’s future.

And so, here in Springfield, at the state fair, he got back in the game and he delivered the first of his great anti-slavery speeches to a crowd of thousands.  And over the next six years, even as he lost two more political races, his arguments with Douglas and others shaped the national debate.  That’s when he uttered those brilliant words on the steps of the Old State Capitol that “A house divided against itself cannot stand;” that “this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.”

He became the first Republican President, and I believe our greatest President.  And through his will and his words and, most of all, his character, he held a nation together and he helped free a people.

And those victories did not solve all of our problems.  He would be attacked at times for the compromises he was prepared to make by abolitionists and folks from his own side.  It would be 100 years more until the law guaranteed African Americans the equal rights that they had been promised.  Even 50 years after that, our march is not yet finished.  But because Lincoln made that decision not to give up, and not to let other voices speak for him, and because he held in his mind the strength of principle but the vision, the ability to understand those who disagreed with him, and showed them respect even as he fought them — because of what he set in motion, generations of free men and women of all races and walks of life have had the chance to choose this country’s course.  What a great gift.  What a great legacy he has bestowed up.

And that’s the thing about America.  We are a constant work of progress.  And our success has never been certain, none of our journey has been preordained.  And there’s always been a gap between our highest ideals and the reality that we witness every single day.  But what makes us exceptional — what makes us Americans — is that we have fought wars, and passed laws, and reformed systems, and organized unions, and staged protests, and launched mighty movements to close that gap, and to bring the promise and the practice of America into closer alignment.  We’ve made the effort to form that “more perfect union.”

Nine years to the day that I first announced for this office, I still believe in that politics of hope.  And for all the challenges of a rapidly changing world, and for all the imperfections of our democracy, the capacity to reach across our differences and choose that kind of politics — not a cynical politics, not a politics of fear, but that kind of politics — sustained over the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime, that’s something that remains entirely up to us.

Thank you, Illinois.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)  It’s good to see all you.  I miss you guys.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END           2:04 P.M. CST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2016: Nikki Haley’s Republican response to State of the Union address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Republican response to State of the Union address Transcript

Source: CNN, 1-12-16

Transcript of Nikki Haley’s Republican response to the 2016 State of the Union address. As prepared for delivery.

“Good evening.

“I’m Nikki Haley, Governor of the great state of South Carolina.

“I’m speaking tonight from Columbia, our state’s capital city. Much like America as a whole, ours is a state with a rich and complicated history, one that proves the idea that each day can be better than the last.

“In just a minute, I’m going to talk about a vision of a brighter American future. But first I want to say a few words about President Obama, who just gave his final State of the Union address.

“Barack Obama’s election as president seven years ago broke historic barriers and inspired millions of Americans. As he did when he first ran for office, tonight President Obama spoke eloquently about grand things. He is at his best when he does that.

“Unfortunately, the President’s record has often fallen far short of his soaring words.

“As he enters his final year in office, many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels. We’re feeling a crushing national debt, a health care plan that has made insurance less affordable and doctors less available, and chaotic unrest in many of our cities.

“Even worse, we are facing the most dangerous terrorist threat our nation has seen since September 11th, and this president appears either unwilling or unable to deal with it.

“Soon, the Obama presidency will end, and America will have the chance to turn in a new direction. That direction is what I want to talk about tonight.

“At the outset, I’ll say this: you’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive.

“Neither am I. I see what you see. And many of your frustrations are my frustrations.

“A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same, endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept.

“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.

“We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken.

“And then we need to fix it.

“The foundation that has made America that last, best hope on earth hasn’t gone anywhere. It still exists. It is up to us to return to it.

“For me, that starts right where it always has: I am the proud daughter of Indian immigrants who reminded my brothers, my sister and me every day how blessed we were to live in this country.

“Growing up in the rural south, my family didn’t look like our neighbors, and we didn’t have much. There were times that were tough, but we had each other, and we had the opportunity to do anything, to be anything, as long as we were willing to work for it.

“My story is really not much different from millions of other Americans. Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America. They wanted better for their children than for themselves. That remains the dream of all of us, and in this country we have seen time and again that that dream is achievable.

“Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

“At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

“We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

“I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies.

“This past summer, South Carolina was dealt a tragic blow. On an otherwise ordinary Wednesdayevening in June, at the historic Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, twelve faithful men and women, young and old, went to Bible study.

“That night, someone new joined them. He didn’t look like them, didn’t act like them, didn’t sound like them. They didn’t throw him out. They didn’t call the police. Instead, they pulled up a chair and prayed with him. For an hour.

“We lost nine incredible souls that night.

“What happened after the tragedy is worth pausing to think about.

“Our state was struck with shock, pain, and fear. But our people would not allow hate to win. We didn’t have violence, we had vigils. We didn’t have riots, we had hugs.

“We didn’t turn against each other’s race or religion. We turned toward God, and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.

“We removed a symbol that was being used to divide us, and we found a strength that united us against a domestic terrorist and the hate that filled him.

“There’s an important lesson in this. In many parts of society today, whether in popular culture, academia, the media, or politics, there’s a tendency to falsely equate noise with results.

“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.

“Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs.

“If we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families, and we’d put the brakes on runaway spending and debt.

“We would encourage American innovation and success instead of demonizing them, so our economy would truly soar and good jobs would be available across our country.

“We would reform education so it worked best for students, parents, and teachers, not Washington bureaucrats and union bosses.

“We would end a disastrous health care program, and replace it with reforms that lowered costs and actually let you keep your doctor.

“We would respect differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.

“We would recognize the importance of the separation of powers and honor the Constitution in its entirety. And yes, that includes the Second and Tenth Amendments.

“We would make international agreements that were celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.

“And rather than just thanking our brave men and women in uniform, we would actually strengthen our military, so both our friends and our enemies would know that America seeks peace, but when we fight wars we win them.

“We have big decisions to make. Our country is being tested.

“But we’ve been tested in the past, and our people have always risen to the challenge. We have all the guidance we need to be safe and successful.

“Our forefathers paved the way for us.

“Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man. And woman.

“Thank you, good night, and God bless.”

Full Text Political Transcripts January 12, 2016: President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery State of the Union Address

Source: WH, 1-12-16

The White House is once again making the full text of the State of the Union widely available online. The text, as prepared for delivery, is also available on Medium and Facebook notes, continuing efforts to meet people where they are and make the speech as accessible as possible. Through these digital platforms, people can follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, share their favorite lines, and provide feedback.

WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union.  And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter.  I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.

I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low.  Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.  So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.

But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.  And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing.  Fixing a broken immigration system.  Protecting our kids from gun violence.  Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage.  All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.

But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year.  I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.

I want to focus on our future.

We live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world.  It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.  It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away.  It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.  And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights.  Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.  And each time, we overcame those fears.  We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”  Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.  We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people.  And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.

What was true then can be true now.  Our unique strengths as a nation – our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law – these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible.  It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.

But such progress is not inevitable.  It is the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer – regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact: the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history.  More than 14 million new jobs; the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s; an unemployment rate cut in half.  Our auto industry just had its best year ever.  Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.

Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.  What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up.  Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated.  Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition.  As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities.  And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing.  It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody.  We’ve made progress.  But we need to make more.  And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree.

We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering.  In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.

And we have to make college affordable for every American.  Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red.  We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income.  Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.

Of course, a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy.  We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.  After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber.  For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.  Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain.  But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build.

That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them.  And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today.  That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage.  Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far.  Health care inflation has slowed.  And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon.  But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security.  Say a hardworking American loses his job – we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him.  If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills.  And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.  That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone.

I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty.  America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.

But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years – namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.  And here, the American people have a choice to make.

I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy.  I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut.  But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.  In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.  And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.

In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.  This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country:  how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget.  We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon.

That spirit of discovery is in our DNA.  We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver.  We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride.  We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world.  And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.

We’ve protected an open internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.  We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.

But we can do so much more.  Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade.  Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

Medical research is critical.  We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record – until 2015 turned out even hotter – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?

Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.  Here are the results.  In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average.  We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.  Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.

Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.

Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy.  Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.  That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.  That way, we put money back into those communities and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.

None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.  But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve – that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve.

Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air.  Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period.  It’s not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead – they call us.

As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time. But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states.  The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.  Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition.  Even as their economy contracts, Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine and Syria – states they see slipping away from their orbit.  And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

It’s up to us to help remake that system.  And that means we have to set priorities.

Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.  Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.  They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies.

But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.

That’s exactly what we are doing.  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology.  With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons.  We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden.  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.

Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia.  Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis.  That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us.  It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq – and we should have learned it by now.

Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power.  It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.

That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.

That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping out that epidemic.

That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.  It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs.  With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do.  You want to show our strength in this century?  Approve this agreement.  Give us the tools to enforce it.

Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America.  That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere?  Recognize that the Cold War is over.  Lift the embargo.

American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity.  When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change – that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children.  When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend upon.  When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick, that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.  Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria – something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.

That’s strength.  That’s leadership.  And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.  That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo:  it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.

That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion.  This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong.  The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.  His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”  When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  And it betrays who we are as a country.

“We the People.”  Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together.  That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.

The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.

It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.  This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests.  That’s one of our strengths, too.  Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.  It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic.  Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us.  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention.  Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now.  It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task – or any President’s – alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected.  I know; you’ve told me.  And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.

We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.  We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.

But I can’t do these things on my own.  Changes in our political process – in not just who gets elected but how they get elected – that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It will depend on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

What I’m asking for is hard.  It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us.  To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.

It won’t be easy.  Our brand of democracy is hard.  But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far.  Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.  Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

They’re out there, those voices.  They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.

I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours.  I see you.  I know you’re there.  You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future.  Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time.

I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.

I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease.

I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over – and the business owner who gives him that second chance.  The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.

I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ‘til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.

It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.

I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

That’s the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  Because of you.  I believe in you.  That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

###

Full Text Political Transcripts January 8, 2016: President Barack Obama vetoes GOP Congress’ ObamaCare repeal the Reconciliation Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Veto Message from the President — H.R. 3762

Source: WH, 1-8-16

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course.

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 7, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at CNN “Guns In America” Town Hall

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at CNN “Guns In America” Town Hall

Source: WH, 1-7-16

George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia

8:00 P.M. EST

MR. COOPER: Good evening from George Mason University here in Fairfax, Virginia.  We are here tonight to talk about one of the most divisive issues in America today — guns.  Their protection is enshrined in the Constitution, in the Second Amendment, and gun ownership is an integral part of American history and culture.

There are some 30,000 gun deaths in America each year.  Two-thirds of them are suicides; one-third of them are homicides.  So the question we want to confront tonight is how you find a balance between protecting the rights of American citizens who want to own guns, but preventing guns from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

We brought together people here tonight who represent really all sides of the issue — gun owners, gun sellers, people who have survived shootings or lost loved ones.  Some here believe that having more guns makes us all safer, and believe the right to bear arms defines us, preserves us from tyranny and cannot be compromised in any way.  Others here tonight believe just as passionately that more needs to be done to limit the sale of firearms.  And we respect all of their views, and we want to hear from as many as we can tonight in the hour ahead.

One voice you will not hear from tonight is the National Rifle Association.  They’re the nation’s largest, most influential and powerful gun rights group.  We invited them to be here — I think their office is just a couple miles away.  They declined to take part.  Some of their members are here tonight, though.  We’re very thankful for that.  And so are representatives from the National Firearms Retailers Association.

This town hall is not something the White House dreamed up or that the White House organized.  CNN approached the White House shortly after the San Bernardino terror attack with this idea.  And we’re pleased that they agreed to participate and pleased to welcome tonight the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.

MR. COOPER:  Hello, Mr. President.  Welcome.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great to see you.

MR. COOPER:  Good to see you.  Let me start.  Have you ever owned a gun?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have never owned a gun.  Now, up at Camp David, we’ve got some skeet shooting, so on a fairly regular basis, we get a 12-gauge and — I’m not making any claims about my marksmanship.

MR. COOPER:  Before you were President, did you ever feel a desire to get a gun, feel the need to get a gun?

THE PRESIDENT:  I grew up mostly in Hawaii, and other than hunting for wild pig — which they do once in a while — there’s not the popularity of hunting and sportsmanship with guns as much as there are in other parts of the country.

MR. COOPER:  I mean, I ask the question because there’s a lot of people out there who don’t trust you, obviously, on the issue of guns.  You keep saying you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns.  But there’s a lot of people out there tonight watching who don’t believe you.  There are a lot of people in this room who, frankly, don’t believe you.  And it’s not just that you don’t really have personal experience having owned a gun, but that things you’ve said:  Support for Australia’s tough anti-gun policies.  They banned semi-automatic assault rifles.  They banned even shotguns in Australia.  You’ve praised their policies over and over.

Back in 2008, you said — you talked about “bitter Americans clinging to their guns.”  Even now, these executive actions have caused a lot of concern among a lot of people.  What can you say to somebody tonight to convince them that you don’t want to take away everybody’s guns and you’re not coming for their guns?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Anderson, I think it’s useful to keep in mind I’ve been now President for over seven years and gun sales don’t seem to have suffered during that time.

MR. COOPER:  If anything, actually —

THE PRESIDENT:  They’ve gone up.  I’ve been very good for gun manufacturers.  More importantly — I’ll tell you a story that I think indicates how I see the issue.

Back in 2007-2008, when I was campaigning, I’d leave Chicago, a city which is wonderful, I couldn’t be prouder of my city, but where every week there’s a story about a young person getting shot.  Some are gang members and it’s turf battles.  Sometimes it’s innocent victims.

MR. COOPER:  Fifty-five people have been shot in Chicago in the last seven days.

THE PRESIDENT:  Sometimes it’s happened just a few blocks from my house, and I live in a reasonably good neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

So that’s one image — talking to families who’ve gone through the pain of losing somebody because of violence in Chicago — gun violence.

Michelle and I are then campaigning out in Iowa, and we’re going to farms and we’re going to counties.  And at one point, Michelle turned to me and she said, you know, if I was living in a farmhouse, where the sheriff’s department is pretty far away, and somebody can just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I’d want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure that I was protected and my family was protected.  And she was absolutely right.

And so part of the reason I think that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities.  There are a whole bunch of law-abiding citizens who have grown up hunting with their dad, or going to the shooting range, and are responsible gun owners.  And then there’s the reality that there are neighborhoods around the country where it is easier for a 12 or 13-year-old to purchase a gun — and cheaper — than it is for them to get a book.

MR. COOPER:  But what you’re proposing, what you proposed this week, the executive actions, the other things, are they really going to be effective?  And I ask this because the vast majority of felons out there — I mean, we can all agree criminals should not get guns; we want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  The vast majority of criminals get their guns from — either illegally or from family or friends.  So background checks is not something that’s going to affect them, is it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but that’s not exactly accurate.  Look, first of all, it’s important for everybody to understand what I’ve proposed and what I haven’t proposed.  What I’ve said consistently throughout my presidency is I respect the Second Amendment; I respect the right to bear arms; I respect people who want a gun for self-protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship.  But all of us can agree that it makes sense to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who would try to do others harm, or to do themselves harm.

Because every year we’re losing 30,000 people to gun violence.  Two-thirds of those are actually suicides.  Hundreds of kids under the age of 18 are being shot or shooting themselves, often by accident — many of them under the age of five.  And so if we can combine gun safety with sensible background checks and some other steps, we’re not going to eliminate gun violence, but we will lessen it.  And if we take that number from 30,000 down to, let’s say, 28,000, that’s 2,000 families who don’t have to go through what the families at Newtown or San Bernardino or Charleston went through.

And so what we’ve proposed is that if you have a background check system that has a bunch of big loopholes, which is why a lot of criminals and people who shouldn’t have guns are able to get guns —

Q    But they’re not buying them at gun shows — only 1 percent of criminals are buying them at gun shows.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, but this is what happens.  Let’s go back to the city of Chicago that has strong gun control laws.  And oftentimes the NRA will point to that as an example and say, see, these things don’t work.  Well, the problem is, is that about 30, 40 percent of those guns are coming from Indiana, across the border, where there are much laxer laws.  And so folks will go to a gun show and purchase a whole bunch of firearms, put them in a van, drive up into Mike Pfleger’s neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where his parish is, open up the trunk, and those things are for sale.

Now, technically, you could say those folks bought them illegally, but it was facilitated by the fact that what used to be a small exception that said collectors and hobbyists don’t need to go through a background check has become this massive industry where people who are doing business are, in fact, saying that they’re not in the business of selling guns, but are.

And all we’re saying here is, is that we want to put everybody on notice that the definition of doing business — which means you have to register, and it means you have to run a background check — is if you are making a profit and repeatedly selling guns, then you should have to follow the same rules as every other gun dealer.  And what that means —

MR. COOPER:  There are a lot of people who believe that’s not specific enough because there’s a lot of fathers and sons who sell guns every now and then and at gun shows.  Are they going to have to now start doing background checks?  Are they going to start to have to register?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, what the Justice Department has done is provided a whole range of very specific examples.  And what we ultimately need I believe is for Congress to set up a system that is efficient, that doesn’t inconvenience the lawful gun seller or purchaser, but that makes sure that we’re doing the best background check possible.

And the fact, Anderson, that the system may not catch every single person, or there may be a circumstance where somebody doesn’t think that they have to register and do, and that may cause some red tape and bureaucracy for them, which — or inconvenience — has to be weighed against the fact that we may be able to save a whole bunch of families from the grief that some of the people in this audience have had to go through.

And keep in mind, for the gun owners who are in attendance here, my suspicion is, is that you all had to go through a background check and it didn’t prevent you from getting a weapon. And the notion that you should have to do that but there are a whole bunch of folks who are less responsible than you who don’t have to do it doesn’t make much sense.

So why we should resist this — keep in mind that, historically, the NRA was in favor of background checks.  Historically, many in the Republican Party were in favor of background checks.  And what’s changed is not that my proposals are particularly radical.  What’s changed is we’ve suddenly created an atmosphere in which I put out a proposal like background checks or, after Sandy Hook, was calling on Congress, along with people like Gabby Giffords, who herself was a victim of gun violence — we put out a proposal that is common sense, modest, does not claim to solve every problem, is respectful of the Second Amendment, and the way it is described is that we’re trying to take away everybody’s guns.

And part of the reason I welcomed this opportunity by CNN to have a good discussion and debate about it is because our position is consistently mischaracterized.  And, by the way, there’s a reason why the NRA is not here.  They’re just down the street, and since this is the main reason they exist, you’d think that they’d be prepared to have a debate with the President.

MR. COOPER:  They haven’t been to the White House for years.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, no — we’ve invited them.  We’ve invited them.

MR. COOPER:  So, right now, tonight, you’re saying you would be —

THE PRESIDENT:  We have invited them repeatedly.  But if you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over the top and so over-heated, and, most importantly, is not acknowledging the fact that there’s no other consumer item that we purchase —

Q    So is that an open invitation that —

THE PRESIDENT:  Hold on a second.  Let me finish this point, Cooper.  There’s nothing else in our lives that we purchase where we don’t try to make it a little safer if we can.  Traffic fatalities have gone down drastically during my lifetime.  And part of it is technology, and part of it is the National Highway Safety Administration does research and they figure out, you know what, seatbelts really work.  And then we passed some laws to make sure seatbelts are fastened.  Airbags make a lot of sense; let’s try those out.  Toys — we say, you know what, we find out that kids are swallowing toys all the time, let’s make sure that the toys aren’t so small that they swallow them if they’re for toddlers or infants.  Medicine — kids can’t open aspirin caps.

Now, the notion that we would not apply the same basic principles to gun ownership as we do to everything else that we own just to try to make them safer, or the notion that anything we do to try to make them safer is somehow a plot to take away guns, that contradicts what we do to try to create a better life for Americans in every other area of our lives.

MR. COOPER:  And just so I’m clear, tonight you’re saying you would welcome to meet with the NRA?

THE PRESIDENT:  Anderson, I’ve said this repeatedly — I’m happy to meet with them.  I’m happy to talk to them.  But the conversation has to be based on facts and truth and what we’re actually proposing, not some imaginary fiction in which Obama is trying to take away your guns.

The reason, by the way, that gun sales spike not just before I propose something — every time there is a mass shooting, gun sales spike.  And part of the reason is, is that the NRA has convinced many of its members that somebody is going come grab your guns — which is, by the way, really profitable for the gun manufacturers.  It’s a great advertising mechanism, but it’s not necessary.  There’s enough of a market out there for people who want protection, who are sportsmen, who wants to go hunting with their kids.  And we can make it safer.

MR. COOPER:  I want to open this up to people in our audience.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

MR. COOPER:  People have traveled far.  I want you to meet Taya Kyle.  She’s the widow of Chris Kyle, former Navy SEAL, author of “American Sniper.”  Taya wrote a book, “American Life: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal.”

Taya, we’re happy you’re here.  What do you want to ask the President?

Q    I appreciate you taking the time to come here.  And I think that your message of hope is something I agree with, and I think it’s great.  And I think that by creating new laws you do give people hope.  The thing is that the laws that we create don’t stop these horrific things from happening, right?  And that’s a very tough pill to swallow.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

Q    We want to think that we can make a law and people will follow it.  But by the very nature of their crime, they’re not following it.  By the very nature of looking at the people who hurt our loved ones here, I don’t know that any of them would have been stopped by the background check.  And yet — I crave that desire for hope, too.  And so I think, part of it, we have to recognize that we cannot outlaw murder, because the people who are murdering are — they’re breaking the law, but they also don’t have a moral code that we have.  And so they could do the same amount of damage with a pipe bomb.  The problem is that they want to murder.

And I’m wondering why it wouldn’t be a better use of our time to give people hope in a different way, to say, you know what, we — well, first of all, actually, let me back up to that. Because with the laws, I know that at least the last I heard, the federal prosecution of gun crimes was like 40 percent.  And what I mean by that is that there are people lying on these forms already, and we’re not prosecuting them.  So there’s an issue there, right?  But instead, if we can give people hope and say that also during this time, while you’ve been President, we are at the lowest murder rate in our country — all-time low of murders.  We’re at an all-time high of gun ownership, right?  I’m not necessarily saying that the two are correlated, but what I’m saying is that we’re at an all-time low for a murder rate.  That’s a big deal.

And yet, I think most of us in this country feel like it could happen at any moment.  It could happen to any of us at any time, at a moment’s notice.  When you talk about the NRA, and after a mass shooting that gun sales go up, I would argue that it’s not necessarily that I think somebody is going to come take my gun from me, but I want the hope, and the hope that I have the right to protect myself, that I don’t end up to be one of these families; that I have the freedom to carry whatever weapon I feel I need, just like your wife said on that farm.  The sheriff is not going to get to my house, either.  And I understand that background checks aren’t necessarily going to stop me from getting a gun, but I also know that they wouldn’t have stopped any of the people here in this room from killing.  And so it seems like almost a false sense of hope.

So why not celebrate where we are?  I guess that’s my real question — is celebrate that we’re good people, and 99.9 percent of us are never going to kill anyone.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  First of all, thanks to your husband for his service, and thank you for your service, because of extraordinary heroism that he and your family have shown in protecting all of us.  And I’m very grateful for that.

Number two, what you said about murder rates and violent crime generally is something that we don’t celebrate enough.  The fact of the matter is, is that violent crime has been steadily declining across America for a pretty long time.  And you wouldn’t always know it by watching television, but overall, most cities are much safer than they were 10 years ago or 20 years ago.

Now, I’d challenge the notion that the reason for that is because there’s more gun ownership, because if you look at where are the areas with the highest gun ownership, those are the places, in some cases, where the crime rate hasn’t dropped down that much.  And the places where there’s pretty stiff restrictions on gun ownership, in some of those places the crime has dropped really quickly.  So I’m not sure that there’s a one-to-one correlation there.

But I think the most important point I want to make is that you will be able to purchase a firearm.  Some criminals will get their hands on firearms even if there’s a background check.  Somebody may lie on a form.  Somebody will intend to commit a crime but they don’t have a record that shows up on the background check system.

But in the same way that we don’t eliminate all traffic accidents, but over the course of 20 years, traffic accidents get lower — there’s still tragedies, there’s still drunk drivers, there’s still people who don’t wear their seatbelts — but over time, that violence was reduced, and so families are spared.  That’s the same thing that we can do with gun ownership.

There is a way for us to set up a system where you, a responsible gun owner, who I’m assuming, given your husband and your family, is a much better marksman than I am, can have a firearm to protect yourself, but where it is much harder for somebody to fill up a car with guns and sell them to 13-year-old kids on the streets.  And that is I think what we’re trying to do.

What we’re also trying to do is make the database more effective — so that’s part of the proposal — which, by the way, will convenience you when you go to the store, because if we can set up a 24/7 background check system, then that means that it’s less likely that things slip through the cracks or it’s more difficult for you to get your background check completed.

And we’re also trying to close a loophole that has been developing over the last decade where now people are using cut-out trusts and shell corporations to purchase the most dangerous weapons — sawed-off shotguns, automatic weapons, silencers — and don’t have to go through background checks at all.  And we don’t know whether — are these sales going to drug traffickers? We don’t know who’s purchasing them right now.  And so what we’re saying is, you know what, that is something that we’ve got to do something about.

The same thing is true with Internet sales, where one study has shown that one out of 30 persons who are purchasing weapons over the Internet turn out to have a felony record.  And that’s not something you want to see.

MR. COOPER:  I think one question a lot of people have about you is do you believe the fundamental notion that a good guy with a gun or a good woman with a gun is an important bulwark against a bad person with a gun?  And before you answer, I want you to meet Kimberly Corban.  Kimberly was a college student in Colorado in 2006 — Kimberly is right over there.  She was raped by a man who broke into her apartment.  She testified for three hours in the trial against him.  Her attacker was sentenced to 24-years-to-life in prison.  And I know that attack, Kimberly, changed your view of handguns.  What’s your question for the President?

Q    Absolutely.  As a survivor of rape and now a mother to two small children, it seems like being able to purchase a firearm of my choosing, and being able to carry that wherever me and my family are, it seems like my basic responsibility as a parent at this point.  I have been unspeakably victimized once already, and I refuse to let that happen again to myself or my kids.  So why can’t your administration see that these restrictions that you’re putting to make it harder for me to own a gun, or harder for me to take that where I need to be is actually just making my kids and I less safe?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Kimberly, first of all, obviously, your story is horrific.  The strength you’ve shown in telling your story and being here tonight is remarkable.  And so I’m really proud of you for that.

I just want to repeat that there’s nothing that we’ve proposed that would make it harder for you to purchase a firearm. And now, you may be referring to issues like concealed carry, but those tend to be state-by-state decisions, and we’re not making any proposals with respect to what states are doing.  They can make their own decisions there.  So there really is no — nothing that we’re proposing that prevents you or makes it harder for you to purchase a firearm if you need one.

There are always questions as to whether or not having a firearm in the home protects you from that kind of violence.  And I’m not sure we can resolve that.  People argue it both sides.  What is true is, is that you have to be pretty well trained in order to fire a weapon against somebody who is assaulting you and catches you by surprise.  And what is also true is there’s always the possibility that that firearm in a home leads to a tragic accident.  We can debate that, round or flat.

But for now, what I just want to focus on is that you certainly would like to make it a little harder for that assailant to have also had a gun.  You certainly would want to make sure that if he gets released, that he now can’t do what he did to you to somebody else.  And it’s going to be easier for us to prevent him from getting a gun if there’s a strong background system in place — background check system in place.

And so if you look at the statistics, there’s no doubt that there are times where somebody who has a weapon has been able to protect themselves and scare off an intruder or an assailant.  But what is more often the case is that they may not have been able to protect themselves but they end up the victim of the weapon that they purchased themselves.  And that’s something that can be debated.  In the meantime, all I’m focused on is making sure that a terrible crime like yours that was committed is not made easier because somebody can go on the Internet and just buy whatever weapon they want without us finding out whether they’re a criminal or not.

MR. COOPER:  Kimberly, thank you for being here.  I appreciate it.

You talked about Chicago, and there’s a lot of folks from Chicago here tonight.  I want you to meet — or I want everybody to meet, because I know you’ve met her before, Cleo Pendleton.  She’s sitting over there.  And I should point out — I think I said it earlier — 55 shootings in Chicago in just the past seven days.  Cleo Pendleton, her daughter, Hadiya, performed at your second inauguration.  She was shot to death a little more than a week later.  She was 15 years old.  She was an honor student, a majorette.  And you being here tonight honors her, so thank you very much for being here.  What’s your question to the President?

Q    Well, I want to say thank you, first of all, for making it more difficult for guns to get in the hands of those that shouldn’t have them.  Thank you for the action you took on Tuesday.  But I want to ask a question — how can we stop the trafficking of guns from states with looser gun laws into states with tougher gun laws?  Because I believe that’s the case often in Chicago, and possibly the source of the gun that shot and murdered my daughter.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, it’s great to see you again.  And part of the reason that we do this is because when you meet parents of wonderful young people and they tell their stories, at least for me, I think of Malia and I think of Sasha and I think of my nieces and I think of my nephews.  And the pain that any of us go through with a loss like that is extraordinary. And I couldn’t be prouder of the families who are here representing both sides but who’ve been affected in those ways.

If we are able to set up a strong background check system — and my proposal, by the way, includes hiring — having the FBI hire a couple hundred more people to help process background checks, because they’re big numbers, you’re talking about 20 million checks that are getting done every year — hiring 200,000 — or 200 more ATF agents to be able to go after unscrupulous gun dealers, then that will apply across the country.

And so, some states may have laws that allow for conceal-and -carry; some states may not.  There’s still going to be differences.  But what will at least be consistent across the country is that it’s a little bit harder to get a gun.

Now, we can’t guarantee that criminals are not going to have ways of getting guns.  But, for example, it may be a little more difficult and a little more expensive, and the laws of supply and demand mean that if something is harder to get and it’s a little more expensive to get, then fewer people get them.  And that, in and of itself, could make a difference.

So if somebody is a straw purchaser — and what that means is they don’t intend the guns for themselves, they intend to resell them to somebody else — they go to a gun show in Indiana, where right now they don’t have to do a background check, load up a van, and open up that van and sell them to kids in gangs in Chicago — if now that person has to go through a background check, they’ve got to register, ATF has the capacity then to find out if and when a gun is used in a crime in Chicago where that gun had come from.  And now you know here’s somebody who seems to be willing to sell a gun to a 15-year-old who had a known record.

MR. COOPER:  But you’re only going to be asking people to get a license and do background checks if they give out business cards, if they’re selling weapons that are in the original packaging.  Somebody just walking around a gun show selling a weapon is not necessarily going to have to register.

THE PRESIDENT:  No — look, there’s going to be a case-by-case evaluation:  Are they on an ongoing basis making a profit and are they repeatedly selling firearms.

MR. COOPER:  I want you to meet Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, Arizona.  He’s a Republican running for Congress.  After the recent terror attacks, Sheriff, I know you’ve been telling citizens to arm themselves to protect their families.  What’s your question to the President?

Q    Well, first, deputies’ slow response time has been mentioned a couple times.  I want to be clear that my deputies have a very fast emergency response —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sure that’s true.

Q    Yes.  Mr. President, you’ve said you’ve been thwarted by — frustrated by Congress.  As a sheriff, I oftentimes get frustrated.  But I don’t make the laws and I’ve sworn an oath to enforce the law, to uphold the Constitution, the same oath you’ve taken.  And the talk and why we’re here is all these mass shootings, and yet you’ve said in your executive action it wouldn’t have solved even one of these or the terrorist attack —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I didn’t say that.  I didn’t say that it wouldn’t solve one.

Q    Well, looking at the information, what would it have solved?  Now, knowing —

MR. COOPER:  None of the recent mass shootings, I should point out, none of the guns were purchased from an unlicensed dealer.

Q    Correct.  And that’s what I’m speaking to — the executive action that you mentioned earlier.  Aspirin, toys, or cars, they’re not written about in the Constitution.  I want to know — and I think all of us really want to get to the solution, and you said don’t talk past each other — what would you have done to prevent these mass shootings and the terrorist attack?  And how do we get those with mental illness and criminals — that’s the real problem here — how are we going to get them to follow the laws?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, appreciate your service.  Good luck on your race.  You sure you want to go to Congress?

Q    I don’t want to talk about —

THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughter.)  I’m sure that’s true.  That will hurt you.  And I’m sure it’s a Republican district.  (Laughter.)

Look, crime is always going to be with us.  So I think it’s really important for us not to suggest that if we can’t solve every crime, we shouldn’t try to solve any crimes.  (Applause.)

And the problem when we talk about that guns don’t kill people; people kill people, or it’s primarily a mental health problem, or it’s a criminal and evil problem and that’s what we have to get at — all of us are interested in fighting crime.  I’m very proud of the fact that violent crime rates have continued to go down during the course of my presidency.  I’ve got an Attorney General, an FBI that works very closely with local law enforcement in busting up crime rings all the time.  That’s a huge priority to us.  And we’re probably providing grants to your department to help go after criminals.

The challenge we have is that in many instances, you don’t know ahead of time who’s going to be the criminal.  It’s not as if criminals walk around with a label saying, “I’m a criminal.”  And, by the way, the young man who killed those kids in Newtown, he didn’t have a criminal record, and so we didn’t know ahead of time, necessarily, that he was going to do something like that. But he was able to have access to an arsenal that allowed him in very short order to kill an entire classroom of small children.  And so the question then becomes, are there ways for us — since we can’t identify that person all the time, are there ways for us to make it less lethal when something like that happens?

And I mentioned this during my speech at the White House a couple of days ago.  Right around the time of Newtown, in China, a guy who was obviously similarly deranged had a knife and started attacking a bunch of schoolchildren.  About the same number were cut or stabbed by this guy.  But most of them survived.  And the reason was because he wasn’t yielding a semi-automatic.

So the main point I think that I want to make here is that everybody here is in favor of going after criminals, locking them up, making sure that we’re creating an environment where kids don’t turn into criminals and providing the support that they need.  Those are all important things.  Nobody is saying we need to be going soft on criminals.

What we do have to make sure of is that we don’t make it so easy for them to have access to deadly weapons.  In neighborhoods like Chicago — I keep on using Chicago — this is all across the country.  You go into any neighborhood, it used to be that parents would see some kids messing around on the corner and they’d say, “Yo” — even if they weren’t the parent of those children — “go back inside, stop doing that.”  And over time, it was a lot harder to discipline somebody else’s kid and have the community maintain order, or talk to police officers if somebody is doing something wrong, because now somebody is worried about getting shot.

And if we can create an environment that’s just a little bit safer in those communities, that will help.  And if it doesn’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, and it doesn’t infringe on your Second Amendment rights, and you’re still able to get a firearm for your protection, why wouldn’t we want to do that?

MR. COOPER:  We’ve got to take a break.  (Applause.)  We’re going to take a quick break.  Our live town hall conversation, “Guns in America,” with President Barack Obama continues right after this.

* * * *

MR. COOPER:  And welcome back.  We’re live at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, continuing our live town hall conversation with President Barack Obama, “Guns In America,” talking to voices from all sides of the issue, including the President.

You made your announcement just the other day in a very obviously emotional ceremony at the White House.  And I want to play just a moment from it for those who haven’t seen it.

(Video is shown.)

I think a lot of people were surprised by that moment.

THE PRESIDENT:  I was, too, actually.  I visited Newtown two days after what happened, so it was still very raw.  It’s the only time I’ve ever seen Secret Service cry on duty.  And it wasn’t just the parents.  You had siblings — 10-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 3-year-olds, who, in some cases, didn’t even understand that their brother or sister weren’t going to be coming home.  And I’ve said this before — it continues to haunt me.  It was one of the worst days of my presidency.

But, look, I want to emphasize that there are a lot of tragedies that happen out there as a consequence of the victims of crime.  There are police officers who are out there laying down their lives to protect us every single day.  And tears are appropriate for them, as well, and I visit with those families, as well — victims of terrorism, soldiers coming home.

There’s a lot of heartache out there.  And I don’t suggest that this is the only kind of heartache we should be working on. I spent a lot of time and a lot of hours — in fact, a lot more hours than I spend on this — trying to prevent terrorist attacks.  I spend a lot of time and a lot of hours trying to make sure that we’re continuing to reduce our crime rate.

There are a whole bunch of other answers that are just as important when it comes to making sure that the streets of places like Chicago and Baltimore are safer.  Making sure kids get a good early childhood education.  Making sure that we’re teaching conflict resolution that doesn’t involve violence.  Making sure that faith communities are able to reach out to young people and intervene in timely ways.

So this is not a recipe for solving every problem.  Again, I just want to emphasize that the goal here is just to make progress.  And it’s interesting, as I enter into my last year as President, I could not be prouder of the work that we’ve done. But it also makes you really humble, because you realize that change takes a long time and a lot of the work you do is just to incrementally make things better so that, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, the crime rate has gone down.

That’s not just because of my administration.  That’s the groundwork that was laid by a bunch of good work by law enforcement and others for years, across administrations, on a bipartisan basis.

The same is true with traffic safety.  The same is true with advances in medicine.  The same can be true with this if we stop exaggerating or mischaracterizing the positions of either side and we just come up with some sensible areas that people agree with.  Background checks are an example:  The majority of gun owners agree with this.

MR. COOPER:  You talk about faith communities.  Father Michael Pfleger is here.  I know you know him well.  He’s a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago.  For those who don’t know, his church is St. Sabina on the South Side of Chicago.  I was there about a month ago.  It was a great honor to be there.

Father, you’ve given a lot of eulogies for a lot of kids in your community.  Far too many over the 40 years that you have been there.  What your question for the President?

Q    Mr. President, first of all, thank you for your courage and your passion, and keep pushing.  I happen to be from one of those cities where violence is not going down.  Not only, as Anderson mentioned, the 55 shot, there’s been 11 killed in seven days in Chicago.  And one of the main reasons for that is the easy access to guns.  It’s easier to get a gun in my neighborhood than it is a computer.  And the reality is, is because many of those guns have been bought legally.  And I understand why people are pushing against you, because I understand it’s a business and it’s about a business, and so if we cut back the easy access to guns, less money for gun manufacturers, less money for the gun lobby.  I understand the business of it.  But that business is causing blood and the kids that are dying in Chicago.  And for many years, nobody even cared about Chicago because the violence is primarily black and brown.

The reality is that I don’t understand why we can’t title guns just like cars.  If I have a car and I give it to you, Mr. President, and I don’t transfer a title and you’re in an accident, it’s on me.  We don’t take cars away by putting titles on them.  Why can’t we do that with guns and every gun in America?  So if somebody who’s buying 200 guns, selling them on the streets, if they can’t transfer those titles, then they’re going to be held responsible for the guns that they sell.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Father Mike, first of all, for those of you who don’t know him, has been working since before I moved to Chicago, and I was a 23-year-old when I first met him.  And somehow I aged and he didn’t.  (Laughter.)

MR. COOPER:  Your gray hair is not going back, I can tell you from experience.

THE PRESIDENT:  He was always the best-looking priest in Chicago.  (Laughter.)  But Father Pfleger has done heroic work at St. Sabina Parish.

Issues like licensing, registration, that’s an area where there’s just not enough national consensus at this stage to even consider it.  And part of it is, is people’s concern that that becomes a prelude to taking people’s guns away.  I mean, part of the challenge in this is that the gun debate gets wrapped up in broader debates about whether the federal government is oppressive.  And there are conspiracy theories floating around the Internet these days all the time.  We did a military exercise in Texas, and a whole bunch of folks were sure that this was the start of martial law, and were suggesting maybe don’t cooperate with the United States Army in an effort to prepare so that if they get deployed overseas, they can handle it.  But that’s how difficult sometimes these debates are.

But I want to pick up on some things where I think there should be consensus.  One of those areas that I talked about at the speech, part of the proposal is developing smart gun technology.  Now, this is an interesting example.  I don’t exactly understand this, and maybe there will be somebody in the audience who explains it to me.  Back in 1997, the CEO of Colt said we can design, or are starting to develop guns where you can only use it if you’ve got a chip, where you wear a band or a bracelet, and that then protects your 2-year-old or 3-year-old from picking up the gun and using it.  And a boycott was called against him, and they had to back off of developing that technology.  The same with Smith & Wesson.  They were in the process of developing similar technology, and they were attacked by the NRA as “surrendering.”

Now, to me, this does not make sense.  If you are a gun owner, I would think that you would at least want a choice so that if you wanted to purchase a firearm that could only be used by you — in part to avoid accidents in your home, in part to make sure that if it’s stolen, it’s not used by a criminal, in part, if there’s an intruder, you pull the gun but somehow it gets wrested away from you, that gun can’t be turned on you and used on you — I would think there might be a market for that.  You could sell that gun.

Now, I’m not saying that necessarily would be the only gun that’s available, but it seems to me that that would be something that in any other area, in any other product, any other commercial venture, there would be some research and development on that because that’s a promising technology.

It has not been developed primarily because it’s been blocked by either the NRA, which is funded by gun manufacturers, or other reasons.  In part, what we proposed was, you know what, we’re going to do some of the research.  We’ll work with the private sector.  (Applause.)  We’ll figure out whether or not this technology can be developed — (applause) — and then give everybody a choice in terms of the kind of firearm that they want to purchase — because I think that there will, in fact, be a market for that.  And over time, that’s an example of how we could reduce some of the preventable gun deaths that are out there.

MR. COOPER:  I want to bring in somebody who actually knows a lot about selling guns.  I want you to meet Kris Jacob.  He’s vice president of the American Firearms Retailers Association.  He’s the owner of the Bullseye Indoor Shooting Range and gun store in San Rafael, California.  Kris, it’s great to have you here.  First of all, how is business under President Obama?  Because everything I read says gun sales have been going up.  Every time he talks about guns, gun sales go up.

Q    It’s been busy.  And certainly I think that shows, as Taya said earlier, that there’s a very serious concern in this country about personal security.  And the sheriff is right — they do everything they possibly can to make sure they get there as quickly as they possibly can.  And my question is actually focused around law enforcement, as well.  There’s 53,000 licensed gun dealers in the United States who stand behind the counter and say no to people all day.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.

Q    We feel it’s our responsibility to make sure that people who have a criminal past, people who are mentally ill or are having a bad day don’t get possession of firearms.  So we assist law enforcement all the time in the process of making sure that those things don’t change hands inside our commercial market if they shouldn’t.  It’s a very serious responsibility for us, and as a group, we take it very seriously.

My question is around the executive order related to the investigators, the inspectors, the adding of 200 inspectors who are more on the auditing and record-keeping side.  Why not add 200 ATF agents on the law enforcement side to keep the criminals and the bad guys out of the stores in the first place?  I mean, the problem seems to me to be — you mentioned dealers who are less responsible than others, and certainly it’s possible that those folks are out there, but if we can enforce the laws that already exist, the tens of thousands of gun laws that are on the books right now, it might create a very significant deterrent in just getting those people in the stores.

MR. COOPER:  Let me also point out the number of ATF agents during your administration has actually declined.  So even if you hired 200 more —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, but not because of my budget.

MR. COOPER:  But even if you hired 200 more, it will get it to what it was right before you took office.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  Well, look, first of all, there are a whole bunch of responsible gun dealers out there.  And my hope would be that those gun dealers would support making sure that everybody is following the same rules that they are.  That’s number one.

Number two is we’re not writing a new law.  Only Congress can do that.  This is about enforcing existing laws, and closing what has grown into a massive loophole where a huge percentage of guns — many of whom end up being traced to crime — are not going through the responsible gun dealers, but are going through irresponsible folks who are not registered as doing business.  And the whole goal here is to clarify and to put on notice that if you’re a business, even if you don’t have bricks and mortar, then you’re supposed to register, you’re supposed to conduct background checks.  So the issue is not where you do it, it’s what you’re doing.  And that should not be something that threatens responsible gun dealers across the country.

In terms of the ATF, it is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank because — has been shrunk — it’s a little late — (laughter) — you knew what I meant — (laughter) — and part of it is because the politicizing of this issue.  So many in the Republican Congress feel as if the ATF is not their friend, but their enemy.  Part of the story I was telling —

MR. COOPER:  You said this issue should be politicized, though.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, but what I mean by that, Anderson, is, is that they have been portrayed as trying to take people’s guns away as opposed to trying to make sure that the laws are enforced.  And one of the most frustrating things that I hear is when people say — who are opposed to any further laws — why don’t you just enforce the laws that are on the books, and those very same members of Congress then cut ATF budgets to make it impossible to enforce the law.  (Applause.)

And by the way, the ATF is a law enforcement agency working under the FBI that is doing enormous work in going after criminals and drug cartels, and have a pretty dangerous job.  So it’s not as if doing background checks or auditing gun sales is all that they’re doing.

Part of my proposal is also developing better technologies so that we can do tracing of shells when a crime is committed in order to figure out who exactly are the perpetrators of the crime and where did they obtain the weapon.  So there’s a whole bunch of other elements to this that are going to be important.  But my hope is, is that responsible gun dealers like yourself and your organization are going to be supportive of this proposal, because it should actually help push away unscrupulous dealers and that means more customers for you guys.

MR. COOPER:  I want to bring in Mark Kelly.  As you know, a former astronaut, husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who we’re proud to say is here tonight.  Five years ago this week in Tucson, Arizona, Congresswoman Giffords was shot.  Six others were killed.  Captain, your question?

Q    Well, thank you for being here, Mr. President.  As you know, Gabby and I are both gun owners.  We take gun ownership very seriously and really think about the voices of responsible gun owners in this debate.  But I want to follow up to something Father Pfleger said and your answer to his question, and it’s about expanded background checks.  Often, what you hear in the debate of expanding background checks to more gun sales — and, as you know, Gabby and I are 100 percent behind the concept of somebody getting a background check before buying a gun — but when we testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we heard not only from the gun lobby but from United States senators that expanding background checks will — not may — will lead to a registry, which will lead to confiscation, which will lead to a tyrannical government.

So I would like you to explain, with 350 million guns in 65 million places, households, from Key West to Alaska — 350 million objects in 65 million places — if the federal government wanted to confiscate those objects, how would they do that?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, first of all, every time I see Gabby, I’m just so thrilled because I visited her in the hospital, and, as I mentioned I think in the speech in the White House, as we left the hospital then to go to a memorial service, we got word that Gabby had opened her eyes for the first time.  And we did not think that she was going to be here, and she is.  And Mark has just been extraordinary.  And, by the way, Mark’s twin brother is up in space right now and is breaking the record for the longest continuous orbiting of the planet, which is pretty impressive stuff.

What I think Mark is alluding to is what I said earlier — this notion of a conspiracy out there, and it gets wrapped up in concerns about the federal government.  Now, there’s a long history of that.  That’s in our DNA.  The United States was born suspicious of some distant authority.

MR. COOPER:  But let me just jump in — is it fair to call it a conspiracy?  I mean, there’s a lot of people who really believe this deeply — that they just don’t trust you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m sorry, Cooper, yes it is fair to call it a conspiracy.  What are you saying?  (Applause.)  Are you suggesting that the notion that we are creating a plot to take everybody’s guns away so that we can impose martial law —

MR. COOPER:  Not everybody, but there is certainly a lot of people —

THE PRESIDENT:  — is a conspiracy?  Yes, that is a conspiracy.  I would hope that you would agree with that.  (Applause.)  Is that controversial except on some websites around the country?

MR. COOPER:  There are certainly a lot of people who just have a fundamental distrust that you do not want to get — go further and further and further down this road.

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I mean, I’m only going to be here for another year.  I don’t know — when would I have started on this enterprise, right?  (Laughter.)

I come from the state of Illinois, which — we’ve been talking about Chicago, but downstate Illinois is closer to Kentucky than it is to Chicago.  And everybody hunts down there and a lot of folks own guns.  And so this is not, like, alien territory to me.  I’ve got a lot of friends like Mark who are hunters.  I just came back from Alaska, where I ate a moose that had just been shot — and it was pretty good.

So, yes, it is a false notion that I believe is circulated for either political reasons or commercial reasons in order to prevent a coming together among people of goodwill to develop common-sense rules that will make us safer while preserving the Second Amendment.

And the notion that we can’t agree on some things while not agreeing on others and the reason for that is because, well, the President secretly wants to X would mean that we’d be paralyzed about doing everything.  I mean, maybe when I proposed to make sure that unsafe drugs are taken off the market that, secretly, I’m trying to control the entire drug industry, or take people’s drugs away.  But probably not.  What’s more likely is I just want to make sure that people are not dying by taking bad drugs.

MR. COOPER:  You wrote an op-ed that just got published.  A lot of people probably have not read it yet.  One of the things you say in it is that you are not going to campaign for, vote for any candidate, regardless of what party they’re in, if they do not support common-sense gun reform.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  I meant what I said.  And the reason I said that is this.  The majority of people in this country are a lot more sensible than what you see in Washington, and the reason that Washington doesn’t work well in part is because the loudest, shrillest voices, the least compromising, the most powerful or those with the most money have the most influence.

And the way Washington changes is when people vote.  And the way we break the deadlock on this issue is when Congress does not have just a stranglehold on this debate — or, excuse me — the NRA does not have a stranglehold on Congress in this debate — (applause) — but it is balanced by a whole bunch of folks — gun owners, law enforcement, the majority of the American people — when their voices are heard, then things get done.

The proposals that we’ve put forward are a version — a lawful, more narrow version — of what was proposed by Joe Manchin and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican and a Democrat, both of whom get straight-A scores from the NRA.  And somehow, after Newtown, that did not pass the Senate.  The majority of senators wanted it, but 90 percent of Republicans voted against it.  And I’ll be honest with you, 90 percent of those senators didn’t disagree with the proposal, but they were fearful that it was going to affect them during the election.

So all I’m saying is, is that this debate will not change and get balanced out so that lawful gun owners and their Second Amendment rights are protected, but we’re also creating a pathway towards a safer set of communities — it’s not going to change until those who are concerned about violence are not as focused and disciplined during election time as those who are.  And I’m going to throw my shoulders behind folks who want to actually solve problems instead of just getting a high score from an interest group.  (Applause.)

MR. COOPER:  We have time for one more question.  And we talked about Chicago a little bit.  We haven’t really heard from young people tonight — no offense to those who have spoken.  (Laughter.)  I’m in the same category as you all.  Sorry, Father.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re a kid.

MR. COOPER:  There’s a lot of kids, as you know, growing up in Chicago, fearful of walking to school, fearful of coming home from school.  A lot of kids have been killed on buses.  There’s a lot of moms of kids who have been killed in the streets of Chicago.  And I want you to meet Trey Bosley.  He’s 18 years old. He’s a high school student.  And his brother Terrell was shot and killed nearly 10 years ago while he was helping a friend in a church parking lot.  Terrell would have turned 28 years old on this Tuesday.  What’s your question, Trey?

Q    As you said, I lost my brother a few years ago — well, 10 years ago.  And I’ve also lost a countless amount of family members and friends to gun violence, as well.  And just growing up as a young black teen in Chicago, where you’re surrounded by not only just gun violence but police brutality, as well, most of aren’t thinking of our life on a long-term scale.  Most of us are either thinking day to day, hour to hour — for some, even minute to minute.  I want to thank you for your stand against gun violence for not only the victims of gun violence, but those on the verge of being victims of gun violence.  And my question to you is, what is your advice to those youth growing up surrounded by poverty and gun violence?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Trey, I couldn’t be prouder of you.  And I know — is that your momma next to you?  I know she’s proud of you right now.  So good job, Mom.

When I see you, Terrell, I think I about my own —

MR. COOPER:  Trey.

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me — Trey.  When I see you, I think about my own youth, because I wasn’t that different from you.  Probably not as articulate and maybe more of a goof-off.  But the main difference was I lived in a more forgiving environment.  If I screwed up, I wasn’t at risk of getting shot.  I’d get a second chance.  There were a bunch of folks who were looking out for me, and there weren’t a lot of guns on the streets.  And that’s how all kids should be growing up, wherever they live.

My advice to you is to continue to be an outstanding role model for the young ones who are coming up behind you.  Keep listening to your mom.  Work hard and get an education.  Understand that high school and whatever peer pressure or restrictions you’re under right now won’t matter by the time you’re a full adult, and what matters is your future.  But what I also want to say to you is, is that you’re really important to the future of this country.

And I think it is critical in this debate to understand that it’s not just inner-city kids who are at risk in these situations.  Out of the 30,000 deaths due to gun violence, about two-thirds of them are actually suicides.  That’s part of the reason why we are investing more heavily also in mental health under my proposal.

But while the majority of victims of gun homicide are black or Hispanic, the overwhelming majority of suicides by young people are white.  And those, too, are tragedies.  Those, too, are preventable.  I’m the father of two outstanding young women, but being a teenager is tough.  And we all remember the times where you get confused, you’re angry, and then the next thing you know, if you have access to a firearm what kind of bad decisions you might make.  So those are deaths we also want to prevent.

Accidental shootings are also deaths we want to prevent.  And we’re not going to prevent all of them.  But we can do better.  We’re not going to, through this initiative alone, solve all the problems of inner-city crime.  Some of that, as I said, has to do with investing in these communities and making sure there’s good education and jobs and opportunity — (applause) — and great parents, and moral responsibility, and ethical behavior, and instilling that in our kids — that’s going to be important.

So this is not a proposal to solve every problem.  It’s a modest way of us getting started on improving the prospects of young men and young women like you, the same way we try to improve every other aspect of our lives.  That’s all it is.

And if we get started — as I said before, it used to be people didn’t wear seatbelts, didn’t have airbags.  It takes 20, 30 years, but you look and then you realize all these amazing lives of young people like this who are contributing to our society because we came together in a practical way, looking at evidence, looking at data, and figured out how can we make that work better.

Right now, Congress prohibits us even studying through the Center for Disease Control ways in which we could reduce gun violence.  That’s how crazy this thing has become.  Let’s at least figure out what works.  And some of the proposals that I’m making may turn out are not as effective as others.  But at least let’s figure it out, let’s try some things.  Let’s not just assume that — every few weeks there’s a mass shooting that gets publicity, every few months there’s one that gets national publicity, every day there are a whole bunch of folks shot on streets around the country that we don’t even hear about.  That is not something that we can be satisfied with.

And part of my faith and hope in America is just that — not that we achieve a perfect union, but that we get better.  And we can do better than we’re doing right now if we come together.  (Applause.)

Thank you.

MR. COOPER:  Mr. President, thank you very much for your time.

THE PRESIDENT:  Appreciate it very much.

                             END           9:13 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts January 5, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Statement Announcing Gun Control Executive Actions

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform

Source: WH, 1-5-16

East Room

11:43 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.

Mark, I want to thank you for your introduction.  I still remember the first time we met, the time we spent together, and the conversation we had about Daniel.  And that changed me that day.  And my hope, earnestly, has been that it would change the country.

Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last.  Fort Hood.  Binghamton.  Aurora.  Oak Creek.  Newtown.  The Navy Yard.  Santa Barbara.  Charleston.  San Bernardino.  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Too many.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks to a great medical team and the love of her husband, Mark, my dear friend and colleague, Gabby Giffords, survived.  She’s here with us today, with her wonderful mom.  (Applause.)  Thanks to a great medical team, her wonderful husband, Mark — who, by the way, the last time I met with Mark  — this is just a small aside — you may know Mark’s twin brother is in outer space.  (Laughter.)  He came to the office, and I said, how often are you talking to him?  And he says, well, I usually talk to him every day, but the call was coming in right before the meeting so I think I may have not answered his call — (laughter) — which made me feel kind of bad.  (Laughter.)    That’s a long-distance call.  (Laughter.)  So I told him if his brother, Scott, is calling today, that he should take it.  (Laughter.)  Turn the ringer on.  (Laughter.)

I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn’t think necessarily at that point that she was going to survive.  And that visit right before a memorial — about an hour later Gabby first opened her eyes.  And I remember talking to mom about that.  But I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years, and the rehabilitation and the work and the effort to recover from shattering injuries.

And then I think of all the Americans who aren’t as fortunate.  Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000.  Suicides.  Domestic violence.  Gang shootouts.  Accidents.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children.  Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life.

A number of those people are here today.  They can tell you some stories.  In this room right here, there are a lot of stories.  There’s a lot of heartache.  There’s a lot of resilience, there’s a lot of strength, but there’s also a lot of pain.  And this is just a small sample.

The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people.  We are not inherently more prone to violence.  But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency.  It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.  It’s not even close.  And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.

And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates — despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done.  That’s part of the reason why, on Thursday, I’m going to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on gun violence.  Because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion.

I’m not on the ballot again.  I’m not looking to score some points.  I think we can disagree without impugning other people’s motives or without being disagreeable.  We don’t need to be talking past one another.  But we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it.  In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now.”  Because people are dying.  And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice.

That’s why we’re here today.  Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one.  (Applause.)  To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.

Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start — and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do — I believe in the Second Amendment.  It’s there written on the paper.  It guarantees a right to bear arms.  No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this — (applause) — I get it.  But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.

I mean, think about it.  We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater.  We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people.  We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society.

And what’s often ignored in this debate is that a majority of gun owners actually agree.  A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.

Today, background checks are required at gun stores.  If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon safely and responsibly.  This is not seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment.  Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation.  Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently, before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns.  You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.

The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules.  A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.  A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records — one out of 30 had a criminal record.  We’re talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes — aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession.  People with lengthy criminal histories buying deadly weapons all too easily.  And this was just one website within the span of a few months.

So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check.  That doesn’t make sense.  Everybody should have to abide by the same rules.  Most Americans and gun owners agree.  And that’s what we tried to change three years ago, after 26 Americans -– including 20 children -– were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Two United States Senators -– Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA –- that’s hard to get  — worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check.  That was it.  Pretty common-sense stuff.  Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea.  Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea.  But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.

How did this become such a partisan issue?  Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”  Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.”  Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks.  And by the way, most of its members still do.  Most Republican voters still do.

How did we get here?  How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?

Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying.  I reject that thinking.  (Applause.)  We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world.  But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.

Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill — with a knife — a bunch of children in China.  But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.  We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some.  Just as we don’t prevent all traffic accidents but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents.

As Ronald Reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives, “it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”  The bill before Congress three years ago met that test.  Unfortunately, too many senators failed theirs.  (Applause.)

In fact, we know that background checks make a difference.  After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent — 40 percent.  (Applause.)  Meanwhile, since Missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average.  One study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in Missouri now have easier access to guns.

And the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever.  Their guns have not been confiscated.  Their rights have not been infringed.

And that’s just the information we have access to.  With more research, we could further improve gun safety.  Just as with more research, we’ve reduced traffic fatalities enormously over the last 30 years.  We do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer.  And you know what — research, science — those are good things.  They work.  (Laughter and applause.)  They do.

But think about this.  When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon — nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly — weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence; made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence.  Even after San Bernardino, they’ve refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons.  That’s not right.  That can’t be right.

So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.  (Applause.)  We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.  (Applause.)

Now, I want to be clear.  Congress still needs to act.  The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does.  (Applause.)  Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more.  But we also can’t wait.  Until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives -– actions that protect our rights and our kids.

After Sandy Hook, Joe and I worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place.  But today, we want to take it a step further.  So let me outline what we’re going to be doing.

Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show.  It’s not where you do it, but what you do.

We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts.

We’re also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient.  Under the guidance of Jim Comey and the FBI, our Deputy Director Tom Brandon at ATF, we’re going to hire more folks to process applications faster, and we’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century.  (Applause.)

And these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from — the public from dangerous people.  So that’s number one.

Number two, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we’re going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.  We’re going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. We’re working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence, where too often — (applause) — where too often, people are not getting the protection that they need.

Number three, we’re going to do more to help those suffering from mental illness get the help that they need.  (Applause.)  High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others.  But the truth is, is that nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides.  So a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves.

That’s why we made sure that the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — that law made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness.  And that’s why we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country.  (Applause.)

It’s also why we’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information.  If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care, and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.

And for those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts.  Put your money where your mouth is.  (Applause.)

Number four, we’re going to boost gun safety technology.  Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally.  In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents –- and that includes 30 children younger than five years old.  In the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth, there is no reason for this.  We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer.  If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?  (Applause.)  If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet — which happens to me often the older I get — (laughter) — if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun.  If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.  (Applause.)  Right?

So we’re going to advance research.  We’re going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology.

And some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check, or by refraining from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.  And I hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them — because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many Americans as car accidents.

I make this point because none of us can do this alone.  I think Mark made that point earlier.  All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them.  Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  (Applause.)  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City.  And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  (Applause.)  They had rights, too.  (Applause.)

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette.  Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown.  First-graders.  And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad.  And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.  (Applause.)

So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.  All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens.  All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer.  We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better.  (Applause.)

And we need voters who want safer gun laws, and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way, to remember come election time.  (Applause.)

I mean, some of this is just simple math.  Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time.  Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate.  We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids.  This is not that complicated.  The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections.  And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you.  (Applause.)

And, yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight.  It won’t happen during this Congress.  It won’t happen during my presidency.  But a lot of things don’t happen overnight.  A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight.  The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight.  LGBT rights — that was decades’ worth of work.  So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.

And if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that “fierce urgency of now,” think about what happened three weeks ago.  Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He played football; beloved by his classmates and his teachers.  His own mayor called him one of their city’s success stories.  The week before Christmas, he headed to a friend’s house to play video games.  He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He hadn’t made a bad decision.  He was exactly where any other kid would be.  Your kid.  My kids. And then gunmen started firing.  And Zaevion — who was in high school, hadn’t even gotten started in life — dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets.  And he was shot in the head.  And the girls were spared.  He gave his life to save theirs –- an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old.  “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did.  We’re not asked to have shoulders that big; a heart that strong; reactions that quick.  I’m not asking people to have that same level of courage, or sacrifice, or love.  But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote.  We can find the courage to get mobilized and organized.  We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.

That’s what we’re doing today.  And tomorrow, we should do more.  And we should do more the day after that.  And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that’s stronger than the one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like Zaevion.  (Applause.)

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

END

12:20 P.M. EST

 

Full Text Political Transcripts January 4, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on Recommendations on Gun Safety

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Recommendations on Gun Safety

 

Source: WH, 1-4-16

Oval Office

2:42 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy New Year, everybody.  Before the New Year, I mentioned that I had given the charge to my Attorney General, FBI Director, Deputy Director at the ATF, and personnel at my White House to work together to see what more we could do to prevent a scourge of gun violence in this country.

I think everybody here is all too familiar with the statistics.  We have tens of thousands of people every single year who are killed by guns.  We have suicides that are committed by firearms at a rate that far exceeds other countries.  We have a frequency of mass shootings that far exceeds other countries in frequency.

And although it is my strong belief that for us to get our complete arm around the problem Congress needs to act, what I asked my team to do is to see what more we could do to strengthen our enforcement and prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands to make sure that criminals, people who are mentally unstable, those who could pose a danger to themselves or others are less likely to get them.

And I’ve just received back a report from Attorney General Lynch, Director Comey, as well as Deputy Director Brandon about some of the ideas and initiatives that they think can make a difference.  And the good news is, is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe.

So over the next several days, we’ll be rolling out these initiatives.  We’ll be making sure that people have a very clear understanding of what can make a difference and what we can do.  And although we have to be very clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country, it’s not going to prevent every mass shooting, it’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal, it will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people.

I’m also confident that the recommendations that are being made by my team here are ones that are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms.  And we’ve been very careful recognizing that, although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership in this country, that even though it’s who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection, and for other legitimate reasons, I want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons.

So I want to say how much I appreciate the outstanding work that the team has done.  Many of you worked over the holidays to get this set of recommendations to me.  And I’m looking forward to speaking to the American people over the next several days in more detail about it.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END

2:46 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts December 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s end-of-year news conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Transcript: President Obama’s end-of-year news conference

Source: WaPo, 12-18-15

President Obama held his final news conference of the year before leaving for two weeks of vacation in his home state of Hawaii on Friday, fielding questions on terrorism and national security as he sought to highlight some of his domestic and foreign policy achievements over the past year.

Here is the full text of his remarks.

OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. Clearly, this is not the most important event that’s taking place in the White House today. There is a screening of Star Wars for Gold Star families and children coming up. So I’ll try to be relatively succinct. Let me say a few words about the year behind us and the year ahead and then I’ll take a few questions. As I look back on this year, the one thing I see is that so much of our steady persistent work over the years is paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways. Our early actions to rescue the economy set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job growth on record, with 13.7 million new jobs in that time. The unemployment rate has been cut in half, down to 5 percent. And most importantly, wages grew faster than at any time since the recovery began.

OBAMA: So over the course of this year, a lot of the decisions that we made early on have paid off. Years of steady implementation of the Affordable Care Act helped to drive the rate of the uninsured in America below 10 percent for 10 percent for the first time since records were kept on that. Health care prices have grown at their lowest level in five decades. Seventeen million more Americans have gained coverage, and we now know that 6 million people have signed up through healthcare.gov for coverage beginning on January, 1st — 600,000 on Tuesday alone.

New customers are up one-third over last year, and the more who sign up, the stronger the system becomes. And that’s good news for every American who no longer has to worry about being just one illness or accident away from financial hardship.

On climate, our early investment in clean energy ignited a clean energy industry boom. Our actions to help reduce our carbon emissions brought China to the table and last week in Paris nearly 200 nations forged a historic agreement that was only possible because of American leadership. Around the world, from reaching the deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, to re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, to concluding a landmark trade agreement that will make sure that American workers and American businesses are operating on a level playing field and that we, rather than China or other countries, are setting the rules for global trade. We have shone what is possible when America leads.

And after decades of dedicated advocacy, marriage equality became a reality in all 50 states.

So I just want to point out I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter, and we are only halfway through.

I do want to thank Congress for ending the year on a high note. I got to sign an education bill that is going to fix some of the challenges that we had with No Child Left Behind, and promises to invest more in high-quality early childhood education.

OBAMA: We signed a transportation bill that, although not as robust as I think we need, still allows states and local governments to plan and actually get moving putting people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges. We got Ex-Im Bank back to work supporting American exports.

And today they passed a bipartisan budget deal. I’m not wild about everything in it. I’m sure that’s true for everybody. But it is a budget that, as I insisted, invests in our military and our middle class without ideological provisions that would have weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters. It’s part of an agreement that will permanently extend tax credits to 24 million working families. It includes some long-sought wins like strengthening America’s leadership at the IMF.
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And because it eliminates the possibility of a shutdown for the first nine months of next year, Congress and I have a long way to get important things done on behalf of the American people.

Now there’s still a lot of work to do. For example, there’s still a lot more that Congress can do to promote job growth and increase wages in this country. I still want to work with Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, to reform our criminal justice system.

And earlier today I commuted the sentences of 95 men and women who had served their debt to society, and another step forward in upholding our ideals of justice and fairness.

And of course, our most important job is to keep Americans safe. I’ve had a lot to say about that this week, but let me reiterate. The United States continues to lead a global coalition in our mission to destroy ISIL. ISIL’s already lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq, and it’s losing territory in Syria.

As we keep up the pressure, our air campaign will continue to hit ISIL harder than ever, taking out their leaders, their commanders and their forces. We’re stepping up our support for partners on the ground as they push ISIL back. Our men and women in uniform are carrying out their mission with a trademark professionalism and courage. And this holiday season all of us are united in our gratitude for their service, and we are thankful to their families as well because they serve alongside those who are actually deployed.

Squeezing ISIL’s heart at its core in Syria and Iraq will make it harder for them to pump their terror and propaganda to the rest of the world. At the same time, as we know from San Bernardino, where I’ll visit with families later today, we have to remain vigilant here at home. Our counter-terrorism, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement communities are working 24/7 to protect our homeland. And all of us can do our part by staying vigilant, by saying something if we see something that is suspicious, by refusing to be terrorized, and staying united as one American family.

In short for all the very real progress America’s made over the past seven years, we still have some unfinished business. And I plan on doing everything I can with every minute of every day that I have left as president to deliver on behalf of the American people.

Since taking this office, I have never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now. And in 2016 I’m going to leave it out all on the field.

So with that, let me take some questions.

I’ll start with Roberta Ranton (ph) on Reuters.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you’re going to California today. And as you said earlier this week, you told the nation that there’s no specific or credible threat of a similar attack, but how is it really possible to know? I mean, aren’t similar plots going to be just as hard to detect beforehand? And some lawmakers are saying that your government should review the social media of all people applying for visas to come to this country. What do you think of that idea? Should that be mandatory?

OBAMA: Well, Roberta, you’re absolutely right that it is very difficult for us to detect lone wolf plots or plots involving a husband and wife, in this case, because despite the incredible vigilance of all of our law enforcement, homeland security, et cetera, it’s not that different from us trying to detect the next mass shooter. You don’t always see it. They’re not always communicating publicly, and if you’re not catching what they say publicly, then it becomes a challenge.

We are continuing to work at every level, to make sure that there’s no slip between information-sharing among agencies.

OBAMA: We’re continuing to strengthen our information sharing with foreign countries, and because in part of the tragedy in Paris, I think you’re seeing much greater cooperation from our European partners on these issues.

But this is a different kind of challenge than the sort that we had with an organization like Al Qaida, that involved highly trained operatives who were working as cells or as a network.

Here, essentially, you have ISIL trying to encourage or induce somebody who may be prey to this kind of propaganda, and it becomes more difficult to — to see.

It does mean that they are less likely to be able to carry out large, complex attacks, but as we saw in San Bernardino, obviously, you can still do enormous damage.

The issue of reviewing social media for those who are obtaining visas, I think, may have gotten garbled a little bit, because there may be — it’s important to distinguish between posts that are public — social media on a Facebook page — versus private communications through various social media or apps.

And our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are constantly monitoring public posts, and that is part of the visa review process, that — that people are investigating what individuals have said publicly, and questioned about any statements that they maybe made.

But if you have a private communication between two individuals, that’s harder to discern, by definition. And one of the things we’ll be doing is engaging with the high-tech community to find out how we can, in an appropriate way, do a better job, if we have a lead, to be able to track a suspected terrorist.

But we’re gonna have to recognize that no government is gonna have the capacity to read every single person’s texts or e-mails or social media. If — if it’s not posted publicly, then there are gonna be feasibility issues that are — that are probably insurmountable at some level.

And, you know, it raises questions about our values. I mean, keep in mind it was only a couple years ago where we were having a major debate about whether the government was becoming too much like Big Brother. And, overall, I think we have struck the right balance in protecting civil liberties and making sure that U.S. citizens’ privacy is preserved, that we are making sure that there’s oversight to what our intelligence agencies do.

But, you know, we’re going to have to continue to balance our needs for security with people’s legitimate concerns about privacy. And because the Internet is global and communications systems are global, you know, the values that we apply here often times are ones that folks who are trying to come into the country are also benefiting from, because they’re using the same technologies.

But this is precisely why we’re working very hard to bring law enforcement, intelligence and high-tech companies together, because we’re gonna have to really review what we can do, both technically as well as consistent with our laws and values, in order to try to discern more rapidly some of the potential threats that may be out there.

OK. David Jackson.

QUESTION: Mr. President, a Gitmo question. Congress has made it pretty clear that they are just (ph) not gonna let you transfer prisoners to the United States for trial. But some people think you already have the executive authority to transfer those prisoners and — and close Gitmo itself next year.

My question is, do you believe you have that authority, and are you willing to exercise it to close that (inaudible)?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, we have been working systematically, another example of persistence, in reducing the population. We have a review process for those who are eligible for transfer. We locate (ph), in countries that have accepted some of these detainees, they monitor them, and it’s been determined that they can be transferred.

And my expectation is, by the early (ph) — by early next year, we should have reduced that population below 100. And we will continue — continue to steadily chip away at the numbers in Guantanamo.

There’s gonna come to a point where we have an irreducible population — people who pose a significant threat, but for various reasons, it’s difficult for us to try them in an Article III court.

Some of those folks are going through the military commission process. But there’s going to be a challenge there. Now, at that stage, I’m presenting a plan to Congress about how we can close Guantanamo.

I’m not going to automatically assume that Congress says no. I’m not being coy, David. I think it’s fair to say that there’s gonna be significant resistance from some quarters, to that.

But I think we can make a very strong argument that it doesn’t make sense for us to be spending an extra $100 million, $200 million, $300 million, $500 million, $1 billion, to have a — a secure setting for 50, 60, 70 people.

And we will wait until Congress has said definitively no to a well thought out plan with numbers attached to it, before we say anything definitive about my executive authority here. I think it’s far preferable if I can get stuff done with Congress.

QUESTION: It’s an election year. You know they’re not gonna do it (ph). (inaudible) on your own?

OBAMA: David, as — as I said — you know, and I think you’ve seen me, on a whole bunch of issues, like immigration, I’m not gonna — I’m not gonna be forward-leaning on what I can do without Congress before I’ve tested what I can do with Congress.

And every once in a while, they’ll surprise you, and — and this may be one of those places, because we can make a really strong argument Guantanamo continues to be one of the key magnets for Jihadi recruitment. You know, to Roberta’s (ph) question earlier about how do they propagandize and convince somebody here in the United States, who may not have a criminal record or a history of terrorist activity, to start shooting, this is part of what they feed. This notion of a gross injustice, that America’s not living up to its professed ideals.

We know that. We see the — the Internet traffic. We see how Guantanamo has been used to create this mythology that America is at war with Islam. And — you know, for us to close it is part of our counterterrorism strategy that is supported by our military, our diplomatic and our intelligence teams.

So when you combine that with the fact that it’s really expensive, and that we are — you know, essentially, at this point, detaining a handful of people, and each person is costing several million dollars to detain, when there are more efficient ways of doing it, you know, I think we can make a strong argument.

I — I — I’m — but I’ll take — you know, I’ll take your point, that it’ll be an uphill battle. Every battle I’ve had with Congress over the last five years have been — has been uphill, and — but we keep on surprising you by actually getting some stuff done.

QUESTION: (inaudible) on an immigration bill (ph)?

OBAMA: Sometimes — sometimes that may prove necessary, but — you know, we try not to get out ahead of ourselves on that.

Julie Pace.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Wanted to ask you about the broader challenges in the Middle East.

OBAMA: Yeah.

QUESTION: Who (ph) of the Republicans who are running for president have argued that the Mid-East and the United States would be safer if you hadn’t (ph) had regime changes, places (ph) like Iraq, Libya, and Egypt.

And having gone through the experience of the Arab Spring and the aftermath, I wonder what you now see of (ph) the U.S. role in the Middle East in terms of trying to push dictators out of power.

Would you advise future presidents to call for authoritarian leaders to step down, as you did? And just specifically on Syria, at this point, is it your expectation that Bashar Assad’s presidency will outlast yours?

OBAMA: You know, there’s been a lot of revisionist history, sometimes by the same people, making different arguments depending on the situation. So maybe it’s useful just for us to go back over some of these issues.

We did not depose Hosni Mubarak. Millions of Egyptians did because of their dissatisfaction with the corruption and authoritarianism of the regime. We had a working relationship with Mubarak. We didn’t trigger the Arab Spring, and the notion that somehow the U.S. was in a position to pull the strings on a country that is the largest in the Arab world, I think is — is mistaken.

What is true is that at the point at which the choice becomes mowing down millions of people or trying to find some transition, we believed and I would still argue that it was more sensible for us to find a peaceful transition to the Egyptian situation.

With respect to Libya, Libya is sort of an alternative version of Syria in some ways, because by the time the international coalition interceded in Syria, chaos had already broken out. You already had the makings of a civil war. You had a dictator who was threatening and was in a position to carry out the wholesale slaughter of large numbers of people. And we worked under U.N. mandate with a coalition of folks in order to try to avert a big humanitarian catastrophe that would not have good for us.

Those who now argue in retrospect, we should have left Gadhafi in there, seem to forget that he had already lost legitimacy and control of his country and we could have — instead of what we have in Libya now, we could have had another Syria in Libya now. The — the problem with Libya was the fact that there was a failure on the part of the entire international community, and I think that the United States has some accountability for not moving swiftly enough and underestimating the need to rebuild government there quickly, and as a consequence, you now have a very bad situation.

As far as Syria goes, I think it is entirely right and proper for the United States of America to speak out on behalf of its (ph) values. And when you have an authoritarian leader that is killing hundreds of thousands of his own people, the notion that we would just stand by and say nothing is contrary to who we are, and that does not serve our interests, because at that point, us being in collusion with that kind of governance would make us even more of a target for terrorist activity, would…

QUESTION: Do you think that government (ph) can help try to stop (inaudible)?

OBAMA: But — but the reason that Assad has been a problem in Syria is because that is a majority Sunni country and he had lost the space that he had early on to execute an inclusive transition — peaceful transition. He chose instead to slaughter people and once that happened, the idea that a minority population there could somehow crush tens of millions of people who oppose him is not feasible. It’s not plausible. Even if you were being cold-eyed and hard-heartened about the human toll there, it just wouldn’t happen.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, our view has been that you cannot bring peace to Syria, you cannot get an end to the civil war unless you have a government that has — it is recognized as legitimate by a majority of that country. It will not happen, and this is the argument that I have had repeatedly with Mr. Putin. Dating five years ago, at which time his suggestion, as I gather some Republicans are now suggesting, was, “You know, Assad’s not so bad, let him just be as brutal and repressive as he can, but at least he’ll keep order.” I said, “Look. The problem is that the history of trying to keep order when a large majority of the country has turned against you is not good.”

And five years later, I was right. So we now have an opportunity — and John Kerry is meeting as we speak with Syria and Turkey and Iran and the Gulf countries and other parties who are interested, we now have an opportunity not to turn back the clock, it’s going to be difficult to completely overcome the devastation that’s happened in Syria already, but to find a political transition that maintains the Syrian state, that recognizes a bunch of stakeholders inside of Syria and hopefully to initiate a cease-fire that won’t be perfect, but allows all the parties to turn on what should be our number one focus, and that is destroying Daesh and its allies in the region.

And that is going to be a difficult process, it’s going to be a pain staking process, but there is no shortcut to that. And that’s not based on some idealism on my part, that’s our hard-headed calculation about what’s going to be required to get the job done.

QUESTION: Do you think that Assad, though, could remain in power a year from now?

OBAMA: I think that Assad is going to have to leave in order for the country to stop the bloodletting and for all the parties involved to be able to move forward in a nonsectarian way. He has lost legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of the country.

Now, is there a way of us constructing a bridge creating a political transition that allows those who are aligned with Assad right now, allows the Russians, allows the Iranians to ensure that their equities are respected and minorities, that minorities like the Alawites (ph) are not crushed or retribution is not the order of the day, I think that’s going to be very important as well.

And that’s what make this so difficult. You know, sadly, had Assad made a decision earlier that he was not more important personally than his entire country, that kind of political transition would have been much easier. It’s a lot harder now.

But John Kerry has been doing excellent work in moving that process forward and I do think that you’ve seen from the Russians a recognition that after a couple months, they’re not really moving the needle that much in this fight of sizable deployment inside of Syria. And of course, that’s what I suggested would happen, because there’s only so much bombing you can do when an entire country is outraged and believes that its ruler doesn’t represent them.

Sheryl (ph) Bowl (ph)?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask about the surprise (ph) in Congress. Specifically, what are your top legislative priorities for next year? And how has the new speaker, Paul Ryan, changed the dynamic with you and Capitol Hill? And can you be more ambitious next year doing things like maybe completing the Transatlantic Trade Partnership or even getting tax reform?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, it’s important to give some credit where credit is due. John Boehner did a favor to all of us, including now Speaker Ryan, by working with us to agree on a top line budget framework. That was the basis for subsequent negotiations. He was able to do that because he was going out the door, and was then given, I think, a little more room to maneuver than he previously had.

Having said that, I also want to give Speaker Ryan credit. I called both him and Mitch McConnell, as well as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for the orderly way in which they actually negotiated a budget, the way Congress is historically and typically supposed to work. I think (ph) we’ve gotten kind of used to last-minute crises and shutdown threats and so forth. And this — this is a messy process that doesn’t satisfy everybody completely, but it’s more typical of American democracy, and I think that Speaker Ryan deserves a role in that.

I will say that, in his interactions with me, he has been professional, he has reached out to tell me what he can do and what he cannot do. I think it’s a good working relationship.

We recognize that we disagree on a whole bunch of other stuff, and have fundamentally different visions for where we want to move the country, but, perhaps because even before he was elected he had worked on Capitol Hill, I think he is respectful of the process and respectful of how legislation works.

So kudos to him, as well as all the leaders and appropriators who were involved in this process. Now, just want to repeat, because sometimes we take for granted what’s happened.

I said early on in this process that I wasn’t going to sign a budget that — that did not relieve sequester, this artificial austerity that was making it difficult to invest in things like education and our military. And I said I would not accept a lot of ideological riders that were attached to a big budget deal.

And we met our goals. And because of some terrific negotiations by the Democrats up on Capitol Hill, and I think some pretty good work by our legislative staffs here, we’re gonna be able to fund environmental protection, we’re gonna be able to make sure that we’re investing in things like early childhood education and making college more affordable.

We’re going to be able to implement the clean power plant rule. We’re going to be able to continue to invest in clean energy that spurs on innovation. We’re going to be able to make sure that our military gets the equipment and the training that it needs to be effective in fighting ISIL and other threats around the world.

So it was a — it was a good win. And there are some things in there that I don’t like, but that’s the nature of legislation and — and compromise. And I think the system worked. That gives me some optimism that, next year, on a narrow set of issues, we can get some more work done.

As David said, it’s an election year, and obviously, a lot of the legislative process is going to be skewed by people looking over their shoulders, worrying about primaries, trying to position themselves relative to the presidential candidates. So that makes it harder.

But I think there are going to be a handful of areas where we can make real progress. One of them, you already mentioned, Trans-Pacific Partnership, which now has been out, Congress has had a chance to review, and it meets the bar that I set.

It is consistent with what I promised, which is the most pro- labor, pro-environment, progressive trade deal in history, that eliminates just about every tariff on American manufacturing goods in countries that up until this point have charged a tax, essentially, on anything that American workers and American businesses sell in these areas.

It brings those taxes down to zero on basically all of American manufactured products. A huge win for agriculture, because now — you know, the people of Japan are going to be in a better position to enjoy American beef and American pork, which, up until this point, even though we’re much more efficient producers, has have been tagged with a tax that makes — you know, our products uncompetitive in Japanese markets.

So this is a big deal, and I think Speaker Ryan would like to try to get it done. And there are both proponents and opponents of this in both Democratic and Republican parties, and so it’s gonna be an interesting situation where we’re going to have to stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort, in order for us to get it done.

A second area that I think is possible is criminal justice reform. There has been sincere, serious negotiations and efforts by Democrats and Republicans to create a criminal justice system that is more fair, more even handed, more proportionate and is smarter about how we reduce crime. And I have really been impressed by the dedication of a core group of Democrats and Republicans. Some of them the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans coming together saying this is the right thing to do. We’ve got a good bill in the Senate that passed with bipartisan support out of committee. My hope is that that gets to the floor. And that we can pair it up with a good bill out of the House. And then this is an area where potentially can see us save money, reduce recidivism, you know, make sure people who make a mistake on nonviolent crimes have to pay the price. Have to serve time, but are released in a — in a reasonable fashion. That they have more support so they’re less likely to go back into the criminal system, subsequently.

And that’s an area where we may be able to make a big difference. So those are just two examples. We’ll keep on looking for a number of examples like that. And — and wherever there’s an opportunity, I’m going to take it.

Phillip Grub (ph). Phillip Grub (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You mentioned climate change already. And at the time of the signing of the deal in Paris you said it was potentially a turning point for the the world. But this was a deal that was — that is not a legally binding document and you bypassed Congress pretty much completely.

Are you worried at this point that a Republican president who might take over for you in the White House could stop the deal in its tracks entirely, and considering that possibility, are you more interested in campaigning for a Democrat nominee considering that danger?

OBAMA: I think it’s fair I was going to be campaigning for a Democratic nominee even without that danger. And I am very confident that we’re going to have a terrific Democratic nominee and — whose phone is that, guys? Come on, now. Somebody. You recognize your ring, don’t be embarrassed. Just turn it off. There you go. OK. Can I still here it?

All right, I think it’s off now.

I think we will have a strong Democratic nominee. I think that nominee will win. I think I will have a Democratic successor and I will campaign very hard to make that happy for a whole variety of reasons because they’re far more likely to share my fundamental vision about where America should go.

But having said that, what I think people should also feel good about is that the agreement struck in Paris, although not legally binding when it comes to the targets that had been set does create this architecture in which all around the world countries are saying this is where we’re going.

We’re going to be chasing after this clean energy future. This is how we’re going to meet our goals. We’re going to double down on solar power. We’re going to double down on wind power. We’re going to invest more heavily in biofuels. We’re going to figure out battery technologies.

And what you saw in this budget, which I think was really significant, was an extension of the solar tax credits and wind tax credits that we had helped to really boost early on in my administration and that it resulted in wind power increasing threefold, solar power increasing by twentyfold. Those tax credits are now going to be extended for five to seven years and as a consequence, that combination of market signals means that the private sector is going to start investing much more heavily. They know this is coming. And it’s not just coming here. It’s coming around the world.

You now have a global marketplace for clean energy that is stable and accelerating over the course of the next decade. That then creates a different dynamic that is independent of what Congress does, but also helps to shape what Congress does. Because the more people that are now getting jobs in solar installation and production, the more that you have companies who are seeing how American innovation can sell products in clean energy all across the Asia Pacific and in Europe and in Africa. Suddenly, there’s a big monetary incentive to getting this right.

And that’s been the history of environmental progress in this country and now we’ve exported it around the world. Every time we have made a decision, you know what, we’re going to have clean air. The predictions were, everything would fall apart. And low and behold, turns out that American innovation makes getting clean air a lot less expensive than people expected and it happens a lot faster than expected.

When we made a decision that we were going to double fuel efficiency standards on cars, everybody said, I’m just going to ruin the American auto industry. The American auto industry has been booming over the last couple years.

Acid rain. When George H.W. Bush instituted a system to charge for the emissions that were causing acid rain, everybody said, well you can’t do that, that’s going to ruin business and it turned out that it was smoother, faster, quicker, better.

And acid rain — folks who were born, I don’t know — some of you reporters are getting younger or I’m getting older, you may not remember it but that was a big deal and now most folks don’t even remember it anymore because it got solved. And there’s no reason why the same won’t happen here.

Now, do I think there’s going to be a lot of noise and campaigning next year about how we’re going to stop Paris in its tracks? There will probably be a lot of noise about that. Do I actually think two years from now, three years from now, even Republican members of Congress are going to look at it and say that’s a smart thing to do? I don’t think they will.

Keep in mind that right now the American Republican party is the only major party that I can think of in the advanced world that effectively denies climate change. I mean, it’s an outlier. Many of the key signatories to this deal, the architects of this deal, come from center-right governments. Even the far right parties in many of these countries. They may not like immigrants for example, but they admit, yes, the science tells us that we have to do something about climate change. So my sense is that this is something that may be an advantage in terms of short-term politics in the Republican primary. It’s not something that is going to be a winner for Republicans long- term.

QUESTION: You mentioned American leadership. But is it embarrassing to you that the other party denies climate change?

OBAMA: No, because first of all, I’m not a member of that party. Second of all, it didn’t stop us from being the key leader in getting this done. I mean, this is something that I have been working on now for five, six years. When I went to Copenhagen, I essentially engaged in 24 hours of diplomacy to salvage from a pretty chaotic process, the basic principle that all countries had to participate.

We couldn’t have a rigid division between developed countries and developing countries when it came to solving this problem. That was the initial foundation for us. Then working with other countries, culminating in the joint announcement with China, bringing in India, bringing in Brazil and the other big, emerging countries, working with the Europeans in getting this done.

This would not have happened without American leadership. And by the way, the same is true for the Iran nuclear deal. The same is true for the Trans-Pacific partnership. The same is true for stamping out Ebola, something you guys may recall from last year, which was the potential end of the world.

You know, at each juncture, what we have said is that American strength and American exceptionalism is not just a matter of us bombing somebody. More often, it’s a matter of us convening, setting the agenda, pointing other nations in a direction that’s good for everybody and good for U.S. interests.

Engaging in painstaking diplomacy, leading by example and sometimes, the results don’t come overnight, they don’t come the following day, but they come. And this year, what you really saw was that steady, persistent leadership on many initiatives that I began when I first came into office.

Alright.

QUESTION: Mr. President?

OBAMA: I’ve got April Ryan (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to ask you something about criminal justice — on that subject and also something on Secretary Kerry (ph). Your administration contends (ph) the United States is five percent of the world population, but 25 percent of the global jail population. What legislation are you supporting that significantly cuts mass incarceration in this country? And going back to the Assad (ph) issue, does Assad have to go to defeat ISIS? OBAMA: Well, we’re going to defeat ISIS, and we’re going to do so by systemically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure. We’re going to do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty, sometimes need capacity building, need our assistance, need our training, but we’re seeing steadily progress in many of these areas. And so they’re going to be on the run.

Now, they are going to continue to be dangerous, so — so let me just be very clear, because whenever I say that we have made progress in squeezing the territory that they control or made real end roads against them, what people will say is, well, if something happens around the world, then obviously that must not be true.

But in any battle, in any fight, even as you make progress, there’s still dangers involved. And ISIL’s capacity both to infiltrate Western countries with people who have travel to Syria or travel to Iraq and the savviness of their social media, their ability to recruit disaffected individuals who may be French or British or even U.S. citizens, will continue to make them dangerous for some time. But — but — but we will systemically go after them.

Now, in order for us to stamp them out thoroughly, we have to eliminate lawless areas in which they cannot still roam. So we can — we can disable them, we can dismantle much of their infrastructure, greatly reduce the threat that they pose to the United States, our allies and our neighbors, but in the same way that Al Qaida is pinned down and has much more difficulty carrying out any significant attacks because of how we have systemically dismantled them, they still pose a threat.

There are still operatives who are interested in carrying out terrorist attacks because they still operate in areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan or more prominently right now in Yemen that are hard to reach. Our — our long-term goal has to be able to stabilize these areas so that they don’t have any safe haven, and in order for us to do that in Syria, there has to be an end to the civil war. There has to be an actual government that has a police capacity and a structure in these areas that currently aren’t governed.

And it is my firm belief and the belief of the experts in this administration that so long as Assad is there, we cannot achieve that kind of stability inside of Syria, and, you know, I — I think the history over the last several years indicates as much. So that’s going to continue to be a top priority for us, moving aggressively on the military track and not letting ISIL take a breath and pounding away at them with our special forces and our airstrikes and the training and advising of partners that can go after them. But we also have to keep very aggressive on this diplomatic track in order for us to bring countries together. All right?

Everybody? On criminal justice reform? I — I answered the question. I’m hopeful.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) OBAMA: Right. In April (ph), what I said was is that I strongly support the Senate legislation that’s already been put forward. I’m hopeful that the House can come up with legislation that follows the same principles, which is to make sure that we’re doing sentencing reform, but we’re also doing a better job in terms of reducing recidivism and providing support for ex-offenders. And if we can get those two bills together in a conference, then I’m somewhat optimistic that we’re gonna be able to make a difference.

Now keep in mind, April (ph), when you use the term mass incarceration, statistically the overwhelming majority of people who are incarcerated are in state prisons and state facilities for state crimes. We can only focus on federal law and federal crimes. And so there’s still going to be a large population of individuals who are incarcerated even for nonviolent drug crimes because this is a trend that started in the late ’80s and ’90s and accelerated at the state levels.

But if we can show at the federal level that we can be smart on crime, more cost effective, more just, more proportionate, then we can set a trend for other states to follow as well. And that’s our hope.

This is not going to be something that’s reversed overnight. So just to go back to my general principle, April (ph), it took 20 years for us to get to the point we are now. And only 20 years probably before we reverse — we reverse some of these major trends.

OK, everybody, I gotta get to Star Wars. Thank you. Thank you, guys.

Appreciate you. Thank you. Merry Christmas, everybody.

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